Drugs

A drug is a substance that can change a person's mood or behaviour by altering their perception and brain function, or by speeding up and slowing down their physical responses. There are a vast number of different drugs that can change the way you feel and drugs can be used in lots of different ways to achieve this. Some drugs are illegal (such as cannabis, heroin, ecstasy and cocaine) whilst others are legal (like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine). Prescription and over-the-counter medicines (like paracetamol and codeine) are also drugs. Drugs can be naturally occurring such as nicotine derived from plants, or synthetic substances such as ecstasy, that are chemical compounds.

Drugs are used by people from all different backgrounds and with many different reasons for use. People use drugs for celebrations, stress relief, to avoid physical or emotional pain and to improve their appearance. All drugs, even legal ones, carry some risk and no drug can be used in complete safety. When drugs are injected or used in combination with other drugs the risks are increased even further.

How do drugs affect wellbeing?

Using a drug regularly increases the risk of you having a tolerance to its effects. This means you will need to use more of the drug each time or take it more frequently to continue to feel its effect. Developing a tolerance to a drug can lead to dependency, this means if you try to stop taking the drug suddenly, you you will experience withdrawal symptoms. These include sweating, fever, pains, hallucinations, anxiety and fear. Anyone can become dependent on a drug based on the type of drug used, the amount and length of time it is used for and the reasons for using the drug.

There is no completely safe level of drug use, especially when using illegal drugs. With illegal drugs, there is no way of knowing exactly what substances the drug contains or how strong it is likely to be. How a drug will affect you depends on not only its strength and content but also your own health, diet, tolerance and activity at the time of use. When drugs are injected there is a risk of infection, blood clots, blood borne viruses such as hepatitis and HIV, blocked or collapsing veins, ulcers and abscesses.

Reducing or stopping drug use can have immediate health benefits. If you are concerned that you may be physically dependant on a drug it is best to seek the advice of a professional before stopping. The East Riding Partnership offers confidential support for adults around drug awareness and concerns about their own or someone else's drug use.

Types of drugs and their effects

Stimulant drugs such as ecstasy, mephedrone, amphetamines, caffeine and nicotine, affect the body by temporarily increasing the central nervous system and brain activity. These drugs can increase your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure and reduce your appetite. They can cause insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns, anxiety, nausea, weight loss, convulsions, erratic and sometimes violent behaviour. Longer term side effects include permanent damage to the heart, liver and kidneys, psychosis, damage to the lungs, depression and an increased risks of strokes.

Depressant drugs such as heroin, alcohol, valium and tramadol affect the body by temporarily decreasing the central nervous system and brain activity. These drugs slow down your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. They can cause confusion, slowed reactions and visual disturbances, dizziness and slurred speech, paranoia and suicidal thoughts. The risk of your heart, breathing or brain function stopping completely is much higher with these drugs. Longer term effects include permanent damage to the heart, liver and kidneys, psychosis, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, chronic fatigue and depression.

Cannabis, another commonly used drug, can have different effects depending on the strength, type and how it is taken. As a result it can be a depressant, stimulant or hallucinogenic drug (a drug that can alter the way you see, hear or feel).

Risks from other drugs including hallucinogenic drugs that can alter your perceptions and Steroid and IPED (image and performance enhancing drugs) also carry risks similar to those already listed.

How can I improve my wellbeing?

Different types of drugs are used in different ways and all have different risks and side effects. Having a good understanding of what you are taking and the likely effects and risks will help you to make informed choices. Reducing your use of a drug and stopping use altogether is the safest and easiest way to improve your wellbeing. If you find yourself experiencing discomfort or physical withdrawal when reducing or stopping your use of a drug you should seek the advice of your GP.

If you decide that you are going to use drugs you should consider your reasons for using them. Think about what you are going to use and how you are going to use it. What are the risks and how are you going to manage them? Do not use drugs when on your own or in a low mood or distressed state. Seeking professional advice using a drug will help you to make an informed decision and reduce the risk of harm. Remember, you cannot use any drug completely safely although further help and advice is available. With the right help and support many people are able to stop, reduce and control their drug use.

Use the services below to find support:

How to help others

How can I help a child?

There is no completely safe way to take drugs and the risks are significantly increased to young people using them. However, many children and young people will experiment with drugs at some point. The substances most commonly used by young people are cannabis, ecstasy, and solvents or gases such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas). All of these substances have risk associated with them. If you are worried about a young person The Youth and Family Support Service can provide further advice. The Youth and Family Support Service offers help and advice to children and families in the East Riding that are affected by their own or a family member's drug use. You can also find more information about specific drugs, their effects and associated risks at Talk to Frank.

How can I help a teenager?

The best way to stay safe is to not use drugs at all. Drugs can affect your emotional and physical development as a teenager much more, and the risks are increased. If you do choose to use drugs, make sure you are in a safe environment and tell someone that you trust what you are doing. If you concerned about your own or another young person's drug use, The Youth and Family Support Service can provide further help and advice.You can also find more information about specific drugs, their effects and associated risks at Talk to Frank.

How can I help a friend or relative?

If you are concerned about a friend or family member's drug use and want to talk to them about it, you should make sure you have the right information about drugs first from a reputable source. Plan when and where to have the conversation and avoid raising your concerns when the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Try to be calm, open and honest about your concerns and give the other person the space and time to reflect on what you've said. They may not see their drug use as a problem and may be surprised at your concerns.

Where possible, try to be understanding about the issues behind the person's behaviour and drug use and avoid criticising or judging them. The East Riding Partnership offers confidential support for families and carers around drug awareness and help with understanding substance misuse problems. They can offer you further support and guidance on how to talk about your concerns with friends and family.

I'm a care worker. How can I help my client?

The East Riding Partnership offer confidential support and guidance for carers with concerns about drugs.

How can I help people in the workplace?

Drug use and dependence might affect an employee's ability to work depending on the intensity and frequency of their drug use. Employers should have policies in place to help staff with their mental and physical health and to ensure safe working. A healthy and supportive working environment can help to reduce stress and the risk of drug use and dependence developing. If you are concerned that a colleague is using drugs and is placing themselves or others at risk follow the advice above on how to approach them and encourage them to contact The East Riding Partnership for further support and guidance.

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