Body Fizzeek

Drug Addiction

"Come on, let's get high."

"A little bit won't hurt you."

"Addicted? You won't get hooked if you just try it once!"

Sound like something you've heard? Maybe you've even been tempted yourself. But no matter what anyone says, illegal drugs are harmful - and often deadly. Read on to learn more about drugs.

What Are Drugs?

Drugs are chemicals that change the way our bodies work. If you've ever been sick and had to take medicine, you already know some kinds of drugs. A medicine is a drug that a doctor gives people who are sick, but even medicines can be dangerous if they're not taken according to a doctor's instructions.

Cigarettes and alcohol are also drugs, but they are legal. (In the UK, teenagers 16 and over can buy cigarettes and those 18 and over can buy alcohol.) But smoking and excessive drinking are bad for adults and totally off limits for kids. Other kinds of drugs are dangerous all the time. These are drugs that aren't given by doctors. Most of them are illegal and include substances like Ecstasy, Marijuana, Cocaine, LSD, and Heroin.

Why Do Kids Use Drugs?

Kids may take drugs for many reasons, they may see older kids using them and want to be more like them., they may try drugs because they're curious, others may feel sad, scared, or bored. They may think drugs can help them forget their problems. Many kids just want to fit in with their friends. They may think drugs will make them cool. Lots of kids say they use drugs to get their parents' attention.

The truth is, drugs don't solve problems. Drugs just hide feelings. When a drug wears off, those feelings of being sad or lonely are still there. And you just feel worse.

Why Are Drugs Bad for You?

Anything you take too much of - even cough medicine or soda - can be bad for your body. And even small amounts of drugs kill your brain cells. Unlike your hair or fingernails, once a brain cell dies, it never grows back.

Drugs also interfere with your ability to think clearly. People can do really dumb or dangerous things that could hurt them - or other people - when they use drugs. Keeping up with school becomes even harder for kids on drugs. Drugs can also prevent your body from growing properly and can make you look sick all the time.

Some drugs make kids angry when they use them. These kids get into fights with their parents, teachers, and friends. And using drugs even one time may be all it takes to permanently damage your body - or kill you. One hit of crack or cocaine can give you (yes, even a kid!) a heart attack and kill you. Sniff glue or some other inhalant just once and you could go blind. You'd never be able to see again - forever.

Kids who use drugs may become dependent on them, or addicted. They have become so used to a drug that their bodies need it to function. Once you have an addiction, it's very hard to stop taking drugs. Stopping drug use brings on withdrawal symptoms - vomiting (throwing up), sweating, tremors (shaking), even hallucinations (say: ha-loo-sin-ay-shunz) - which continue until the body gets used to being without the drug. Hallucinations
are when a person thinks she hears or sees things that in reality aren't there.

How Can I Tell if My Friend Is Using Drugs?

Here are some of the more common warning signs of someone who is using drugs:

  • Stops showing interest in school
  • Suddenly changes friends (hangs out with kids who use drugs)
  • Becomes negative, cranky, or worried all the time
  • Doesn't want to go out anymore or play
  • Asks to be left alone a lot
  • Is always tired (maybe even sleeps in class)
  • Has many accidents
  • Becomes involved in a lot of fights
  • Changes moods a lot
  • Has sudden changes in appearance (red or puffy eyes, weight changes, lots of headaches or stomachaches, shaking, coughing that won't quit, brown stains on fingertips, stumbling, or a constant runny nose)
  • Loses interest in hobbies or sports
  • Has poor judgment
  • Can't concentrate

Of course, someone you know - like maybe a good friend - can have some of the above signs and not be using drugs. These signs could be from some other physical or emotional problem that's upsetting him or her.

What Can I Do to Help?

If you suspect that a friend is doing drugs, talk to him. Let your friend know that you care. Talk to your parents, teacher, school counselor, or another trusted adult. Offer to go with your friend to his parents or a counselor for help.

You alone can't make your friend stop doing drugs. It takes professional help. Drug hotlines offer information and counseling. Call them or give your friend phone numbers of places to call. Look in the blue pages of the phone book under alcohol and drug abuse to find a hotline near you.

Fight Back Against Drugs

Drugs are easy to get and easy to take. That's why it's hard for some people to say no. Friends who use drugs may want you to try them, too, but it's better to find friends who don't use drugs and don't want you to, either. Stop and think about what could happen if you use drugs. Remember that you will pay a long-term price - even death - for a short-term high. Find other kids who feel the same as you do about drugs and stick together. Most kids don't mess with drugs because drugs really mess you up.

Words to Know

Addiction - A person has an addiction when he becomes dependent on or continuously craves a drug all of the time. All an addicted drug user can think about is getting his next dose - and his next high.

Depressant - A depressant is a drug that slows a person down. Doctors prescribe depressants to help people be less angry, anxious, or tense. Depressants relax muscles and make people feel sleepy; less stressed out, or like their head feels groggy. Some people may use these drugs illegally to slow themselves down and help bring on sleep - especially after using various kinds of stimulants.

Hallucinogen - A hallucinogen is a drug, such as LSD, that changes a person's mood and makes him see, hear, or think things that aren't really there. Hallucinogens change the way a person judges time and seems to make it slow down. As the name implies, hallucinogens may cause hallucinations.

An auditory - hallucination occurs when someone hears something - like voices speaking or whispering - that isn't really there. A visual hallucination happens when someone sees things - like ants crawling on his skin - that doesn't really exist.

High - A high is the feeling that drug users want to get when they take drugs. There are many types of high, including a very happy or spacey feeling or a feeling that a person has special powers, such as the ability to fly or to see into the future.

Inhalant - An inhalant is sniffed or "huffed" to give the user an immediate rush. Inhalants, such as glues, gasoline, felt-tip marker fluid, and hair spray, are often found around a house but are extremely dangerous. Inhalants produce a quick feeling of being drunk - followed by sleepiness, staggering, dizziness, and confusion.

Narcotic - A narcotic dulls the body's senses (leaving a person less aware and alert, and feeling carefree) and relieves pain. Narcotics can cause a person to sleep, fall into a stupor, have convulsions, and even slip into a coma. Certain narcotics - such as codeine and morphine - are legal if given by doctors to treat pain, such as when someone has surgery or breaks a bone. Heroin is an illegal narcotic because it is has dangerous side effects and is very addictive.

Stimulant - A stimulant speeds up a person's body and brain. Stimulants, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, have the opposite effect of depressants. Usually stimulants make a person high and give him energy. When the effects of a stimulant wear off, a person will feel tired or sick.

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