As a pharmacist, I’m accustomed to smiling pleasantly at all the usual joking remarks about how I sell ‘drugs’. But I honestly don’t see the funny side to illicit drug use.

 

The things that I have seen in my career caused by illicit drug use would shock you. And I’m not talking about the media scare campaigns, because ‘those’ things happen to ‘somebody else’.

 

 

I have seen countless lives ruined and families torn apart.

 

A disturbing number of young people develop severe mental disease that they will never recover from. Desperate mums seeking their over-the-counter ‘fixes’ in front of their young children. Teeth rotting and falling out, skin scarred and disfigured from picking at bugs that aren’t there. Friendly local teenagers arrested and jailed for their behaviour. Life-long diseases caught from one night of partying. I’ve confiscated fake prescriptions and stolen ID’s, and I’ve heard every creative excuse in the book. It’s all part of the job as a pharmacist who sells ‘drugs’.

 

Addicted drug users visit me EVERY DAY, and probably will have to for the rest of their lives, just to live a vaguely normal life because their addiction cannot be cured. And each and every one of these people, who are all normal people like you and

 

I, started out drug free. But they each made a choice. It usually starts with cannabis.

 

Marijuana

Problems caused by cannabis use include:

 
  • Anxiety and depression •Respiratory illness •Memory loss
  • Mental illness – paranoia, psychosis and schizophrenia

 

  • Social and financial problems

 

Once a person has smoked cannabis, they are more likely to accept other illegal drugs, such as ‘party drugs’.

 

Amphetamines, Ecstasy and Cocaine

 

Speed and ice are both amphetamines. They produce a ‘high’ or ‘rush’ that makes the user feel exhilarated, stimulated and alert. Appetite is suppressed. Ecstasy also has mood-altering and hallucinogenic effects. Cocaine has similar, but more intense effects than the amphetamines, that don’t last as long. All of these drugs specifically target the brain’s reward systems, causing cravings and a high risk of addiction.

 

The health risks and burden to society of amphetamines are huge. Violence and aggression, severe mental illness, weight loss, heart problems, dental problems, skin infections, sexual dysfunction, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS – the list is endless.

 

So why have over 10% of Australians tried amphetamines (or ecstasy) at some point in their life?

 

Maybe it’s because drugs are socially acceptable in their group. Peer pressure may not always be obvious. Often no-one tells you to take drugs. But when people around you do, it almost seems ‘normal’. But you still have a choice. You can always say “No, I don’t need that stuff to have a good time”. Or even simply “No thanks”.

 

 

Marijuana (cannabis) produces a ‘high’ that makes the user feel more relaxed, happy and talkative. It can also increase appetite. It slows down brain function – affecting coordination, reflexes, concentration and motivation.

 

Over one-third of Australians have smoked cannabis at some point in their life. But this doesn’t make it a good choice.

 

 

If your friends make you feel unwelcome or uncool because you don’t do drugs, then it’s a good time to change your friends. It’s your life, and your choice.

 

Heroin and Other Opiates

 

Heroin gives the user a ‘rush’ that feels warm, happy and relaxed. It also dulls pain. As a central nervous system depressant, it slows down all the body’s systems – especially the brain, heart, and lungs. It is highly addictive.

 

The statistics are frightening. Just over 1% of Australian adults have tried heroin. But despite this apparent low rate of use, heroin and other opiates kill more of us than any other illegal drug. Nearly one in five deaths in Australia is drug-related, with up to 30% of these due to opiates. Around 600 Australians die every year from opioid-related accidental overdose.

 

And every day, nearly 50,000 Australians are being treated for heroin addiction. To put that into perspective, that adds up to more than one in four people who have tried heroin.

 

So if you try heroin, you have at least a one in four chance of becoming addicted. Or worse, you could end up

 

dead. Not a good choice.

 

The message is clear – You have a Choice. Make the right one.

 

 

Go to www.drugs.health.gov. au for more information.

 


DISCLAIMER: This material contains general information about medical conditions and treatments and is intended for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or professional advice, nor should it be used for the purposes of diagnosing or treating any illness. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your local pharmacist or health care provider to obtain professional advice relevant to your specific circumstances.