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"Come on, let's get high."

"A little bit won't hurt you."

"Addicted? You won't get addicted."

Sound like something you've heard? Maybe you've even been tempted yourself. But no matter what anyone says, illegal drugs are harmful - often deadly! Read on to learn more about drugs.

What Are Drugs?
Drugs are chemicals that change the way our bodies work. If you've ever been sick and had to take medicine, you already know some kinds of drugs. A medicine is a drug that a doctor gives people who are sick, but even medicines can be dangerous if they're not taken carefully.

The other kinds of drugs are dangerous all the time. These are drugs that aren't given by doctors. Alcohol and cigarettes are included in these drugs, even though people can buy them legally at a store. Illegal drugs are also included here - these drugs include ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and heroin.

Why Do Kids Use Drugs?
Kids may take drugs for many reasons. They may see older kids using them and want to be more like them. They may try drugs because they're curious. Others may feel
sad, scared, or bored. They may think drugs can help them forget their problems. Many kids just want to fit it with their friends. They may think drugs will make them cool. Lots of kids say they use drugs to get their parents' attention.

The truth is, drugs don't solve problems. Drugs just hide feelings. When a drug wears off, those feelings of being sad or lonely are still there. And you just feel worse.

Why Are Drugs Bad for You?
Anything you take too much of - even cough medicine or aspirin - can be bad for your body. And even small amounts of drugs kill your
brain cells. Unlike your hair or fingernails, once a brain cell dies, it never grows back. Drugs also interfere with your ability to think clearly. People can do really dumb or dangerous things that could hurt them - or other people - when they use drugs. Keeping up with school becomes even harder for kids on drugs. Drugs can also prevent your body from growing properly and make you look sick all the time.

Some drugs make kids angry when they use them. These kids get into fights with their parents, teachers, and friends. And using drugs even one time may be all it takes to permanently damage your body - or kill you. One hit of crack or cocaine can give you (yes, even a kid!) a heart attack and kill you. Sniff glue or some other inhalant just once and you may be unable to see - forever.

Kids who use drugs may become dependent on them, or addicted. They become so used to a drug that they must have it to function. Once you have an addiction, it's very hard to stop taking drugs. Stopping drug use brings on withdrawal symptoms - vomiting, sweating, tremors (shaking), even hallucinations (say: ha-loo-sin-ay-shun) - which continue until the body gets used to being without the drug. Hallucinations means that you see or hear things that aren't really there.

How Can I Tell if My Friend Is Using Drugs?
You should know the signs of drug use. Of course, not all signs mean that drugs are involved. There could be some other physical or emotional problem that's upsetting your friend. But if you see some of the warning signs listed here, drug use may be a possibility:

  • stops showing interest in school
  • suddenly changes friends (hangs out with kids who use drugs)
  • becomes negative, cranky, or worried all the time
  • doesn't want to go out anymore or play
  • asks to be left alone a lot
  • is always tired (maybe even sleeps in class)
  • has many accidents
  • becomes involved in a lot of fights
  • changes mood a lot
  • has sudden changes in appearance (red or puffy eyes, weight changes, lots of headaches or stomachaches, shaking, coughing that won't quit, brown stains on fingertips, stumbling, or a constant runny nose)
  • loses interest in hobbies or sports
  • has poor judgment
  • can't concentrate

What Can I Do to Help?
If you suspect that a friend is doing drugs, talk to him. Let your friend know that you care. Talk to your parents, teacher, school counselor, or another trusted adult. Offer to go with your friend to his parents or a counselor for help.

You alone can't make your friend stop doing drugs. It takes professional help. Drug hotlines offer information and counseling. Call them or give your friend phone numbers of places to call. Look in the blue pages of the phone book under alcohol and drug abuse to find a hotline near you.

Fight Back Against Drugs

Drugs are easy to get and easy to take. That's why it's hard for some people to say no. Friends who use drugs may want you to try them, too, but it's better to find friends who don't use drugs and don't want you to, either. Stop and think about what could happen if you use drugs. Remember that you will pay a long-term price - even death - for a short-term high. Find other kids who feel the same as you do about drugs and stick together. Most kids don't mess with drugs, because drugs really mess you up.

Words to Know

Addiction (say: uh-dik-shun) - A person has an addiction when he becomes dependent on or craves a drug and believes he needs the drug to live. All an addicted drug user can think about is getting the next dose after getting high.

Depressant (say: dee-press-ent) - A depressant is a drug that slows a person down. Doctors prescribe depressants to help people be less angry, anxious, or tense. Depressants relax muscles and make people feel sleepy or like their head is stuffed.

Hallucinogen (say: ha-loo-sin-oh-jin) - A hallucinogen is a drug, such as LSD, that changes a person's mood and makes him see, hear, or think things that aren't really there. Hallucinogens change the way a person feels time, making it seem to slow down. As the name implies, hallucinogens may cause hallucinations - this is when people think they see or hear imaginary people or things.

High - A high is the feeling that drug users want to get when they take drugs. There are many types of high, including a spacey feeling or a feeling that a person has special powers, such as the ability to fly or see into the future.

Stimulant (say: stim-you-lent) - A stimulant speeds up a person's body and brain. Stimulants, such as methamphetamines, have the opposite effect of depressants. Usually stimulants make a person high and give him energy. When the effects of a stimulant wear off, a person will feel tired or sick.

Updated and reviewed by: Kim Rutherford, MD
Date reviewed: June 2001
Originally reviewed by:
Steve Dowshen, MD and Jonathan Schneider, DO

What You Need to Know About Drugs: Cocaine and Crack
What You Need to Know About Drugs: Depressants
What You Need to Know About Drugs: Heroin
What You Need to Know About Drugs: Inhalants
What You Need to Know About Drugs: LSD
What You Need to Know About Drugs: Marijuana
What You Need to Know About Drugs: Methamphetamines

Source:KidsHealth is a project of The Nemours Foundation which is dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children 

Drug Free Resource Net
This site is run by the Partnership for a Drug Free America and features lots of up-to-date information about drugs and their effects and treatments. The site also shows paraphernalia associated with different drugs.