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Our aim is to provide you with realistic, useful information. We know that at some time or another you're going to come across alcohol and other drugs and may want to try them out. We believe that the more information you have the more able you are to make choices and decisions.



"Don't get hectic – get help"

Some people (especially older people) think that all drug users are addicts, criminals and end up dead.  Other people (especially younger ones) think that using drugs is fun and not at all dangerous. Neither is right.

The truth is that drugs (and we include alcohol and stuff from the pharmacy and doctor) can never be 100% safe.  But although very risky, it's not always as dangerous as some people make it out to be.

We think you deserve the FACTS so please read this.  Someday the information in here may save someone's life.

Words associated with drug use – what they mean
You'll find some of these words on this website, you may hear them on the TV or you might read them in newspapers, these are the generally accepted meanings:


DRUG USE — Using every weekend, every party or on a regular basis

DRUG ABUSE/MISUSE — There's no proper definition of this.  It's often society's judgment about what is bad or wrong about substances.  What one person may consider drug abuse another may not – you decide.  What is drug abuse – 20 cigarettes a day, five beers at lunchtime, a joint or ten cups of coffee a day?

TOLERANCE — As people take more of a drug their systems are able to take increased amounts.  This means that larger doses are needed to get the same effect, and this can happen with many different drugs.  Alcohol is different though because eventually, if you drink sufficient to become an alcoholic, the tolerance goes down and instead of being able to drink two bottles of wine, the person is drunk on two glasses!!

DEPENDENCY — A strong compulsion to keep taking drugs.  Physical dependency results from the repeated heavy use of drugs like alcohol, codeine, speed tranquillisers and heroin.  These drugs change the body chemistry and if the user doesn't get a repeat dose they suffer withdrawals.  Psychological dependency is more common and can happen with any drug.

ADDICTION — When the person's whole life is centred around getting and using the drug – they live to use and use to live.

BINGE DRINKING — When people set out to drink as much as they can.  For example if a group of friends get together and everyone brings alcohol with the intention of finishing off the booze or getting as drunk as possible.  This isn't partying this is binge drinking.  It's quite common amongst teenagers and young adults and very, very dangerous.  Not because of the quantity of alcohol (although that can be dangerous - alcohol poisoning) but because of the high risk behaviours displayed after drinking, such as unsafe sex, drunk driving and loss of logical thought just to mention a few.

WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS — The unpleasant physical symptoms which can result from stopping taking certain drugs, like alcohol, heroin, speed and tranquilizers.

Apart from the drug itself there are other factors that contribute to the dangers like…

The Environment Sometimes people use drugs in risky places, out of the way places for example, can be dangerous because if things go wrong it's difficult to get help.

The Person Drugs can be more dangerous if you have physical health problems such as asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, a heart condition, depression, high or low blood pressure.
Drugs act differently depending on your body weight - effects may be more in a lighter person.  The effects of alcohol are different for women and men because of the different physical makeup.
Someone new to drugs may experience anxiety and, not knowing what to expect, may have an unpleasant experience and be more likely to get into problems.

Sex Because people do things they wouldn't normally do when they've had alcohol and other drugs this can lead to high risk behaviour - such as unsafe sex.  This can bring terrible consequences such as pregnancy and even HIV/AIDS and other STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases).  As we said earlier some drugs work differently on women and men.  Also society views drinking and drug taking very differently for each gender.  It is often seen as OK for men to do certain things and behave in certain ways, whereas if a woman does the same it is not OK.

The Drugs Different drugs have different risks - this is explained in the next section.  What you do need to remember is that there is no quality control on illicit drugs, so you never know what you're getting.  For example two tablets of Ecstasy may look the same but could be very different strengths.

What this means is that it's impossible to say "if you take this drug then this, this and this will happen".  We are all unique and what might be safe for one person could be dangerous for another - or could be dangerous for the same person under different circumstances.  We just don't know.

The Drugs

Tobacco is the only legally available substance which, when used exactly as intended, kills you.  It is one of the most harmful drugs, legal or illegal, and it is the most abused.  Some say that smoking tobacco is equal to or perhaps more addictive than heroin. Tobacco is usually the first drug young people try.  It causes lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and many other fatal conditions.  Although legal it is becoming more and more socially unacceptable and South Africa has now brought in fairly stringent tobacco laws.
Snuff is tobacco powder which people put up their noses, it makes them sneeze and get a "head rush".  This is just as addictive as cigarettes and can cause all the usual illnesses associated with smoking, except it also damages the septum - the inside of the nose.
Legalities: It's illegal to buy or smoke cigarettes under the age of 16.  The new tobacco laws also make it illegal to smoke in public places and if you are caught this can result in a heavy fine.

Alcohol is part of our culture - champagne to celebrate, brandy for shock, a hot toddy for flu etc.  Alcohol causes a huge amount of harm and physical damage in our society, yet it is socially acceptable and freely available.  Most of our family violence is caused through alcohol related incidents, as are traffic accidents and South Africa (particularly the Western Cape) has the highest incidence in the world of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome - we are 20 times higher than the worst statistics in the world!
Binge drinking is common amongst young people and is cause for great concern because of the accompanying high-risk behaviours, such as unsafe sex, violence, traffic accidents, health problems and the possibility of dependence.
Physical signs: Smell of alcohol on breath, disorientation, loss of motor skills, lack of coordination
Withdrawal: These can be dangerous and in some cases life threatening. Consult a doctor or one of the numbers at the back of this booklet.
Legalities: It's illegal to buy or drink alcohol under the age of 18. Places that serve alcohol to people under age can be heavily fined - and can even lose their business license.

Many people abuse prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals such as Valium, Rohypnol, painkillers, sleeping tablets, tranquilizers and slimming tablets. Taking these substances without medical supervision can be harmful, not only because some are addictive but also, when they are mixed with other chemicals such as alcohol, speed, cocaine etc., they become dangerous.
Over the counter medication (OTC):
Codeine: an opiate and therefor addictive, is found in many cough mixtures and painkillers available on pharmacy shelves. South Africa is one of the few countries which allows the over the counter sale of codeine.
Pseudo-ephedrine: a stimulant found in slimming preparations and pills, some cough mixtures and sinus medication, is becoming more and more popular with our youth who are into the "rave" culture. It is a legal form of "speed" and is highly addictive.
Physical signs: Disturbed sleeping patterns, aggression, and hyperactivity.  Disappearance of medicines from medicine cabinet.
Withdrawal: These vary depending on the drug used.  They can be dangerous, and in some cases life threatening, consult one of the numbers at the back of this booklet.
Paraphernalia: Empty bottles (cough & slimming mixture etc), cards and bottles of tablets.
Legalities: Most of these substances are legal, but pharmacies are meant to keep a register of all the people who buy these drugs and pass them on to the authorities.
It is illegal to possess or sell Rohypnol, Valium, etc. without a valid prescription

Street names: speed, uppers, sulphate, meth and crystal meth
Appearance: Speed comes mainly as a white or greyish white powder that is usually sniffed ("schnarfed" or "snorted"), sometimes eaten or put in drinks and less often injected. Tablets are swallowed.
Amphetamines belong to a group of drugs called psycho-stimulants that speed up messages going to and from the brain to the body. Most of these are manufactured in illegal, unhygienic back yard laboratories and sold illegally. Due to contaminated ingredients and the unknown strength of street amphetamines they are terribly dangerous, as well as addictive, and some users have overdosed and died.
Physical signs: Amphetamines can cause very rapid and irregular heartbeat, can increase breathing and heart rates, raise blood pressure and dilate pupils.  As higher and higher doses are taken users often feel a sense of superiority and power; they can become aggressive and potentially violent.
Withdrawal: Irritability, fatigue, severe depression, aggression and sleeplessness.
Paraphernalia: Old-fashioned razor blades, straws, rolled up notes, traces of white powder on shiny or flat surfaces.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess or use amphetamines.

Street names: Tik, meth, crank, glass, speed, crystal, ice, batu, chalk, shabu, or zip
Appearance: Methamphetamines are synthetic amphetamines or stimulants that are produced and sold illegally in pill form, capsules, powder and chunks. An amphetamine is a chemical that has stimulant properties similar to adrenaline. Like adrenaline, methamphetamines stimulate the central nervous system, and are extremely addictive.
Physical signs:
Withdrawal: After the effects of meth wears off, it can cause severe withdrawal that is more intense and longer lasting than both speed and cocaine.
Paraphernalia: Light bulbs will go missing.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess or use methamphetamines.

Street Names: Petrol, glue, benzene, household products, correction fluid and paint thinners, lighter fuel, paint.
Appearance: Aerosol cans etc.
Some drugs turn to gas in air and when they are inhaled can cause the user to feel "high" - these are inhalants. The general term is glue sniffing. Many household and other easily available products are used. Most effects last for about an hour and after the initial high the drug slows down the central nervous system. Using many times may make users pass out, get bad cramps and not know what's going on. Sometimes users can die - 6 children die each month in the UK as a result of solvent abuse - as the drug in some of these products can cause heart failure. Another risk is suffocating after passing out in the plastic bag. Inhalants are most commonly used by young people in their first few years in secondary or high school although the feeling is often so unpleasant they rarely use them more than once or twice.
Physical signs: Slurred speech, confusion, disorientation, staggering.
Paraphernalia: Empty cans, plastic bags, empty glue bottles & cans
Legalities: Most of these substances are legal, but you can get into trouble with the police because of some of the behaviours associated with their use.

Street names: Dagga, zol, ganja, green, Swazi, Durban poison, hash, joint, dope, majat, weed, herb, skunk, waccy baccy, pot, Malawi cob.
Appearance: Dried leaves or resinous dark brown blocks.
Cannabis or marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance. Marijuana (dagga) is the dried leaves of the cannabis sativa plant, which is indigenous to certain parts of South Africa. Hashish is becoming more and more common and is the resin of the plant ranging in colour from light to very dark brown. This is much stronger than marijuana (dagga). The drug is smoked in a "joint" when rolled with tobacco or smoked in bottleneck or water pipes (bongs). Cannabis can be a stimulant or depressant, it just depends on the individual, their mood and surroundings. Because it is the most used illegal drug further information -"Dagga… fact & fiction"- follows.
Physical signs: Bloodshot eyes, giggling, loss of concentration, daydreaming, nicotine stains on hands, 'munchies' - especially for sweet things, smell of burning on clothes in room etc.
Withdrawal: Irritability, sleeplessness, and restlessness
Paraphernalia: Cigarette papers, seeds, stalks, broken off cigarettes, pipes (bottlenecks, chillums etc), sieve (for cleaning the seeds & stalks), small blocks of resin in cling film, eyedrops, joss sticks & other air fresheners.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess or use dagga. If you are busted it just depends on how the magistrate feels and how much you have on you. The most important thing is you can end up with a criminal record that stays with you for life and can affect your future career or travelling.

LSD/Magic Mushrooms/Psychodelics/Hallucinogens
Street names: Acid, A, LSD, microdots, candy, magic mushrooms, 'shrooms, trips.
Appearance: Tiny squares of paper with pictures. Dried or fresh mushrooms.
Hallucinogens or psychedelics are any mind-altering drug that distorts the users perception of reality. They may have depressant effect especially when the user is "coming down" from a "trip". LSD is the best known of the hallucinogens and is one of the most potent mind altering chemicals. The users perceptions of time, space, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste can be affected. It very difficult to describe the experience - it depends on mood, environment, personality, quality etc. the experience can be pleasant, OK, weird and really terrifying. Personality changes can be permanent.
Physical signs: Confusion, disorientation, dilated pupils, minute attention to detail.
Withdrawal: None. Although psychological dependence can occur and users can experience "flashbacks" days, months and sometimes years later.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use LSD, magic mushrooms and other hallucinogenics.
LSD blotter
A collection of LSD Blotter Papers confiscated by police in the USA

Street names: E, pills, names change constantly as new pills come on the market.
Appearance: Tablets
Ecstasy is one of the new breed of Designer Drugs. The active ingredient is MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) which produces a feeling of tranquillity, increased confidence and feeling "at one" with the world and other people, this is why it's known as the love drug. Many people take Ecstasy at Dance or Rave parties. Long-term effects are not really known but there is some suggestion that it may cause damage to some brain cells.
Physical signs: Confusion, disorientation, dry mouth and throat, teeth clenching, nausea and loss of appetite, anxiety and paranoia.
Withdrawal: The next day a severe "hangover" may leave the user feeling burnt out and depressed, as well as aching not thinking straight, sleep problems and irritability.
Paraphernalia: Tablets
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use E.

Other Designer Drugs:


Appearance: Red or yellow tablets or capsules
Effects: Similar effects to LSD but the capsule can be opened and "snorted".


Appearance: White crystals
Effects: Similar to crystal meth - see amphetamine
Smoked on tinfoil through a straw - "chased".

GHB - liquid ecstasy
Appearance: Colourless odourless liquid with a slightly salty taste. Usually sold in small bottles or by the capful. Usually taken by mouth but as the concentration of the liquid is unknown this is extremely dangerous.
Effects: A "downer" in its effect unlike the real ecstasy, GHB produces a feeling a little like alcohol. There are some nasty side effects such as nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, disorientation and even fits or collapse.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use all of these.

Street names: H, smack, china white, brown, brown sugar, junk, gear.
Appearance: Powder ranging in colour from white to brown
Dangerous, dangerous stuff which has suddenly made an appearance in South Africa over the last four years. A large proportion of people presenting for treatment are adolescents and young adults from white middle and upper class backgrounds. Heroin is derived from the opium poppy and, no matter how it is used, is physically addictive. Initially users say they experience feeling warm, loved and safe, accompanied by a "rush" that lasts for 6 - 10 hours. This feeling soon disappears and users need more and more just to feel normal and function.
Heroin is rarely pure, and some recently analysed in Cape Town contained benzodiazapene and phenobarbitol, and because the user does not know the strength or Top, overdose is a real risk. Heroin is an expensive drug and is therefore a major reason for many crimes as the addict needs more and more to support their "habit". In South Africa most people "chase" (smoke on tinfoil with a straw) heroin but will often end up 'mainlining.' Withdrawals can be terrifying and fear of them keeps the addict using. Life becomes an endless circle of finding money, scoring and using.
Physical signs: Drowsiness, loss of co-ordination in speech and actions, difficult to focus, pupils small, dry mouth, constipation, menstrual irregularity and loss of sex drive.
Withdrawal: Vomiting and nausea, muscle cramps, hot and cold flushes, fear, sleeplessness, extreme anxiety, physical and mental cravings.
Paraphernalia: Tinfoil, straws, rolled up notes, blackened teaspoons, needles and syringes, light brown or white powder.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use heroin. Often heroin users commit crimes to get money for their drug and end up in jail, where there is no help with withdrawals etc.

Street names:
: coke, charlie, snow, schnarff
Crack: rocks, klippe
Appearance: Cocaine usually comes as a white powder.
Rocks (crack) vary in size but are a soapy like substance usually about half the size of a fingernail.
Cocaine mainly comes in white powder called cocaine hydrochloride and is usually "snorted" in this form. When it is "cooked" with baking powder or bicarbonate of soda it forms "rocks", this is crack and is smoked through small glass or metal pipes. Effects of cocaine, which can last for minutes or hours, happen very quickly - especially with crack, it is instant - and can include feelings of wellbeing, increased heart rate, agitation, sexual stimulation, alertness and energy, unpredictability and aggressive behaviour. The inside of the nose gets eaten away when cocaine is regularly inhaled through the nose.
Cocaine is highly addictive and like other stimulants reduces hunger, thirst and other natural needs such as rest, food and water.
Crack produces an addiction so intense that the user is never satisfied, and often ends up so "wired" that they have to use another drug, such as heroin, mandrax or rohypnol, to get come down sufficiently so they can take more. Violence and crime always accompany crack, as addicts can spend thousands of rands a day.
Physical signs: Mood swings, elation to depression, insomnia, unusual energy, weight loss, enlarged pupils, loss of appetite, dry mouth, aggression, paranoia, unpredictability
Withdrawal: Depression, exhaustion, paranoia, intense cravings
Paraphernalia: Old-fashioned razor blades, straws, rolled up notes, traces of white powder on shiny or flat surfaces. Glass, copper or aluminum pipes, gauze (maybe from a water tap), insulation tape and lots and lots of lighters.
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use crack and cocaine. These are such expensive drugs that users often have no choice but to commit crimes to get money - so jail is a real possibility

Street names: Buttons, pille, creams, germans, humble pies, foilies, helicopters, white stars, titanics, Bassons (after the government employee who manufactured them!)
Appearance: Tablets ranging in size from a usual small tablet to the size of a dog pellet, and ranging in colour from white through pink, blue, speckled brown and black.
Mandrax was originally manufactured as a sleeping tablet but was banned in the 70's because thousands of people were addicted to it, and the medical profession didn't know what to do.
The tablets are mixed with dagga and smoked in a bottleneck pipe. The mandrax and dagga are bought together and called an "outfit". It is not really known anywhere else in the world except India and Pakistan. The initial "rush" lasts for a few minutes and causes the user to "kap om or ert" (fall over and be out cold). This is followed by a few hours of disorientation being "out of it" including being "mif" and suffering from "button siekte" when users stagger, dribble, spit and vomit.
Physical signs: Stains on hands, chronic cough, sweet sickly smell, speech and motor skills impaired.
Paraphernalia: Bottleneck pipe, dagga and tablets
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use mandrax - again people often steal to get money for their drug and end up in jail, where there is no help with withdrawals etc.

Anabolic Steroids
Appearance: Tablets and ampoules (for injecting)
Steroids can stunt growth in young people and cause liver damage in any age group. Heavy regular use in men can cause reduced sex drive, lowered sperm count, reduction in the size of testicles, permanent erections (which is not as much fun as it sounds!), and in extreme cases, growth of breasts. In women heavy regular use can result in facial and body hair growth, a reduction in the size of breasts and a deepening voice. These effects may be irreversible even after steroid use has stopped.
If the steroids are injected then shared needles carry the risk of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
Legalities: It's illegal to possess, sell and use most anabolic steroids. Sometimes a doctor prescribes them for cancer or AIDS patients - then they are legal.

Dagga – Facts & Fiction
Dagga can have different effects on different people, ranging from very little to toxic psychosis. First time users can experience a strong "rush" and others say they feel nothing.
The "high" is caused by a chemical called THC and can last for several hours. Some users get a feelings of wellbeing and self-confidence, some people have altered perceptions of time and space and some experience confusion, paranoia, panic and anxiety. Because of altered perceptions it is dangerous to drive or work machinery whilst "stoned".
Long term dagga use can have a negative effect on health such as:
  • Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis or cancers commonly associated with smokers
  • Some loss of memory and short term recall
  • Some loss of mental capacity
  • Dependency
  • Can reduce sperm count
  • It can induce psychosis, especially for adolescents

  • It's natural so it doesn't harm you
  • It's not habit forming
  • It has contraceptive properties
  • It's legal

    For some people cannabis use is pleasant, for others there are nasty side effects and there ARE negative health effects which result from continued use.

    Sometime someone will offer you alcohol or other drugs at a party. You've heard the warnings from your parents and school, but they won't be there with you at the party, so it will be up to you to make a choice.
    You might take them because you don't want to feel left out or because your friend is taking them and it looks exciting. After that you might keep on taking them because you "like the feeling" and don't think it can do any harm. It might help you to relax and feel more confident - careful, that's when you develop tolerance. You need the drug to feel relaxed or "normal". What started out as exciting and daring can turn into something quite harmful. Experimentation can lead to dependency, not to mention ill health and the risk of violence.
    It doesn't matter how much you love your friends. You can choose what is best for you. Sometimes you see or hear of people taking alcohol and other drugs so they can party harder or be more social --that is their choice, but it may mean they don't know how to enjoy themselves without some kind of drug.
    One of the problems with taking illicit drugs is that you don't know how they were made or what is in them. So you never know what you're taking or the effect it could have on you.

    These are ways to help you to use your own confidence so you can be in control of what you do, and give yourself the space to make your own decisions. These will help you to avoid feeling pressurised into situations you don't want to get into.

    STEP 1    Check out the scene
  • Watch your friend's behavior, do they look like they're trying to get you alone or are they acting strange?
  • If you're going somewhere do you know where?
  • Do you know what's going on at the party you're going to?
  • Who else is going to be there?
  • So the first step is be aware

    STEP 2    Make a good decision – you've got 30 seconds!
  • Weigh both sides?  What are the consequences?  Is it what you want or is it what they want?
  • Make a decision.  The important thing is to do it quickly – 30 seconds or they'll convince you.

    STEP 3    Act to avoid trouble.
    There are 10 ways to do this: `
    1 Simply say "No"
    2 Leave the scene
    3 Ignore
    4 Joke
    5 Have a better idea
    6 Make an excuse
    7 Act shocked
    8 Use flattery
    9 Change the subject
    10 Return the challenge

    You can use whichever one you find works best for you or whichever suits the particular situation you're in.
    The important thing is that with these steps you can make your own decisions without upsetting friends or feeling embarrassed.  In fact you will find friends and others respecting you more for being assertive and having your own life i.e. knowing your own mind and being your own person.
    Look at the following chart and check out the questionnaire.

    Occasional binge drinking/drugging

    Every weekend drinking/drugging

    Need more/something extra to get high

    Start using during the week and sometimes alone

    Family and friends notice there's something different/wrong

    Schoolwork/attendance deteriorates

    Feelings of guilt

    Avoiding family/friends who don't use

    Moves on to harder chemicals

    Loss of interests in non using friends, sports & hobbies

    New circle of friends who use

    Resentments - parents/school and severe mood swings

    Start trying to control using - only smoke dope/limit drinks - FAIL

    Food and personal hygiene take second place

    Loss of willpower

    Tries to change subculture/relationship e.g. raver to surfer, new girl/boyfriend

    Moral deterioration - lying, cheating, stealing

    Obsession with using - can't stop no matter how much you promise yourself or others

    Thinks one is insane or bad - feelings of worthlessness/shame

    Vague spiritual ideas - Oh God (if there is one) help

    Suicidal tendencies

    Admits defeat

    Obsessive using/boozing continues in vicious cycle despite everything getting worse

    Honest desire for help

    Learns addiction is an illness

    Stops using

    Finds new hope

    Meets addicts in recovery, happy healthy and having fun

    Assisted in personal stocktaking

    Eating normally and taking care of personal hygiene starts

    Return of natural sleeping patterns

    Physical appearance improves

    Return of self esteem

    Realistic thinking

    Friends and family offer their support

    Learn to deal with life on life's terms

    New circle of stable friends

    Rebirth of ideals and dreams

    New understanding of self

    Start taking on new responsibilities

    New interests develop

    Desire for escapism leaves

    Stops being so fearful

    Life opens up even better than before

    If your friend can answer "yes" to any of these questions then they might be heading for a problem and need help.  The more "yes" answers the more serious the situation and the bigger the problem might be.

    Are they using more drugs more often than they used to?
    Have you noticed a change in their appearance, do they look ill?
    Have you noticed a change in your friend's personality, like irritable, secretive and moody?
    Do they have money problems?
    Have they started doing things they said they wouldn't do, like using harder drugs, stealing, lying etc.?
    Do they often say they've overdone it?
    Do they try to control how much or what they're using and not manage to?
    Has their using led to problems with other friends, the school or with their family?
    Have they said they'd find it difficult to stop using?
    Have they tried to stop using but continued anyway despite their good intentions?
    We all need friends, and when we are in difficult or scary situations that's when we need friends the most.
  • Don't try and deal with this alone. Find a trusted adult to talk to or phone one of the professionals listed at the back of this book for a confidential chat about the best way to go about helping and what the options are.
  • Stick by your friend, don't turn your back on them but make it clear what is and isn't acceptable behaviour to you.
  • Suggest what they might do but don't nag. They will have to make their own decisions.
  • Offer to go with them, or help them make a phone call if they do decide they want help.
  • Find out all you can about the available options for help - there's a list of numbers at the back of this booklet.
  • Don't threaten or bargain with them.
  • Encourage them to feel that they can change and they can do something about their problem.
    It's not easy helping someone who has a problem with drugs, so get some help, but remember it's not much fun for the person with the problem either!
  • No matter how much or how little you use, there is always a choice
  • You may be powerless over the drug, but you can find the power to not use the drug.
  • There is non-judgmental help available
    Using illegal (and legal) drugs can be harmful and you're much better off without them. However if you do chose to use them (make sure it's a choice and it just doesn't kind of happen!) there are some basic does and don'ts to reduce the risks involved.

  • Stick to one drug at a time. Mixing drugs with other drugs such as alcohol can cause serious side effects. Most overdoses include a "cocktail" of drugs.
  • Take rest breaks and sip water if you're using ecstasy and dancing. Drink about half a litre an hour, don't gulp it down it's dangerous - sip it. Warm water is easier for your body to use.
  • Always practice safe sex. Alcohol and other drugs make you less inhibited and you may do things you wouldn't normally do.

  • Use alcohol or other drugs when you're alone. If there's someone straight with you if something goes wrong they can get help.
  • Ever share needles or syringes.
    If the worst happens and you find a friend drowsy, unconscious or having a fit it is vitally important that you know what to do. It could save their life. Whatever you do don't panic.
  • Make sure they get plenty of air
  • Turn them on their side
  • Don't leave them alone - they may be sick and inhale the vomit
  • Dial the emergency services and ask for an ambulance
  • Collect anything you think may have been used - tablets, powders, etc. - and give it to the paramedics, they are not interested in the legality of the situation, only in saving lives

    Initial copy: © Sarah Fisher, Bridges 1999-2003
    Updated and expanded by CapeInfo