Everything you low-key wanna know but don’t know who to ask.
This might be the first time you’ve heard about some of these drugs. Maybe someone has offered you party drugs, or maybe someone you know has been badly affected by drugs. No matter which of these categories you fall in to, it’s important to be educated about what drugs look like and what happens to people when they take them, as well as the long-term effects of being a user.
STREET NAMES: 420, bud, dope, grass, hash, joint, pot, weed. WHAT IT IS: Marijuana comes from hemp plants. It contains high amounts of THC (delta-9tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient of marijuana. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: It comes in the form of dried leaves, buds, flowers and seeds, all finely chopped. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Marijuana is smoked using a bong or rolled in a joint. WHAT IT DOES: It is a depressant, which means it slows down reaction times and the ability to concentrate. The effects of marijuana include euphoria, laughter, excitement, paranoia, anxiety, dizziness, red eyes, dilated pupils, dry mouth, increased heart rate and hunger. The effects last from about 10 minutes to four hours. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: Regular use of cannabis may eventually cause memory loss, learning difficulties, mood swings, regular colds or flu, reduced sex drive, difficulty having children (low fertility in both females and males) and the need to use more to get the same effect.
STREET NAMES: Caps, E, eckies, MD, MDMA, molly, pills, pingers. WHAT IT IS: It contains the drug MDMA. However, many pills sold as ecstasy only have a small amount of MDMA or none at all; other drugs and ‘fillers’ like household cleaning products are often used instead. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Ecstasy pills come in different colours and sizes and are often imprinted with a picture or symbol. It can also come in the form of capsules, powder or crystal/rock. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Swallowed or snorted. WHAT IT DOES: ’Cos it’s a stimulant, it makes the user feel buzzed and gives them a sense of euphoria. It often causes dehydration and even over-hydration from too much water intake. It can also cause the user to feel sick, anxious and paranoid while increasing their breathing and heart rate. A common way to know if someone has taken ecstasy is to see whether they’re clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth, and also if they’re sweating excessively. Ecstasy starts to take effect about 20 minutes to an hour after it’s taken, and the ‘high’ can last for about six hours, depending on the level of MDMA inside the hit. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: When someone takes ecstasy, they will usually experience a ‘comedown’ once the MDMA starts to wear off. This can cause the user to become exhausted, anxious, irritable and depressed. Taking ecstasy can also lead to long-term effects such as reduced energy levels, low immunity and damage to some parts of the brain. It is often mixed with so many other drugs and chemicals that users can have serious reactions, resulting in hospitalisation and even death.
STREET NAMES: Blow, bump, C, coke, line, snow. WHAT IT IS: Cocaine is a stimulant that originates from the leaves of the coca bush that grows in South America. There are three types of cocaine: cocaine hydrochloride (a white crystalline powder with a bitter, numbing taste), freebase (white powder) and crack (crystals ranging in colour from white to a pink or yellow hue). All forms of cocaine can be ‘cut’ with other substances, such as lactose, to dilute it before it’s sold. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: A white powdery substance. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Snorted or injected.
WHAT IT DOES: Cocaine can make the user extremely talkative, energetic and alert, but it can also make people aggressive and violent, and can cause panic attacks and pain. When a user comes down from cocaine, they can experience depression, mood swings, tension and anxiety. The effects of the drug can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so, depending on its strength. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: If a user were to overdose on cocaine, they could experience nausea, vomiting, seizures, kidney failure, strokes, heart problems, brain bleeding and even death.
(POWDERED METHAMPHETAMINE) STREET NAMES: Gas, go-ee, gogo, uppers. WHAT IT IS: Speed is part of the amphetamine family. It has a high risk of addiction and there are many mental and physical issues associated with it. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: An off-white/yellowish powder or crystallised substance. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Ingested, snorted, smoked, injected. WHAT IT DOES: Speed gives the user an extreme euphoric feeling and heightens their sense of alertness and energy. In higher doses it can cause the heart rate and breathing to become erratic and can lead to confusion, panic attacks and aggressive behaviour. The potential for addiction to speed is high, as the user often cannot handle the ‘comedown’ and may continue to chase that euphoric feeling. The effects of speed can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the strength. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: Long-term use can result in delusions, chronic sleep problems, decreased memory and concentration, mood swings, depression and strokes. High amounts and frequent use can cause what is known as ‘speed psychosis’, which resembles the effects of schizophrenia.
(LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE) STREET NAMES: Acid, kool-aid, tabs, trips. WHAT IT IS: LSD is a synthetic chemical made from a substance found in ergot, a fungus that infects rye grains. It is a hallucinogenic (aka psychedelic) drug. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: In its purest state, LSD is a translucent white powder. However, when it’s sold as a party drug, it comes on little squares of blotting paper or gelatine that has been dipped or soaked in LSD. It can also be sold in tablet or capsule form. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Normally it’s swallowed, but it can also be sniffed, injected or smoked. WHAT IT DOES: An LSD experience, often called a ‘trip’, usually lasts between four and 12 hours, depending on the strength. As LSD is a hallucinogenic drug, it can cause a person to see and hear things that aren’t actually there (hallucinations). THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: LSD can be unpredictable. It can affect the user’s mood, personality and mental capacity. Sometimes a ‘bad trip’ may be experienced, which involves a disturbing hallucination. This can lead to panic and risky behaviour, such as running across a road or attempting self-harm. People who regularly use LSD may eventually experience flashbacks, which are hallucinations that occur weeks, months or even years after the drug was last taken. This can be disturbing, especially when the hallucination is frightening.
STREET NAMES: Crystal meth, ice, glass, tina, crank. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Clear crystals, similar to small pieces of glass. WHAT IT IS: A stimulant from the same substance family as speed. HOW IT’S TAKEN: It can be smoked, injected, snorted or ingested. WHAT IT DOES: Ice affects the central nervous system and takes effect almost immediately, depending on how it’s taken. It gives the user a feeling of pleasure and clarity as well as a sense of euphoria ’cos it increases the production and release of high levels of dopamine in the brain. When a user is coming down from ice, they can experience aggression, violent outbursts, depression and poor concentration – and they often crave more of the drug to pull them out of this state. The effects of ice can last for about six hours, but it might be hard to sleep for a few days after using it. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: Long-term side effects include depression, anxiety, dental problems, heart and kidney issues and restless sleep. There’s also a high chance the user will become dependent and suffer from ‘ice psychosis’, a condition that consists of paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and sometimes violent behaviour.
STREET NAMES: Dope, gear, H, junk, smack. WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE: Heroin comes in three different forms: clear white powder, off-white granules or rocks, and tiny pieces of brownish rocks. WHAT IT IS: It’s a depressant that belongs to the ‘opioid’ group of drugs, which come from the opium poppy. HOW IT’S TAKEN: Injected, smoked or snorted. WHAT IT DOES: Heroin causes the user to feel buzzed with a sense of pleasure, but it also causes confusion, slurred speech, tiny pupils, drowsiness and clumsiness. The effects can last between three and five hours. THE DAMAGING EFFECTS: Long-term use of heroin can cause depression and anxiety as well as damage to the user’s heart, lungs, liver, brain and veins. It’s a high-dependency drug that users become easily addicted to, and when someone is coming down from heroin they can experience cravings, depression, body cramps and pain. An overdose can lead to slow breathing, blue lips and fingertips, fainting, vomiting, flu-like symptoms and death.