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Drugs, Alcohol & Substances

There are many reasons why people use substances. Some experiment while others use them as a way of coping with difficulties. However, the substances themselves often become the difficulty whereas the original problem could have been solved or become easier over time.

Legal substances such as alcohol or tobacco, or illegal ones such as cannabis, ecstasy or cocaine can seriously affect your life, causing long-term damage or even death. When it gets out of control, the substance usually begins to control the user. The more of a substance a person uses, the more tolerance they build up so they need more to get the same effect. Aside from the cost, every area of a person's life can be affected, from health through to relationships, school or work.

Some illegal substances can have a serious impact on your mental health. Some can be physically addictive, while others cause a psychological addiction with the user thinking that they need to use the substance to feel okay. Sometimes this is why people might not want to stop using substances or find that it is much harder to stop than they thought.

Tobacco and alcohol are legal substances used by thousands of people everyday, however both of these substances have very serious effects on your health.

Smoking is currently the single largest cause of preventable cancer deaths in the UK. A study carried out in 2010 found that just under 35,000 people died from lung cancer alone. The more you smoke the more at risk you are, only one or two cigarettes a day can lead to cancer, with lung and heart disease also common amongst smokers.

Smoking can also affect your appearance. Aside from the bad smell clinging to your hair and clothes, smoker’s skin can age quicker, it thins the skin and causes wrinkles. Your fingers might turn yellow as well as your teeth, and smokers have a weaker immune system, leading to more coughs and colds than non-smokers.

The benefits of quitting are huge, you’ll cut your risk of cancer and other diseases, breathing will become easier and your sense of taste and smell will get better. You'll also have a lot more money in your pocket - smoking a packet of 10 cigarettes a day, costs around £1,350 a year!

Drinking alcohol in moderation isn't likely to be harmful; in fact some studies suggest drinking a glass of wine a day has some health benefits.

However drinking large quantities of alcohol in one go (binge drinking) or regularly can seriously damage your health. As many as 33,000 people in the UK die from alcohol-related causes every year. The health problems that are associated with drinking heavily include liver damage and disease, strokes, heart disease kidney damage and being involved in accidents.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions, can make people feel more sociable and affects judgement; this means that when drunk you might do things that you wouldn't normally do and later regret.

It is illegal to buy alcohol and cigarettes if you are under 18 years of age in the UK.

The following pages and linked sites will give you detailed information about drugs, alcohol and a range of substances, detailing their effects and whether they are legal or illegal. Use the information to find out as much as you can to make your own decisions and never feel that you have to do something to fit in with a crowd, it can help to answer your questions and concerns, you can also access help lines, professional support and advice.

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