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a Copyright © 2016 Drugs & Addiction Magazine Ltd. all rights reserved

President and Rob Suggitt Publisher Art Director Christine Kucher Graphic Designer Cailey Buxton

Just say ‘know.’ If you’ve gotten this far into the magazine, we know that you’re at least a little interested in learning more about drugs. Good for you! Right now you’re at an age where it’s really important to learn all about drugs and some of the risks they pose to you and your friends.

Team Leader Melanie Smith Administration Jamie-Rose Mutrey

Accounting Amber-Lea Grmek Institutional Relations Erin O’Neill Manager

A lot of people may have lectured you about drugs, and told you all sorts of terrible things about them. You also might have heard other people brag about their drug use, and tell you how great drugs can make you feel. We know how hard it is to find the truth, especially when everybody seems so convincing. That’s why we’ve created this magazine. We believe that explaining the straight facts about drugs and alcohol is the best way to prepare you for this type of environment and help sort out some of these confusing messages.

We hope you enjoy reading this magazine. We hope it makes you think. Most of all, we hope that after finishing with this booklet you will have a better awareness of how drugs can affect you, and how you have the power to live proudly, happily and drug-free.

Elana Sures Author

ABOUT THE AUTHOR >> Elana Sures is a registered clinical counsellor and freelance writer based in Vancouver, BC. Throughout her career she has provided therapy for youth and adults with mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as their affected

For a list of Community Resources in your area, visit WWW.DAFACTS.COM

family members. She has also given numerous public education presentations on these issues. Her website is

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\\\\\\\\\\ contents 6

>Meet the experts Max, Ella and Liam. Three teens who are seeing it all and are just trying to make their way through.


>Why do people use drugs?

Why are your friends taking something that makes them feel so good, then so gut-wrenchingly bad?


>...but I won’t get addicted.

Of course you won’t. Your little marijuana habit may turn into a little coke habit and then maybe a little heroin for kicks and then...

30 Crystalized (A look into Crystal 14 Nicotine Meth) 16 Synthetic Marijuana 34 E-Cigarettes 17 Marijuana 35 Flavoured Tobacco 18 Alcohol & Energy Drinks 36 Smoking Alcohol 20 Cocaine & Crack 37 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder 21 Inhalants 38 In case you’re wondering 22 MDMA 39 Hear from the experts again 23 Hallucinogens 41 Drug Effects Assessment 24 Oxycontin & Fentanyl 45 Resources for Parents 26 Heroin 47 Concurrent Disorders 27 Methamphetamines 28 Bath Salts Resources in your 29 Mental Health & Substance Abuse For a list of Community area, visit PAGE // 4


“ What is a



A drug is any substance other than food which changes the way the body or mind functions. >> When used by prescription from a medical doctor, drugs can heal illness and injury or take away pain >> Drugs can come from plants (e.g. marijuana, cocaine, heroin, tobacco) or be made in labs (e.g. ecstasy, crystal meth, LSD) >> Both legal and illegal drugs can be harmful

>> Psychoactive Drugs Drugs that change our feelings, thoughts or behaviour include:

>> Marijuana >> Crystal Meth >> Cocaine

>> Alcohol >> Heroin >> “Magic” Mushrooms

>> Appropriate Uses of Substances >> To get better if you are sick (i.e. a doctor’s prescription) >> To reduce pain from illness or injury with medication taken as prescribed >> To manage mental illness (i.e. depression, anxiety) with medication taken as prescribed


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Meet the>>>>>

experts We’d like to introduce you to our panel of experts! >> You might be surprised to learn that these “experts” are neither scientists, politicians, nor doctors, but are youth like you. >> Have you ever noticed that the words

expert and experience come from the same root? Well, that’s why we consider these guys experts. Their experiences make them the ideal people to help you learn more about drugs. >> PAGE // 6


\\\\\ “Hey. I’m Ella.

I’m 14. I don’t do drugs, I smoke weed. Totally different thing, right? I’d never touch any of the other stuff, although I do like drinking at parties. But that’s not a drug either, so I’m good. I like smoking weed – it is the only way I have found to truly not feel stressed. And I know what stress feels like. I get it all the time, from my parents, from my teachers…even the constant texts and Facebook posts I get from friends. Life moves pretty fast sometimes, and weed helps me slow it all down and appreciate the moment. I admit that I find it hard to motivate myself to get things done – I skip soccer practices sometimes and find it really hard to focus on my homework. I also find it hard to enjoy things that I used to enjoy – things are just so much better with weed.


I’m Max. I am in seventh grade and I’m tapping into a whole new world. I don’t drink or use any drugs, but I’ve been in junior high long enough to realize that it seems to be a ticket into where the fun is at. I see people walking off the school property in big groups at lunch time and after school and I wonder where they’re going. They seem close knit and they laugh a lot. Personally, I don’t quite get the attraction to drugs. When I see people who are stoned and drunk they come across as looking kind of stupid to me. But I’d really like to fit in with the cool groups at school. They seem to have way more fun, and are always getting attention from other kids. I’ve had enough of being on the fringe of popularity, and I’d like to finally get invited to some parties. Is this what I need to do to be included?


“I’m Liam.

I’m 17 years old and am going to an alternative high school for students who work better at their own pace. I just re-entered school after a bit of a…break I guess you could say. I was kicked out of my last school because I was caught selling Ritalin and E to my fellow classmates. I got started pretty young – maybe 12 or 13. My buddies and I used to inhale stuff for fun. Then, I found that I would do it alone sometimes, even if my friends weren’t there. In seventh grade I got invited to some bush parties on the weekends, which basically consisted of drinking and smoking weed with a bunch of other, mostly older, people. But then I started finding that I needed some alcohol to get me through the week. I sometimes would drink cough syrup just to get a buzz. I guess you can imagine where things went from there. I am a risk taker and I never thought twice about experimenting with whatver was put in front of me. It never seemed dangerous to me, just fun and a break from the boredom of everyday life. I quickly learned which drugs could bring me up a few notches and which could help me relax. If you heard of it, I probably used it! I could almost create whatever mood I wanted to be in. But it got out of hand way faster than I’d have imagined. If I wasn’t using something I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt anxious and miserable when I was withdrawing from stuff, so I’d just keep using more. I’m not using anymore. My mom sent me to a counsellor and the counsellor referred me to youth detox, and then 8 weeks at a residential treatment centre. It was a long haul, but I’m slowly learning how to deal with life’s frustrations without using. You’ll hear more about my story as you read on. WWW.DAFACTS.COM

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Why do people use


Before we go on about the effects of drugs on

your body, brain, and behaviour, let’s talk for a little while about why people would even use them in the first place. >>

We’ve heard some people say that only stupid people use drugs, while other people say that people use drugs to look like a rebel. We think that it’s not that simple. People use drugs for a whole variety of reasons. If we could pinpoint one common theme running through most drug use, it would probably be this: people use drugs because they think it helps them deal with some of the more difficult parts of life. If that doesn’t make sense to you yet, it will. Keep reading: we’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions kids ask about drugs. I want to try using drugs because I’m curious about how they’ll make me feel. The mystery of drugs and how they can transform people’s feelings, moods and behaviours is pretty interesting. Being curious is natural, and some people are willing to take great risks to satisfy their curiosity. The problem with satisfying your curiosity by trying drugs is that drugs are very unpredictable; you just never know what to expect from them. Unfortunately, many young PAGE // 8

people who don’t plan on getting themselves into trouble by using drugs often find themselves knee deep in it.

we might find ourselves doing things that are harmful or risky just to avoid standing out from our friends.

So do I just pretend I’m not curious?

Am I supposed to ditch all of my friends?

No, curiosity is natural, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We believe that the best way to satisfy your curiosity about drugs is by learning about them instead of trying them. Most people who get really involved with drugs haven’t bothered to learn about them first, and we really don’t want that to happen to you. Please learn about all the risks and effects involved with using drugs before trying them. It could make all the difference. Some of my friends are starting to drink and use drugs, and I don’t want to feel left out. I want to join them. We all want to feel accepted by our friends, and sometimes we want to impress people who aren’t even our friends. This is especially true when we’re young. Between the ages of 12 and 19, friends and fitting in are a huge part of who we are. Suddenly,

By refusing to join in your friends drug-use, you are sending a powerful message: that you are confident enough not to be a follower, and that you respect your health and well-being. You don’t need to ditch your friends or even criticize them to make this point. You are allowed to make your own decisions about what you put into your body. Sometimes I feel kind of depressed, like things will never get better. If I used drugs maybe that would improve my mood. Growing up can be really hard. Have you ever felt really down, when you just can’t seem to shake feelings of sadness or loneliness? What about being really angry at some of the people in your life, like your parents or teachers? When people first try drugs, one thing they experience is DRUGS & ADDICTION: FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

\\\\\ a change in mood. All of a sudden, drugs seem like the answer to many of life’s problems! Unfortunately, our feelings are much too complicated to be fixed with a dose of drugs. When we take drugs to avoid unpleasant feelings, what usually happens is that the feelings return after the drugs wear off – only now they are even worse. This is what often leads people to become addicted; when the drugs wear off, people sometimes keep using more to avoid dealing with their true feelings. Does this mean that I should just walk around feeling depressed and lonely, then? Absolutely not! There are far more constructive and positive ways to deal with sadness, anger and loneliness than by using drugs. The truth is, everyone experiences these feelings from time to time, but when these feelings are seriously hard to deal with, it’s important to reach out to others who can help you. You can help yourself by learning to cope, too. On our website at, you’ll find a list called 25 Drug-Free Ways to Feel Better. We hope that will help you cope with some of the tough times. Drugs seem to be fun. I mean, people don’t use them because they make them feel bad, they use them to feel good-don’t they?

Very good point! Drugs do seem to be a lot of fun, especially when you see drunk and stoned people laugh, party, and carry on like they don’t have a worry in the world. The reason why this happens is that all drugs contain chemicals that, upon entering your body, work their way into the brain. Once they get there, these chemicals change your brain’s natural balance, causing you to experience really extreme feelings: hyper activity, power, happiness, attractive-ness and relaxed, to name a few.

So, what’s the problem then? Well, the problem occurs when your brain realizes its natural chemistry has been tampered-with. In order to get back to normal, the brain will change its chemical activity, actually preventing you from experiencing all of these great feelings naturally in order to overcome the powerful effects of the drugs. When this happens, you’re no longer having fun.

while they do a pretty good job of it. I remember being at parties, stoned out of my mind on drugs, thinking life couldn’t get much sweeter. After a couple of weeks of that, drugs were laughing in my face. Drugs had me cornered when I could no longer work up the nerve to go to a party and socialize unless I had just used. They knew they had me when I was up all night, unable to get to sleep while the drugs were wearing off. That was definitely not fun! Drugs show you a good time at first. Then, once you’re hooked, they just get you to use them – over and over and over.” ////

Why do people use

“You can say that again!!” Oh. It seems that Liam would like to have a word with you again. “Thanks for the science lesson, but I think I can take over from here. The question was about fun, right? The truth is, drugs are pretty sneaky. Drugs fool you into thinking they’re fun, and for a


Drugs had me cornered when I could no longer work up the nerve to go to a party and socialize unless I had just used.


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What I didn’t realize is how easy it is to get sucked in.




won’t get addicted!”

THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE Nobody wakes up one day and discovers he or she is


addicted to drugs. >> Drugs become a part of our lives through a slow process. >> Each time you move from one stage of drug use to the next, you are doing so for one, and only one, reason: because you choose to do it. >> Not because school is a drag, your friends made you do it, or your parents are making life difficult. >> Here, we will describe in detail all of the different stages of drug use. As you will see, drug use can get out of control so gradually that you don’t even know it is happening. >> PAGE // 10


...before I knew it, I was struggling through the day until I could smoke some weed. >> >> NON-USERS They are people who don’t use any drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. Their reasons include: >> Health reasons >> Religious beliefs >> Athletic ability >> Bad experiences in the past with drugs and alcohol >> Lack of interest

\\\\\ >> REGULAR USE When drugs and alcohol start to show up more and more often; when you notice that you’re thinking about drugs and alcohol and talking about ‘getting high’ or ‘getting drunk’ a lot, and when you realize that most of your friends are using, it’s fair to say that use has become regular.

>> EXPERIMENTAL USE This is the stage when someone is trying drugs for the first time. It could be at a party, or at a friend’s house. It is almost always with other people. The “experimental stage” is very brief, and is characterized by: >> Curiosity about drugs >> A belief that doing a given drug won’t lead to any harm >> A social atmosphere After experimenting with a drug, a person makes a decision about whether or not to use it again. If the decision is not to, the person will go back to non-use. If the decision is to use it again, the person moves on to… This is kind of what Max was talking about, right Max? “Yep. My friends pretty much fit every one of those types. Interesting – I wonder how much further they’ll go….” Ella: “Remember how I told you earlier that I never planned on using drugs as much as I do now? Actually, when I first started using, I totally thought I would just use ‘once in a while’ but so much for that! What I didn’t realize is how easy it is to get sucked in. Once a week becomes three times a week, ‘only after school’ turns into ‘only during lunch, breaks and after school,’ and before I knew it, I was struggling through the day until I could smoke some weed. “Occasional” use? Good luck!” WWW.DAFACTS.COM

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...but I won’t get addicted!

You do not need to be an addict/alcoholic to have a problem with substances. >>


Other qualities of regular use include: >> Using automatically, without thinking about it >> Starting to find it difficult to enjoy social situations without using drugs and alcohol >> Some areas of life are becoming affected (e.g. school, family, money) Gosh. Can you imagine needing to use drugs or alcohol just to get through the day, or even the hour? I guess you can understand now what Liam meant when he said that drugs started to have more control over him than he had over them. I wish I could tell you that it ends there, but unfortunately, it gets even worse. Coming up is the final stage of drug use, and the most desperate: addiction.


At this stage: >> Drug or alcohol use is the most important thing in the person’s life; other things that were once important, like school, family, sports, and other interests become less important >> The person using often has been ‘cut off’ by important people in his or her life; others feel increasingly frustrated and helpless >> It is almost impossible to remain committed to school work and family; the user surrounds him or herself with other users that replace former family and friends A person’s emotional and physical health is very affected; depression, mood swings, and serious health problems often emerge.

This is the most frightening stage of drug and alcohol use, when the user experiences an utter sense of desperation to continue using, despite repeated attempts to cut back and despite extremely negative consequences.

>> what makes us use?

There are many factors that contribute towards drug and alcohol use in young people. Usually, there are a few factors that contribute to drug use. Whatever these factors may be, it is important to remember that the most

important factor determining drug use is your decision to use or not to use.

Personal Factors that Increase Risk of Drug Use

Environmental Factors that Increase Risk of Drug Use

>> Family history of drug use >> Depression >> Age (teenagers are more likely to use drugs than

>> Unstable family environment

other age groups) >> Low self-esteem >> ADD or ADHD >> Learning disabilities >> Personality style (e.g. impulsive, risk-taking, PAGE // highly sensitive/emotional, etc.) >> Excessive Anxiety PAGE // 12

>> Highly controlling family environment >> Drug / alcohol use in family members >> Lack of strong attachment to adult figures >> High stress >> Having friends who use drugs >> Struggling with school

>> Having problems fitting in with peers


It is almost impossible to remain committed to school work and family... >> >> BINGE USE Refers to heavy and excessive drinking or drugging on a sporadic basis, with periods of little or no use in between. Problems associated with binge use include: >> Higher levels of aggression >> Fighting and violence >> Getting into serious trouble when on a binge, such as sexual assault, verbal fights and domestic violence >> Alcohol poisoning or drug overdose, leading to medical treatment >> Increased risk of accidents (e.g. impaired driving) Binge use is unpredictable and scary for both the user and friends and family members. ////

So if it’s so horrible, why do people keep using? >>

Ways of Abusing Substances >> Taking too much of a drug/alcohol at one time (i.e. bingeing) or taking smaller doses more often >> Taking a prescribed drug after it is no longer needed (like sleeping pills or pain killers) >> Taking a drug that has been prescribed to somebody else (e.g. Ritalin, often prescribed for ADD and ADHD, has a stimulating effect on people who do not suffer from those conditions and is therefore abused quite often.) >> Taking a drug to cope with everyday stress >> Combining drugs

Other Forms of Addiction People can become addicted to things other than drugs and alcohol. Let’s take a look at some other addictions: >> Sex

>> Shopping

>> Food

>> Dangerous sports

>> Dieting

>> Internet chat rooms

>> Gambling

>> Video games

>> Exercise

>> Television

Let’s look at some of the reasons people stay “stuck” on drugs, even when it’s no longer fun: >> Drug use provides an instant group of “friends” >> As people grow more and more dependent, reality becomes harder to deal with; drugs offer an escape >> Drugs give us an excuse to avoid responsibilities >> It’s a way to numb oneself from painful events >> To prove to parents they have no power >> Acting out of self-hate >> Powerful cravings that only subside with drug use WWW.DAFACTS.COM

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>>nicotine --“You mean cigarettes are a drug?!”- Max You bet they are. Not only that, but they are the most addictive drug, and cause more long term health problems than any other drug. Interestingly, while adults are finally starting to smoke less, young people have been smoking more and more. In fact, the number of teenagers smoking has been steadily rising over the past ten years. Why? Well, despite loads of convincing information telling us how harmful cigarettes are for our health, to most young people these risks seem too far off in the future to worry about now. Unlike other drugs, the harm from nicotine shows up later on in life, making the need to quit seem much less urgent. “So I’ll quit later, when I’m older or something.” - Ella. That’s the idea that a lot of young people have. “I’ll quit before the wrinkles, the discoloured skin, the breathing problems and the lung cancer have a chance to set in.” The problem with that? Nicotine is addictive, which means it is extremely difficult from a psychological aspect, though not impossible, to quit smoking. In fact, most addicted smokers began smoking as teenagers! Basically, the younger you are when you start, the more ingrained the habit becomes and the harder it is to quit. How Does Nicotine Work? When a person smokes tobacco (by far and away the most common form of nicotine use), nicotine is absorbed very quickly into the blood through the lungs and passes within seconds to the brain. Therefore, very soon after having your first drag of a cigarette, you can feel its effects. Within ten minutes, there is a peak concentration of nicotine in the lungs, blood and brain. Then, the nicotine starts to distribute itself to other body tissues and levels of nicotine in the brain

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decline. Thirty minutes later, the nicotine has left the brain, leaving the smoker ready for another cigarette. It happens very fast. Nicotine, as a powerfully addictive drug, causes three predictable behaviours in smokers:

>> It makes them want more. Because the desire to get more outweighs logic, people will continue to smoke despite knowing that it is harmful to their health. They will also spend increasing amounts of money on cigarettes – from hundreds to thousands of dollars a year per smoker.

Quitting There are a lot of different methods used for quitting smoking. The truth of the matter is, quitting smoking is painful and difficult no matter which way you slice it. Bearing the cravings and stress, especially at the beginning, is the most important and difficult step. Quitting smoking is difficult for a couple of reasons. So far, we’ve been talking mainly about the physical aspects of the addiction. Quitting can be very difficult, for example, if you are used to having a cigarette after lunch, or in the smoke pit with your friends. Smoking can provide a way to socialize and connect with others, even if it’s only a surface connection. All of a sudden, you may not know what to do with your hands, or you may find yourself feeling really antsy in situations during which you would normally be smoking. These are all common struggles experienced by people trying to quit, and it’s normal to be tempted.


Nicotine is the most addictive of all drugs, but not impossible to quit. >> Tolerance. If you were to smoke for the first time, you would likely experience dizziness and nausea. If you continued to smoke, these effects would go away within days. Tolerance to the other effects of nicotine develops even more rapidly, and smokers will increase their dosage and frequency of smoking in order to still feel the effects of nicotine. So if you started out just having drags of your friend’s cigarette, you would probably go on to having one all to yourself; first bumming one off another person, and then gradually buying your own. When a smoker stops smoking, he or she will quickly go into withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal from nicotine are: >> Cravings (i.e. powerful urges to use the drug) >> Irritability (i.e. everyone and everything is getting on your nerves) >> Preoccupation (i.e. you can’t stop thinking about how badly you need a smoke)


Effects on the body, brain & behaviour >> Adolescents who are smokers are twice as likely as non-smoking adolescents to suffer from an episode of major depression, and teens with longterm depression are more likely to be smokers than teens without depression >> Smoking causes lung cancer and chronic lung diseases, like emphysema >> Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by increasing heart rate and blood pressure, creating extra stress on the heart >> Smoking effects circulation, making the skin of smokers thinner and more wrinkled >> Smoking can delay the physical and mental development in the fetuses of pregnant women

It’s no wonder, then, that most people find it so difficult to stop.


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Un-Naturally Trending \\\\\

In the headlines this past spring have been investigations into the nature of synthetic cannabis, causing Health Canada to issue a warning about that drug’s potential dangers. Synthetic cannabis is essentially marijuana plant materials that have been sprayed with artificial cannabinoids (in other words, chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana). These $12-16 foil packages are typically sold in retail outlets specializing in smoking paraphernalia (known as head shops) and even convenience stores. This substance is best known as Spice or K2, although other catchy names include Happy Shaman, Grape Xtreme, Project 420, Fusion Atomic Green and Kick Ass White Rabbit. Despite the warning “Not Intended For Human Consumption” on all these packets, these products are marketed as 'smokeable herbal incense,' 'exotic herbal incense,' 'legal highs' or as alternatives to marijuana, and are believed to be smoked for their cannabis-like effects.

[The bottom line is that because the substances are not controlled or regulated, nobody is able to determine the safety of what goes into these slick foil pouches. ]

Staying Safe

HIGH? Buyer Beware

> > > >


According to experts who include chemists and physicians, synthetic cannabis is much more dangerous to one’s health than natural, and should be avoided at all costs. Despite this, shop owners have been caught on hidden cameras assuring buyers that it is completely safe to use. The bottom line is that because the substances are not controlled or regulated, nobody is able to determine the safety of what goes into these slick foil pouches. That is the same risk with all designer drugs: you just don’t know what you’re going to get! And what do some people get when they use this substance? There have been reports of psychosis (extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and delusional beliefs), seizures, and agitation. Did someone say buzz kill?

No high is worth the risk to your brain and body. The easy access and edgy packaging can make getting and using seem too easy to pass up, but evidence on synthetic cannabis points to its danger and unreliability. Who would you rather take advice from when it comes to safe consumption of substances: the retailer, or a scientist? References (Current Psychiatry, Volume 10, Number 9) (Brauser, Deborah 2011) PAGE // 16


Common Terms:

\\\\\ pot weed bud doob spliff

>> marijuana “Sometimes I feel like weed is my best friend. It calms me down. When I’m feeling lonely and discouraged, it gives me a boost. When I am feeling down on myself and critical, it helps me see the positive side. I like myself more when I’m a bit buzzed. But it’s like a friend who has kind of taken over my life. I feel awkward now when I go to soccer practice and see my old friends. It’s tempting to avoid it, because then I don’t have to deal with my coach who is always on my back for missing too many practices, but then I think about how much I used to love it and I feel guilty. And then there are my grades. I always seem to put off doing my homework, and I am now failing social studies because of not handing in assignments. The downside to smoking weed is that I’m burnt out some of the time and can’t focus on school.” — Ella

Marijuana is the most common and mainstream of all the “illicit” drugs; it is smoked by a wide range of people of different ages, backgrounds and professions. >> Marijuana is most commonly rolled and smoked in a “joint” or “doob”. It can also be smoked through a pipe or a bong; smoking marijuana through a water bong is considerably less harmful to your lungs >> The main active chemical in marijuana is THC. The THC potency of marijuana has increased significantly since the 1970’s. Many hydroponically grown forms of marijuana have a very high (up to 20%) THC content

Short Term Effects: >> Increase in heart rate, possibly leading to anxiety and paranoia >> Distorted concept of time and space >> Decrease in concentration skills and short-term memory capacity >> Feeling tired after the high wears off >> Increase in appetite; weight gain

Long Term Effects: >> Marijuana contains many of the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke. People who smoke marijuana over a long period of time often develop the same breathing problems as smokers do. Their risk of developing lung cancer is also significantly higher than non-marijuana smokers >> THC can also damage the cells and tissues in the body that help protect people from disease >> Lack of motivation

>> There are over 400 additional chemicals in marijuana >> Difficulty processing new information What are the Effects of Marijuana? Marijuana is frequently smoked socially; therefore, people who smoke pot tend to smoke as a group activity. Marijuana use can negatively impact a person’s life, particularly in the areas of school, work, sports and motivation.


Somewhere along the line I

just got way too into smoking up with my friends, and nothing else was as important.

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>>alcohol &

energy drinks

The newest trend amongst partying youth is to mix an alcoholic beverage (vodka, rum, gin, etc.) with a commercial energy drink. You’ve probably seen energy drinks before. Most energy drinks are carbonated, and contain large amounts of caffeine and sugar. Some of the additional ingredients include B vitamins, amino acids such as taurine, and some include herbal stimulants such as guarana and ginseng. Energy drinks are marketed primarily to youth as a stimulant. Mixing alcohol with energy drinks may seem like a great idea. After all, even though alcohol initially helps you to feel outgoing and boisterous, there is that inevitable point when you crash, and feel tired and lethargic. The stimulating qualities of an energy drink can counteract the fatigue and help you party all through the night. Sounds great! Alcohol, energy drinks and related heart problems. Combining alcohol and energy drinks can actually be dangerous and harmful. Energy drinks, either as a mixer or on their own, initially feel like the perfect solution to perk up when that slow, sleepy feeling sets in. However, when an energy drink like is consumed along with alcohol, the high levels of caffeine in these drinks can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations, according to National Institute of Health in the U.S.A. Mixing these drinks with alcohol further increases the risk of heart rhythm problems. "Energy drinks have a lot of stimulants in them like ginseng and taurine, while alcohol is a depressant; by mixing the two you're sending mixed messages to your nervous system which can cause cardiac related problems," Steve Clarke, director of the College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center, explains.

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Non medical problems. One major study conducted by researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed that students who mixed alcohol and energy drinks had double the risk of being hurt or injured, requiring medical attention, driving with an intoxicated driver, being taken advantage of sexually, or taking advantage of another sexually. "Students whose motor skills, visual reaction times, and judgment are impaired by alcohol may not perceive that they are intoxicated as readily when they're also ingesting a stimulant," describes Mary Claire O'Brien, lead researcher. "Only the symptoms of drunkenness are reduced -- but not the drunkenness. They can't tell if they're drunk; they can't tell if someone else is drunk. So they get hurt, or they hurt someone else." In other words, energy drinks can trick people into thinking they are more sober than they really are, when in actuality they are every bit as drunk - they just feel less drunk. Sara (not her real name), a popular 16-year old high school student who loves to party, described her experience mixing a popular energy drink that has a whopping 80 mg of caffeine, with vodka. “Not only did it make the drink go down easier due to the sweet taste, I also felt like I was able to keep going all night! I was dancing until 3 am without getting tired or feeling like I needed to take a break.” Don’t see a problem with that? Well, listen to the rest of what Sara has to say. “Although it was fun at first, I actually ended up drinking way more than I did before I started mixing with Red Bull. So that meant worse hangovers, sometimes so bad that I spent the entire next day in bed.”


\\\\\ Mixing these drinks with alcohol further increases the risk of heart rhythm problems.

Of course, we would prefer that you didn’t drink at all, as alcohol is an addictive substance that has many harmful physical and social consequences. However, if you must drink, avoid mixing alcohol with any caffeinated beverages or stimulants. Instead, alternate every alcoholic drink with water or Gatorade. Staying hydrated will prevent the ill effects of dehydration that result in those wicked hangovers you get from drinking to excess. Not only will you feel better the next day, but hydration actually prevents fatigue and burnout, leaving you with more energy. Not only will you feel better, but you are also far less likely to be the subject of the morning-after gossip!


Effects on the body & behavior >> Can boost heart rate and blood pressure, causing palpitations and other cardiac rhythm problems. >> Increases the risk of: >> being hurt or injured. >> driving with an intoxicated driver. >> being taken advantage of sexually, or taking advantage of another sexually.

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>>cocaine & crack

“Cocaine, out of all the drugs I took, was the most instantly transforming. One snort and I felt like a different person. I couldn’t sit still, I was talking a mile a minute, and I felt full of confidence and importance. Twenty minutes later, I landed back on earth with a crash. All I could think about was how I could get more so I could get that feeling back. I switched to crack after a while because it was cheaper and I could buy it right on the street. Later, when I started to use it all the time, I’d be really irritable and depressed when I came down. It took almost a year for the depression to go away after I stopped using.” — Liam

Over time, and/or larger doses: >> Aggressive, hostile, erratic behaviour >> Hallucinations >> Rapid and irregular heartbeat >> Increased paranoia >> Impotence >> Depression

Psychological effects: >> Paranoia and confusion >> Cocaine psychosis: losing touch with reality, loss of interest in friends and family, self-harm

Cocaine is a white powder that comes from the leaves of the coca plant. “Coke” can be snorted, smoked or injected. It is a stimulant with a very short high that lasts between 5-20 minutes. Crack is a smokable form of cocaine that is highly addictive even after only a few uses. Crack and cocaine are both extremely powerful drugs that take over all aspects of an addict’s life. Both drugs are very habit forming and both physically and psychologically addictive.

>> Crashing: after doing coke, people “crash” and become very depressed and tired

Use/abuse of cocaine and crack will cause: >> Increased blood pressure and heart rate >> Rapid breathing >> Constriction of blood vessels >> Decreased appetite >> Sweating >> Restlessness, insomnia >> Paranoia, anxiety >> Dilated pupils

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While inhalants may seem safe because they are found in household items, they are in fact extremely harmful.


>>inhalants Some examples of inhalants… >> Common household items, such as paint thinners, cleaning fluids, gasoline, glue, white-out and felt-tip markers >> Aerosols, which are sprays that contain propellants and solvents and include spray paint, deodorant, vegetable oils and fabric protector >> Gases, such as nitrous oxide, butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers and refrigerants >> Nitrites, which relax the muscles and are sold on the street as “poppers” or “snappers” Who uses inhalants? Because inhalants are usually found in the household, they attract younger children (under age 12), or adults who cannot afford the price of alcohol or street drugs. Inhalant abuse reaches its peak during the seventh to ninth grades, and can be a gateway to abusing other kinds of drugs. Poverty, a history of child abuse, poor grades and dropping out of school are all associated with inhalant abuse. How are inhalants used? Inhalants are breathed in through the nose or mouth in a variety of ways, such as: >> “Sniffing” or “snorting” fumes from containers >> Spraying aerosols directly into the nose and mouth >> “Bagging” – sniffing or inhaling fumes from substances sprayed into a paper or plastic bag >> “Huffing” from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in the mouth >> Inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide


What are some of the risks of inhaling? Within minutes of inhalation, the user feels effects similar to those produced by alcohol, including lack of coordination, dizziness, euphoria and difficulty speaking. Intoxication from inhalant use only lasts a few minutes, so abusers often try to keep the high going by continuing to inhale repeatedly over the course of several hours – which is very dangerous. With repeated inhalations, abusers can lose consciousness and even die. Using inhalants can lead to uncontrollable use. Some of the symptoms that long-term users exhibit are weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of co-ordination, irritability and depression. What are the medical consequences of inhalant abuse? Inhalants are very dangerous, and in some situation can lead to brain damage, organ damage or death caused by choking. Inhalants damage brain cells beyond repair, and therefore can lead to permanent abnormalities in thinking, learning and memory. While inhalants may seem safe because they are found in household items that you don’t have to buy on the street, they are in fact extremely harmful.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse: >> Chemical odours on the breath or clothing >> Paint or other stains on face, hands or clothes >> Hidden empty spray or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags >> Drunk or disoriented appearance >> Slurred speech >> Nausea or loss of appetite >> Inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability and depression

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Common Terms:

ecstasy e.

>> mdma Nicknamed the “love drug,” ecstasy is known for the feelings of warmth and empathy experienced while on the drug, as well as the sense of energy and alertness it produces in users.

Physical Effects:

Negative Effects: Users often experience jitters and teeth clenching. Overdose can lead to hypertension and kidney failure.

>> Dehydration

>> Increased heart rate, hyperactivity, excess energy

>> Nausea and loss of appetite >> Clenching of jaw muscles

Dangerous Combinations with Other Drugs: MDMA can be dangerous if taken in conjunction with antidepressants that are MAO inhibitors. It also should not be taken with alcohol.

Mental Effects: >> Mild distortions of perception

How MDMA Works in the Brain: MDMA increases levels of serotonin and makes it more available to the brain, which leads to the notorious mood boosting properties of the drug. However, repeated use of ecstasy leads to possible serotonin loss, which feels like chronic depression. Furthermore, ecstasy use – especially repeated use of high doses – has been responsible for a number of psychiatric/psychological problems, such as panic attacks and paranoia.

>> Psychological dependence >> Withdrawal from ecstasy causes fatigue and depression

“All of the above about Ecstasy is true, but there’s one more thing: ‘E’ is what introduced me to all the other ‘club drugs’. Read on for more details….” — Liam

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>> hallucinogens “I was at a party when a good friend of mine took ketamine. At first she seemed kind of dizzy and disconnected, then really into the music and kind of in her own world, and then really anxious and seemingly weirded out. I think she might have taken too much because she said that she was really nauseous and was on the verge of throwing up. After it was over she said she would never take it again; it was too powerful and strange.” — Ella Hallucinogens are drugs that drastically alter one’s thought processes, mood and perceptions. At high doses, these drugs cause users to perceive an experience as actually happening when, in fact, it is not. At lower doses, they cause milder distortions in perception, thought and emotion, but not imagined events. The experience is determined by the user’s previous drug experience, expectations and the context in which the drug is taken, as well as the amount of the dose.

unpleasant effect of taking LSD is the high state of anxiety and isolation one might develop while using (often called a “bad trip”).


has very similar, although slightly milder effects as those of LSD. As with LSD, the most negative effects caused by mushrooms are the intense feelings of anxiety and/or depression that sometimes develop while using.

PHENCYCLIDINE (PCP, “ANGEL DUST”) AND KETAMINE (“SPECIAL K”) // are frequently taken for the euphoria and stimulation they produce. At the same time, they also cause a drunken-like state in their users, characterized by poor coordination, slurred speech, and drowsiness. At higher doses, it leads to a detachment from one’s environment, often noticed as a consistent blank stare. PCP users frequently find themselves in trouble with the law as a result of their poor reflexes and judgement, and general state of agitation.

Types of hallucinogens LSD (ACID) // is one of the most common hallucinogens. It is the longest-acting of the hallucinogens; the drug remains active in the body for up to 12 hours. The physical effects of LSD include numbness, muscle weakness, trembling and often nausea. Slight bodily pain is also common. Despite widespread rumours, LSD is not stored in the spinal fluid for months, and does not remain hidden in any organ. It also does not cause long-term damage to the brain. Short-term side effects are tolerance and exhaustion. However, there are definite risks involved with taking LSD. People who are on acid experience things not as they really are, including visions, sounds and feelings. Therefore, driving, swimming and any other activity which requires a grasp on reality can be potentially hazardous and/or life threatening. Another


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Oxycontin & Fentanyl


Opioid analgesic medication is prescribed for people experiencing chronic and acute pain. Any opiate-based narcotic can be extremely addictive, which means that somebody taking it needs to be carefully monitored by a doctor to prevent abuse and potentially debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Over the last 15 years, Canada has been experiencing a prescription drug crisis. This started with OxyContin, which spawned the first wave of addiction and overdose deaths throughout Canada in the early 2000s, leading to Health Canada launching a review on the dangers of this drug in 2004. This led, in 2012, to OxyContin being removed from most public drug plans, making it much more difficult to obtain. The replacement medication was produced in a tamperresistant form that made it more difficult to crush, chew or snort to get high. However, in the years that followed, the popularity of other opiates such as hydromorphone, fentanyl, and even heroin rose dramatically, leading to a prescription drug crisis in Canada.

“This started with OxyContin, which spawned the first wave of addiction & overdose deaths throughout Canada...� PAGE // 24

In recent years, a disturbing trend has emerged across Canada. People obtaining prescription opiates and heroin to get high are sometimes unknowingly consuming Fentanyl, sold as fake OxyContin pills or laced with other substances that people are buying. Because Fentanyl is so powerful - it's estimated to be 80 times as powerful as morphine and hundreds of times more powerful than heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - the risk of accidental overdose is high. The consequences can be deadly, and across Canada there has been a sharp increase in overdose deaths due to Fentanyl. DRUGS & ADDICTION: FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

“it is Impossible for drug users to determine on their own if the drugs they have bought contain FENTANYL.�

Fentanyl is not for the faint of heart - it is a serious medication. When it is prescribed by doctors to help patients who have chronic pain, it is very closely monitored, but once it falls into the hands of drug dealers, there is no way of warning the user of its danger. Even scarier, it is impossible for drug users to determine on their own if the drugs they have bought contain fentanyl. Equally as disturbing is that many of the people overdosing on Fentanyl are recreational users experimenting with drugs, rather than hard core users or people with an established addiction. Their tolerance is lower, and their bodies and brains are completely unprepared for the powerful dose of opiates. In almost all cases, these users have no idea that they are taking Fentanyl. The only sure way to avoid Fentanyl is to avoid all opiates that are not directly prescribed to you by your doctor. Buying drugs on the street means taking a risk, and there is no reliable way of knowing what they contain. WWW.DAFACTS.COM

[ The popularity of other OPIATES

such as hydromorphone,

fentanyl, & even heroine rose dramatically.


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Common Terms:

h. horse down brown mojo smack

>> heroin Heroin is either smoked or injected, and is extremely addictive. People who use heroin become dependent very quickly, drawn to the rush of pleasure they experience when using. However, the withdrawal effects of heroin use are very painful (anyone see the movie Trainspotting?), making it a really difficult drug to quit. Once people become addicted to heroin, they continue to use–mostly to prevent themselves from feeling sick. Heroin is a depressant, and therefore slows down all the processes in the mind and body.

Physical Effects: >> Slower breathing >> Flushed skin >> Pinpoint pupils >> Nausea and vomiting >> Constipation


Because of the profound physical effects of using heroin, death by overdose is a major possibility. This happens because breathing slows down to the point where it stops altogether. This can happen with a single dose, meaning someone can die of a heroin overdose the very first time they use! Unfortunately, the composition of street heroin varies widely, and the purity of the drug is never known to the user. Therefore, it is very possible for the user to receive a dose that is much higher than expected.


Withdrawal from heroin is miserable, but not life threatening. Physically, it feels like a very bad flu: fatigue, sweating, aching and diarrhea. These symptoms go away after about a week.

>> Nodding of the head (looks like nodding off to sleep) >> Decreased ability to feel pain >> Increased risk of contracting Hepatitis A and C, and HIV, through infected needles

Mental and Emotional Effects: >> Dreamy, pleasant state >> Psychologic addiction; user becomes preoccupied with how to get more heroin

“Never did it… I was too scared I’d never get off it, like everyone else I know who tried it.” Liam

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>> speed, meth, crank, crystal meth “Crystal Meth can only be described as intense. The high itself made me

Physical Effects:

full of energy and confidence that lasted for hours and hours. But when I continued using it I’d go into these rages. Everything irritated me and I was really paranoid. Coming off that drug is brutal. I felt anxious and depressed – even suicidal. The people and places I encountered through using meth were really sketchy – in other words, not to be trusted and sometimes downright scary. I got myself into some risky situations. It took me a really long time to get my head straight after coming off meth after months of use.” — Liam

>> Increased heart and respiratory rate

Methamphetamines are stimulants that are very similar to amphetamines and are becoming very widely used by teenagers. Speed, one form of methamphetamine, can be swallowed in pill form, snorted or injected, and has a high that lasts from 2-4 hours. Crystal meth is usually snorted or smoked, and sometimes injected. The high lasts from 4-14 hours and is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. Crystal meth and speed are used to increase alertness, stay awake, feel stronger and more confident, and to create euphoric, “feel good” effects.

>> High blood pressure >> Dizziness and blurred vision >> Anxiety and restlessness >> Decreased appetite

Mental and Emotional Effects: >> High energy when on the drug; extremely low energy when coming down from the drug >> Depression and irritability when withdrawing >> Powerful urges to use the drug and extreme difficulty resisting use >> Exhaustion

Signs of use: >> Excessive activity and movement >> Talking a lot, often argumentatively >> Irritability and paranoia >> Nervousness >> Noticeable weight loss and sleeplessness >> Euphoria


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Common Terms:

>>bath salts Here’s a game: Ivory Wave. Vanilla Sky. Bliss. Blue Silk. White Dove. What comes to mind? Poetry? A luxury yacht? Designer ice cream flavours! Designer drugs are more like it. More specifically, “bath salts,” the newest combo that contributes to the violence and chaos that has come to be identified with amphetamine use. The squeaky clean sounding nickname for the designer drug was probably invented to make the substance sound harmless, and to make it easier to distribute. “Bath salts” are a powdered drug resembling white sugar that contains at least one amphetamine-type substance. Most often that is methylenedioxypyrovalerone, better known as MDPV (don’t worry - the term probably won’t make it into your next spelling test). It can also be either methylone or mephedrone. The drug can be smoked, snorted or injected. As is the case with all designer drugs, every batch is different in its cocktail of chemicals and composition. The user really is at the mercy of the manufacturer. As of September 26, 2012, MDPV, the key ingredient in bath salts, has been banned in Canada. We feel it’s important to spread the word on bath salts and their effects on the user. Illegal or not, we need to be well informed about designer drugs and what they really do.

What are the effects? MDPV speeds up the central nervous system, much like crystal meth and any other methanphetamine-based drug. That means, in addition to an increase in energy and alertness, the user is also at considerable risk of hallucinations, panic attacks, severe anxiety, paranoia and violent behaviour. Other side-effects can include an increased risk of heart attack, kidney failure, liver failure, and suicide.


Ivory Wave Vanilla Sky Bliss Blue Silk White Dove

What do people who have taken the drug say? A user commenting about his experiences with this drug on an online forum describes: “I felt like everyone around me was secretly plotting to kill me. My thoughts were racing faster then I could keep up with them. I’ve never felt so anxious in my life.” Another user remarked that “after using this drug, I became obsessed with using it again shortly after the high wore off. I went into neighbourhoods I never would have gone into otherwise and spoke to people I’d normally be totally afraid of to try and score more of the same. It was like that each time I used, even after the bad trips.” This concoction of chemicals amounts to one of the most addictive drugs out there. The first thing one would notice after using bath salts is a range of psychological symptoms (euphoria, high motivation, alertness, anxiety, paranoia and aggression, to name a few), followed by 6-8 hours of prolonged physical effects, such as increased heart rate, insomnia, and nausea. High doses of this drug have been observed to cause intense, prolonged panic attacks in new users. Users of this drug often report a compulsive desire to use again and again, even after experiencing unpleasant side effects.

Where are bath salts found in Canada? This drug is most common in the Martime provinces of Atlantic Canada, but the use of bath salts has been reported across the country. There were also reports of bath salt related violence in Calgary and Toronto. One of the biggest risks of consuming this drug is that there are no ingredients written on the package, and no way of predicting what you’re going to get. This presents a very big risk to the user, especially with a drug that is known to be so harmful.

( ( PAGE // 28


Mental Health

& Substance Abuse You’re a teenager, & you probably want more freedom than you had as a kid. Freedom means more time with friends, and more opportunities to experiment. This isn’t just due to peer pressure - far below the surface, your brain is remodeling itself to encourage you to push your boundaries, become more independent, and seek out more excitement. Adolescence is a period of intensive changes in the brain. One of the main changes that occurs during adolescence is a change in the dopamine system of the brain. Dopamine is a naturally produced chemical that regulates emotions, motivation, and produces feelings of pleasure. During adolescence, dopamine levels are lower than at other points in life. This is one of the reasons why teenagers sometimes feel bored and unmotivated. So, feeling kind of “blah,” teens are more likely to seek out risky situations to help rev themselves back up. This tells the brain to release more dopamine - and in teens, when dopamine does get released, it’s a bigger load than in children or adults. Drinking alcohol and using drugs is a common way that teenagers try to change their state of mind. Alcohol and drugs both target the “reward system” of the brain by dumping a load of dopamine into this system. Like the name suggests, when we use these substances, we are “rewarded” by feelings of pleasure, positive emotion and power that are more exaggerated than we would naturally feel. This trains our brain to pester us to seek out and repeat the behaviour (in this case the drug or alcohol use) again and again to experience the same good feelings. When we look at drug and alcohol use from a brain perspective, we can really see how easy it is to get hooked! WWW.DAFACTS.COM

Let’s look at alcohol, for example. Alcohol works on the brain in two key ways: it increases the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel more relaxed, and it indirectly causes the release of our friend dopamine. By driving up those dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol makes you feel great - funnier, more interesting, and more important. This makes you want to keep drinking to get more dopamine release. Of course, there is a twist: these good feelings come at an important cost. In order to accommodate the release of all this dopamine, your other brain chemicals must alter themselves, and this can create feelings of depression. Marijuana has a different relationship to dopamine from alcohol. In a recent research study, heavy pot smokers showed lower positive emotional activity in the brain and higher negative emotional reactions. This research suggested that smoking pot makes our brains less sensitive and responsive to dopamine, meaning that the dopamine that is released by the brain fails to produce positive emotions it would normally, increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety. We know that the earlier you start drinking and using drugs, the greater your chance is for addiction and mental health issues later in life. Yet that seems so far away when you’re just a teenager trying to have some fun. When you are bored and unmotivated, how can you satisfy your craving for more excitement without using alcohol and drugs and setting yourself up for more problems than you’ve bargained for? Look for natural ways to spike dopamine. Exercise of all sorts, listening to music, learning new creative skills and taking on new challenges all increase dopamine naturally. We want you to understand that adolescence is one of the most vulnerable and active periods of time for your brain, and we hope that you can find your unique way of getting through this stage safely! PAGE // 29


“I’d never before felt so happy, so powerful, and in control. I felt amazingly good...until I started coming down.” Hayley* and Lisa* are animated and articulate seventeen year-olds. They are attractive and neatly dressed, yet have enough edge so that they wouldn’t be passed off as “preps.” Enthusiastic and bright, at times they interrupt each other as they speak. It doesn’t hurt that they are fascinated by their subject matter.”

No matter where you grow up,

crystal meth can weasel its way into your life.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the interviewees. PAGE // 30


“As soon as I could get it every day I was a full fledged addict.”

“I’d never before felt so happy, so powerful, and in control. I felt amazingly good…until I started coming down.” “I had a crazy sense of freedom and energy when I used. The best part was being part of one big happy family. Even once we moved to the street I felt a sense of meaning and purpose.” Hayley and Lisa are talking about their experiences with crystal meth, the drug that at one point took over their lives. Perhaps you’ve heard of crystal meth from a school presentation, sound bites on the radio or TV, or your parents telling you to stay away from it. Or, if you’re like Hayley, the first time you’ve heard of it was when it was offered to you in a friend’s basement. Hayley was in grade 11 at the time and into the rave scene. She had been doing ecstasy at raves, but was getting tired of some of ecstasy’s side effects, especially the depression and fatigue. She hadn’t really thought much about crystal meth, let alone had it offered to her, until one night when she was hanging out with friends and it was offered to her. “It was the first time I’d ever seen it,” she recalls, “and I’d hardly heard anything about it before. I’ve never been afraid to try anything, so I took some, and from then on I used it every day. It was cheaper than anything else, the high lasted longer and it was easy to get. I was hooked.”


Lisa was in grade 8 living in a small town. She was smoking weed so much that she wasn’t getting stoned on it anymore. One day she saw her older sister and her boyfriend smoking crystal meth. “They were having a lot of fun,” she remembers. “Grade 8 was my worst year. I was having a really hard time. I saw them and they looked happy… I figured I had nothing to lose.” Like Hayley, Lisa had never seen crystal meth, and didn’t even know what it was. “As soon as I could get it every day I was a full fledged addict.” Getting it every day, she explained, was not difficult. Every high school has a couple of dealers, and just a few bucks will get you high. When Hayley describes her initial experience with crystal meth, it sounds like the beginning of a typical teenage romance. “At first it was wildly exciting. I felt free and untroubled. I felt like a different person when I was using – confident, sexy and full of energy.” Soon, however, meth started to resemble the boyfriend usually imagined in a parent’s worst fears. ”My love of meth took me to the streets of downtown Vancouver, because that’s where all the action was. Life on the streets meant no nagging parents, no homework and, most importantly, no boredom. The fighting, stealing and sexual assaults came along as part of the package, but by then I was already sucked into that scene. At the time, my parents were going through a divorce, and I couldn’t handle them anymore. So I left. The street was my new home.” PAGE // 31

“ The highs were becoming shorter and shorter and the lows were unbearable.” When asked what finally ended their love affair with meth, Lisa and Hayley become quieter and more reflective. “The highs were becoming shorter and shorter and the lows were unbearable,” Lisa recalls. “I was anxious, depressed and angry all the time, and the only thing that could bring me out of it was more drugs.” Lisa took the initiative to contact a former teacher who had previously expressed concern about her drug use. “I went to see her and told her I was ready for her to help me.” Shortly after, Lisa entered a residential treatment centre that helped her detox from the drug and stabilize. Shortly afterwards, she moved to the city and started a day treatment program for youth who are overcoming substance abuse.


Hayley’s decision to stop using was more sudden. “I got caught stealing and I spent 5 nights in the youth jail. That was the worst experience of my life. When I got out, I was set up with a probation officer who made drug and alcohol treatment a mandatory condition of my probation.” Through weekly counselling sessions and daily participation in the same day treatment program Lisa attended, Hayley became aware of the destructive pattern of her drug use, and made some important changes in her life. “I’ve always been really independent and a total risk- taker,” Hayley says proudly. “I like that quality in myself, and I realize now that I can find healthier ways to be that way.” Although not always enjoyable, an important part of the counselling process for Hayley has been family counselling. “My parents and I had a lot of anger towards each other, and counselling has helped us work through that. We’re starting to understand how we can relate to one another with more respect and tolerance, and we’re learning to communicate without becoming hostile or freaking out.” Hayley and Lisa believe strongly that if they had known

“ There’ve been a lot of ups and downs, but I haven’t gone back to using. I am finally starting to feel my feelings instead of controlling them with drugs, and I’m finding other ways to cope with them.”

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“ My love of meth took me to the streets of downtown Vancouver, because that’s where all the action was...”

more about crystal meth and its powerful effects they would not have been so quick to try it. Both declare it their mission to inform and support other young people who are at risk of becoming heavily involved with drugs. “The best way to treat serious drug use,” Lisa says thoughtfully, “is to stop it before it starts.”


“ The best way to treat serious drug use, is to stop it before it starts.” WWW.DAFACTS.COM


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>> e-cigarettes >> The devices look eerily similar to a cigarette, right down to the glowing tip

<< Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices that vapourize liquid nicotine, so that the user is inhaling a fine mist, not unlike the fog you see at some music concerts. The devices look eerily similar to a cigarette, right down to the glowing tip. However, because no tobacco leaves are actually being burned in the process, there is no smoky smell, no ash, and, in fact, no actual fire. Liquid nicotine contains fewer harmful chemicals than tobacco, and proponents of this method suggest that “vaping” ecigarettes poses fewer harmful effects to the body than conventional cigarette smoking. So, all of the cool factor and half the harm? It seems like a no-brainer! But, while this slim, misting gadget may not require a match, it has generated a fiery controversy. On one

PAGE // 34

hand, those already addicted to tobacco have a really hard time quitting, and often relapse. This had led some people to view e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to typical tobacco smoking, and maybe even a way to gently quit. However, ecigarettes still do contain nicotine – an addictive chemical substance – and the actual safety of this method is a bit, well, foggy. Equally foggy is the question of whether people who switch to e-cigarettes actually end up quitting. Parents and youth need to know that nicotine can impact brain development in children and teens, regardless of whether it is smoked or vapourized. Furthermore, some ecigarettes have candy flavouring, which may keep kids coming back for more. The bottom line is: if you don’t already smoke, there is no reason to start “vaping” e-cigs. If you do smoke and are struggling to quit, talk to your doctor before prescribing ecigarettes to yourself.


>> flavoured tobacco Forbidden Fruit? It’s small, it’s minty, it’s sweet, and it is drawing controversy across Canada . It could be in your pocket as you read this! While your candy canes are still safe (phew!), flavoured tobacco cigarettes and cigarillos are now prohibited in the province of Ontario. Other provinces in Canada have expressed alarm that tobacco is now being marketed to be more palatable to youth. After all, teenagers are picky eaters, so it makes sense that they’d be picky smokers, too.

While fruity tobacco may taste as harmless as bubble gum, don’t be fooled: the nicotine content in the cigarettes is the same as the unflavoured variety, with all of the same health risks. While it remains to be seen whether other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead in banning these cigarettes, it speaks to how important it is for young tobacco consumers to be aware and make informed choices. We can only rely on our own good sense when purchasing products and making choices about what to consume. Just say Know!

Tobacco that comes in sweet and minty flavours make it that much easier for youth who are starting to smoke to enjoy the flavour, and then become hooked. In fact, a recent survey by Health Canada revealed that flavoured tobacco use amongst Alberta youth is extensive. Menthol cigarettes in particular are sought out by teenagers, as the minty taste masks the naturally acrid tobacco flavour.

/// It could be in your pocket as you read this! /// WWW.DAFACTS.COM

PAGE // 35

\\\\\ what have you been

>> SMOKING? Smoking alcohol,

thanks in part to YouTube videos gone viral, is a trend growing in popularity amongst teenagers. You may have seen people smoking while drinking, but smoking their drinks? Right away it sounds intriguing. It’s a do-it-yourself job. The alcohol is placed into a container, which is filled with dry ice or pumped full of air. The vapours are then inhaled for an instant buzz. Teens will use whatever type of alcohol they can get their hands on in the home made devices. But this is not just a quirky party trick, nor is it a way to practice your high school chemistry skills. There are some serious risks to inhaling alcohol. Because your body is not digesting and metabolizing the substance, you are delivering the intoxicating chemicals directly to your brain. Sure, you avoid the annoying possibility of vomiting, but throwing up while drinking is how our body tells us it can’t handle any more, therefore protecting us from drinking dangerously high amounts of alcohol. Smoking alcohol might sound like a convenient way to avoid barfing at a party, but what it also means is that the entire chemical load goes straight to our brains-more dire than just an embarrassing story.

Doctors say that smoking alcohol increases its addictive qualities, which means that people who repeatedly use alcohol this way will experience powerful cravings and will require higher volumes to get the same high. Also remember that a person inhaling is not in control of how much he is consuming, because he is only inhaling the vapours while the actual liquid remains in the container that is being vapourized. This adds to the risk of alcohol poisoning. Finally, doctors and paramedics also point out that this method is terrible for your lungs and nasal passages.

Medical facts aside, perhaps this one-time user makes the most convincing case for staying away:

I can safely say that smoking alcohol is even stupider than you think. It's hard to do and makes your brain feel really weird.

References PAGE // 36


Fetal Alcohol >>Spectrum Disorder What is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?? Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - also referred to as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)– is a series of problems with physical development, learning and behaviour caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy. FASD can include a range of birth defects including: >> Abnormal facial features >> Central nervous system problems >> Problems with memory, learning and attention span >> Problems communicating and expressing oneself >> Problems with vision or hearing >> Difficulties in school and problems getting along with others Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is a permanent condition, and cannot be cured. It is only caused by drinking during pregnancy, and is therefore 100% preventable; if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant, her baby will have no chance of developing FASD. Is there any safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant? Is there a safe time during pregnancy to drink alcohol? Think of it this way: when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. There is no “safe” way to consume alcohol when pregnant. There is no “safe” time to drink during pregnancy: the harmful effects of drinking on an unborn fetus can happen in every stage of pregnancy. Therefore, women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not drink. If you are sexually active and not using an effective form of birth control, you are at high risk for becoming pregnant and should not drink.


How does alcohol cause these problems? Alcohol in the mother’s blood crosses the placenta freely and enters the growing embryo or fetus through the umbilical cord. Exposure to alcohol in the first three months of pregnancy can cause structural defects (like facial abnormalities). Growth and central nervous system problems can stem from the effects of alcohol at any stage in the pregnancy. The fetus’ brain is developing throughout the pregnancy, and can be damaged at any time. What kind of alcohol can cause damage? All drinks containing alcohol can harm a baby. A 12-ounce can of beer contains the same amount of alcohol as a 4ounce glass of wine or a 1-ounce shot of hard alcohol. What if I’m pregnant now and have been drinking? Is there any point to my stopping now? If a woman has been drinking during pregnancy, it is never too late for her to stop. The sooner a woman stops drinking, the better her baby’s chances for normal development. Any woman who has a problem with drinking and is sexually active should use an effective method of birth control, like condoms or the Pill, until her drinking is under control. What if I know someone who is drinking during her pregnancy? Is there anything I can do to help? Mothers are not the only ones who can prevent FASD. Significant others, family members, friends, schools and counsellors can prevent FASD through education and support. If you know someone who is pregnant and still drinking, gently share share this information with her, and encourage her to seek help from the Edmonton Fetal Alcohol Network (

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...and in case you’re



How come one of the common side effects of ecstasy is depression? The reason ecstasy produces such a noticeable high is because it stimulates production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that controls mood. However, it doesn’t take the brain too long to figure out it is out of balance, so it reacts by preventing serotonin from being absorbed by the brain. Because serotonin is needed to keep our moods balanced, in its absence we feel down and depressed. How does smoking marijuana affect your lungs? Aside from THC (the active chemical in marijuana that gets you “high,” there are over 400 other chemicals in marijuana, many of which are also found in tobacco smoke. Prolonged use of marijuana has the same effect on the lungs as smoking cigarettes. What influence does frequent pot smoking have on your short-term memory? Smoking marijuana interferes with one’s ability to process and retain information and to concentrate. This makes it difficult to study and absorb information in school. Forgetfulness is also common, as is losing one’s train of thought easily. What are some of the signs of a physical dependency to a substance? Physical dependency occurs when your body is so used to drugs that it

PAGE // 38

gets really sick without them. Withdrawal, the body’s reaction to not getting the drug, is a sign of physical dependency. Withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug. For stimulant drugs like cocaine and crystal meth, withdrawal usually entails depression, lack of energy and fatigue. For depressant drugs, like alcohol and heroin, the withdrawal symptoms are usually shaking, sweating, headaches and nausea. Withdrawal effects usually last up to a week. Tolerance is also a sign of physical dependency. This is when the same amount of the drug that used to get you high/drunk is no longer enough, and your body needs larger or more frequent doses.

What are some of the signs of a psychological dependency on a substance? Psychological dependency means that while your body might not necessarily need drugs, you have trouble coping with everyday life without drugs. Drugs start to be used to manage stress, deal with boredom and give you a lift in your mood, and without them, anxiety, irritability, and emotional flatness is experienced. What are the potential risks of the following methods of taking drugs by injection? Infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C are easily transmitted through sharing needles used to inject drugs. Overdose is also a risk, as the purity of street drugs is often not known to

the user, and injection delivers the drugs directly into the bloodstream.

How does doing drugs affect school? Drugs affect school in all kinds of ways. First of all, the time spent doing drugs, being high and trying to get drugs doesn’t leave a lot of time left for going to class regularly and doing homework. Also, drugs interrupt our ability to concentrate and retain information, making it difficult to learn and remember important material for tests. Most people with problem drug use start to notice their grades dropping; some people stop going to school altogether when drugs start to take over. Do drugs really kill brain cells? There is no doubt that drug use alters brain chemistry and can slow down normal processes, but there are only two types of drugs that actually kill brain cells beyond repair: inhalants (gasoline, solvents, glue, etc.) and alcohol. Yes, it’s true: alcohol is not the fun-and-games all those beer commercials would like you to believe it is. Again, it is not usually one factor that is the cause of drug use. Usually, it is a combination of two or more factors from each list. As a general rule: encouraging environment + at risk person + access to drugs = problem drug use. ////



Lets hear from the


experts again...

There has been a lot of information presented so far, but we still need to understand what is driving continued drug use and what role the drugs play in your life. Let’s talk to our three experts again.>>

Liam: Hey. Ella: What’s up? Max: Hi.

Hi guys. I want to point out that you guys seem to be approaching substance use from really different walks of life. Liam, you have the more stereotypical image of a “rough around the edges” drug user. Ella, you look like any other popular high school girl (especially in your soccer cleats), and Max, even though you’re not using anything, you seem set on being in the right crowd – the “fun” crowd. E: “Yeah. We probably won’t all be ending up at the same party anytime soon.” Liam, what did doing all of those drugs add to your life? L: “Well, part of it was that I didn’t have much structure to my life when I first started getting into using. I didn’t have any hobbies, my mom was always working, I barely saw my dad and have no siblings, so I was alone a lot. I was bored. I’ve always been drawn to risk, whether through skateboarding or pulling pranks on teachers, so I wasn’t scared to try anything. Using all these drugs made life more interesting for a while. I felt good about myself too – when I was high all the constant buzzing in my head – the worries, the selfdoubt, the negative thoughts – just stopped. I felt instantly better, for a few hours, anyway.” And you kept using because…?


L: I couldn’t get through the day without using something. When I wasn’t using I was miserable – the negativity and worries piled up way more than they had before. I wasn’t getting as much joy out of using, but at least I could put off reality for a bit longer. Also, I think addiction runs in my family. My mom had a problem with pain killers for a long time, and my grandmother and uncle are both alcoholics. I definitely felt like there was addictive process that just took over. I never meant to get addicted, but it happened pretty fast. It’s amazing that you were able to stop, given how far in you got L: Yeah, well, it wasn’t easy. It’s a bit of a blur, but when I got kicked out of school my mother dragged me to see the counsellor that had helped her through her addiction. The counsellor really helped me to see that I still had choices, even though it would probably get worse before getting better. I ended up going to residential treatment for youth, because I really needed to get away from all the things in my life that made me want to use. When I was in treatment, I really connected the dots and saw all the underlying issues that made me want the drugs so badly. What’s different now? L: I go to meeting with other teenagers who have had drug problems. We can relate to each other. I see a counsellor regularly. I am learning how to cope with the things that used to make me want to escape through drugs. Stress, loneliness, boredom. I found out I have ADHD and major depression, and am taking medication that helps me feel more balanced. Wow. That’s quite the story, Liam. It’s really impressive, PAGE // 39

It just makes me feel content with who I am and what I’ve got, rather than focused on how I could be better. and inspiring, that you have managed to get to this point. Ella, what about you? You seem like you’ve got it all. How does smoking weed factor in to your life? E: I dunno. Life seems so serious sometimes! My parents are always on my back to get better grades, my friends always have some drama or another, and before I started smoking weed I was a complete stress case! Since I was a kid I’ve always been really busy with sports: first gymnastics, which I quit when they wanted me to commit to five practices a week, now soccer, which I love but is really time consuming and competitive. It’s true that I’ve always had a lot of friends, so for me, smoking weed was never about fitting in. It just makes me feel content with who I am and what I’ve got, rather than focused on how I could be better. I can see why it’s tough for you to want to stop, then. E: I know, right? Except that I used to be a decent enough student. I mean, I still had to work hard to get just a B, but at least I could pull it off. My grades are pretty bad now and my parents are really disappointed in me. It doesn’t help that my two older sisters are both star athletes and students. It’s confusing, because I sometimes think I should stop or cut down so I can do better in school, but I just can’t handle life without weed. It’s too serious. But aren’t there any other ways for you to relax or lighten up? Like having more balance in your life, for

example? Finding other ways to have fun? E: Hmmm. That’s a good question. I’ve never had balance in my life – I’ve always been all or nothing. I need to think about that one! Max, what do you make of all this? M: I don’t know. It sounds like using drugs has made things more complicated. I always thought that drinking was a safe bet. Everyone does it eventually, right? But I’m hearing that for Liam anyway it was basically his “on-ramp” to the rest of his drug use. But I just don’t want to be made fun of for turning it down if it’s offered to me. That can really brand you, you know? How do I not join in the fun and still be thought of as fun? E:Trust me, Max, there are plenty of good and fun people who are not drinking or using drugs. Like most of my old friends, for example, who still don’t get why I’ve turned into such a chronic weed smoker. I’m no cooler than they are! L: Dude, I’ve used it all, and none of it made me cooler or more fun. Okay, I’m not gonna lie – it did initially make me more comfortable socially, but that didn’t last. I needed to learn to be interesting and friendly without using before I found a good group of people to hang with. E:FYI, taking up the guitar or a sport or really anything that you like doing is a good way to attract people and make you more interesting. Just sayin’. Thanks for the chat, all of you! I’d love to hear where all of you end up in a few years. Keep in touch! ////


I’m not gonna lie – it did initially make me more comfortable socially,

but that didn’t last.

PAGE // 40


Drug Effects Assessment

A common question young people ask is, “How do I know if my drug use is really becoming a problem?” >> We set out to discover the answer to this question by consulting the experts (youth just like you!). >> What follows is the product of our efforts: a list of over 100 drug related experiences that youth identified as negatively impacting their lives. But only YOU can determine how much drug related grief you’re willing to tolerate in your life. >>

This checklist will help you get started in clarifying this question. Are you OK with having a score of 45 (meaning drugs have negatively affected your life in 45 different ways)? Or are you more comfortable with a score of 0, 5 or 10? After completing the questionnaire, you may want to discuss the results with a counsellor at school, or someone you really trust – maybe even your parents.


Check off any of the following ways in which drugs or alcohol may have directly or indirectly affected your life


Terry Bulych has been a Team Leader of a Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions team for Vancouver Coastal Health of the North Shore for the past 7 years. Terry has worked with thousands of teens and their parents, and is widely recognized as a leader in the addictions field. During the 12 years that Terry was a Youth and Family Counsellor for the West Coast Alternatives Society, she also managed to obtain a Masters Degree in Counselling Psychology from Simon Fraser University

PAGE // 41

\\\\\ School/Work>> not completing assignments, homework or studying

being defensive or having an angry attitude

skipping class to use, avoid being caught or to sleep

toward teachers

slipping grades

poor attitude toward school in general

failing classes

little motivation to participate in school

suspension from school

little motivation to look for a job

expulsion from school

difficulty finding a job

dropping out of school

being fired from a job

attending an “Alternative” school program difficulty concentrating; distraction poor memory skills feeling “dumb” difficulty learning withdrawing from school activities (sports, clubs, etc.)


Family>> experiencing increased conflict with parents

feeling fear of being caught by family members

or siblings

neglecting household chores

withdrawing from family members (i.e. not wanting to

avoiding family outings

be around them)

exposing your family to negative people by using the

breaking the family rules (e.g. curfew)

home to use or deal drugs

lying to family members

feeling different from your family

increasing secrecy from family (e.g. hiding drugs,

running away from home

money, etc.)

being kicked out of the house

making secret phone calls feeling guilt over hurting or disappointing family members breaking trust with family members

PAGE // 42


\\\\\ Money/Law>> spending most of your money on drugs

stealing items from your home to sell or pawn

always feeling “broke”

(e.g. jewelry, CD’s, etc.)

owing friends or dealers money

“jacking” youth for money

worrying about paying off debts

being involved with the police

being the target of violence or intimidation because

being arrested by police

of unpaid drug debts

being charged with a crime

stealing money from your family

being on probation

stealing money from friends or other people

going to jail

committing crime to get money for drugs (e.g. B'n Es,

experiencing fear of being caught

fraud, breaking into cars, etc.)

experiencing paranoia of police or other

selling drugs

authority figures

exchanging sexual favours for money or drugs

rebelling against authority



Peers>> experiencing rejection from old friends

believing you're not good at anything

losing a romantic relationship

not liking yourself

listening to peers tell you you’ve “changed”

not living your dreams

mistreating or victimizing other youth

having a reputation you don't like (e.g. druggie, pot

peer group is largely made up of using friends

head, burn-out, etc.)

losing interest in and quitting activities (sports,

being unable to follow through on small goals you've

hobbies, etc.) you once enjoyed

set for yourself

experiencing strained relationships with friends over

difficulty motivating yourself

money or drugs

feeling “lost”

experiencing increased conflict with friends

feeling alienated or different from everyone else feeling afraid to try new things


feeling like your life is stuck in a rut feeling like a tug-of-war is going on inside you between “good and bad” or “right and wrong”


PAGE // 43

\\\\\ Health>>


low energy

irritability when not using

chronic fatigue

mood swings

sleeping-in on school days

feelings of anxiety or nervousness

sleeping during the day (e.g. after school naps)

feelings of depression or hopelessness

difficulty going to sleep without using at night

feelings of confusion

using drugs to go to sleep

feelings of loneliness or isolation

increased coughing

feelings of guilt

frequent colds, flus, bronchitis

feelings of shame (e.g. "I'm no good,” "I'm a

aggravation of asthma

bad person," etc.)

shortness of breath when exercising, going up stairs

feeling bored with your life

or running short distances

feeling numb (i.e. no feelings)


having suicidal thoughts

weight loss

attempting suicide

high-risk sexual activity (i.e. unsafe sex)

having cravings when you haven’t used

regrets about sexual choices

having an “I don’t care” attitude

physical injuries resulting from accidents while under


the influence of drugs car-related incidents (tickets, fines, accidents, charges, etc.)


Add up all the totals from each section. Add these totals to make a total score. Record your total score in the blank below.

Drug use has negatively affected my life in

different ways.

How do you feel about your score? Is your score higher or lower than you originally guessed? Are you prepared to continue paying this price to have drug use in your life? What would you like your score to be? How can you start to work towards making changes in your score? The only way to reduce your score is to reduce your drug use. Copyright 1999 Terry Bulych, Youth and Family Counsellor (Alternatives)

PAGE // 44


Resources for parents //////

If you are a parent who has been flipping through this book in the hopes that you will better understand teenage drug use, you’re definitely off to a good start. >> However, when parents suspect or find out their children are using drugs and alcohol, they find themselves in a difficult position. >> Your natural instinct is probably to “set them straight,” “lay down the law,” or to try to scare them out of using drugs and alcohol again. >> That’s when parents sometimes get into trouble. >> WHOA. YOU MEAN PARENTS CAN’T CONTROL THEIR KIDS? Isn’t that their job? Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. When children are under the age of twelve, they look to their parents for security and guidance. In these years, parents have an enormous influence on their children – in the values they instil, in helping them make appropriate decisions, providing necessary nurturing and love, and modeling healthy behaviours and communication skills. While these remain important characteristics of the parent-child relationship, as children grow older their developmental tasks shift from seeking security and acceptance from their parents to struggling for individuation and control over their own lives. At the same time, they are drawn more and more to their peers for acceptance and belonging. WWW.DAFACTS.COM

For a list of Community Resources in your area, visit

Parents have good reason to be concerned about substance abuse in their teenagers. Drugs are extremely easy to obtain, and alcohol is present at many parties and socializing events. However, as a parent it is important to respond carefully to substance abuse concerns. >> FIND SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOUR CHILD to whom you may vent your feelings of anger, fear, and guilt. It’s important to identify and express these feelings before approaching your son or daughter. >> LEARN THE FACTS ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL use instead of relying on popular myths and assumptions (see the resources on our website PAGE // 45

Don’t blame yourself or other people for your child’s drug use... >> >> PREPARE HOW YOU WILL APPROACH your children with your concerns. The most important message you can convey to teenagers is that you care about them and that you are a person with whom they can discuss this sensitive topic.

>> LOADING ON THE GUILT (i.e. “how could you do this to me; what did I do wrong?”) is almost always a mistake – it usually only creates brief changes in behaviour, and invokes resentment. The same goes for nagging.

>> TREAT YOUR SONS OR DAUGHTERS as though they are the experts on their own lives. They are. The term “I need you to help me understand this” can be very useful.

>> DON’T PREVENT YOUR CHILDREN from experiencing the natural consequences of their drug use; for example, calling school to excuse absence or to prevent suspension. “Rescuing” reduces the chance that your children will learn to take responsibility for their actions.

>> Teenagers will often give CONVINCING EXCUSES to respond to your suspicions or concerns. Saying “I would like to trust you enough to believe you” or “I’m not looking for an excuse, true or not true; I’m more concerned with the mixed messages I’m receiving” is a way to respond to the real issues rather than the excuses. >> BE CLEAR on the fact that no matter how much you would like to, you cannot control your child’s choices. You can, however, learn to cope.

Some common traps to avoid… >> DO NOT ASSUME you know exactly what is happening with your child, or that you understand all of the reasons behind his or her drug use. Give your child the opportunity to tell his or her story. >> IT IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to over-react by grounding your children indefinitely or using harsh punishment for experimentation; this simply sends the message that you don’t understand them, and that they need to hide everything they do from you. It is much more effective to engage them in a conversation about the pros and cons of experimenting with drugs. >> SCARE TACTICS OR THREATS are usually used out of desperation and only tend to work in the shortterm. They don’t foster responsible decision making in youth, and usually create mistrust towards parents. PAGE // 46

>> DON’T BLAME YOURSELF or other people for your child’s drug use. As you will learn, there are many factors that contribute to substance abuse. Learning how to cope more effectively with this problem and how to communicate your concerns is far more important than laying the blame on yourself or others. >> LASTLY, DON’T FOOL YOURSELF into thinking that you can single-handedly change your child’s interest in drugs and alcohol. There is no magic formula for preventing teenagers from trying drugs: the best buffer is having honest discussions, exposing them to information, and letting them know that they are responsible for making choices about drugs, and that they are responsible for any consequences of their drug use.

The most important message you can convey to teenagers is that you care about them... >> DRUGS & ADDICTION: FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Concurrent >> Disorders Ella:

Have you ever heard

about Concurrent Disorders before?

Submitted by: Julie Green M.ED. Mental Health and Addictions Prevention Services, Vancouver Island Health Authority, South Island

able to sleep” could be a sign of something else, like depression. There are a number of people I know who have difficulty getting to sleep at night and are feeling tired all of the time, too. Does this mean these are withdrawal symptoms from their alcohol and other drug use, or a sign of a mental health issue?

Max: Concurrent….what? Liam: It’s hard to tell. You can never really know unless Liam: Yes, I heard about it a few months ago from my doctor when I went to see him because I couldn’t sleep and had basically no energy. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, because I didn’t see a point to getting up. My doctor asked me a bunch of questions, like about my appetite, my motivation and my moods. It was tough for me to talk about…but when he diagnosed me with depression even I had to admit it made sense. Concurrent Disorder is just a really medical way of explaining what happens when you are using drugs or drinking heavily AND have depression, anxiety or some other type of concern.

you go see a counsellor or a doctor. For example, my new doctor told me because I have a family background of addictions, and my mom was hooked on sleeping pills for a long time, I am more at-risk of developing a mental health issue. That surprised me. I knew because of my family background I was at-risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or other drugs, but I did not think this also meant I was at risk for mental health concerns.

Max: I don’t get it: What makes your doctor think you are at-risk of developing a mental health problem because your mom was addicted to sleeping pills?

Max: Why do they use the term concurrent disorder? Liam: My doctor knows that 90% of the time the Liam: My doctor knows that I recently quit using crystal meth. He is not sure if my sleeping problems, lack of energy, constant worrying and depression are symptoms of withdrawal from crystal meth or signs of another issue that may be surfacing, like depression or anxiety. My doctor says the symptoms of withdrawal look very similar to the onset of a psychological issue, making it difficult to decide what behaviour is related to what cause – especially when they show-up together.

addiction problems show up first. See, many people who experience something like depression, anxiety or delusions will try to cope with it by using drugs, because sometimes the effects of drug use help to hide some of its unpleasant symptoms. For example, my doctor suspects that my mother started to use sleeping pills to help her escape the terrible insomnia she was experiencing, not knowing at the time that her sleeplessness was related to her undiagnosed anxiety and depression.

Ella: Oh…now I get it. When you explain it that way it makes more sense.

Max: Isn’t your mom concerned about being diagnosed with clinical depression?

Max: I never knew it took the body that long to withdraw

Liam: Actually, my mother is relieved. My mother is

from a drug like crystal meth!

happy to finally know what the real problem is. She has never really felt very energetic or happy since

Ella: That’s the first time I have thought that “not being WWW.DAFACTS.COM

PAGE // 47

she was a teenager. It concerned her when she noticed me starting to feel the same way. This is why she insisted I see the doctor.

Ella: What do you think about being labelled as someone

Max: What are you doing to help with your depression? Liam: My doctor has prescribed an anti-depressant for the short-term to stabilize me emotionally, since I was feeling so depressed I was becoming suicidal.

experiencing depression?

Ella: You didn’t tell us about that before. Liam: Well, first of all, my doctor has reassured me I am normal and okay. Most people will be depressed at some time in their lives as a normal reaction to high levels of stress, disappointments, loss, changes in relationships or home situations, or withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs. My doctor told me a recent survey showed 40% of youth have felt really depressed. Drugs and alcohol are one of many ways to deal with depression, which explains why so many people experiencing a problem with drugs also happen to be depressed. Up to 50% of people who are suffering from depression are also abusing drugs or alcohol!

Ella: What are the signs of clinical depression? Liam: It’s normal to feel bummed out once in a while, but when you feel really crappy and it won’t pass after a couple of weeks, it becomes really hard to get through the day, let alone go to school, have fun with friends and talk to your parents; anything that requires energy becomes a real challenge. For me, I just wanted to stay in bed all day, and sometimes for no apparent reason I’d feel like crying. I knew it wasn’t just an average bad mood when I realized I had stopped getting enjoyment out of anything.

Liam: I know. Feeling suicidal is not easy to talk about. Max: I’m glad you told us. Are the antidepressants helping you to feel better? Liam: Taking anti-depressants has been an important first step for my healing. I know taking medication is not necessarily right for everyone, but it is for me right now. I hope that one day I am able to feel okay and manage stress without them. Medication is one part of my holistic recovery plan. I see a counsellor once a week to talk things out and work on how I cope with stress. It really helps me to understand that I can get through this. I am also drinking lots of water, eating healthy, exercising, learning relaxation techniques and have reduced my school work load.

Ella: Do your teachers know you have a concurrent disorder? How are they responding?

Liam: Yes, my teachers know I have a concurrent disorder. My doctor has given me some information on concurrent disorders to share with them, about stimulants and mental health. This has helped my teachers to understand

For me, it’s the first time I have thought that “ not being able to sleep could be a sign of a mental health problem. PAGE // 48



...40% of youth have felt really depressed. Depression affects people of all ages and is the second most serious health concern in the world.

it is caused by withdrawal symptoms related to alcohol or other drug use or a mental health issue.

Max: I guess when you’re going through withdrawal it’s tough to tell whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are because of the drugs or because of the depression. How do you know?

Liam: You don’t know until you see your doctor. But you can still try and be on the lookout for some of the symptoms we’ve been talking about, especially if you come from a family with mental health or addiction concerns. My doctor told me teens who come from families who have schizophrenia should realize there is no “safe dosage” of using drugs, especially drugs like marijuana, because even a small dose may cause the onset of this illness. Some people think of it as an allergic type of response to the marijuana. My doctor says anyone with a family history of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety is advised to avoid using marijuana.

Ella: Wow. I didn’t know that using marijuana could be that when someone has been using alcohol and other drugs, it may be difficult to determine what has caused the depression a person is experiencing. The teachers understand stimulants like crystal meth cause the release of the hormones called dopamine and serotonin in the brain and, over time, the body loses its ability to release them, which makes people feel depressed. They now realize symptoms of depression can last from 6 months to 2 years, depending on how long a person has used the drugs, and how much stress is in his or her life.

Max: Is there a different type of treatment for

such a risk for my mental health. I only thought harder drugs like LSD and crystal meth were risky to use. I’ve heard those drugs can cause short-term or long-term “substance-induced psychosis,” which may look similar to schizophrenia.

Max: I wonder how many people out there using drugs know about concurrent disorders?

Ella: I bet not that many. It’s hard enough to be honest about drug use, let alone things like depression and anxiety. It seems like we need to have conversations like this more often, with more people.

depression depending on the cause?

Liam: No, treatment for depression is the same whether WWW.DAFACTS.COM

PAGE // 49

...Suicidal feelings are not easy to talk about.


Concurrent Disorders: when

Dopamine: thought to be the main chemical

substance abuse occurs alongside a psychological or mental health disorder, such as anxiety, depression or psychosis

messenger in the reward centres of the brain, which promotes the experience of pleasure; dopamine production in the brain is increased by various drugs


Serotonin: a neurotransmitter than can be

an emotional state characterized by feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy and sadness that persist for longer than two weeks

Anxiety: a state of feeling uneasy, apprehensive or worried about what might happen, often to an excessive and irrational degree

produced naturally by the brain, or synthetically through drugs, that regulates mood and produces feelings of well-being

Schizophrenia: a mental illness characterized by various symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behaviour, or paranoia


a false, persistent belief that is not confirmed by fact or reality

Insomnia: a chronic inability to sleep

Substance-induced psychosis: hallucinations or delusions that occur during withdrawal or acute intoxication; usually it is brief, but early recognition is very important

Anti-depressant: prescription medication used to treat depression by effecting neurotransmitters in the brain

...symptoms of depression can last from 6 months to 2 years depending on how long a person has used the drugs, and how much stress is in his or her life. PAGE // 50


D&A Magazine - 2016 Edition  
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