Unfortunately, we have reached a point where almost everyone at least knows someone who knows
someone who is taking drugs. You might even know someone personally. Why has drug use become so
‘popular’ and more importantly, what can we do to prevent this from occurring and help those who are
already involved? As prevention is better than cure, let’s look at that first.
Effective prevention starts with an understanding of why drug use is more popular as those are the factors
which others can be made aware of so they are less likely to slip into it without knowing why.
The most popular drug in the world today is......alcohol.
Alcohol is by definition a drug as a drug is:
“any article, other than food, intended to affect thestructure or any function of the body of humans or oth
er animals.” – dictionary.com. The same dictionary also says “..or used to otherwise
enhance physical or mental well-being.”
Alcohol certainly fits into this category but is often overlooked. Why?
When we do drug prevention programs at schools the first question we ask is ‘what is the most popular
drug?’ and the students hardly ever get this so our first task is to explain why it is a drug. Our second task
is to make them aware of why most people do not consider it a drug.
Why people take drugs
Advertising is one reason. To sell a product one has got to make it desirable Your market has got to be led
to believe that by using their product one’s life will be better. A certain whiskey can be shown as classy.
For those who desire to feel that they are or be seen as such, they might respond to that. An advert for
beer could create the feeling of patriotism for national sports teams by showing flashes of brilliant plays
and people coming together as a nation in support. The idea is to lead the viewer (of a TV advert) to
believe that is the beer to drink while supporting their team. An advert can be funny, witty or show young
people all having fun. Essentially, it is seeking to invoke a response that the viewer will associate with that
product. Music, well crafted filming, appropriate characters and celebrities are all used to bring about the
desired effect. This makes alcohol use look desirable, harmless, fun, patriotic or just plain “the thing to
do”. Next time you see an advert, think for yourself what they are trying to make you think or feel.
Repeated viewings reinforce this idea.
Another reason is agreement. Many people do it, so it is just what is done. There are societies in the
world who do not drink for whatever reason. One would feel out if one was invited to dinner by a muslim
or Buddhist family in Indonesia and drank alcohol. Similarly, one might feel out at a braai drinking tea.
Another reason is that people like to feel good but more of that later.
Dagga/Marijuana/Weed/Ganja is more popular than it ever was. One reason is again – ‘advertising’....
“How?” you may ask. “I have never seen a TV, radio or newspaper ad for it”.
The most effective ‘advertising’ is word of mouth’. This is what people say to people. Maybe at this point
you can stop reading this article and ask a few people around you what good things they have heard about
Now go and ask a few youngsters.
You probably heard a few ideas repeated like “it’s a herb”, “has medical uses”, “it’s natural” or “it’s not
addictive”. Consider a grade 7 student hearing these things from 10 different people. After a while, what
do you think they are going to believe?
Not too long ago, ‘everybody knew’ the earth was flat and some even said that if one ventured too far they
would come to the end of the earth where there were dragons or one would fall off. Sea Merchants of the
day forwarded these ideas so that people who be too afraid to venture out and thus could maintain their
monopoly on trade routes. In the same way dealers, those who want to forward their own agenda or
others who just don’t know otherwise will pass these ideas along with the results that marijuana has
become ‘harmless’ and more popular.
Again, people want to feel good and have fun. If they believe it is not harmful or even ‘beneficial’ then
they will be even happier about it. In any case, if a person finds some value in using then they might
continue doing so. Consider a teenage boy. He is just becoming interested in girls but is a little shy and
awkward. At a party he could be aware that he is not as outgoing as some of his friends or feels selfconscious
dancing. After a drink he discovers that he has more energy, is more extroverted and thinks he is
dancing like John Travolta. Alcohol now has value and if he doesn’t find another way to be like that he will
probably drink in those situations. The problem is however that the problem is not only not solved but it
Another situation could be a young guy who wants to be liked and be part of the action. He is offered
marijuana (or any other drug) and takes it, not for the effect, but more to be a part of the group. Peer
pressure doesn’t always have to be giving in to others demands, it can also be a self-determined decision
so as to be included.
In both these and all other cases a person does drugs to attempt to ‘solve’ a problem. That problem could
OK, so now a person has found something that helps them. It might even help others as in someone with a
usually bad temper and attitude being more relaxed and fun to be around after smoking weed. Again, it
‘solves’ a problem.
If you had a friend who is using drugs and you can see how they have gone down and say to them that you
can help them stop, they might not give you a big teary hug and thank you between sobs of happiness.
Why? Because you are offering to take away their ‘solution’. Even if they know they are ruining their lives
they now have the problem of knowing they should stop on the one hand but then not having that solution
anymore. Also, they might have tried stopping before but life was boring and colourless so they used
How to get around that and to help them we will look at later. First let’s see what some of the effects of
drugs are and why is it that they can make a person feel better and what continued use does.
A person goes out for cocktails on a Friday evening and orders a drink. Alcohol is not food and the body
normally only requires (nutritious) food, water and oxygen. Does the body want it? No. The person does
but the body reacts to this invasion and processes kick into gear to deal with this. As the body has stepped
up activity it creates a stimulating effect. After that drink a person might feel warm, more outgoing and
alive (all desirable feelings). “Would you like another?” a friend asks. “Hell yeah! Let’s paaaarty!!” and
has another, and another and another. What happens eventually is that the initial stimulation eventually
gives way to a slowing down and speech will become slurred and reaction time lessened. If they carried on
drinking they could pass out. If they downed two bottles of spirits before passing out, all that alcohol in
the system could kill them. The cause of death will be “alcohol poisoning”.
So is alcohol a poison? Yes. But why if it is a poison do more people not die? That is because a person has
to take enough of it. In the supermarket are many products marked poison. Take enough and you are
dead. Body weight, fitness and other factors determine how much it will take to kill someone.
So, if alcohol is a poison, what about other drugs? Marijuana contains over 300 different compounds, only
one, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is responsible for the high. A little bit acts as a stimulant (body reacting
to invasion), more slows one down or ‘chills one out’(overload), enough will kill one (although it is doubtful
that a person could kill themselves smoking weed as they will fall asleep and it is difficult to smoke and
sleep at the same time. A person would most likely die from setting the bed alight). Any drug even
medical drugs taken in sufficient quantities will kill a person. In medicine, pharmaceuticals are used for
certain effects. There is what is called the “Therapeutic dose” where the desired effect is obtained (and
this will depend on age, weight etc.) as in a painkiller to relieve pain or antibiotics to kill bacteria (kill
bacteria=poison them). Too much can kill a person.
Drugs then are essentially poisons. They are used for an effect that is deemed valuable. Taking antibiotics
can save a life so any side effects (which could be called poisoning effects) are outweighed as it is better to
live than die. For street drugs and alcohol the ‘hangover’ afterwards is one side effect that in the users
mind is outweighed by what else it does for them.
Another effect that drugs have is that they burn up large amounts of vitamins and minerals.
If this is all that drugs did then a day or few of feeling sick, depressed, anxious, tired and out of sorts might
not seem that bad but unfortunately, that is not all.
All drugs and alcohol are broken down and filtered through the liver. These by-products are called
“metabolites” many of which are unfortunately fat soluble meaning they bond with fat tissue in the body
and remain in the body, sometimes for years! This means that every time a person uses, small amounts
stay behind and accumulate. Over time these built up toxins can effect a person’s nutritional state
(creating chronic deficiencies), ability to think clearly, cause a lack of enthusiasm for life and ability to still
enjoy the simple pleasures they used to. Leading to what? Yes, you guessed it, more drugs (and often
different and stronger drugs) to lift them out of the worsened state caused by taking drugs to feel good...
So now a person has a problem; stop drugs and feel terrible or keep taking drugs to relieve this yet
continue to get worse. And these are only the physical effects!
Almost anyone going down that route realizes eventually that their lives are getting worse and decides to
stop. Let’s say they do and they get through the depression, sleepless nights, headaches, sweating or
whatever the withdrawal symptoms are and slowly life will get better as they start to look after themselves
and pursue worthwhile goals. One day while exercising or while under stress they burn up fat. Lodged in
there are drug residues and little bits break free, enter the bloodstream, hit the brain and trigger what?
Out of no-where they suddenly think of and might crave drugs. If they are not feeling strong or have
diminished will power (like after a few drink) they might relapse. Every time this happens the person is
more convinced of their inability to stay clean and can get very despondent. But even if they manage to
stay clean and get their lives on track they will not be as vital as they once were because of the toxic build
This leads us to how to help someone get off drugs. They started using for some effect they found
valuable. If you can get them to open up to you and pinpoint the problem they were trying to solve and
then discover why it is that drugs haven’t solved that and created more problems and that there is a way
to get off comfortably and then begin to make life the way they want it, you will have someone hugging
you tearfully and thanking you.
For information on how to prevent kids from taking drugs, the mental and emotional effects and what is
done in rehab please look for the rest of this article at: www.narconon.org.za
The Narconon Drug Rehabilitation Program was started in 1967 in Arizona prison in the USA and has since
then grown to an international network of drug rehabilitation centres and prevention offices and has
helped thousands live drug-free and successful lives. Once you have given the person hope that something
can be done about it you can refer them to a Narconon centre near you.
This article was written by Narconon Drug Education in Cape Town who have been doing drug prevention
programs at schools since 1999. The illustrations and information are extracted from their booklet “10
THINGS YOUR FRIENDS MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT DRUGS”. This and other information on drug prevention
and rehabilitation is available from them. Grateful acknowledgement is made to L. Ron Hubbard library for
permission to use selections of his copyrighted works.
Narconon Cape Town
Tel: 021-511 5174 or 021-510 6160
Cell: 083 653 8008
Charity and Challenges*
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