Do you smoke pot, or use party drugs or steroids? If you do, or plan to at some point, this information can help you make better decisions under those circumstances – which, let’s be clear, are often that you and/or your friends are doing something dangerous and life-threatening. But at least you’ll know what could go wrong, plus how and where to get help if you need it.
Whatever happens, don’t drive if you’ve taken drugs or alcohol, plus don’t get into a car with someone who has, or with someone you don’t know.
Yep, it’s one of the worst things you can do for your body.
Living in a bubble? Maybe you don’t know the disgusting and frightening effects of tobacco, like cancer, heart disease, strokes and gangrene.
And, despite the rumours, smoking pot (cannabis, marijuana, Ganga, Mary Jane, weed) probably has even more tar and chemicals – especially if it’s hydroponically grown – plus increases the risk of triggering mental illness or drug-induced psychosis. Sure, everyone knows a smoker or two that are really old and ok, but it’s the exception by far (and I challenge you to find a long-term pot smoker that’s in great shape physically OR mentally).
But, ok, lots of us still smoke for a while (wish I never did, but I did, and after a few drinks I still grab the odd one…), and if you haven’t given up yet, here’re some tips:
- Stop your house stinking by using a jar with a tight-fitting lid as an ashtray (screw on the lid before binning it).
- If you use a smoking implement, i.e. a bong, be aware that it’s a myth that’s it’s safer than joints, in fact, it’s probably more harmful because of the high dose of smoke. If you still plan to use one, however, glass is fragile but at least you can see into it. Clean it with vinegar, bicarb and an old toothbrush or dishwashing brush – another urban myth is that adding milk will help to keep it clean…that’s what it is, a myth.
- Smoking is seriously expensive – work out the treats you could afford if you quit (holidays!)! It’s cheaper to roll your own ciggies than buy tailor-made and you might get cheaper tobacco from some health food stores (ask if they sell organic…yay…organic cancer in a stick).
Good on you! Don’t give up. See your GP or try online for help with quitting – some sites even calculate how much money you save (heaps!!) plus you can share stories or read others’ experiences.
See useful websites: drugs for links.
Smoke and mirrors: Rumours abound about things to smoke, from dried parsley, banana leaves or nutmeg to tea leaves…whatever it is, don’t bother – it will just taste disgusting and give you a sore throat. Not sure how I know that. Ahem.
Keep it sensible – especially if you’re renting. Remember, you’ll have to pay for any damage other people do (thousands of dollars for new carpet anyone?).
DON’T put the details on facebook or anywhere else they can go viral!
Tell your neighbours what you’re planning so they don’t freak out, and even let the police know if it’s likely to be a big shindig.
The lucky (or not so lucky) dip
So tobacco companies are unethical, right? Imagine the unregulated drug trade. You have no idea what is in black market drugs. Do you think drug dealers give a stuff about what you put in your body?
As exciting and cool as using may seem in movies, books or songs, it’s worth remembering that past artists weren’t getting their gear cut with the other stuff people use nowadays.
Was Jack Kerouac doing dextrose, caffeine, procaine, lidocaine or even strychnine mixed with his drugs On the Road? Nope. Were The Beatles smoking pot cranked out in six weeks on chemicals and growth hormones, then bulked up with hairspray or lead (like the pot that hospitalised teens in The Netherlands)?
If you’re going to do drugs, you should know you’re not getting a reliable product – you’re gambling with unknown ingredients and amounts, and any added complications that go hand in hand.
Even paracetamol (acetaminophen) can cause irreversible liver damage if you overdose, for example, and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) should be taken with food (or at least a big glass of milk) or it can burn your stomach lining.
Call for help!
You won’t get in trouble calling the paramedics. And if someone is really sick or in danger after taking drugs or alcohol, getting them to hospital quickly could save their life.
Call your emergency line (like 911 or 000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
NOTE: Police are only called to an overdose if there is any danger to the ambulance officers or if the person dies, so get help before there IS a death to worry about.
Party drugs – the dos and don’ts…
If you’re doing it, at least minimise the risks…
- Avoid mixing multiple drugs and/or alcohol, or, if you do, be aware that using more drugs increases your risk factors for danger.
- Stay with a friend (ideally who isn’t using drugs). As well as risks from the drugs and alcohol themselves (like an overdose or long-term health issues), there are other risks users need to think about – a car accident or rape, for example or getting caught. Staying together and not getting in a car can at least lower some of these risks.
- Don’t rely on onsite pill testing at events – it’s not always reliable. If you’re dancing, don’t forget to hydrate and take regular breaks.
- Injecting is likely to be higher risk than smoking, eating and snorting. If you do inject, don’t ever share injecting equipment, even with someone you trust (they mightn’t know they’re infected). Also make sure you use new needles and equipment each time and always try a small amount first, especially if it’s hard to estimate dosage (e.g.GHB).
“Bath salts”, for example, hit the headlines in the USA when a reputed user ate off part of a man’s face then was shot dead by police.
While there’re no actual bath salts involved (safe to let your flatmate keep their bath bubbles then), it’s just one example of how drug use is a pretty big gamble (especially if your friends are hungry…).
The danger zone
It’s tricky to work out what the exact effect of any illegal drug will be on each person – it depends on how much you have; how long and often you use it; if you’ve taken more than one drug together; plus how you personally react to that drug.
You know how a cup of coffee wires your mate but does nothing to you? That’s one example of how drugs affect people differently. Plus, you don’t even really know what you’re taking with party drugs, since they’re mixed with unknowns.
Some proven effects are things like a higher chance of triggering mental illness or permanent brain changes. Something to think about before you scarf down another pill next time, hey?
If you’re never going to take illegal drugs, you could probably skip this info about party drugs and effects. But, it’s an enlightening read, and, frankly, a bit of a buzz-kill.
NEVER mix them with inhalants (like amyl nitrate) – it can be fatal.
Help with drug and alcohol problems
If it’s an emergency, always call for help (e.g. 911 or 000) immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Depending on where you live, there’re a lot of places to get information, counselling or help for yourself or a friend.
See useful websites: drugs for links to confidential drug info, counselling and other support services in your local area.
Anabolic steroids come from testosterone, and are available as injectables or tablets – both can cause side effects like breast growth on men or facial hair on women, as well as other problems like liver damage. Plus, are you even getting what you’ve paid for? Like any black market drug, dealers will maximise profits – how will you know if you’re getting contaminated or even animal drugs?
If you’re going to take them, use low doses (high doses only increase side-effects, not results), use new needles, don’t take diuretics (it increases the risk of heart problems), talk to your doctor (it’s confidential) and check exactly which drug you’re taking.
For more information on drugs in sports, check out the website of the government anti-doping authority in your area (see links at useful websites: drugs).
It’s a chicken or egg kind of argument – does the drug use cause the illness or the illness lead to self-medication?
Illicit drug users are more likely to experience mental health issues than non-users; in particular if you use ice, speed or cocaine.
Using marijuana and ice are both linked to schizophrenia and depression, with an even stronger link between depression and using ecstasy, heroin or speed.
Mental disorders are caused by a mix of factors including genetics and environment, though, and it’s hard to work out whether drug use alone causes it. Drugs can definitely trigger it though.