The discussion of drugs has always been a controversial one, firstly due to its obvious ‘taboo’ nature, but also because many people have had experiences or know of people who have had experiences in trying illicit substances. With the increase in recreational drug use, and even more ways being discovered to achieve ‘legal highs,’ the opportunities for teenagers to sample drugs are becoming more common. This article is therefore designed to allow you an insight into the world of drug-taking, detailing the most commonly used drugs, the addictive effects they can cause, and how best to approach the process of your child’s rehabilitation.
There are five main groups of drugs which should be brought to public attention:
Analgesics are drugs that relieve the taker of pain. Whilst being used primarily in medical and pharmaceutical environments and as prescriptions by General Practitioners, there has been an increase in recreational use in recent decades. Morphine, alongside paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin are found to be the most common.
Antidepressants are taken by the user to combat depression or just to feel better. Often, drugs from this group are initially prescribed to combat depression, anxiety, and stress but misuse and overdoses often produce a developing dependency. Caffeine and nicotine are both legal antidepressants that people use to cope with depression.
Depressants generally reduce the hyperactivity of the brain. Alcohol is classed as a depressant as it has been scientifically proven to slow reaction time, cause muscle relaxation, and reduce the breathing rate. Other ‘popular’ recreational depressants include ketamine and cannabis/marijuana. Cannabis is often considered a ‘safe’ or ‘gateway’ drug by many users, yet its physical and psychological effects can be extremely dangerous.
Hallucinogens make the taker visualize objects or occurrences that are not actually happening, or cause exaggerations or distortions of events they are witnessing. LSD and ecstasy are two of the most common found on the street, with the latter also falling into the stimulant group. It is often seen as a form of escapism for some and a source of inspiration for others.
Stimulants are generally considered the opposite of depressants and improve mental and physical confidence. Steroids are often used by sportsmen to gain an added advantage in their field by increasing their capacity for muscle growth. The most famous of the stimulants is undoubtedly cocaine, a white, powdery substance that is snorted to achieve a euphoric rush. However, stimulants can be found in everyday life in cigarettes (nicotine) and coffee or fizzy drinks (caffeine).
Addiction – the concept and its symptoms
Despite the protestation of many casual drug takers, the majority of substances have incredibly strong addictive qualities. Cannabis has been observed as a soft drug by a growing majority of the public, with it being impossible to cause dependency. However, recent studies have highlighted that one in ten people develop chronic addictive qualities to the marijuana plant after frequent use. The current lack of public appreciation for the threat of cannabis addiction has had a domino effect as the drug taker gains confidence and curious to sample other substances.
Another area of confusion can be down to using different methods of classing ‘addiction.’ Addiction is ultimately a disease of the brain, and it can manifest itself both physically, and psychologically, with varying drugs having different effects depending on the person. Some people experience limited effects of recreational or prescription drugs, but there are several common signs of drug misuse that are easy to spot including a drastically altered diet, which causes dramatic loss/gain of weight.
Whilst taking drugs, one can experience ‘the munchies’ but is far easier to notice a dramatic loss of appetite when the user is compulsively craving the drug. Other physical features include bloodshot eyes through either insomnia or altered sleep pattern, in addition to psychological effects such as mood swings, paranoia, and a sudden change of personality. Added to that, any social changes such as making new friends who could encourage their drug use is a tell-tale sign that your child may be becoming addicted to drugs.
How to help someone who is addicted
The process of eradicating a drug addiction is daunting but manageable. The hardest part of the process is first admitting there is a problem and then confronting them sensibly about it. Rules must be laid down and the consequences of drug abuse explained to them whilst making sure they have no immediate access to feed their craving. Encourage them to take up a new sport/hobby, and combine that with distancing themselves from friends who influenced their addiction.
Finally, seeking outside help, such as a General Practitioner or a Counsellor, may boost your child’s confidence and ability to overcome their problem. The most important action you must undertake is to be supportive of them. No drug addict is beyond help!