Human beings have, for millennia, used substances with psychotropic effects. Any psychoactive substance that interferes with the central nervous system’s functioning is considered a “drug”. Drugs modify the user’s conscience. Depending on the nature and the quantity of the taken drug, one’s perception, motor skills, mood, and emotions are altered. Among youth, drug consumption can come from a need to experiment. All youth will not experience drugs the same, nor regularly, but it is important to stay informed of the possible risks and effects of psychoactive substances.

What are the most common drugs among youth?

The 3 drugs at the top of the list are: alcohol, cannabis, and prescription drugs. There also exists many synthetic drugs, such as amphetamines and methamphetamines, MDMA, and GHB, that are also being used among youth. They are also inclined to try out hallucinogenic “shrooms”, possibly regularly or to experiment.

Cannabis or marijuana: THC is the main psychoactive substance. Cannabis is legally sold to anyone above the age of 18 in Canada. On the black market, cannabis that is sold to underaged youth can contain harmful products such as pesticides. In contrary to popular belief among youth, cannabis can cause a psychological dependency. That is why regular consumption is risky even if it is a legal substance.

Prescription drugs: youth can access these medications in their own homes or on the black market. Some medication contains psychoactive properties and opioid painkillers, stimulants and benzodiazepines. Effects of medication are unpredictable and dangerous. The consumption of prescription drugs in youth therefore must be taken seriously.

Amphetamines: these are powerful stimulants whose derivatives, which are equally powerful, are methamphetamines. They are sold on the black market under various names: amphet, meth, speed, crystal, ice, etc. Consuming amphetamines can cause psychological effects. The higher and more regular the dosage is, the higher the risks of anxiety, panic, and hallucinations will be.

MDMA: its chemical structure is similar to amphetamines, except that it also contains hallucinogens. It is commonly called ecstasy, XTC, X or E. Even though it is called the ‘love drug’, its stimulating effects are strong. If taken repeatedly, MDMA will rapidly exhaust the body. In more vulnerable youth, it can heighten anxiety and depression.

GHB: This drug acts on the central nervous system and is used in small doses for relaxation purposes. In strong doses, it can cause memory loss, a loss of conscience and speech loss. It can also cause vomiting and respiratory difficulties. GHB is commonly called the ‘rape drug’, but it is also consumed voluntarily.

Hallucinogenic shrooms: they are generally consumed for psychedelic experiences. They act upon one’s perception of reality and can cause hallucinations. Some youth will experience fear, anxiety, and paranoia during their “trip”, often called a “bad trip”. With products purchased on the black market, it is difficult to see what it contains. Sometimes, they are regular mushrooms that were dipped in other substances. It is impossible to predict its effects in that case.

Why do young people take drugs?

There are many reasons why, and often they add up and succeed each other. Among youth, trying drugs is often experimental and is often done in the middle of a “party” setting. The effects young people are looking for are mainly disinhibition, relaxation, and amusement.

Youth are also looking for new experiences. Drugs come with risks, and the prohibition of their usage might incite some teenagers who are looking for thrills.

Some can also choose to experience with drugs with the intention to deal with difficult, or even traumatic situations. Suffering, anxiety, relationship problems, past trauma can all be at the origin of drug usage.

The need for belonging and to feel accepted by peers can also motivate youth to take drugs, in order to “fit in”.

Finally, some youth use drugs to improve their performance or to mitigate the effects of stress. In fact, it is not rare for youth to feel great amounts of social pressure and pressure to succeed on their shoulders.

What are the consequences of drugs on youth?

Drugs are likely to cause dependence, sometimes physical, sometimes psychological, and sometimes both. The risks of drugs for young people depend on various factors such as their age, the frequency of their consumption, their emotional state, etc. The danger increases when several drugs are taken over the same period.

The consequences that arise with drug use and abuse in young people can be harmful, and often bring physical, psychological, and social problems.

From a physical and psychological point of view, consequences can arise in the forms of dependence, overdose, accidents, physical and psychological damage, and sometimes, premature death.

On the social level, drug usage and abuse among youth can bring about a new series of harmful consequences. As purchasing drugs is illegal, youth can find themselves in contact with the black market. Even when it is cannabis, underage people must go through a “dealer”. This links them directly or indirectly to a criminal network.

Drug use can also change social behaviours among youth. They can lead to greater isolation and self-isolation. That is why it is important to always maintain caring communication with youth in order to support them.

If you have any worries regarding your drug usage, Aide Drogue’s phone service is reachable at any moment. You can also contact them if you are questioning a loved one, friend, or family member’s drug usage. Phone calls always remain confidential.

Drug use in youth is not always problematic in every case. It is not always necessary to be alarmed except in the case of prescription drugs.

A lot of teens look for a new experience occasionally. The best way to prevent risks and abuse is to be well-informed about the subject. Knowing the effects of drugs and talking about them with your youth without taboo is an excellent way to avoid accidents and to recognize the signs of abuse.

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LOVE supports youth to thrive through programs and healthy relationships that build emotional intelligence and help overcome the challenges they face. Our participants emerge from LOVE’s programs with greater resilience, heightened skills, and the confidence to be inspirational leaders.