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Drugs of Abuse

Cannabis – also known as boom, dagga, kantien, grass, mary jane, marijuana, pot, skyf, zol, weed.

Cannabis is smoked or eaten and has mental and physical effects that create a high or “stoned” feeling, a change in perception, heightened mood, and an increased appetite. Onset of effects is within minutes when smoked, and about 30 to 60 minutes when ingested orally. Effects include anxiety, decreased mental ability, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, paranoia, psychosis and red eyes.

Depressants – also known as alcohol, barbiturates, buttons, GHB, mandrax, methaqualone.

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance and the active ingredient in drinks such as beer, spirits and wine. It is a commonly abused substance which causes effects such as euphoria, decreased anxiety, increased sociability, sedation, impairment of cognitive, memory, motor and sensory function, and generalized depression of central nervous system function. Also known as booze, dop or shots.

Designer Drugs – also known as ecstasy, ekkies, E, MDMA, umgwinyo, pills.

Designer drugs are copies of controlled substances produced by bootleg chemists. They are compounds of which the chemical structure closely resembles that of the drug they are designed to copy. In fact, the chemical structure of a designer drug may differ from that of the drug it copies by only a few atoms.

Designer drugs are generally manufactured in clandestine laboratories from readily available chemicals. These synthetic drugs can be twice as powerful as cocaine or heroin, yet they cost little to produce. Designer drugs are easily transported and readily available. The most commonly abused is Ecstasy or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

Hallucinogens – also known as acid, LSD, microdots, magic mushrooms, peyote, PCP, shrooms.

Hallucinogens and psychedelics are drugs that stimulate the brain and create distorted auditory and visual hallucinations and sensations, affecting thinking, emotions and self-awareness. Some are derived from natural plant sources, such as magic mushrooms and peyote. Others such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are manufactured. These drugs produce impaired judgment and psychological effects that often lead to dangerous decision making or accidents.

Inhalants – also known as glue, lighter fluid, nitrous oxide, petrol, thinners.

Inhalant refers to many household and commercial products that can intentionally be abused by sniffing or huffing (inhaling through the mouth). Volatile solvents, these substances are commonly found in cleaning solutions, commercial adhesives, lighter fluid, nitrous oxide, paint and petrol. Easy accessibility, low cost and ease of concealment make these substances some of the first substances abused by adolescents.

Opiates – also known as codeine, fentanyl, heroin, morphine, nyaope, pethidine, sugars, whoonga.

Opiates are available in illegal substances such as heroin and in prescription medications such as painkillers. Once in the bloodstream, opiates can have a variety of negative side effects – abdominal pain, anxiety, blood disorders, constipation, difficulty urinating, dizziness, laboured breathing, mood changes, nausea, restlessness skin rashes and vomiting.

Other forms of depressants come in the form of tablets that can be orally taken or crushed and smoked, such as Mandrax. Informally called “downers” because they have a calming effect. They produce a state of intoxication similar to alcohol. Can cause coma, decreased breathing rate, death, impaired judgment, loss of motor coordination and slurred speech.

Psychiatric Drugs – also known as antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers, tranquilisers.

Psychiatric drugs and psychotropic medication are licensed psychoactive drugs taken to exert an effect on the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous system. These medications are used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, hyperactivity, narcolepsy, psychosis and schizophrenia.

There are six main groups of psychiatric medications.

  • Antidepressants, which treat disparate disorders such as clinical depression, dysthymia, anxiety, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder.
  • Antipsychotics, which treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms occurring in the context of other disorders such as mood disorders.
  • Anxiolytics, which treat anxiety disorders.
  • Depressants, which are used as hypnotics, sedatives, and anaesthetics.
  • Mood stabilizers, which treat bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder.
  • Stimulants, which treat disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, and to suppress the appetite.

Stimulants – also known as CAT, cocaine, coke, crystal meth, ephedrine, methamphetamine, shnarf.

These are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that produce euphoria, a feeling of super strength and absolute self-confidence. Cocaine (but not amphetamines) also has an anaesthetic effect (i.e., a dulling of pain). Stimulant users become anxious, extremely talkative, hyperactive, nervous and unable to stand still.

Stimulants release the user’s inhibition and affect their ability to perceive time and distance. They become easily confused and lose the ability to concentrate or to think clearly for any length of time. The effects of stimulants vary from 5 minutes to many hours, depending on which CNS stimulant is used and how much.

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