Reducing the risks
If you're going to do drugs then first be aware of the risks involved. Knowing the facts may not protect you from a bad time, but it's better to be clued up than clueless.
Addiction and dependence
Don't be fooled into believing that some substances are 'safe' because they're not physically addictive. It's the demands your mind can create which really prove hard to beat:
Psychological dependence is a risk with any drug. A substance which affects your mood can easily become addictive, especially if you start thinking it's a better feeling than being straight.
- Smoking a lot of hash frequently leaves some people thinking they have to get stoned to cope with the world.
- It's the mind which gets hooked on stimulants such as crack and cocaine. This is because the hit is intense but doesn't last long, and so many users feel the need to 'chase the high' by taking more and more.
- While some people are more likely to develop a psychological addiction than others, it's impossible to predict as your state of mind is always changing. There are no guarantees.
- Kicking a psychological addiction may be as testing as a physical withdrawal. Physical addiction
Physically addictive drugs
These include heroin, tranquillisers, alcohol and sleeping pills and they work by changing body chemistry:
- The more you do these kind of drugs, the more you need a hit to feel normal.
- This won't happen after the first go, but then most people don't realise they're addicted until they're hooked.
- Coming off physically addictive drugs (withdrawing) can be very unpleasant. Basically your body has to get used to going without, and may react badly for the first few days. This is often called cold turkey. Symptoms include cramps, shivering, chills and sweats. Even after your body's free of drugs, the mental cravings can be intense for a long time after. Staying clean can be a constant battle.
- Withdrawing from a chronic addiction to a tranquilliser such as Temazepam can result in physical symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations and vomiting. Other risks
- All drugs carry risks of some kind, especially when the effects are unexpected.
- Taking too much of any drug in one go risks an experience that could get out of control.
- Many drugs sold on the street have been mixed with other substances, so users can never be sure what they're getting.
- Users may become tolerant to certain drugs like alcohol, heroin, and speed. This means their bodies have become so used to the drug that they need to take more to get the hit they're after.
- As a result, users may overdose (i.e. take too much for their bodies to handle). With alcohol, heroin, gases, glues and aerosols, an overdose can kill.
- Mixing any drug is seriously risky. Doubling up depressant drugs (such as heroin and alcohol) depresses the body's ability to function properly and can be fatal. The truth about Ecstasy and Water
Ecstasy is a stimulant drug that raises body temperature. If you're dancing in a hot environment:
- Take regular breaks
- Keep sipping at a pint of non-alcoholic fluid per hour such as fruit juice or isotonic sports drinks.
Be aware that water doesn't cancel out the effects of ecstasy. It simply replaces fluid lost through sweating. If your body does start to overheat or dehydrate, however, don't ignore the warning signs:
- Dizziness, nausea and/or sudden tiredness.
- Aching limbs and/or cramp.
- Breathing problems.
- Difficulty urinating.
Stop dancing, and find somewhere cool to chill out. Just be careful about going outside if it's cold as you run the risk of cooling down too quickly and keep sipping at a pint of non-alcoholic fluid per hour.
Injecting drugs may be the most immediate way of getting a hit, but it's also the most dangerous. The major risks are:
- Overdosing by injecting more than the body can handle.
- Infection from non-sterile injection methods such as sharing. Use dirty or used needles and you increase the chances of HIV or hepatitis infection.
- Abscesses and gangrene due to missing the vein when injecting. If you're going to inject:
- Always use a new needle and syringe.
- Never share needles or syringes.
- Dispose of used needles and syringes safely.
- If you can, use a sharps bin or needle exchange.
A risk with hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (acid), magic mushrooms, ketamine and ecstasy, all of which can have a powerful effect on the mind. Predicting a bad trip is impossible, but the chances increase if the user feels anxious, unsafe or uncomfortable before and/or during the trip. Warning signs include feelings of paranoia, fear, panic and terror, creeping sensations and/or a lost sense of reality, often due to severe hallucinations.
- Stay calm at all times, and reassure them that they will be okay.
- Move them to a place where they feel safe and secure.
- Be aware that their environment (where they are, what they see and what they hear) can affect the course of their trip. Sudden movements or fast, aggressive music can make things worse.
- A trip can last up to 12 hours. During this time, do not leave them alone until you are sure the effects of the trip have subsided.
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