KidsView cares about your spiritual health, and your physical health, so this month we’re sharing with you an article about drugs and their dangers. This is intended for informational purposes only. Talk to your parents, guardian, teacher, or doctor if you have a concern about drugs.—KidsView staff.
Drugs are chemicals that change the way a person’s body works. You’ve probably heard that drugs are bad for you, but what does that mean and why are they bad?
Medicines Are Legal Drugs
If you’ve ever been sick and had to take medicine, you already know about one kind of drug. 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. (In the United States, adults 18 and over can buy cigarettes and those 21 and over can buy alcohol.) But smoking and drinking are not healthy for adults and off-limits for kids.
When people talk about the “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 prescribe 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, a person is 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 themselves—or other people—when they use drugs.
Why Do People Use Illegal Drugs?
Sometimes kids and teens try drugs to fit in with a group of friends. Or they might be curious or just bored. A person may use illegal drugs for many reasons, but often because they help the person escape from reality for a while. If a person is sad or upset, a drug can—temporarily—makes the person feel better or forget about problems. But this escape lasts only until the drug wears off.
Drugs don’t solve problems, of course. And using drugs often causes other problems on top of the problems the person had in the first place. A person who uses drugs can become dependent on them, or addicted. This means that the person’s body becomes so accustomed to having this drug that he or she can’t function well without it.
Once a person is addicted, it’s very hard to stop taking drugs. Stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting (throwing up), sweating, and tremors (shaking). These sick feelings continue until the person’s body gets adjusted to being drug-free again.
Words to Know
Addiction (say: uh-dik-shun)—A person has an addiction when he or she becomes dependent on or craves a drug all of the time.
Depressant (say: dih-preh-sunt)—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. (See below.)
Narcotic (say: nar-kah-tik)—A narcotic dulls the body’s senses (leaving a person less aware and alert and feeling carefree) and relieves pain. Narcotics can cause a person 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 has dangerous side effects and is very addictive.
Stimulant (say: stim-yuh-lunt)—A stimulant speeds up a person’s body and brain. Stimulants, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, have the opposite effect of depressants. Usually, stimulants make a person feel high and energized. When the effects of a stimulant wear off, the person will feel tired or sick.
—© 1995- 2010. The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Reprinted with permission. To read the entire article, or other articles on kids health, visit http://kidshealth.org/kid/grow/drugs_alcohol/know_drugs.html.
Inside Your Medicine Cabinet
By Max and Juliet Bromme, KidsView Reporters
Have you ever had a cold and had to take cold or cough medicine? Have you ever had a headache and had to take Tylenol? Don’t take too much or you could get very sick, or even die!
We interviewed Dr. Robert Quigly, who is a pediatrician at Florida Hospital in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Quigly also teaches pediatrics to family-practice residents.
We talked to him about some common household medications like Tylenol, Aspirin, and Motrin. We found out that they can make you very sick if you don’t take them correctly. Tylenol is supposed to relieve headaches, pain, and all sorts of other things. Aspirin is one of the oldest pain relievers. Aspirin is closely related to Motrin, another pain medicine. Motrin helps pain, inflammations, swelling, and it lowers fever.
Dr. Quigley says that some of these medicines can have side effects if you take too much, or overdose. If you take two medicines together, there will be a strong chemical reaction that can be harmful. Motrin could increase bleeding, or injure the kidneys. Aspirin is the same as Motrin, only the side effects are worse. If you take too much Zyrtec, a common allergy medicine, you can get nervous or even have a seizure. The things that make these medicines so harmful are chemicals such as acetaminophen that are put in the medicines when they are made. These chemicals can make you very sick and even cause death if you don’t use the medicines properly!
Have you heard the saying “Too much of a good thing isn’t good?” That could be applied to medicine.
Medicines are supposed to make you feel better, not to make you sick, so be sure to follow their directions!