Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs

ALCOHOL Generally gives you a feeling of relaxation and confidence, although some people feel flat and miserable with it. It is addictive if used regularly. There are serious physical health effects if you drink regularly or binge drink. It can affect the liver, nervous system and brain. There are no known safe limits for children and teenagers. Young people can get themselves into dangerous situations if they are drunk, e.g. fighting, having unprotected sex, or getting into a car with someone who has been drinking.

Mental health and alcohol

If you consume alcohol, you are more likely to:

  • suffer from depression - upto 60% of heavy drinkers experience symptoms of depression
  • render your medication ineffective and experience adverse after-effects
  • suffer from sexual dysfunction
  • experience memory problems that could subsequently lead to alcoholic dementia

CIGARETTES are highly addictive and cause diseases such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Mental health and smoking

If you have a mental illness, you are more likely to smoke. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to:

  • develop a mental illness
  • feel anxious or depressed
  • Think about suicide - and to go on to commit suicide.
  • use more drugs and alcohol – which can make a mental health problem worse
  • require a higher dosage of medication, since smoking reduces the levels of the active drug in the blood stream

Overall, if you have a mental health problem and smoke, you are more likely to have poor general health – it's one of the main reasons why people with a mental illness tend to die younger.

CANNABIS (ganja, madhanamodaka) is the most commonly used illegal drug among young people in Sri Lanka. It is usually rolled into a `joint' and smoked like a cigarette or through a special pipe. Most people find it makes them feel relaxed, and they may feel they want to talk or laugh a lot. It can also make you feel panicky and nervous, confused, tired and hungry. It can cause lung diseases, just like cigarettes do. For some people, cannabis use can trigger schizophrenia, a serious mental illness and can also give rise to a cannabis induced psychosis.

SOLVENTS such as glue, butane gas, and aerosols can be sniffed, sprayed into the mouth/nose, or the fumes breathed in using a gas filled bag. It makes people feel `high'. These substances can make people do things that they wouldn't normally have the courage to do, and they may hallucinate (see things that aren't there). Solvents can make you feel sick or sleepy, and it is possible to suffocate if a bag is put over your head. The heart can stop and this can lead to death, even when tried for the first time.

ECSTASY comes in tablets in lots of different colours and shapes. They make people feel happy, lively and very friendly. But some people feel anxious and scared. If you take it while dancing a lot, it is easy to become dehydrated and this can be fatal.

LSD comes on small pieces of paper impregnated with the drug. The little squares have pictures on them. LSD is eaten or sucked. The effect is to hallucinate (`trip') and see odd shapes or colours or hear noises. Trips can be pleasant or terrifying and can last for several hours. You can also have `flashbacks' several months later, when you have similar experiences to the trip, even though you haven't taken LSD for weeks.

COCAINE (coke) and crack cocaine (rock, wash, stone) make people feel confident and lively. Cocaine is a white powder that is sniffed up the nose, and can be dissolved and injected. Crack cocaine comes as crystals (rocks) the size of a baked bean. It is smoked and has similar effects to cocaine powder, but these effects are more rapid and intense, and wear off quickly. Cocaine can cause chest pains and difficultly breathing. Both cocaine and crack cocaine are highly addictive.

HEROIN (H, smack, skag, horse, junk, brown sugar) is a browny - whitish powder. It is smoked, sniffed or injected and makes people feel very relaxed and content and cut off from the world `gouching out'. It is highly addictive, even if not injected. Heroin can be fatal as it can stop your breathing.

TRANQUILLISERS (valium, ativan ect.) come as capsules and tablets of differing colours and shapes. They are swallowed or injected. People feel relaxed and may fall asleep. It can be fatal to inject them. They are addictive.

ANABOLIC STEROIDS (Deca-Durabolin, Dianabol, and Stanozolol) are tablets or liquids that are swallowed or an oily liquid which is injected into the muscle. They increase muscle bulk and can improve sporting strength and ability if taken over time. However, they cause many serious health problems, including breast development in boys, body hair growth in girls, depression and hormonal problems