Alkyl Nitrates
Anabolic Steroids
Cocaine and Crack
Magic Mushrooms

Drugs can be categorised in many ways, hard or soft, uppers or downers, addictive or non addictive, most harmful or least harmful, legal or illegal. A category that is often useful is to divide drugs into their effects. Put most simply these are:

they increase the activity of the central nervous system. Examples are caffeine, tobacco, ephedrine, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, 'crack', poppers, anabolic steroids.

they reduce the activity of the central nervous system. Examples are alcohol, solvents, minor tranquillisers (e.g. Valium), Codeine, Gees Linctus, pethidine, distalgesic, heroin.

they alter perceptions of reality and may result in hallucinations (seeing something that is not there). Examples are cannabis, magic mushrooms and LSD.

Types of drug problems
All drugs can create problems, either for the drug user or for other people affected by the actions of the drug user. These problems may be categorised as being either physical, psychological, social or legal. With some drugs the user may become psychologically dependent - this means they feel life is impossible unless they continue to use the drug. With some drugs the user may become physically dependent - this means their body experiences unpleasant physical symptoms if they suddenly stop using the drug. With some drugs the user may become both psychologically and physically dependent.

For some students alcohol consumption increases without them realising - this can result in financial problems, hangovers, an inability to concentrate on their studies, morning lectures are missed and they find themselves having to fit their lifestyle around their alcohol use. Some of these students may even experience health problems, such as early gastric and liver damage. Regular drinking of large amounts of alcohol by pregnant women can harm the foetus. Alcohol can also cause depression. Both physical and psychological dependence may occur with high levels of use.

Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and starts to take effect within five to ten minutes. Effects may last from one to several hours depending on dose. The effects can vary according to body size and whether food is in the stomach and how much the person is used to drinking. After the equivalent of drinking two pints of beer most people feel less inhibited and relaxed. Jovial and merry feelings can occur and getting drunk is a relatively common event especially in student circles!

The first negative effect most people will experience with alcohol is a hangover consisting of one, or a variety of symptoms, including a headache caused by dehydration (alcohol affects the pituitary gland that controls the flow of water released by the body though urine). A sick and raw feeling of the stomach can occur. Whilst under the influence of alcohol, accidents can happen and alcohol should not be taken before, or while operating machinery or driving (even if you drank the night before). Larger doses of alcohol may lead to depressive and violent behaviour. The sex drive may increase but performance may suffer, one form being 'brewers droop'!

Alcohol and other drugs
It is not a good idea to take alcohol with other drugs as it can exaggerate the effect of those drugs. There are risks of overdosing, becoming unconscious and choking on one's vomit which can result in death. It is worth remembering that many drug related deaths occur through mixing alcohol with other drugs.

Alkyl Nitrates:~
Alkyl Nitrates (Poppers) are a group of chemicals which include Amyl Nitrate, Butyl Nitrate, and Isobutyl Nitrate. They generally come in small bottles with screw tops or plug tops, as a clear yellow liquid with a sweet smell when fresh. They are available in sex shops, clubs and bars, and sold under the brand names of Rush, T.N.T Ram etc.

There have not been any reports of addiitional adverse consequences resulting from long term use. Alkyl Nitrates are medicinal products and are controlled by the Medicines Act 1968. Possession is not an offence, but is illegal for anybody except doctors and chemists to produce or supply them.

It is mostly used as a dance enhancer on the club circuit but can also be used as a muscle relaxant and sexual stimulant. It is usually sniffed directly from the bottle and once inhaled, effects last for 2-5 minutes. The effect is a head rush similar to hyperventilation as the blood vessels dilate, heart rate increases and blood rushes to the brain.

Reduced blood pressure which could lead to unconsciousness and heart attacks have been recorded. Users often experience weakness, headaches, nausea and vomiting. The effects are increased if mixed with other drugs. Regular use can lead to skin complaints, sometimes accompanied by swelling of the nasal passages. This substance is highly dangerous if swallowed and can lead to death. Nitrates have not been reported as causing any dependence. There have been no reports of additional adverse consequences resulting from long term use.

Anabolic Steriods:~
Anabolic steroids (Durabolin, Stanozol, Dianabol) are derived from hormones which occur naturally in the body and are responsible for the development and function of the reproductive organs. These anabolic steroids promote the build up of muscle tissue and are used by some athletes and body builders. Most synthetic anabolic steroids on the market are derived from human testosterone, however some are intended for use on animals and should not be consumed by humans. In the long term - psychological dependence will occur with some users. Anabolic steriods are class C controlled drugs.

Users report that steroids help them recover more easily from strenuous exercise. It has also controversially been claimed that steroids enhance athletic performance.

Research indicates that the use of anabolic steroids results in aggression, stunted growth in young people, increased blood pressure and abnormalities in body development.

Benzodiazepines (Valium, Temazepam, Librium, Mogadon, Rohypnol) are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for sleeping and anxiety problems. They are available as pills and capsules and are taken orally, but are also injected.

Generally "Benzos" have replaced barbituates (barbs) because of the dangers in overdosing. Benzodiazipines are Class C controlled drugs and may be prescribed. Otherwise it is illegal to supply or produce them. Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for their supply or production. It is an offence to possess Temazepam or Rohypnol without a prescription. Otherwise it is legal to possess other benzodiazepines without a prescription (if they are in the form of a medicinal product).

*Rohypnol's pharmaceutical name is Flunitrazepam. It comes in the form of a purple diamond shaped tablet. One side has a score on it, the other has Rohypnol written on it. It is essentially a sleeping pill - the effect is increased with alcohol, the more alcohol consumed the greater the effect as a result it can make people very confused. Royhpnol's effects can last for 6-10 hours. There have been many reports of Rohypnol being used to 'spike' people's drinks.

They reduce feelings of tension and increase feelings of calmness.

The body soon develops a tolerance to them, so a person has to take more to achieve the same effect. Both physical and psychological dependence can occur.

Caffeine in its purest form is a white powder. It is found in coffee, tea and many soft drinks (such as colas) and over the counter pain killers. Coffee contains the most caffeine especially when percolated. Most adults consume 440mg of caffeine per day. Pain killers which contain caffeine usually have 50 mg per tablet, it is possible to double ones daily dose if these are consumed on top of a daily caffeine intake.

Caffeine is not subject to any LEGAL restrictions. In the long term - psychological dependence will occur. There are no long term physical effects from using caffeine.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, counters tiredness, and helps prevent boredom.

Short term effects - large doses of caffeine impair performance especially where attention to detail or delicate tasks are required. Anxiety, increased heart rate and blood pressure can occur with moderate doses. Larger doses can cause anxiety and restlessness, chronic insomnia and heart palpitations. Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, lack of alertness, drowsiness and irritability. Although physical and psychological dependence may occur, medical assistance is not required.

Cannabis (Blow, Puff, Dope, Hash, Grass) is the most commonly used illegal drug in Northern Ireland. It is usually smoked in the form of resin, a brown solid mass which is crumbled and mixed with tobacco to form a joint or spliff. Alternatively cannabis can be taken orally whether raw or mixed in cakes, fudge etc. Cannabis can also come in its original leaf form (grass) and as an oil. Cannabis leaf and resin is now a class C controlled drug. It is illegal to possess, supply, produce or cultivate cannabis.

Similarly, it is illegal to allow premises to be used for the supply or production or smoking of cannabis.

Like tobacco, long term regular smoking can lead to bronchitis and other lung diseases such as lung cancer. Physical dependence does not occur, although psychological dependence may. Traces of cannabis can stay in the body for at least a month. This could be an issue if a user has to take a pre-employment medical examination.

The effects of cannabis can vary from person to person, some users may feel more talkative, more relaxed, experience a sense of well being and being 'stoned' (heightened perception) often mentally distancing themselves from their surroundings. Mild hallucinations and strong feelings of affection may occur. Skunk is a new strain of cannabis that is extremely potent causing very strong hallucinogenic experiences.

Cannabis may bring to the surface some emotional problems which may lead to more severe mental health problems. Heavy users may become de-motivated in life which can result in lack of interest in academic matters. Users may begin to change their lifestyle to fit around taking cannabis and lose interest in their friends, family and social affairs.

When smoked cannabis contains carcinogenic chemicals. If a joint is made using cannibis and tobacco this will cause even more damage to the lungs. The most common bad reactions to cannabis are anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, mood swings, sleeping problems, short term memory loss and reduced concentration which can be dangerous if operating machinery or driving. Furthermore cannabis can result in a craving for food which could lead to noticeable weight gain with continuous use.

Cocaine and Crack:~
Cocaine (Charlie, Snow, Coke) comes in the form of a white powder made from the coca shrub that can be eaten, smoked, sniffed or injected. Crack (Rock, Stone & Wash) is derived from cocaine hydrochloride. It too is white but in the form of crystals or rocks the size of raisins that are smoked. Cocaine and crack are class A controlled drugs. Cocaine may be prescribed in certain circumstances. Otherwise they are illegal to possess, supply or produce, (unless authorised to do so). Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for their supply or production. Withdrawal is very difficult. Regular users can experience the high being replaced with tiredness, depression, sickness, restlessness and weight loss. The lining of the nose can be damaged from sniffing the drug.

The user can feel invincible and confident due to a powerful buzz. Animated and intense talking, feelings of well being and strength are common, as well as a preoccupation with the effect of the drug. The intense high lasts 10 - 15 minutes. The remaining effects disappearing within an hour. As a result the user may need repeated doses to maintain the high. The user may feel a constant need for more to obtain the same effect.

Short term effects include anxiety, hallucinations and feelings of persecution, and the sensation of bugs under the skin followed by tiredness, hunger and depression. Users may become psychologically dependent. Strong psychological dependence may occur with Crack users. Its short lived effect can lead to a habit which is very expensive to maintain.

Ecstasy or E is the name for tablets or capsules which contain the drug (MDMA) Methylenedioxylmethylamphetamine. Ecstasy may be sold under a variety of names such as Snowballs, Doves, New Yorkers, Burgers etc. each tablet having slightly different effects. Ecstasy is mainly taken orally, however, it can also be snorted or, more rarely, injected.

Ecstasy has been linked to deaths concerning young people. Regular use depletes an essential brain chemical, serotonin which can lead to depression. Ecstasy is a class 'A' controlled drug. It cannot be prescribed and is illegal to possess, supply or produce. Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for its supply or production.

Ecstasy starts to take effect after approximately 30 minutes and could last for several hours. If there is no effect after 30 minutes another dose should not be taken. Different users are affected in different ways, some experiencing an urge to dance or be affectionate with people around them. Users may experience a feeling known as 'coming up' where the drug sends rushes all over the body and brain producing a feeling of 'Ecstasy'. This may include a tingling feeling in the spine and an overall feeling of joy. Slight hallucinations may also occur. Do be aware Ecstasy makes some people more likely to end up having sex when on the drug, so be prepared and carry and use a condom if the occasion arises.

Ecstasy acts like a stimulant so those with heart conditions, respiratory conditions and/or epilepsy should definitely not take it. Aches, pains, muscle stiffness, spasms and twitching, cramps, vomiting, stomach ache, dizziness, panic attacks and depression, temporary paranoia and insomnia can all be after effects of taking Ecstasy. Continuous dancing in hot venues may result in dehydration. This can be avoided by drinking up to a maximum of one pint of water (or other still soft drinks) per hour. Physical dependence does not occur, but psychological dependence is possible.

Heroin (or H, Smack, Junk, Gear, Brown) is a depressant drug derived from the opium poppy, and is used medically for controlling extremely severe pain. However, the heroin which is sold illegally is cut with impurities like talcum powder, glucose and flour to increase the bulk and increase profit. It comes in the form of white or light brown powder and is sold in small paper wrappers. Heroin can be sniffed, smoked or the powder can be dissolved in water and injected, any drug is dangerous when injected and death from overdose is possible. Injecting with unclean shared needles can be hazardous to the user's health because of the danger of transmitting HIV, Hepatitis & other diseases.

Heroin depresses brain activity including reflexes like coughing, breathing and heart rate. The drug takes effect almost immediately and the effects can last several hours depending on the dose. Contentment, relief from stress and a warm pleasant drowsiness may all be felt by the user. Heroin is a class A controlled drug. In its medicinal form heroin may be prescribed in certain circumstances. Otherwise it is illegal to possess, supply or produce.

Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for the supply or production of heroin. When used regularly the effects cause highs followed by 'withdrawal' (sweating, jitters, diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps). If taken frequently the user starts to increase the dose to get the same effect. Psychological and physical dependence often occurs, it can take years to get free of heroin. Regular use leads to poor health due to bad diet and chaotic lifestyle. Women user's menstrual cycle may become disrupted.

Short term effects - for the non regular user there can be immediate unpleasant effects like nausea and vomiting, which will often deter someone from using the drug again. Overdosing on heroin can cause unconsciousness and may result in death from breathing failure or inhaling vomit.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (Acid, Trips, Tabs) is a hallucinogen which usually comes in the form of impregnated paper squares, which may have colourful designs on them. LSD squares or "tabs" are taken orally. The main danger may be to people who have or are unaware they have a mental illness, as the drug can bring this on. LSD in any event may trigger a psychotic response. Users may also experience a "flashback" where the trip is relived possibly years after. Physical dependence does not occur, but psychological dependence is possible.

After taking LSD the user may experience intense and changeable emotions and the senses behave in unexpected ways e.g. visions and an "understanding"of the universe etc. Users may experience heightened self awareness and a feeling of being outside one's body. The effect (or trip) lasts up to 8 - 12 hours, depending on dose. Experiences will vary from visions of joy and beauty to heightened awareness of sound and colour.

Bad experiences or trips are not uncommon and can last 8-12 hours. Short term effects - LSD is not physically addictive. Effects depend to some extent on the users mood and may include dizziness, depression, disorientation and sometimes panic. It is normal to feel tired, drained of energy and confused for some time afterwards.

LSD is a class "A" controlled drug. It cannot be prescribed. It is illegal to possess, supply or produce. Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for its supply or production.

Magic Mushrooms:~
Hallucinogenic mushrooms (magic mushrooms) grow in many parts of the country, they contain substances called psilocin and psilocybin. Magic mushrooms come in various forms and strengths, therefore there is no set amount to be eaten as results will vary. The main danger may be people who have or are unaware they have a mental illness, as the drug can bring on symptoms of the illness. Hallucinogenic mushrooms may in any event also trigger a psychotic response. Users may also experience a "flashback" where the trip is relived some time after taking any mushrooms. Physical dependence does not occur, but psychological dependence is possible. Some mushrooms may contain worms which can be passed on to the user.

There are no restrictions on possessing, supplying or cultivating magic mushrooms if they are in their natural raw state. However, they become illegal if dried, processed or prepared in any way as this has been held by the courts to result in the preparation of psilocybin or psilocin which are class A controlled drugs.

Experiences will vary from visions of joy and beauty to a heightened awareness of sound and colour.

Bad experiences are not uncommon and may also be experienced in a "flashback." A danger comes from picking the wrong kind of mushrooms, which may be poisonous and can be fatal if ingested. If there are any doubts about the identity of any mushrooms they should not be consumed. Poisoning can take up to 40 hours to develop. Anyone feeling ill after taking mushrooms within this period should consult a doctor immediately. If possible, samples of the mushrooms consumed and any vomit should be taken to the doctor to help identification of the poison consumed. Effects or symptoms may include dizziness, depression, disorientation and sometimes panic.

Solvents are chemicals found in things like glue, paint, aerosols, Tippex and butane gas and are generally sniffed or inhaled. When inhaled some of them have effects similar to alcohol. The possession of solvents is legal, however the use for intoxication may be a potential reason for putting those under 18 in care. Otherwise the only restriction is that it is an offence to supply solvents to someone under 18 if the supplier believes they are likely to use them to achieve intoxication.

The user may feel giddy and light headed, drowsy and in some cases hallucinate.

Short term effects - breathing and heart rate are depressed and repeated or deep inhalation can cause disorientation, loss of control and unconsciousness. Effects disappear within a few minutes to half an hour after sniffing. Afterwards the user may experience a mild hangover (headaches, poor concentration) for about a day. Sniffing carries the risk of death through choking on vomit. About 100 deaths occur every year in the UK usually due to freezing of the lungs or suffocation. As with alcohol, accidental death by injury can occur.

Long term effects of heavy use over several years may result in lasting damage to the brain, affecting control of movement. Long term damage to the kidneys and liver can also occur. Long term users will have the hangover symptoms of paleness, tiredness, forgetfulness and lack of concentration. Performance and function may be affected and, weight loss, depression and trembling may occur but these will disappear when the sniffing has stopped. Psychological dependence may occur, and there have been reports of physical dependence.

Speed/Amphetamine Sulphate:~
There is no standardised quality of amphetamine or any other illegal drug. It may be cut with a variety of impurities such as talcum powder and, as a result it is rarely more than 5% pure when sold on the streets. The drug comes in the form of a coloured or off white powder and is packaged in a 'wrap' made from an envelope of folded paper. It can be taken by snorting, swallowing, drunk e.g with juice or by injecting. It is usually sold by the gram.

Amphetamine Sulphate is a class B controlled drug, (class 'A' if designed for injection, also referred to as whizz, berwick, speed, sulphate). Some amphetamines are prescribed. Otherwise it is illegal to possess, supply or produce. Similarly it is illegal to allow premises to be used for the supply or production of amphetamines.

Amphetamines cause the user to feel more confident, talkative and cheerful. Concentration is increased but this is usually only with single repetitive tasks. It is also used in clubs as a dance stimulant.

Short term effects - include an increase in breathing & heart rate, dilation of the pupils and suppression of appetite. Because amphetamine is cut with a variety of impurities it is particularly dangerous to inject. To the user their thinking may seem clearer but to the non user, they may appear to have 'verbal diarrhoea' or be over fidgety. After the effects have worn off, the user may feel tired, anxious, irritable and restless. High doses can produce panic and even hallucinations.

Long term effects include tiredness due to lack of sleep, food and lowered resistance to disease. There may also be delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and amphetamine psychosis (severe mental disorder). Amphetamines do not produce physical dependence, but users may become psychologically dependent and upon stopping may experience intense depression.

Tobacco can be consumed in the form of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing, or sniffed in the form of snuff. Approximately 30% of people aged 16 and over regularly smoke. Most tobacco is smoked in the form of cigarettes. Selling any tobacco product to those under 16 is illegal and can result in a fine of up to £1000. There is no restriction on the possession and smoking of tobacco, though there are bans on most forms of public transport and in some public places. The commercial manufacture of tobacco requires a licence, but anyone can grow tobacco for their own use.

Tobacco contributes to at least 2,500 deaths each year in Northern Ireland: one in every six deaths here. A quarter of young male smokers will die 'before their time' due to smoking related diseases. Smoking tobacco can cause irreversible damage to the lungs, however if no irreversible damage has occurred, then the lungs will repair and clean themselves leading to normal health and life span.

Cigarette smoke contains various substances such as nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and other gases. Some of these substances are absorbed by the lungs. Nicotine is the active addictive ingredient of cigarette smoking as it builds up in the body. As a consequence the user may be left wanting more after only a short time. One or two cigarettes will increase blood pressure and heart rate. The appetite will be suppressed and the skin's temperature will lower. Smokers can use cigarettes to relieve tension, boredom, and tiredness. First time users may feel dizzy and slightly sick.

A regular smoker is at risk from heart disease, lung cancer, blood clots, heart attacks, bronchitis and many, many more serious diseases. When the smoker stops they may experience withdrawal effects such as restlessness, irritability, and depression. Physical and psychological dependence often occurs with regular use. During pregnancy smoking should be avoided as it leads to an increased risk of miscarriage and smaller baby weight.
Despite the fact that we are against tobacco, we are tolerant to cigarettes vendors who sell tobacco for adult people of legal age.

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