How do drugs work?

You sometimes call medicine you can buy at a pharmacy 'drugs', which are illegal. Dagga, nyaope, tik or cocaine are the names of drugs that are illegal in South Africa. This means that you are not allowed to use or keep them. Drugs can be swallowed (pills), smoked, breathed in or injected (using a needle).

Drugs affect your brain and your body

Your brain allows you to think, breathe, move, speak, and feel. Drugs confuse our brain's way of working. Drugs are chemicals that interfere (harmfully) with the way that your brain normally works. Drugs can change important things like keeping your heart beating, breathing, moving blood, and digesting food; which your body needs to stay alive. You can also get a painful stomach, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing and generally feeling really sick.

Drugs make fake feelings

Drugs can also affect our feelings. A first, people will say they take drugs to make them feel happy or feel relaxed especially if they are finding life stressful or hard. This feeling is for a short time and to feel it again, the person needs to take more drugs. When a person feels happy or excited when taking drugs, it is known as a "high". As you take more drugs, your brain receives so much of this fake 'happy chemical' that it starts to create less of it by itself. This means that the person needs to take the drug to create the happy or relaxed feeling rather than experience the feeling of being relaxed and happy from spending time with friends or family.

Drugs change your behaviour

Taking drugs can be dangerous – not only because of the effect they have on your body and brain, but also on how they change your behaviour. If you are taking drugs, you are not able to think as clearly so it is difficult to make decisions or to say "no" to something that you don’t want to do; and at times, drugs may make it difficult for you to realise when you are in dangerous situation and when you are not. This is because drugs confuse the front part of the cortex, known as the frontal cortex or forebrain. This is the thinking part of your brain. It powers your ability to think, plan, solve problems, and make decisions. Taking drugs leads to making bad decisions and not choosing the way you would like to behave.

Drugs are also very addictive. You can be rehabilitated but once hooked, one is hooked for life! Get help, call:

  • SANCA 24 Hour Helpline at 0861472622
  • Department of Social Development (DSD) Substance Abuse Line at 0800121314 or SMS 32312

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