NATIONAL FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORKSUPPORTING FAMILY MEMBERS LIVING WITH SUBSTANCE MISUSE
Information on Drugs
Slang names include Hash, Blow, Shit, Dope, Grass, Weed.
Cannabis is a natural plant and is used in three main forms. The most common type used in Ireland is called resin, which comes as solid dark-coloured lumps or blocks. Less common are the leaves and stalks of the plant, called 'grass' or 'weed', and the third kind, cannabis oil, is rarely seen in Ireland. Cannabis is usually rolled with tobacco into a 'joint' or 'spliff' and smoked, but it can also be cooked and eaten.
Effects - Getting 'stoned' on cannabis makes users feel relaxed, talkative and happy. Some people feel time slows down and they also report a greater appreciation of colours, sounds and tastes. Users can develop strong cravings for food, called the 'munchies'.
Side effects – Cannabis can affect memory and concentration, and can leave people feeling tired and lacking motivation. Inexperienced users or people using a stronger type of cannabis than they are used to, can feel anxiety, panic or confusion. Some people may experience delusions or hallucinations.
Risks - Many people consider cannabis to be a relatively safe drug. Smoking cannabis increases the risk of heart disease and cancers such as lung cancer, and may also affect fertility. Cannabis use may trigger schizophrenia in vulnerable people. In Ireland it is the second most common drug found in the systems of 'drunk' drivers, after alcohol.
Slang names include E, Doves, Mitsubishis, Yokes, Shamrocks.
Ecstasy is usually produced in back-street laboratories in a number of European countries. It is sold mainly as tablets on which there are different logos or designs. Sometimes ecstasy tablets can also contain other drugs and substances.
Effects - Ecstasy users can feel more alert and in tune with their surroundings. They feel happy and calm and have a warm feeling towards other people. Sounds, colours and emotions are more intense. Users have more energy, which allows them to dance for long periods of time.
Side effects – Body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate can rise. Other physical effects include muscle pain, nausea, jaw stiffness and teeth grinding. Some users experience severe sweating, tremors and palpitations. Users can feel dehydrated, confused and tired.
Risks - Already research shows that regular weekend users experience a mid-week 'crash' that can leave them feeling tired and depressed, often for days. It could be years before the long-term effects are known. Deaths from ecstasy are quite rare, but can be due to heatstroke, heart attacks or asthma attacks.
Slang names include Gear, Smack, Junk, H
Heroin is made from morphine, one of the opiate drugs that come from the opium poppy. It is used by injecting or by smoking, known as 'chasing the dragon'.
Effects - Injecting heroin gives a quick 'rush' of excitement, followed by a peaceful, dreamlike feeling. The person feels warm, relaxed and drowsy. Pain, aggression and sexual drive are all reduced.
Side effects - The side effects of heroin and other opiates (such as morphine and methadone) include constipation and weaker breathing. However, most of the dangers of heroin come from overdose, and from injecting the drug.
Risks - What is sold on the streets as heroin often contains other substances, such as sugar, flour, talcum powder or other drugs. These substances may seem harmless, but when injected can cause huge damage to a person's body, such as blood clots, abscesses and gangrene. The HIV and hepatitis B and C viruses can be spread through sharing injecting equipment. Addiction to heroin is often the result of regular use, especially when injected.
Slang names include crystal meth, ice, glass, tina, christal, cristy, yaba, chalk, crank, zip, meth.
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant (‘upper’), similar to speed. It is white, odourless and bitter tasting and comes as rocks, crystals or tablets, which you can dissolve in water or alcohol. You can smoke, inject, snort or swallow it.
Effects - Effects can last from 4 to 12 hours, depending on how you take it, you may have an intense rush, even small amounts make you feel euphoric, aroused, awake, more active. Loss of appetite and rapid breathing, you may have nausea, panic attacks, compulsive repetitive behaviour and jaw clenching
Side effects - Loss of appetite and rapid breathing, you may have nausea, panic attacks, compulsive repetitive behaviour and jaw clenching. Tooth decay or ‘meth mouth’. Can cause paranoia, hallucinations and psychosis – when you lose contact with reality. You can become violent and aggressive
Risks - Overdose can cause lung, kidney and stomach disorders, stroke, coma and death, You risk HIV and hepatitis if you share needles, Increased sex drive can lead to unsafe sex, with the risk of unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and HIV, Damage to nerve tissue (neurotoxicity) leading to concentration and memory problems
Slang Names include Juice, Phy, Molly Molloy, Steak & Kidney Pie, and Soup.
Methadone is a synthetic opiate and a powerful painkiller. The concept of Methadone Maintenance Treatment was pioneered in the 1960’s and has become the most accepted form of treatment for opiate addiction for several reasons; one was because a single dose of Methadone could stave off withdrawals for 24 hours where other opiates only lasted 6-8 hours. The dose would not need to be increased unlike other opiates. Patients would experience no euphoria from Methadone and, because it is chemically different from heroin and morphine, they could ensure that patients were not using illicit opiates through urinalysis.
Effects - Pain Relief, Drowsiness, Sleep, Nausea, Vomiting, Respiratory Depression. Although it was claimed that patients would experience no euphoria from Methadone, this is not quite true. The euphoria does not compare to that from heroin but people with a low tolerance would experience a quite pleasant feeling from Methadone.
Side Effects - Constipation, difficulty passing urine, weight gain, itching, sweating, flushing of the skin.
Risks -Overdose, chronic addiction with a longer withdrawal period than from heroin or other opiates.
Slang names include Coke, Charlie, Snow
Cocaine is a white powder made from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows mainly in South America. It is usually used by snorting the powder up the nose. 'Crack' cocaine is not a different drug, but a different, more addictive form of cocaine. 'Crack', which is also called 'rock', 'stone' or 'free-base', is usually smoked. Cocaine is sometimes injected.
Effects - Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, and users feel more alert and energetic, and also feel less hungry or thirsty. These effects can last for up to 20 minutes after each use. Smoking 'crack' cocaine gives a shorter but more intense high.
Side effects - Because of its powerful effects, cocaine users are often left craving for more. Large doses can lead to exhaustion, anxiety and depression, and sometimes users may become aggressive.
Risks - Snorting cocaine can cause permanent damage to the inside of the nose. Cocaine use can damage the heart and lungs, and high doses can cause death from heart attacks or blood clots. The depression that follows the 'high' can be severe, and can lead to suicide attempts. With long-term or binge use, the excitement caused by cocaine can turn to restlessness, sleep loss and weight loss. Some people can develop a paranoid psychosis where they may be violent. The strong cravings for cocaine, especially 'crack', can lead to an urge to take the drug all the time, and the person can lose control of their drug use. When injected there is a risk of contracting the HIV and Hepatitis B & C viruses through sharing injecting equipment. Snorting on a regular basis can damage the nasal mucus membranes causing the nose to bleed; the practice of sharing snorting equipment can lead to the possibility of blood-to-blood transmission of Hepatitis C.
Slang names include Speed, Whizz, Uppers
Amphetamines are a group of stimulant drugs, some of which were used years ago as slimming tablets. They usually come as a white-grey powder, sold in folded paper packages called 'wraps'. They are usually taken by mouth, but can also be injected or snorted. A type known as 'ice' or 'crystal' can be smoked.
Effects - These differ depending on how the drug is taken. A small dose by mouth makes users feel more alert and energetic. Higher doses are taken when injecting or smoking the drug, and give a 'rush' of pleasure. Some 'speed' users go on binges and become overactive and talkative.
Side effects – As with other stimulant drugs, users experience a ‘crash’ after the 'high' caused by the drug. High doses of amphetamines can cause panic, paranoia and hallucinations. With long-term use, a condition known as 'amphetamine psychosis' can develop, that has symptoms similar to schizophrenia. The paranoia can cause people to become violent if they believe they are being threatened or persecuted.
Risks - Amphetamine psychosis can continue after the person has stopped using the drug. If a person becomes aggressive or violent, they could get into dangerous situations. The risks from injecting are the same as other drugs, such as heroin.
Solvent abuse is most common among teenagers. For most teenagers solvent abuse is a passing fad, but it can cause huge problems at school and in the home.
Commonly abused solvents include products found in most homes, such as glues, paint thinner, nail polish remover, lighter fuels and aerosol sprays such as deodorants. They are inhaled from a soaked rag, coat sleeve or directly from a bottle. Aerosols are often sprayed directly into the mouth and lungs.
Effects - Inhaling solvents can give a 'high' or 'buzz' which is like feeling drunk, and the effects usually wear off after about half an hour. The user can appear drunk, with slurred speech, staggering, giggling and lack of control, and they can feel drowsy afterwards.
Side effects - A person's judgement can be affected and they can become aggressive. Hallucinations, vomiting and blackouts are also common. There is usually a hangover after use, with headache and poor concentration.
Risks – Deaths from solvent abuse are rare but they can happen for a variety of reasons, and can happen the first time they are used. People under the influence of solvents are more likely to have accidents. They may also choke, either on the solvent itself when sprayed into the lungs, or on their vomit. Users who place a plastic bag over their heads to try and get a better effect could suffocate. Many solvents can also cause heart failure.
Slang name Acid
LSD usually comes as tiny tablets known as 'dots' or 'tabs', in or on small squares of paper or cardboard. These 'tabs' usually have various pictures or logos on them, and are swallowed.
Effects - LSD is a hallucinogenic drug. About one hour after taking a 'tab', it causes a 'trip' where the user's environment appears different, with colours, sounds and objects appearing unreal or abnormal. During a 'trip' the person may see visions and hear voices, and time seems to slow down or speed up. The effects can last for around 12 hours.
Side effects - It's hard to predict what kind of 'trip' a person will have. During a 'bad trip', a person may feel terrified and feel they are losing control, going mad or dying. A 'bad trip' is more likely if the person is already feeling anxious or depressed before taking a 'tab'.
Risks - A 'bad trip' can trigger mental illness in some people.’ Good trips' can also be dangerous, for example if a person has a delusion that they can fly or walk on water. A person can also get 'flashbacks', where they feel they are back on a 'trip' for a short period of time, during the weeks and months after a 'trip'. These 'flashbacks' can be distressing.
Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic mushrooms that grow in the wild. They can be eaten raw or cooked, or made into a tea. The effects of magic mushrooms are similar to a mild shorter LSD 'trip'. As with LSD, people can have 'bad trips' that could be frightening. There is also the risk that people might eat poisonous mushrooms by mistake, thinking they are magic mushrooms.
Chemical names are amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite. 'Poppers' are chemicals that come in liquid form, usually in small bottles. The vapour from the bottle is inhaled through the nose.
Effects - 'Poppers' cause a 'rush' which lasts for about five minutes. The blood pressure falls and the heart pumps faster. Users report a n increase in sexual arousal and a greater sense of enjoyment of music and dancing.
Side effects - These drugs can make a person feel sick and dizzy, and sometimes cause blackouts.
Risks - 'Poppers' are especially dangerous for people with heart or breathing problems. The liquid can be poisonous if swallowed.
Slang names include Vitamin K, Special K, Kit-Kat
Ketamine is a powerful tranquilliser and anaesthetic used in veterinary medicine. It is usually taken as a tablet or snorted as a powder. It causes hallucinations, aggressive behaviour, blackouts and temporary blindness.
Slang names include GBH, 'Liquid Ecstasy' Chemical names are sodium oxybate or gammahydroxybutyrate. Despite the slang name of 'liquid ecstasy', GHB is a totally different chemical to ecstasy with different effects. It is an anaesthetic drug that can very quickly make someone unconscious.