Don’t accept any sweets from strangers,” your mother warns you. “Don’t buy those colorful drinks the seeya sells near the gate,” your principal tells you. You are told to be careful but you are rarely told what you need to be careful about. Adults tend to be very stern about orders and warnings but vague about reasons. You are told to not to this or that but you aren’t told why you shouldn’t. If you are told to not go into a room, you will want to go into that room just to know what you’ll find there. However, if you are told not to go into a room because there’s a venomous snake inside, you will stay away.

It is a venomous snake that awakes you if you do eat those toffees and chocolates strangers offer you or drink the colorful drinks sold by people you don’t know. This snake or monster will consume your life, cause destructions and can even lead to death.

This all seems like an overreaction or exaggeration, doesn’t it?
Let’s first see what is in those sweets and drinks. The word drugs may be familiar. You may know everyday painkillers like Panadol as a drug. However, the drugs adults want to keep away from you are more powerful and destructive than Panadol. Remember however, that Panadol too, when consumed in large amounts can be extremely harmful to you. During lessons about why you shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol, you would have been shown pictures of liquor and cigarettes. If your parents drink or smoke, you would have seen alcohol and cigarettes at home. However, drugs are usually kept hidden.

Thus even if you have heard about it, there’s a chance you’ve never been told what it looks like. You wouldn’t know how to identify it if someone hands it to you. This is mainly because there is no one kind of drug and there’s no one way of it entering your system.

You may wonder why adults try so hard to keep you away from drugs. Drugs change the way you are. They can distort your emotions and senses. They may make you do things you would never do otherwise. This could be something fun like go on a scary roller-coaster but it is often in a bad way. You might do risky and dangerous acts, like jumping off a roof or hitting someone, because you aren’t in your right senses. Further, drugs are addictive and it is an expensive addiction that is hard to get rid of. The more drugs you consume the more dependent you are on those drugs and thus, the more you spend on drugs.
Drugs will eat you from the inside and let’s look at why you should be careful.

Medicines are legal drugs
If you’ve ever been sick and had to take medicine, you already know about one kind of drugs. Medicines are legal drugs, meaning doctors are allowed to prescribe them for patients, stores can sell them, and people are allowed to buy them. But it’s not legal, or safe, for people to use these medicines any way they want or to buy them from people who are selling them illegally.

Cigarettes and alcohol
Cigarettes and alcohol are two other kinds of legal drugs. But smoking and excessive drinking are not healthy for adults and are off limits for kids.

Illegal drugs
When people talk about a ‘drug problem,’ they usually mean abusing legal drugs or using illegal drugs, such as marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, crystal meth, and heroin. (Marijuana is generally an illegal drug, but some states allow doctors to recommend it to adults for certain illnesses.)

Why are illegal drugs dangerous?
Illegal drugs aren’t good for anyone, but they are particularly bad for a kid or teen whose body is still growing. Illegal drugs can damage the brain, heart, and other important organs. Cocaine, for instance, can cause a heart attack — even in a kid or teen.

While using drugs, people are also less able to do well in school, sports, and other activities. It’s often harder to think clearly and make good decisions. People can do dumb or dangerous things that could hurt them — or other people — when they use drugs.

Can I tell if someone is using drugs?
If someone is using drugs, you might notice changes in how the person looks or acts. Here are some of those signs, but it’s important to remember that depression or another problem could be causing these changes. Somebody using drugs might:
•    lose interest in school
•    change friends (to hang out with kids
who use drugs)
•    become moody, negative, cranky,
or worried all the time
•    ask to be left alone a lot
•    have trouble concentrating
•    sleep a lot (maybe even in class)
•    get in fights
•    have red or puffy eyes
•    lose or gain weight
•    cough a lot
•    have a runny nose all of the time

Words to know

Understanding drugs and why they are dangerous is another good step for a kid to take. Here are some words that may be new to you

Someone has an addiction when he or she becomes dependent on or craves a drug all of the time.

A depressant is a drug that slows a person down. Doctors prescribe depressants to help people be less angry, anxious, or tense. Depressants relax muscles and make people feel sleepy, less stressed out, or like their head is stuffed. Some people may use these drugs illegally to slow themselves down and help bring on sleep — especially after using various kinds of stimulants.

A hallucinogen is a drug, such as LSD, that changes a person’s mood and makes him or her see or hear things that aren’t really there or think strange thoughts.

A high is the feeling that drug users want to get when they take drugs. There are many types of highs, including a very happy or spacey feeling or a feeling that someone has special powers, such as the ability to fly or to see into the future.

An inhalant, such as glue or gasoline, is sniffed or ‘huffed’ to give the user an immediate rush. Inhalants produce a quick feeling of being drunk — followed by sleepiness, staggering, dizziness, and confusion.

A narcotic dulls the body’s senses (leaving a person less aware and alert and feeling carefree) and relieves pain. Narcotics can cause someone to sleep, fall into a stupor, have convulsions, and even slip into a coma. Certain narcotics — such as codeine — are legal if given by doctors to treat pain. Heroin is an illegal narcotic because it is has dangerous side effects and is very addictive.

A stimulant speeds up the body and brain. Stimulants, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, have the opposite effect of depressants. Usually, stimulants make someone feel high and energized. When the effects of a stimulant wear off, the person will feel tired or sick.