the situation in Northern Ireland?
The most commonly used drugs are still caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
Cannabis remains the most popular illegal drug and is the one with the
most myths and misinformation about it, not helped by muddled
government policy. Ecstasy is still widely used and available,
although it is being replaced by Cocaine in some circles, which had
decreased significantly in price over the past few years. Despite
media panics to the contrary Methamphetamine (aka Crystal Meth) has
not made any major inroads yet, although it does give slight cause of
concern. Heroin use still seems largely restricted to certain pockets
of the country, which while causing concern in those areas, has not
yet developed into a widespread concern. Solvents abuse is still
common among younger teenagers and represents one of the most
underestimated dangers as far as drugs are concerned. With at least
1/4 of those who die from VSA (Volatile Substance Abuse) dying as a
result of their first sniff, it has a very high first time user
fatality rate, and coupled with ease of access, means that solvents
are a major issue that needs to be addressed.
Most recently the big media scares have
surrounded synthetic stimulants/ amphetamine type substances
referred to more commonly, but often incorrectly, as "legal
highs". This includes substances like mephederone, methadrone,
methylone, MDPV, naphyrone (aka NRG-1) and a wide range of other
products. Legislation is catching up on these products but the manufacturers
will continue to tweak and develop to stay outside the law.
There has been a lot of misinformation about
these products, but users should be aware that due to the new nature
of these substances no one, either medical practitioner or
manufacturer, knows what the medium or long term effects are. It
should be noted- just because a substance is "legal" does
not make it safe.
A couple of drinks can make a party or celebration more enjoyable. It
can even be good for us. But alcohol is a powerful drug and we need to
be careful how we use it. Many of us in Northern Ireland do most of
our drinking in a few sessions, often on a Friday or Saturday night.
However, this pattern of drinking can put our health at risk.
Over a number of years, regular heavy drinking can:
- damage the liver, heart, brain and,
especially with spirits, the stomach;
- cause some cancers, eg. in the mouth, throat;
- increase the risk of some cancers, eg. in the
- lead to higher blood pressure;
- lower the libido (sex drive);
- make it harder for the body to fight off
- Regular heavy drinking can also have social
difficulties at work;
trouble with the law.
Of course, most of us who do drink aren't going to die from liver
disease, or lose our job, home or family because of alcoholism. But
drinking too much has some important short-term effects as well and
these often have a much more immediate impact on our lives.
Getting drunk can lead to:
Alcohol can also affect our judgment, leading us
to do things we wouldn't otherwise do and that we might regret later.
Too much alcohol in one go can even cause heart attacks or strokes.
Drinking and Driving
Although there is a legal limit for the amount of alcohol a person can
have in their bloodstream and still drive, there is no safe limit for
drinking and driving.
Even one drink affects your judgment and reaction times
At the legal limit, your chances of having an accident are more than
Someone who drinks a lot in the evening will still have alcohol in
their bloodstream the next morning
The only safe advice to follow is NEVER drink and drive
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Alcohol can damage an unborn baby, so women who are pregnant should
avoid alcohol, or at least cut down to a couple of drinks a week.
Couples who are trying to get pregnant should also cut down, as
alcohol can affect both the egg and the cells which produce sperm.