Page 9, 14th October 1994

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Page 9, 14th October 1994 — The inevitable lows of seeking to get high
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The inevitable lows of seeking to get high

Drug awareness agencies and the Government next week publish new advice for governors on the worrying spread of substance abuse among teenagers. Below, classroom hints for teachers to tackle the issue.

';UST SAY Na," Government antidrugs slogans have run. But many people say

Why do people take drugs?

Here are some of the reasons: • As an escape: Drugs can help people to forget that they are lonely, depressed, unhappy, unemployed or poor. Some people claim that they offer an alternative when reality becomes too threatening. Perhaps this helps to explain why solvent abuse has increased so much in recent years. • Because of peer pressure: If your friends take drugs, it can be very difficult for you to resist. People are afraid to be different. • For kicks: People also warn to be different. Some are attracted to drug-taking simply because it is illegal, just as children like being naughty for the sake of it. Some think taking drugs makes them different from perhaps superior to everyone else. It can be a way of asserting independence from our parents, perhaps of hitting back at them.

• Because they want to (despite the dangers): They may be attracted by the 'alternative culture', such as the 'rave scene' connected with Ecstasy.

• Because they are addicted: They are unable to stop taking the drug. There are two types of addiction: physical: the body becomes dependent on the drug, as with heroin or nicotine; psychological: taking the drug becomes such a habit that although the body can go without, the mind cannot as with cannabis. Psychological addiction can be just as powerful as physical addiction and many who take drugs regularly want to stop but cannot.

Should people be allowed to take drugs?

YES: • The law should not interfere with people's private lives. It should be up to the individual whether to use drugs or not, even if they are harmful. • Making drugs illegal does not stop people taking them. Legalising them would allow the police and the courts to concentrate on other things. • Legalizing drugs would break the power of organised crime. It would also stop drugs being adulterated by suppliers. If drugs were available from a legal source, the quality could be carefully monitored.

• If there is a demand for drugs, it is good business sense to supply them.

• Cannabis is said to be less harmful than tobacco. Other drugs should remain illegal, but cannabis should be legalized.

No:

• The law should protect people from themselves. People who are depressed, unhappy or on a high at a 'rave' are not in a fit state to make a rational decision about taking drugs. Anyone who really knew the risks would not take them.

• Drug use does not only affect the individual. We have obligations to family and friends who worry themselves sick about us. You have no right to risk becoming very ill, even dying, when it will make others desperately unhappy or grief-stricken. Nor do you have a right to cost the health service thousands of pounds for your treatment. Individuals do not belong to themselves. We all belong to each other. Christians would say we also belong to God. • Taking drugs is selfish and selfobsessed.

• Life is the greatest gift anyone can have. If you take a drug which could kill you, you are throwing one of God's most precious gifts back in His face.

• Drugs often become the most important thing in an addict's life but there are better things to live for than getting a regular supply of a dangerous chemical. • Cannabis should remain illegal. We do not know its long-term effects. They may be severe. • Taking drugs helps organised gangs of particularly nasty criminals.

*Taking drugs is illegal. We may not like the law, but if we choose to disobey it, we must be prepared to suffer the consequences. • Coming off addictive drugs is a terrible experience. The 'cold turkey' or withdrawal symptoms are extremely unpleasant: they include chills, aches, spasms or depression. The craving continues: far worse than the craving for food when you are on a diet. • We already have two 'socially acceptable' drugs: alcohol and tobacco. These already do enough damage, and we don't want any more.

The dangers of drugs

THE EFFECTS OF most drugs vary from person to person. Some may not be affected much; others may have a severe reaction. It is dangerous to believe that because X took drug Y and it didn't do him any harm, that will be true for everyone else. Taking a lot of drugs adds to the dangers. It could even be fatal. Taking one drug while another is in your system is also extremely dangerous. Pregnant women users risk harming their babies. Users who share needles are in the high-risk group for hepatitis and AIDS. Drugs obtained on the illegal market are frequently impure. They may have other substances added, such as glucose, talcum powder or even scouring powder. This increases the risks.

Many drugs exaggerate the user's mood. If he or she is depressed, the possible consequences are clear. Drugs are expensive. It is very sad that some decide to steal, to become shoplifters or prostitutes, to finance the habit. Others find their general standard of living declines as more of their income is spent on drugs.

Drugs and the law

BRITISH LAW REFLECTS society's attitude as a whole towards drug abuse. The three main relevant laws are the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, and the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.

Schools or sixth-form or tertiary colleges consider drug taking to be a serious offence. Pupils who use drugs, even if they have done so only once, are usually expelled. The pupils also have to face the police and the courts. At universities and colleges, student drug users also risk being 'sent down' or expelled. Despite the dangers a small minority of people think the drug laws are too strict. Some of them want to legalize cannabis, while others want to legalize all drugs.

For discussion

DESPITE INFORMATION, teaching and campaigns, people still take drugs. Why do you think the message fails to get across? How could it be made more effective?

Debate

APPOINT TWO SPEAKERS for each side to debate the motion:

"This house believes rhat the decision on whether or not w use drugs should rest with the individual, not with the stare."

(This will be more effective if the speakers write their speeches before it is held.) Taken from "Today's Issues and Christian Belieft", Social and Moral Questions for GCSE Religious Studies, by Simon and Christopher Dean (Lion Educational, 47.50).




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