Healthy lives for young people


Here is a short guide to dealing with peer pressure, understanding the side effects and advice from drugs charity Frank about staying safe.

What percentage of under 16-24 year olds do you think have never tried drugs?

The answer is 60%. That means only a third of 16-24 year olds have tried them, which is helpful to know if you’re dealing with pressure or relying on friends for the facts.

Dealing with peer pressure

If you’re feeling under pressure to experiment with drugs, here are some things to help you deal with it:

  • Remember that figure of 60% and the fact that if you don’t want to dabble, you’re in the majority. Most people don’t experiment with drugs so don’t be pressured into believing they do.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no. It may sound simple but by being clear and firm and not making it into a big deal may mean you can sidestep the issue quite easily. Plus, don’t underestimate the respect this will earn you, even if those around you don’t show it.
  • If saying no turns into a debate, be ready and think about your feelings about drugs. Knowing your own mind and having your opinions rehearsed will help you stand your ground instead of agreeing to something you’re not comfortable with.
  • Support your friends who may also be on the receiving end of peer pressure. Talk one-on-one and discuss your feelings about drugs. You may both benefit from some support and may find it easier to stand your ground together.
  • If the pressure is becoming too much, think carefully about whether this is really the crowd you want to be hanging out with. If they won’t respect your decision, it suggests they don’t have your best interests at heart.
  • If you have any questions at all or want to talk anything through in confidence, you can call the Frank helpline 24 hours a day on 0300 123 6600.
  • The side effects
  • Chances are you will’ve heard plenty about the positive side effects or ‘high’s associated with drug use, but what goes up, must come down. Here are some of the downsides that you may not have considered.

The way you feel

Drugs can play havoc with how you feel and behave. Feeling low or depressed is a common feature of most come-downs but it can also be a long-term side-effect. Anxiety is common and is especially associated with the use of cannabis, ecstasy (MDMA), speed and mephedrone. LSD, ecstasy, mushrooms, cocaine and ketamine can all make you feel panicky and steroids and speed can make you aggressive, even if you’re normally a calm person.

Confusion, poor memory and concentration, irritability, paranoia…the list of common side-effects goes on. And bear in mind that drug use can also lead to long term conditions. For example, regular users of cannabis and ketamine are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

Your relationships

For all the reasons described above, drugs will sooner or later start to impact on your relationships with others. The way you interact with friends and family is likely to change and could start to cause friction and arguments. If you’re having sex, drugs can also cause physical changes. For example, steroids can cause blokes to have erection problems and cocaine can decrease your sex drive.

The way you look

Most drugs will affect your appearance to some degree and it could mean more than just a few spots. Steroids can make girls more hairy and can cause boy’s testicles to shrink. They can also cause breast shrinkage in girls and breast growth in boys.

Volatile substances such as gasses, glues and aerosols can give you a red rash around your mouth, as can poppers. Methamphetamine, cocaine and speed can have an even more devastating effect. Snorting cocaine and speed can, over time, destroy the inside of your nose and methamphetamine can cause your teeth and gums to rot away leaving you with ‘meth-mouth’. Methamphetamine can also cause skin ulcers due to fact it can cause users to pick at imaginary bugs crawling under their skin.

Your lungs and heart

Ketamine as well as volatile substances such as gasses, glues and aerosols can make your throat swell and can cause breathing problems. They can also all lead to coma and heart problems and can kill you instantly. Some people have been known to die the first time they’ve ever used them.

Addiction and overdose

Perhaps two of the commonest words we associate with drug use are addiction and overdose. One of the most dangerous side effects of many drugs is their addictive quality, making it hard to keep away from them. Simply put, an overdose is when you take more than your body can cope with. It can be very hard to judge how much you can take of any drug, without overdosing and even if you’ve used a drug before, you have no way of judging its strength or knowing what other substances it has been mixed or ‘cut’ with.

Staying safe

Here is some good advice for staying safe from drugs charity FRANK (taken from The Truth About Drugs)

Substances are not safe and can cause long-term harm. The safest option is not to use drugs. Anyone who does take drugs should:

  • Avoid mixing drugs
  • Pace themselves. It can take a while for substances to kick in
  • Take a break. If they’re dancing, they should take regular breaks to cool down, drink water and check how they’re feeling
  • Keep hydrated. Especially if taking ecstasy and speed while clubbing. It’s best to sip fruit juice or isotonic sports drinks regularly (no more than a pint an hour)
  • Keep track of the amount they’re using, to avoid an overdose
  • Stay with other people, especially if they start to feel ill
  • Take it easy the morning after, to help their body recover. That means simple, healthy stuff like water, toast and orange juice

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