What is drug abuse?
In this country, illegal drugs are categorised into three classes: A, B and C.
Class A drugs are considered to be most dangerous to health. They include:
- cocaine (including crack; nicknamed charlie, coke);
- heroin (nicknamed smack);
- LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide; nicknamed acid, trips);
- PCP (phencyclidine; nicknamed angel dust);
- poppy straw;
- STP (amphetamine nicknamed serenity, tranquility and peace);
- MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine; nicknamed ecstasy);
Class B drugs are also considered to be dangerous, but less so than class A drugs.
- amphetamine (nicknamed speed, whizz – and an ingrediant of ecstasy);
- codeine in concentrations above 2.5%;
- DF118 (dihydrocodeine);
Class C drugs are considered to be the least harmful to health. They include:
- Cannabis and cannabis resin (marijuana, grass, pot, weed);
- Benzodiazepines (including valium, and rohypnol).
- Nicknamed roofies (Benzodiazepines have also been recently referred to as date-rape drugs in the media ).
Some of these drugs are legal when prescribed by a doctor and can be used for pain-relief or to relieve the symptoms of certain medical conditions. Illegal drugs are classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which can only be changed and added to by the Home Secretary.
Benefits of drugs
Some drugs may have beneficial medical effects. Some people believe that cannabis, for example, has pain relief properties. Studies have been undertaken to find out if cannabis can help with pain relief for people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis but as yet, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that cannabis is any more effective in controlling pain than other prescription drugs.
However, there is evidence to suggest that cannabis may be effective as a relaxant in the treatment of conditions such as anxiety and epilepsy.
Drugs that have medical benefits are categorized as prescription-only drugs. This means that a doctor is able to prescribe them in certain situations. For instance, methadone is sometimes prescribed to heroin addicts as part of a recovery program.
Definition of drugs
Illegal drugs are drugs that have been banned, by law, for use in this country. It is illegal to possess or supply banned drugs. Some illegal drugs have been categorized as prescription-only, meaning that they may only be used if prescribed by a doctor, but are illegal to use, possess, or supply, in any other circumstances.
Drug misuse or abuse, are the terms used to describe the use of illegal, prescription-only, or over-the-counter drugs, for purposes other than intended by the manufacturer or a doctor.
Taking drugs in quantities not intended by the manufacturer or a doctor can also be defined as drug misuse or abuse.
It is commonly recognized by medical professionals that the first, and often the most difficult, step to recovering from any kind of addiction, is for the addict to recognize their addiction and admit that outside help is needed to deal with it. This is a difficult process as one of the defining elements of addiction is that many users continue abusing drugs despite knowing and understanding the consequences.
Willpower alone, is therefore rarely enough.
Recovery can be a long process, starting with physical detoxification (coming off and staying off the drug, and learning to cope with withdrawal symptoms). It usually combines a range of treatments including psychological and behavioral therapy, as well as medication if required. Treatment will vary depending of the specific addiction, particularly as some drugs are highly physically addictive, while others tend to lead more to psychological dependency.
Risks of taking drugs
Taking illegal drugs carries serious health risks because they are not controlled or supervised by medical professionals. Many illegal drugs have to be imported into this country from different parts of the world. This means that they have been processed and passed through the hands of many different people before they are eventually sold in small quantities on the street.
During this time they may be mixed with other products (cut) , often many times, with other products, in order to increase the quantity and make more profit.
It is not unusual to find substances in illegal drugs that are much more harmful than the drugs themselves. Someone buying illegal drugs may trust their own supplier, but they cannot know or trust the chain of people who have dealt with the drugs before that.
As well as having immediate health risks, some drugs can be addictive and lead to long-term damage to the body. Heavy or long-term use of some illegal drugs may cause the user to overdose, which may cause irrepairable damage to the body and can be fatal.
Mixing drugs is highly dangerous.
Taking illegal drugs also carries a legal risk. Being caught in possession of class A drugs may carry a penalty of seven years imprisonment, while supplying class A drugs can mean life imprisonment. Supplying means giving or selling drugs to other people.
The risks of using specific drugs include:
Cannabis may cause feelings of dizziness or sickness and it can make the mouth, tongue and lips feel dry. In large or repeated doses, cannabis may cause panic or paranoia. Cannabis contains a large amount of tar (about three times the amount found in a standard cigarette). This means it is very bad for people with respiratory problems such as bronchitis and asthma. Long-term use of cannabis is also thought to lower a man’s sperm count.
Amphetamine use can lead to feelings of dizziness and may cause blood vessels to burst. Burst blood vessels can, in very rare cases, lead to paralysis and may even be fatal.
Using amphetamines, particularly over long periods of time, can cause insomnia, which may lead to depression.
As the body becomes more tolerant to the drug, larger amounts are needed to produce the desired effect. This increases both health risks and the likelihood of dependence or addiction. Some people may also have a toxic or allergic reaction to amphetamines.
Very few are pure. Most have been cut into with other contents such as talcum powder and even dog-worming tablets.
Cocaine and crack addicts often lose more than just their physical health, as the addiction encourages anti-social behaviour such moodiness, unpredictability and theft in order to fund their habit.
Taking acid is risky because each tab can contain very different amounts of acid. Research shows that a single tab can have as little as 25 micro grams of acid in it, or as much as 250 micro grams – this is enough to cause serious psychiatric side-effects.
Psychological health problems are the most common side effect of taking acid. A bad trip can feel like being trapped in a nightmare, often played over and over. Flashbacks can occur at any time after taking acid, sometimes even after many years. A flashback is a sudden, vivid memory of a bad trip and can be very frightening, sometimes causing mental health problems. There is no way to prevent flashbacks occurring.
When a person has taken acid they will experience hallucinations and delusions. This is becomes dangerous as they may behave irrationally, believing, for example, that they can fly.
Most heroin bought on the street is only 10 to 60 % pure. It is usually cut into with other products to increase the quantity and therefore make more profit from it.
Heroin is probably the most addictive drug available in this country. Users become so dependent on it that they will do almost anything to fund their addiction. This is why heroin use is often associated with anti-social and criminal behavior such as child neglect and burglary.
Drug abuse: Getting help
Anyone coping with drug addiction or abuse can see doctor for advice, support and referral for specialist treatment.
How to help in an emergency (drug overdose)
Try to keep a lookout for danger signs in yourself or other people who have taken drugs. If this is the case it is important to take the following actions immediately:
In a club or pub, get help from the staff straight away. Stress the seriousness of the situation by being completely honest about the drugs that have or may have been taken. Most clubs and pubs will have a member of staff who is first aid trained. This person should stay with the patient until medical help arrives.
Phone 999. Tell the operator that you need an ambulance. Be clear and calm. Tell the operator exactly where the patient is, what drugs they have taken and what symptoms they are showing.