Socialising, trying new things and having a good time are all things that most teenagers are interested in, and that makes sense, but that doesn't mean that you have to start smoking.
We all know it is highly addictive and can cause serious health issues! Saying no can seem hard (scroll to the bottom of the page for tips on this) and quitting can seem impossible - but it's not! Read on for tips...
What happens when you stop smoking?
Why do people start smoking?
We’re not saying that these are all the reasons why people start smoking, but these could be some of them:
Your friends have started smoking and you want to join in with them. It’s OK to say no – you are your own person and you can make your own choices.
Your mates all smoke on their break at work/outside at clubs and you want to hang out with them. This can feel so frustrating! Chances are there are other work colleagues who don’t head outside for a cigarette break? If you choose to hang outside with your mates whilst they’re smoking remember that passive smoking is still harmful. If you’re at a club – just keep dancing/get some real fresh air?
You feel stressed and feel like smoking helps. This is a myth – smoking can make you feel more stressed in the long term as you become addicted and when you can’t smoke you can feel ‘on edge’.
Risks caused by smoking
Appearance: Stained teeth, wrinkles (particularly around your lips) and ageing sooner than you’d like, yellow fingers, harder to stay in shape/exercise, constant coughing and sometimes wheezing.
Mental Health: When you’re addicted and you’ve not had a cigarette this can cause stress. Smoking also affects your taste (not enjoying food as much).
Health: Cancer – 90% of lung cancer is caused by smoking (in 2016 35,620 people died from lung cancer), emphysema – a type of lung disease where the tissue in your lungs breaks down, heart disease, asthma – if you already have asthma it makes it worse, not being able to get or sustain an erection (sometimes called impotence).
Financial: Smoking costs a fortune! If you smoke 5 cigarettes a day you are spending nearly £800 a year! That’s a pretty epic holiday. Use this calculator to find out how much you could save.
Social and romantic: Heading to designated smoking areas by yourself, having breaks at work and the taste of smoke to your partner – are all social barriers.
Even if you don’t smoke but you hang around with people who do, sometimes this can also cause health problems as you will still breathe in smoke, even if you don’t realise it. This is called passive smoking.
What is Vaping?
Vaping can be a good way to cut down and help quit smoking as there are less known risks with it, however scientists are still figuring out what the long term effects of vaping are as it’s so new!
One thing we do know is that some vape liquids have additional chemicals included to make them more appealing, such as Diacetyl – a chemical that is used in popcorn to give it a buttery taste. Inhaling this chemical can lead to scarring of the lungs known as ‘Popcorn lungs’ – named after hundreds of popcorn workers inhaled too much of this chemical and damaged their lungs.
What is Cannabis?
Pot, Weed, Skunk, Cro, Hash, Northern Lights, No.5, NL5 x Haze, Super Silver Haze, White Widow, White Rhino, White Shark, Cheese, Amnesia Haze…
Cannabis is a drug that comes from a bushy plant found wild in most parts of the world. In Western countries it is generally used as a relaxant and intoxicant.
Using cannabis causes a number of psychological and physical effects including diminished memory, attention, confusion and lack of motivation plus increased pulse rate, decreased blood pressure, bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, tiredness and occasionally, dizziness.
The main active chemical in it is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short).
Cannabis is SO common but it’s important to remember it is a drug and that it can cause harm. Find out how cannabis can affect your health here.
There is no such thing as fair trade or ethical cannabis – someone somewhere is making a profit. Check out this animation and get the facts.
Worried that someone might be being exploited? Know the signs to look out for and how to report it. Click Here.
Short term effects of Cannabis
If you’re not used to it, you may feel faint or sick.
It can make you sleepy and lethargic
It can affect your memory.
It makes some people feel confused, anxious or paranoid, and some experience panic attacks and hallucinations – this is more common with stronger forms of cannabis like skunk.
It interferes with your ability to drive safely.
Long term effects of Cannabis
If you use cannabis regularly, it can make you demotivated and uninterested in other things going on in your life, such as education, work or other interests.
Long-term use can affect your ability to learn and concentrate.
Your friendships, relationships and career prospects may also be affected.
If you stop using it, you may get withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability and restlessness.
Smoking heavily increases the risk for mental health issues such as anxiety.
Mental health and Cannabis
Regular cannabis use increases your risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. A psychotic illness is one where you have hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t really true).
Your risk of developing a psychotic illness is higher if:
You start using cannabis at a young age.
You smoke stronger types, such as skunk
You smoke it regularly.
You use it for a long time.
You smoke cannabis and also have other risk factors for schizophrenia, such as a family history of the illness.
Cannabis also increases the risk of a relapse in people who already have schizophrenia, and it can make psychotic symptoms worse. Find out more here.
Drinking too much?
People drink alcohol for many different reasons, to celebrate, to be social, to cope with sadness or mental illness, however fun it may seem at the time there are risks to be considered.
Remember there is NO safe limit for under 18’s. There are many reasons for this, such as, your brain is still developing and this could affect learning and memory. Alcohol is also linked to depression and early drinking could lead to serious alcohol related problems in the future.
Find out the law and recommended drinking guidelines for over 18’s here.
How do you know if you are drinking too much? Complete a quick confidential self-assessment here!
How do you know when you’re safe to drive? Use the morning after calculator to find out. Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit could lead to 6 months imprisonment, an unlimited fine and / or a driving ban for at least a year.
Drinking can be seen as a safe drug as it’s common and legal, but there are a lot of health risks associated with drinking. Get clued up here!
WHAT IS NORMAL?
There is no normal, everyone drinks different amounts and everyone is affected by it differently.
Using drugs (including alcohol) to cope with stress is a short term solution which only masks the problem, and can actually increase stress levels.
Find out how to cope with stress here.
Stressed about exams? Head on over to our #NOSTRESSSUCCESS campaign which helps identify stress levels during studying, ideas on how to cope, videos to help and information on what you can do after your GCSEs.
Exams and mental health
What are drugs?
This section will look at different categories of drugs, including medication type drugs, what used to be called ‘Legal Highs’, sex and wellbeing.
A drug is any substance (with the exception of food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body’s function either physically and/or psychologically. Drugs may be legal (e.g. alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) or illegal (e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin).
Some people become depressed, angry, aggressive, sleepy, unmotivated, paranoid, anxious or talkative when using drugs.
Drug use can also lead to social and emotional problems and negative effects on relationships with family and friends.
Drugs and wellbeing
Just because a drug is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe. Find out about legal drugs here.
Some people use drugs to try to make them feel better physically or psychologically, because they are addicted or because they enjoy it, and for various other reasons. If you need help with mental health and wellbeing speak to your GP, find out how RU-OK can help you.
Drugs and sex
Drugs (which includes alcohol) affect your judgement and lower your ability to make safe choices, this includes engaging in risky sexual behaviour.
Sexual Activity and Consent
Consent means agreeing to do something. When it comes to sex, this means someone agreeing to take part in a sexual activity. This includes any kind of sexual activity, like kissing or fondling. When people are drunk or high, they are more vulnerable to engaging in sexual activity without having given or received consent. Sexual activity, at whatever age without consent is against the law.
Only condoms can protect you from STI’s (and you can get these for free here). Check yourself out at the free, confidential clinics (want to know what getting tested is like? Honestly it’s SO easy – watch this video!!)
If you have had unprotected sex and want help/find out your options with emergency contraception and testing find out about the free drop-in centers and GP surgeries here.
Be prepared, get clued up and protect yourselves.
Feeling under pressure?
Socialising, trying new things and having a good time are all things that most teenagers are interested in, and that makes sense, but that doesn’t mean that you have to drink alcohol, take drugs and smoke. That can feel easier said than done if the friends and people around you are all doing these things, so what can you do?
Find ways of saying it’s not your thing that don’t leave you feeling isolated.
Try and mix with different people. There will be others out there who feel the same as you or who are more accepting of different ways of hanging out. Meet new people.
Brighton and Hove has lots of activities, groups and events for young people.
Thrill-seeking? Tried water-sports? Rock climbing? These have an added bonus of increased wellbeing and fitness points!
Remember – listen to your gut and if you feel uncomfortable in a situation it’s okay to say “no" or make excuses and step away… you can make your own choices!!
What young people say...
If you are thinking about trying drugs, there are some things you should think about. Drugs can be really dangerous so it’s very important to educate yourself on the effects drugs might have on you.
Learn about different drugs
Read up on different drugs and their effects here.
What is really in drugs?
Many drugs look, smell and taste similar, and it’s easy for dealers to sell something different than what they say it is. Therefore, even if the drugs are coming from a “trusted” source; you can never know for sure what’s in them unless you test them! You can buy testing kits online.
Try a small quantity of the drug first
Everyone has a different tolerance to different drugs, and just because a certain amount works for your friends or affects them in a certain way, it might feel stronger or affect you differently. Drugs, in particular MDMA (Ecstasy), has increased in strength over the last few years. For example the average pill in 2005 contained 80mg of MDMA whereas in 2018 MDMA pills averaged at 150 mg – which is nearly double the amount from 2005!
There are also pills containing over 250 mg of MDMA circulating, which makes taking pills very dangerous, especially if you’re not aware of their strength. Unless you get the pills tested, it will be impossible to know for certain how strong the drugs are, as different pills can contain different amounts. Designs of pills are also often copied, meaning you could have two pills that look the same but contain different drugs and amounts. A good rule is to never take a whole pill, or even half of one, but to break it down into smaller pieces so you can safely test the strength.
Drugs often aren’t pure, but cut with other drugs, meaning different drugs are mixed together in one pill or powder. Whatever the form, MDMA might be mixed with other drugs like speed for example, in which case it will affect you differently than pure MDMA. This is again why it’s important to test drugs so you know what is really in them.
Don’t mix drugs
If you mix drugs, including alcohol, the drugs can have a different effect on you. Some combinations of chemicals are deadly, so it’s important to research how different drugs react to each other and not take different kinds of drugs together. For example alcohol and cocaine are a dangerous mix, as the alcohol is a depressant and cocaine a stimulant. With these drugs having essentially the opposite effects, it’s hard to know how the mix of them will affect you and with the effects “weighing” up each other it’s easy to overdose. If you’re taking any sort of medication or anti-depressants remember that they can also react with drugs and alcohol, so make sure to do your research and avoid mixing anything.
Alcohol is also a drug
Although legal, remember that alcohol is also a drug and can be dangerous if you drink too much of it. Aim to drink water in between every alcoholic drink, as this will help you keep your intoxication levelled. You will be less likely to get too drunk and more likely not to have to deal with a hangover in the morning!
Dont underestimate marijuana
While Weed or Marijuana can seem to be the most harmless drug, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. While smoking it won’t instantly kill you, you can smoke too much of it and “whitey”, meaning you experience mild to severe nausea. The risk of experiencing this increases when you mix weed with alcohol. There is also lots of up and coming research around the effects of Marijuana on your mental health, and research suggests it could increase your risk of paranoia or anxiety. Always take care when smoking and consider if you have taken anything else, including alcohol, as this will affect your experience.
If someone gets sick from taking too much
If you or someone you know starts to feel ill or just a bit strange, find a place to calm down, sip water and seek medical assistance. Always say if you have taken something as this will make sure they can help you faster and you won’t get in trouble for seeking help.