This service is no longer live but has been archived for information purposes only. Click here for more info.
 
Issue

Illicit drugs

What are illicit drugs? How are users of illicit drugs are being affected? Why do people use illicit drugs? Want some answers? Check this out....

Submitted 11/10/2005 By zkliko Views 84549 Comments 24 Updated 6/21/2006


Photographer : Paul Lim

“It’s more than something that you become addicted to. It becomes your whole reason for living. You just want it so much that you’d give anything for it. You just become so sick that you just don’t care about losing your close friends and family over it”.
A former addict

This fact sheet will provide a brief overview of what illicit, or illegal, drugs are, how users of illicit drugs are being affected and why people use illicit drugs.

What is the issue?

Unlike legal drugs, illicit drugs have no quality or price controls. This means that anyone using these drugs can never be sure of the drug's strength or purity. Various batches of an illegally manufactured drug may have different mixtures of the drug and other additives, such as talcum powder, sugar, and caffeine. Sometimes the additives can be poisonous.

Drugs have different physical and psychological side-affects depending on the substance. Overall, they may cause short-term enjoyable affects, however in the long-term may cause harmful affects. Depending on the drug, users also risk becoming psychically and/or psychologically dependant.

There are three main types of drugs, classified according to the effect the drug has on the central nervous system: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens.

Depressant drugs

Depressant drugs don't necessarily make a person feel depressed. They slow down the functions of the central nervous system.

In small quantities they can cause the user to feel more relaxed and less inhibited. In larger quantities they may cause unconsciousness, vomiting and, in some cases, death.

Depressants affect concentration and coordination and slow down a person's ability to respond to unexpected situations. Depressant drugs include:
  • cannabis
  • GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutrate), or "GBH", "fantasy"
  • opiates and opioids, including heroin, or "H", "smack", and morphine, codeine, methadone, and pethidine
  • some solvents and inhalants, or glue, "chroming". Many inhalants are common household products.

Stimulant drugs

Stimulants act on the central nervous system to speed up the messages going to and from the brain. Stimulants can make the user feel more awake, alert or confident. Stimulants increase heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Other physical effects include reduced appetite, dilated pupils, talkativeness, agitation, and sleep disturbance.

Large quantities of stimulants can "over-stimulate" the user, causing anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. Stimulants include:
  • amphetamines, or "speed", "crystal meth", "ice", "shabu"
  • cocaine, or "coke", "crack"
  • ecstasy, or "E", "XTC"

Hallucinogenic drugs

The effects of hallucinogens vary greatly, though they primarily affect perception. People who have taken them may see or hear things that aren't really there, or what they see may be distorted in some way.

Other effects of hallucinogenic drugs include dilation of pupils, loss of appetite, increased activity, talking or laughing, a sense of emotional and psychological euphoria and wellbeing, jaw clenching, sweating, panic, paranoia, loss of contact with reality, irrational or bizarre behaviour, stomach cramps and nausea.
Hallucinogens include:
  • ketamine, or "K" , "Special K"
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), or "trips", "acid", "microdots"
  • magic mushrooms (psilocybin), or "gold tops", "mushies"
  • mescaline (peyote cactus)
  • PCP, or "angel dust".

Cannabis is a depressant as well as a hallucinogen. Ecstasy can also have hallucinogenic qualities.

Based on responses to the 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 38% of the Australian population aged 14 years and over had used any illicit drug at least once in their lifetime and 15% had used any illicit drug at least once in the previous 12 months. In 2004, the five most common illicit drugs ever used were marijuana/cannabis (34%), meth/amphetamines (9%), hallucinogens, ecstasy (both 8%), and pain-killers/analgesics for non-medical purposes (6%).

The average age of first use of illicit drugs ranged from 18.6 years for inhalants, to 25.2 years for tranquillisers/sleeping pills and steroids for non-medical purposes. The average age of initiation was 18.7 years for marijuana/cannabis, 20.8 years for meth/amphetamines and 22.8 years for ecstasy.

Who does it affect?

Illicit drugs can affect users and their lives in a number of ways. These can include:

Family/relationship problems: Drug use may lead to conflict with family or friends. Family and friends may be very frustrated and concerned when they are manipulated or pressured for money or possessions, or when the person using drugs fails or refuses to recognise their drug use is causing problems.

Work/school problems: Drug users may take increased sick days and be unable to work properly.

Accidents: Drug use may affect a person's ability to respond appropriately to a given situation, their ability to think clearly and to maintain attention, and may cause physical symptoms such as blurred vision, cramps, and nausea. Such effects can increase the risks of car accidents, drownings, and reduce the ability to be able to safely cross roads.

Legal problems: Each state has laws governing the manufacture, possession, distribution and use of drugs. The four main types of offences related to illegal drugs are: use, possession, cultivation and trafficking of drugs. Drug use may also lead to other legal concerns such as crimes committed in order to raise sufficient money to support ongoing drug use, and violent assaults.

Financial problems: The cost of maintaining ongoing drug use may mean that there is not enough money left to pay for a range of goods and services. This may include regular bills, food and clothing, and other purchases that may increase a person's quality of life, such as entertainment and leisure.

Health problems: Tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs can all have serious health effects if used over a long period of time. Lifestyle changes such as poor eating habits and inadequate sleep can increase the chances of experiencing a variety of health complications. People who inject drugs are at risk of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).

Sexual problems: Certain types of drugs may lead a person to feel sexually aroused, but can actually reduce their ability to perform sexually.

Where is it happening?

It is happening in all walks of life in Australia. Illicit drugs users can be both young and old, working and upper class, as well as city and country residents.

Why is it happening?

Illicit drug use can be influenced by a number of factors. Most people use drugs to change how they feel because they want to feel better or different. They use drugs for the perceived benefits, or the benefits experienced, not for the potential harm.

People use drugs to relax, have fun, to be part of a group, out of curiosity, and to escape from physical and/or psychological pain. Many of the reasons young people use drugs are the same reasons adults use drugs.

A major reason why this is happening is that users can become dependent on the substance they are abusing. Degrees of dependency, from mild dependency to compulsive drug use (often referred to as addiction). The length and frequency of drug use before a person becomes dependent varies depending on the substance.

Dependence can be psychological, physical, or both.

People who are psychologically dependent on a drug feel compelled in certain, or in a number of different, situations to use a drug in order to function effectively, or to achieve emotional satisfaction.

Physical dependence is when a person's body adapts to a drug and becomes used to functioning with the drug present.

If a physically and/or psychologically dependent person suddenly stops taking the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms as their body readjusts to functioning without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are different for different types of drugs and for each person. There are numerous types of withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced, such as depression, irritability, cramps, nausea, sweating and sleeping problems.

People who are physically dependent on a drug usually develop a tolerance to the drug. This means that they need to take more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

How do I know this?

Australian Drug Foundation, http://www.adf.org.au

Australian Institute of Criminology 2006, ‘Trends in illicit drug use in Australia’ Crime facts info no. 121, 26 Apr, http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/cfi/cfi121.html

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005, Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2004, 29 July, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/titl...

Centre for Youth Drug Studies, http://www.cyds.adf.org.au/

National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University: http://www.ndri.curtin.edu.au/

Reach Out!, http://www.reachout.com.au

Affected by this issue yourself or know someone who is? Check out our sister site http://www.reachout.com.au/

Discuss Now

Post Comment 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

RSS Comments
image

SONOFGAIA 16-Apr-2008


Prevention may be the best cure, but is that to say to prevent oneself from suffering one should abstain from living life? and don't just apply it to drugs, is the prevention of cancer an early suicide? is the prevention of heart break isolation? is the prevention for disease a sterile bubble?

AND NO illicit drugs will not always be around...If you legalize them they will no longer be ILLICIT. The circular arguement that the Government propogates is as such "DRUGS ARE ILLEGAL BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD, THEY ARE BAD BECAUSE THEY ARE ILLEGAL" and so it goes on.

They might talk about health problems etc etc but when we bring the facts, Whenever confronted with detailed information as to why Legalization and education is a better option this is the arguement they adopt.

-----

image

SONOFGAIA 29-Dec-2007

Well yes i guess i am. What i am hoping for is that people will realise that the more respoonsibility they shun themselves the more the Goverment will step in and take responsibility for you, the only problem with that is the fact that they never actually take responsibility they just take control over that aspect of life by passing laws.

The Goverment becomes a parent figure, it justifies telling us what we can and can't do by claiming responsibility over us. However unlike a real parent it has no strong emotional bond, the only thing infact any goverment stands to loose when it fails that responsibility is a decrease in votes, and that only happens if they aren't able to spin the story or down play the scenario.

The most important aspect of the resistance to BIG-government is information. When people know the truth, when people have enough information to burn the viel of ignorance that surrounds many of the major issues today then the people will feel more motivated to resist. However when it comes to an information war, to gain the ear of the majority one needs money, the Goverment and media have vitualy exclusive control over this department.

Even if a Party takes a stance on an issue, if that stance is not inline with the Globalist agenda, the media will demonize or reduce thier coverage of that party, which will significantly effect the chance of victory in an election. Unfortunetly the other significant problem is society, we have become as a people so engrained in the culture of picking a team and sticking with it, that many australians will not vote outside of the two major party's. How can we ever really achieve a true and fresh leadership if the same factions are always in power?

Localised goverment is socialy a far better option, that way people who like or dislike certain paths of life can move into a suburb that has laws that are most appealing thier outlook on life. This will also amplify cultural evolution, as people are free to embrace different ways of living simply by moving between communities.

BIg goverment means big corruption, it also means the greatest power of rule is the most detached from the average person. The more unreachable goverment is the less accountable it is for failures in its policy. if a local goverment passed legislation that was unpopular in its area it would be uprooted. This is not a problem for a goverment detached from the community as the networking of the people it rules obviously will not be sufficient to overpower the propaganda.

-----

image

Rach 27-Dec-2007

Hey SonofGaia,
You're right, I'm misinterpreted your post, you didn't simply dismissively attack the other poster. However, I am having trouble trying to put your perspective of the world into a practical sense. I can only related it to the similar ideological stance of 'to destroy capitalism, do something for free.' It seems you are after ideological change on this issue, is that correct?

-----

image

SONOFGAIA 26-Dec-2007

Perhaps a am being a little harsh, though i still don't believe that she will even read it as it seemed quite obvious that she had her opinion and she wasn't about to let anything change it.

Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion, however there is a responsibility of everyone who chooses to excercise that opinion to investigate and build thier opinion so that it is based on as much information as possible. It is also probably a good thing that the person has something useful and meaningful to say. You wouldn't ask a plumber thier opinion on Jet engine designs, in fact his opinion would be nothing more than a waste of time, why he would speak in the first place is beyond me.
Besides i never said her view was wrong, read the post again if you have to, You will soon find that i gave her some food for thought regarding her opinion on "prevention being the best cure" rather than the dismissive attack that you seem to paint in your reflection on the rebuke, even though i found it highly likely that she was just regurgitating a common phrase without any serious thought towards the subject.

Rach if you think that the system that made it all to easy to outlaw some of the planets most useful and benificial natural plants and drugs for the sake of big $$$ to the Big Companies that run that system in the first place, if you think that system can be used to undo this crime against free will then you are as brainwashed as they require you to be. No i'd spur people to investigate and develop an more COMPLETE understanding of the issue, rather than that spewed by corperate media and the government.

The truth will set you free, if enough people looked deep enough and saw the truth behind this issue they would overthrow those that seek to control us. we have been lied to and manipulated, reduced to mice in wheels chasing temporary material happiness with the hard earned money from our jobs, the money we are paid (obviously not as much we are worth otherwise no profit could be generated) is spent on goods manufactured by companies that are owned by those paying us in the first place. so we loose the only resource we really have (time) in a narrow minded view of the world suggested to us by the governemnt and media. ALL the "different" issue of today are actualy all related the reason why drugs are illegal has everything to do with why 10% of the world has 90% of the worlds wealth, it has everything to do with the war in iraq and has everything to do with global warming. you just gotta go find the lines that connect the dots.

-----

image

Rach 21-Dec-2007

Heya Sonofgaia,
I think the fact that you point out society's perception of 'drugs are illegal, and they are illegal because they are bad' is a true reflection of society - however, that is how the majority of people perceive things. As we've seen in other articles on the site - people blame Muslims for terrorism, because that's what the media says to do. That's what mainstream culture, unfortunetley, encourages. 'We mistrust things we don't understand', and a lot of society doesn't - and never will - understand the intricacies of the world of drugs, addiction, recovery, or simply just socialisation with the aid of drugs. They are a product of their culture in which 'drugs are bad'. Education is a better option, but in our conservative age in Australia - I honestly don't think there is a chance of legalisation of illicit drugs (I use the term illicit relating to hard, addictive drugs, such as Ice). It's great that you're passionate about it, but, the thing is, I don't think just telling everyone else they're wrong is the way to go. Encourage and educate people - that is awesome and positive - but attacking people because they are a product of their culture ("This is a clear example of what is wrong with society, the post below has no justification for its comments, the poster clearly is not interested in the topic yet feels compelled to express her somewhat limited opinion, with no facts to back it up.") is just a little cruel. You may have your opinion, and you are entitled to it, but so is she. We can look back on people who kept slaves 200 years ago with disgust - but, in essence, they were a product of their culture, so we cannot judge. And telling one person why they are a reflection of 'the problem with society' does not - take note - does not change society. I think it just makes someone sitting at home depressed that they bothered to speak up.

If you want to change society -
Write to some ministers about drug education. Start a drug education program in your local community or youth centre. Or even draft up the pros of legalisation using countries in Europe who have done so as a basis, using their reasoning to back up your claims. But don't tell people their view is wrong because it's not the same as yours. Everyone has a right to speak on this forum.

(Okay, that's the end of my rant).

-----