speed refers to amphetamines which stir up the central nervous system. It generally comes in powder form which is then snorted, eaten or injected, though the last is rare.
users feel a certain high which, depending on the amount taken, lasts around three to four hours. Speed keeps users awake but deprives them of their appetite and inhibitions.
speed is the second most used illegal drug in Australia after cannabis.
usually made in backyard laboratories with unhygienic equipment, speed uses dangerous chemicals and substances such as baking powder, cleaning products and talcum powder. If taken in excess or mixed with alcohol or drugs, it can be deadly.
makes the user jittery and tense. The person's pupils will enlarge and they will be sweaty and moody. Some people even hallucinate and lose control of their limbs.
if using speed has become an addiction for someone you know, talk to them when you're both calm. Let them know you care but are concerned about the drug use. Listen to what they say, don't yell but offer your support. For more info, call Narcotics Anonymous on 1300 652 820 or visit http://na.org.au/
The drug: also known as ice, it's basically the same as speed, just in a more potent form we're talking 80 percent pure compared to speed, which is around 40 percent. It is white to translucent in colour and looks like crystals. The most popular method of taking ice is to smoke it through a pipe, but you can snort or inject it.
The effect: the difference between crystal meth and other drugs is that the high can last anywhere up to two days. It's got a very long half-life, meaning it takes more time to break down in the body.
The statistics: a recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found methamphetamine use was rife among people in their twenties, with more than one in five having tried ice.
The dangers: the long half-life is the real problem with ice. "It winds people up past any safety limit. They go stark raving crazy and become the most violent and nasty patients we've ever seen," says Dr Gordian Fulde, Head of Emergency at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital. "We get a lot of people who are just off their head and feeling really sick but in the last six months the amount of patients with serious psychiatric problems has more than doubled."
The signs: if taken regularly, users don't eat, sleep or drink. The drug sucks nutrients from the body so people can turn yellow, have pock-marked skin from repetitive scratching at acne and even lose teeth. It can also cause hallucinations, severe mood swings and violent behaviour.
The help: if a friend is acting erratically or is seriously ill, take them to hospital. No-one has to give their real name at emergency. The sooner you can get them there the better. If their mood suddenly changes, you may not be able to handle it.
The drug: cannabis is a plant also known as dope, grass, pot, weed and mull. People usually smoke the dried leaves in cigarette form or via a pipe-like tool often referred to as a bong. Sometimes the drug is swallowed via baked cookies.
The effect: when under the influence, people experience hyper-relaxation as well as an increased perception of colour, sound, smell and taste. It may alter their perception of time and space and increase appetite.
The statistics: according to a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 39 percent of the Australian population has used cannabis at least once.
The dangers: unlike heroin and cocaine, there are no known deaths from an overdose of cannabis, however, if used over a long period of time, it can cause psychosis. It can also cause bronchitis, lethargy and impaired mental performance. An emerging trend now is to take an amphetamine to get high and then smoke pot to avoid the painful comedown, which is extremely dangerous for the body.
The signs: regular users can become paranoid, confused and irrational. They often lose motivation for work and relationships, have low libido and become insular and unresponsive.
The help: call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 422 599 (toll free).
The drug: cocaine speeds up the messages between the body and the brain. It generally comes in white powder form, has a bitter taste and is snorted, eaten or sometimes injected.
The effect: lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours, users can experience physiological arousal, enlarged pupils, a dry mouth, increased talkativeness, paranoia, alertness and reduced appetite.
The dangers: users may experience muscle twitches, vomiting, chest pain, seizures and headaches. Frequent use can result in paranoid delusions, hallucinations, insomnia, nose damage and aggressive behaviour. The high is also followed by a comedown which can result in depression and lethargy. The risk of overdose is high and can lead to death.
The signs: people who use cocaine regularly can become agitated, lethargic, aggressive and paranoid.
The help: in Australia there are a number of drug treatment options, including counselling, group therapy and withdrawal. Contact Narcotics Anonymous on 1300 652 820 or visit http://na.org.au/.
The drug: heroin is one of a group of drugs known as opioids which slow down the central nervous system. It usually comes in fine white powder form and is most commonly injected into a vein, but it can be smoked or snorted.
The effect: the effect depends on the quantity taken, however users may experience intense pleasure, drowsiness, pain relief, confusion, a dry mouth, slurred speech and nausea.
The statistics: heroin use is much less common than it used to be, only 1.6 percent of people surveyed for the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Household Surveys in 2001 admitted to using the drug.
The dangers: prolonged heroin use can result in constipation, infertility and depression. Since heroin is usually a mixture of all sorts of substances, such as caffeine and sugar, there is also the possibility of damage to the heart, lungs, liver and brain. However, the biggest danger is overdosing. Since heroin is injected directly into the vein, many people underestimate the strength or purity of the drug and accidentally overdose. There is also the risk of contracting a disease, such as hepatitis or HIV, from unhygienic syringes.
The signs: users will often become withdrawn, agitated, thin, drowsy and moody. In extreme cases they may have needle (track) marks on their arms, bags under their eyes and a yellowish tinge to their skin.
The help: the first step to recovery is for the person to admit they have a problem and the next is to get away from the 'playground' or environment that is driving them to use. It's never an easy task trying to convince someone they need help but the consequences could be worse if you don't. A number of drug treatment options are available in Australia. Visit www.druginfo.adf.org.au for more information.
The drug: ecstasy is the street term for a range of drugs that are similar to amphetamines such as speed. They are stimulants that come in tablet form and in various colours. Swallowing is the most common method of taking ecstasy, however the tablets can also be crushed and snorted or even inserted into the anus.
The effect: the way people respond to the drug varies, however most experience an increase in confidence, a feeling of closeness to others, anxiety, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, loss of appetite and euphoria.
The statistics: "There's a huge amphetamine cycle in Australia at the moment," says Paul Dillon, Media Officer for the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. "We don't know when the rage will stop but we're certainly at the height of it right now."
The dangers: there have been a number of deaths from ecstasy in Australia in the last few years. This is largely due to overdoses, heart attacks and overheating. Because ecstasy raises the body's temperature, people drink too much water and their brain swells from the excess fluid, causing an induced coma.
The signs: a person taking ecstasy regularly may find that they are not eating or sleeping properly. They will be tired, moody, cranky and lethargic.
The help: if someone has a bad turn after using ecstasy, alert the owner of the venue or take them straight to hospital. Try and cool them down by loosening clothing and splashing cold water on their face. Visit NDARC for more information.
Article by Melissa Ironside, May 2007