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Illicit drug use is simply defined as using drugs that are forbidden by law. Illicit drugs include amphetamines, LSD, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), heroin and marijuana etc. Most of these drugs are better known by their street names than their generic names. For example, grass is the street name for marijuana, speed for amphetamine and coke for cocaine.

The harmful effects of illicit drugs

Illicit drugs are harmful to the body. They affect the heart by causing blood pressure problem and putting extra stress on the heart. They interfere with the functioning of the nervous system and other organs such as the liver. Their bad effects on one’s psychological health include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Psychosis
  • Concentration problem
  • Memory impairment
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Euphoria etc.

Whilst most people agree with the deleterious effects of these drugs on the psychological health of the users, some have their doubt whether marijuana is really harmful. Unlike the opiates such as heroin and morphine, marijuana intoxication rarely leads to death. As a result, many people are lulled into the false impression that it is harmless. Marijuana users tend to think that recreational use is safe. Many have the mistaken belief that they have the self-control and strength to stop it whenever they like. Unfortunately, they soon succumb to the addictive power of the drug when smoking marijuana takes primacy over other activities in life, including their study or career.

The problems with marijuana

Marijuana use is common among young people because it is cheap and easily accessible. In one survey, 15% of those who are at least 12 years old admitted to using marijuana regularly. The fact is that young people are exposed to marijuana at a younger age than their parents. Many are introduced to the drugs at school and at party by their peers. Many succumb to peer pressure whilst others get addicted after innocently trying out the drug just for the fun of it. The deleterious effects of marijuana can be summarised as below:

  • It can cause lung, head and neck cancer.
  • It decreases blood flow to the extremities.
  • It reduces sperm count and its motility.
  • It increases stress on the heart. The effect on the heart rate and blood pressure are similar to those people who are suffering from severe stress.
  • It impairs concentration, attention and short-term memory.
  • It causes mood disturbance like depression.
  • It affects the brain by interfering with the chemical in the brain. Human brain continues to develop up to early adulthood. As a result, adolescent brain is more susceptible to the negative effect of marijuana.
  • It can precipitate a psychosis.

If your child is a marijuana user, you need to take immediate action to stop it by:

  • Enrolling your child in a detoxification program.
  • Encouraging your child to join a self-help group in the community.
  • Taking your child to a child and adolescent psychiatrist who will check if your child is suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression. Both these disorders can be treated successfully, especially when they are detected early.

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