Growing up can be tough. There is often a lot of pressure from friends and family to do the right thing, or do the risky thing. Drugs can feel like a normal part of growing up, and almost everyone will be aware of other people using drugs (even if it is only smoking) though many choose not to use drugs themselves.
Crucial: If you are a young person living in Oxfordshire who is having difficulties as a result of substance misuse (your own or someone else's) you can get support from the Aquarius Service.
Not taking drugs
The only way to avoid the risks of using drugs is not to use them at all. There are good arguments for this:
- Drugs are illegal - even so-called legal highs
- Drugs are dangerous - because they act on the brain, sometimes unpredictably
- Drugs can get in the way of other things in your life, especially if you become dependent or addicted
Some people chose not to take drugs for religious or health reasons, or simply because they don't appeal. But even if you plan never to use drugs yourself, it still helps to learn about drugs. This helps you support friends better, and understand risks in your area.
Crucial: Young people in Oxfordshire can get support for any kind of substance misuse problem (drugs, alcohol, other substances) from their college, school health nurse , GP (Doctor) or Children and Family Centre.
Reliable information about drugs
This information from the 'Talk to Frank' website has been checked by doctors, drug workers and people who have misused substances. Talk to Frank is the national drugs awareness site for young people, parents and carers. These legal and illegal substances are the ones you are most likely to hear about:
- Amphetamines (speed)
- Ecstasy, MDMA (Mandy)
- GHB (liquid ecstasy)
- Nitrous Oxide
- Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice)
- Synthetic Opioids (Fentanyl)
- Tranquilisers (Temazopan, Valium, Xanax)
There are many more drugs listed on Frank, along with facts about the risks and information about how to stay safer.
Old and new substances are described differently, and names for drugs often change. Tests on drugs handed in at festivals show that they often are not what they are described, and that there is huge variation in strength and purity of all products. Different ways of taking drugs have their own risks. Combining drugs with alcohol or other drugs makes the risks higher, sometimes in unpredictable ways. While some drugs are riskier than others, and some ways of taking drugs are riskier than others, there is no way of taking drugs which does not have some risk.
It is possible to cause yourself serious health damage even if:
- It is the first time you take a drug
- You have taken a drug many times before
- You have taken other drugs before and recovered
- You take steps to make taking the drug safer, like starting with a smaller dose or taking it in small amounts
The safest approach is not to take drugs at all.
Crucial: So-called legal highs are not legal, and some are more dangerous than the drugs they mimic. Find out more about novel psychoactive substances, aka illegal highs.
Cannabis is the most widely-used illegal drug in the United Kingdom. Because so many people have taken it, the risks are felt to be well understood, and many people see it as a safer drug. However there are still risks, especially for young people and those with anxiety or other mental health concerns:
Risks to your brain
- Cannabis interferes with memory, making it hard to remember and learn.
- There is evidence that regular cannabis use damages developing brains (brains develop very fast in early teenage years, then more slowly from age 18-25).
- People with mental health conditions can find they get worse when they take cannabis.
Risks to your education, employment and learning
- Most people are unable to work or study effectively when they are taking cannabis.
- Cannabis interacts with motivation, making harder for you to study or go to work, and less likely to care about results or rewards.
- Cannabis is banned in places of learning and employment, and you may be permanently excluded or fired for taking it.
Risks of addiction and overdose
- Cannabis mixed with tobacco is as harmful to health and addictive as smoking.
- Cannabis overdoses were thought to be impossible, but you can overdose on some modern cannabis products which are a neutral herb sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid.
- People who sell cannabis often encourage you to try other drugs, with higher cost and risks.
Cannabis is a drug which can have long-lasting effects. Some people seem to suffer more from this than others. If cannabis use is causing you anxiety, making you feel bad, getting in the way of study or work, or getting in the way of the things you want to do with your life, then help is available.
Take action: The Aquarius Service in Oxfordshire is there to support anyone aged 11-19 (up to 25 in some cases) who has a substance misuse problem or is at risk of developing one. You can contact Aquarius by calling 07950 301426 9am-5pm weekdays.
This video explains how it can sometimes be hard to spot the negative effects cannabis use has on a person's life: