DRUGS? NO THANKS! What are some of the leading factors that cause you to. become interested in experimenting with illegal drugs?

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1 DRUGS? NO THANKS! What are some of the leading factors that cause you to become interested in experimenting with illegal drugs? It is easily available: During adolescence, you are trying to figure out who you are. This includes experimenting with different roles, identities and behaviours. Such experimentation, combined with easy drug availability can cause you to try out drugs (i.e. You try it out because you can!) To fit in: During your teenage years, you are becoming independent from your parents. This means that your friends and romantic partners start to become the most important people with whom you have relationships. However, this could make you feel scared that if your friends encourage you to take drugs and you don t, you will look uncool and LOSE these people/relationships. To cope: If you are feeling sad/lonely, bored, stressed or angry; you could start using drugs to forget about your problems or to pass the time. If you are feeling nervous in a situation (e.g. meeting a new

2 boy), you could also start taking drugs as a way to boost your selfesteem and feel confident. Many adolescents also take drugs as a way of staying up late at night to study for tests. In addition, if you feel that legal drugs (e.g. caffeine, alcohol) are not working for you anymore, you could start experimenting with illegal drugs to satisfy your needs. Lastly, if you are struggling with any sort of mental illness difficulty (e.g. depression, social anxiety, perfectionism, hyperactivity/poor concentration), you might start experimenting with drugs as a way to manage/alleviate your symptoms. Once you become addicted, what actually happens to you? Physically: The longer you use the drug, the more damage you are causing your body. Of course different drugs damage different body organs; but as a group, drugs have the potential to harm every part of your body! Such damage can lead to serious illnesses/conditions, including cancer, liver disease, brain damage, stomach ulcers, strokes, high blood pressure, heart disease, constipation. The list goes on and on! If you are addicted to a certain drug, it means that your body starts needing it for normal functioning. If you then don t take in that drug, you become physically sick (withdrawal). This should be taken very seriously, as withdrawal can result in death if not handled properly. You will also begin to feel that you need more and more of the drug to achieve its pleasurable effects (tolerance).

3 Emotionally: You could experience constant cravings or strong urges to use that specific drug which can cause you to feel irritable until you have used the drug. If you struggle to find the drug however, it can even cause you to even become aggressive towards others. You might also become so obsessed with obtaining and using the drug that it can cause you to miss school or neglect your homework thus putting you at risk to fail. Drugs can also cause problems in your relationships (e.g. losing important friends because you constantly fight about your drug habits). Just like physical diseases, drug addiction can lead to many psychological conditions such as clinical depression, chronic anxiety, social withdrawal, paranoia, psychosis, as well as death by suicide. Are there certain people who are more likely than others to become addicted to illegal substances? If so, what are the characteristics of such people? Nobody knows exactly why some people get addicted to drugs but others don t. Still, several factors have been identified that could contribute to you becoming more easily hooked onto drugs. For example, it s possible that genes play a strong role meaning that if your family members are addicted to drugs, then there s a chance that you might also become addicted if you decided to start with

4 experimentation. Other biological factors (e.g. differences between people with regard to brain chemical composition or activity) could also contribute to you becoming dependent on drugs. Childhood experiences can also make you more vulnerable to addiction (e.g. if you were abused or experienced any other form of trauma). Certain personality traits could also result in easier drug addiction, such as having a low self-esteem, low tolerance for negative emotions, as well as little regard for your health. Other personality qualities include high levels of impulsivity, risk taking, and defiant feelings towards authority. In short, there is no one drug abuse personality. In addition, personality traits on their own are inadequate explaining why certain people become addicted and others not. These traits most likely INTERACT with your biology, as well as environmental factors (e.g. the media; living in poverty) to lead to drug addiction. In terms of overcoming addiction to illegal drugs, what are some of the obstacles that could cause you to fail in getting clean? If you are trying to stop using drugs, the negative physical symptoms that you will experience could be enough to prevent you from getting clean. As nobody enjoys feeling sick, it is only natural to do anything to stop yourself from falling ill. In this sense, the drugs become your medicine! In cases where you are using drugs to overcome feelings of depression, boredom or anxiety, quitting could be challenging as drugs

5 do work in alleviating these emotions in some situations therefore you might question why you should stop something that is helping you (i.e. no motivation to stop). It could also be as a result of not knowing other coping techniques, or ways of alleviating negative emotional states. In addition, just because you want to change does not mean that the environment is going to change: You might still surround yourself with friends who use drugs, you will still receive media messages promoting the use of drugs, and you will still need to cope with stressful situations (e.g. exams, abusive family environment). Lastly, if you feel that nobody is supporting you in your journey of getting clean it can drastically reduce your willpower and motivation. Getting clean and recovering from any form of drug is never easy. It is important to seek help immediately! Depending on the type of duration of drug use, it might be necessary to be admitted to a hospital for safe and supervised withdrawal. This will remove all traces of the substance from your system. After that, it is imperative to get involved in counselling / psychotherapy / support groups to help you understand your reasons for taking drugs in the first place, as well as to prevent you from relapsing.

6 If you are struggling with any drug/alcohol related problems, you can contact: FAMSA: Auksano: Aurora: Or alternatively, make an appointment with any psychologist / counsellor / social worker who could assist you. Mariska Carter Clinical Psychologist Family Focus Therapy Centre

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