Drug Awareness

What is a drug?

A drug is a substance, other than food, which is taken to change the way the body and/or mind function.

Mood altering drugs are also called “psychoactive drugs”. They can affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. These drugs usually have physical effects as well, but what sets them apart from other drugs is that they work on the mind and the senses.

How could drugs affect you?

The effects of any drug vary from person to person. How a drug affects a person can depend on their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking the drug, and whether other drugs are in their system at the same time.
The effects will also depend on the amount taken. It can be hard to judge how much of an illegal drug has been taken, as they are uncontrolled, so quality and strength will vary from one batch to another.


  • These include alcohol, benzodiazepines (minor tranquillisers), cannabis, GHB, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and some inhalants.
  • Depressants do not necessarily make a person feel depressed. They affect the central nervous system, slowing down the messages between the brain and the body.
  • They can affect concentration and coordination. They slow down the person’s ability to respond to unexpected situations. In small doses they can cause a person to feel more relaxed and less inhibited. In larger doses they can cause drowsiness, vomiting, unconsciousness and death.


  • These include caffeine, ephedrine, nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA).
    Stimulant drugs speed up the messages between the brain and the body. They can make a person feel more awake, alert, confident or energetic.
  • Large doses of stimulants can cause over-stimulation, causing anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. Long-term use of strong stimulants can also cause these effects.


  • These include ketamine, LSD, datura, magic mushrooms (psilobycin) and mescaline (peyote cactus). Cannabis and ecstasy can also have hallucinogenic qualities.
  • Hallucinogens distort a person’s perception of reality. People who have taken them may imagine they see or hear things, or what they see may be distorted. The effects of different hallucinogens vary.


Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Talking with young people about drugs

Parents need to realise that just like smoking or drinking, trying a type of drug or alcohol does not necessarily mean that your child is a drug addict or an alcoholic. If you do find out that your child has experimented with drugs or alcohol, the key is not to panic but to use this opportunity to open up the lines of communication.

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