Crucial: If you are a young person living in Oxfordshire with issues around substance misuse (your own or someone else's) you can get support from the Aquarius Service.
Drug Free Life
Many young people choose not to use drugs. There are good arguments for this:
- Drugs are illegal
- 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. But most people learn about drugs. This helps you understand risks and support friends and family.
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. It has information about common drugs, like Cannabis as well as ones young people might encounter like Ecstasy, Ketamine and Nitrous Oxide. It is regularly updated with information about new risks like Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice) and Opioids (Fentanyl).
How dangerous are drugs?
Illegal drugs are not checked for safety. Tests on drugs handed in at festivals show they often are not as they are described, and that there is huge variation in strength and purity of all products.
There are deaths from taking illegal drugs every year. 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.
Can you make drugs safer?
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
Lots of advice around drugs concentrates on harm minimisation. This is things like starting with a smaller dose or taking it in small amounts. But there is no way to eliminate risk entirely.
The safest approach is not to take drugs at all.
Crucial: Novel psychoactive substances, sometimes called legal highs can be more dangerous than the drugs they mimic. Find out more about novel psychoactive substances, aka illegal highs.
Cannabis is an illegal drug in the United Kingdom. There is evidence that it is more risky for teenagers and young people. Those with anxiety or other mental health concerns may also find that Cannabis is more risky.
My Experience: “It really screwed me up doing Cannabis, made me depressed, despondent and all sorts. I got into a gang and started doing bad things, fighting, stealing and using other drugs. When I [accessed support services] I really sorted my life out – I am not using Cannabis at all and I can talk about how I really feel. I am a lot calmer and have stopped doing stupid things. I’d tell anyone in the same position [to get support]. The workers listen and treat you like a real person” JD aged 15
Misuse of prescription drugs
Prescription drugs should be taken as instructed by your doctor, pharmacist or medical practitioner.
If you take pills not prescribed for you, or take them differently (more often, for example, or in larger quantities) you are misusing prescription drugs.
Drugs which are sometimes misused include tranquilisers, steroids and painkillers as well as so-called study drugs like Modafanil, Adderil and Ritalin. Some are taken to change how you feel, others to improve how you look (like steroids) or to help you feel more alert.
Some prescription drugs, like codeine-based painkillers such as co-codamol and tranquilisers like Xanax, are very addictive and have a high risk of overdose, especially if mixed with alcohol.
Instant expert: Find out from the Mix why buying prescription drugs off the internet is risky and illegal.
Drugs and looks
Rarely, some people abuse painkillers, diet drugs and steroids in order to build muscle or improve their looks.
Using drugs in this way is a sign that you have an exercise or eating disorder. This can be very dangerous and can lead to permanent health damage or even death. But support is available. Talk to your School Health Nurse or Doctor.
Help for young people misusing drugs and alcohol
Young people under 19 in Oxfordshire can get support to address drug and alcohol misuse. The Aquarius service can help with:
- Problems they are experiencing around drug and alcohol misuse
- Ways to reduce the harms caused by drug and alcohol misuse
- Ways to stop drug and alcohol misuse becoming a greater problem as you get older.
You can ask for help for yourself.
Helping a family member
Crucial: If someone's substance misuse is causing problems in the family, they can get support from their Doctor (GP). There are also charities like Alcoholics Anonymous and Turning Point Roads to Recovery which can provide help and treatment.
Pressured into dealing?
Drug addiction can happen at any age, but children and young people are more vulnerable. They may also be pressured into buying or selling drugs. This is illegal and abuse, even if they are family or trusted friends.
This is sometimes called criminal exploitation.
Children who are in gangs, have problems at home or school, or who have suffered abuse are most at risk. But anyone can be targeted. Children who are being criminally exploited are very likely to be assaulted (attacked), hurt or abused in other ways.
Take action: If criminal exploitation happening to you it is important for your safety and future that you get help as soon as possible. You can tell any trusted adult, like a teacher or other worker, or go to the police. Find out more and read case studies about young people who have suffered criminal exploitation.
Criminal Drug Exploitation
Sometimes called "County Lines", Criminal Drug Exploitation happens when criminals exploit children to sell drugs. The children may be paid some money, but are also threatened, hurt and forced into debt. This can also happen to vulnerable adults, including those with addictions or mental health conditions.
This video from Oxfordshire County Council Family Solutions Service explains simply how Criminal Drug Exploitation can happen - even in safe rural areas.