Drug Symposium

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What do you say when someone walks up to you at a party and offers you some “smack”, “junk” or “h”? These are just some of the street names used when talking about drugs. Few people get addicted to these drugs after only one night, but with the help of peer pressure and the fear of being a social outcast, these drugs can become a normal aspect of life for some. An individual can then become dependent, either psychologically or physically.

What is addiction?

Drug addiction or drug dependency is the phrase used to describe the situation when someone has a psychological or physical compulsion to take a drug. The longer a person is addicted to a drug, the more dangerous the drug can become. This is due to the factor of tolerance. Tolerance is the state where the body needs an increasing amount of the drug to achieve the same effects.

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Normally, when people think of drug addiction, they think of heroin or cocaine addicts and the estranged “junky” who is unconscious in the street as a result of an overdose. But drug addiction goes beyond this. Caffeine, drunk in coke and coffee, is also a drug of addiction. However, the main drug of addiction in our community is alcohol. Alcohol accounts for more social problems and deaths than any other drug. Alcohol, like caffeine is a legal and largely socially accepted drug.

Who gets addicted?

Just about anyone can get addicted to a drug. Many people are addicted to a drug, like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, but do not consider themselves addicts because these drugs are widely used, socially acceptable and legal. Even illicit drugs are widely used. A survey conducted in 11 showed that 8% of males under the age of 5 years had used marijuana in the past year, and that 0% of females had used this drug (The Courier Mail, 1/4/16). This research also highlights an important fact about drug addiction, and that is that males are more likely to use drugs and become addicted than females. In the same survey, it was also demonstrated that teenagers living on the street had a higher risk of getting “hooked” on drugs. This was because of their high levels of exposure to the drug sub-culture on the streets. Additionally, drugs can also be an easy escape from the problems that individuals experience.

How do people get addicted?

To acquire a drug, either a legal or illegal one, is often very easy. The ease of which many drugs can be obtained and their low cost are thought to contribute to some people’s drug consumption. It is easy for teenagers to acquire drugs. Schools are often targeted by dealers who find ready customers, either short-term buyers who are supplied with “starter packs”, or long-term buyers who buy substances to feed their habit. Commonly, these starter packs include marijuana, and “marijuana exposes young people to the illicit drug using sub-culture” (The Courier Mail, 1/4/6). Addiction often begins with experimental use. Often people try drugs because of peer-group pressure. Friends of similar age, background and year often try things together, and may enjoy defying parents and other authority figures. Regular use develops, and a daily pre-occupation can follow that saps interest and motivation for other life activities. Harder drugs may be included in these phases that lead to dependency.

Why do people get addicted?

Negative feelings are not pleasant things to have. People often use drugs to “remedy” these negative feelings, and to run away from reality. Regular users often take pride in their ability to “handle” their drug, and peers often support this increase of tolerance. Enjoyment starts the cycle of dependency, the feeling of floating and isolation are fun, and being energetic and confident makes a change for the usually quiet person. All these feelings can contribute to the need for a drug.

Addiction extremes

As the drug is taken more readily into the body, organs and the body as a whole can no longer cope with the poisoning. Unconsciousness may be the result of too much of a drug, and may lead to coma, or even death. The extremes of psychological dependency include paranoia and sometimes psychosis, a very severe mental health problem. Not only can the addict become seriously psychologically and physically harmed by abusing drugs, but severe substance abuse can also effect the family and friends of the abuse victim. Pregnancy and the use of many drugs are a dangerous combination for the developing foetus. Addicts put their unborn children at risk of being premature or stillborn. When the baby is born, it too may be addicted to the same drug as their parent.

Who supplies the drugs to satisfy these cravings?

Drug suppliers are called “Dealers”. These people either acquire the drugs from other dealers or grow or manufacture them themselves. To make an increased profit, many dealers will make an increased quantity of a drug by adding impure substances, such as adding talcum powder to heroin, or dried grass clippings to marijuana. By doing this, the dealer can make some drugs more lethal than when it was pure. Drug users rarely know the purity of a drug they are using and can overdose if they move from an impure lot to a high grade pure dose.

Advantages and disadvantages of preventing addiction

When people try to end their addictions by ceasing their drug taking, severe withdrawal symptoms can occur, and the person can become very ill. The severity of this withdrawal will depend on the severity of their addiction, how long they took the drug, the dose they ingested, and the quality of their rehabilitation and support during withdrawal. Depression can be a major withdrawal problem. Quite often the person has difficulty coping with this depression and may be at risk of taking their own life or harming themselves in some other way. They are also at risk of turning back to drugs.


The community needs to be provided with high quality information about the dangers of drugs and the consequences when they are used. Rehabilitation programs and drug counselling needs to be more widely available. Information and drug programs can be delivered through the school system. This would contribute to a reduction in the number of teenagers experimenting with drugs, and reduce the number of teenage addicts.

A number of programs are available in the community. Heroin addicts can be prescribed the substitute methadone. This heroin substitute has fewer side-effects than heroin and does not have as severe withdrawal problems. Many addicts on the methadone treatment program are able to work and live normally in the community. On methadone, the person has the opportunity to gradually withdraw from the use of heroin and at the same time removing the need for finding the drug on the street.

A similar program has commenced recently using the prescribed drug naltrexone instead of methadone. Naltrexone is a less additive drug that provides an equivalent “high” for the addict.

Many drugs are currently prohibited, and even drugs such as alcohol have been banned in some countries in the past. There has been much community debate recently about easing the prohibition on some drugs. The consequence of prohibiting a substance in demand is that the price will rise. This can attract criminals who manufacture or grow a drug for sale at high prices, and can increase crime from addicts who, for example, need to steal to be able to afford the elevated price of the drug. (The South Australian Advertiser, /1/1). The idea of decriminalizing drugs, according to The Courier Mail, was a good one. One argument put was that fewer people ended up in goal due to drug related offences. One example of laws relating to some drugs being liberalised is the New South Wales State government which recently reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.


If the community is serious about reducing the level of drug use and addiction, then more action must be taken to inform people about drugs and their effects, and more rehabilitation options need to be made available. When people are more fully informed as to the dangerous consequences of inhaling, injecting, or swallowing these substances they will be able to make better informed decisions. When more and a wider variety of rehabilitation options are available people, who are at risk of substance abuse or who have developed a drug habit will have a real opportunity to be cured.


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problem. Melbourne Globe Press.

Gott, R. (15). Under the influence Drugs in Australia.

Courier Mail. (16). Shock warning to youth on the danger of

cannabis use. 1st April, page .

South Australian Advertiser. (11). Detectives warning on

$65 billion industry. nd December, page 4.

Sydney Morning Herald. (14). Death Dealing. 6th November,

page .

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