Illicit Drugs
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June 2019
Substance Use Snapshot:
Illicit Drugs

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60% of illicit drug users in Canada are between the ages of
15 – 20 years old

3% or close to 990,000 Canadians reported using at least one illegal drug other than cannabis during the previous 12 months 

Illegal drugs most often used: cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, and heroin

also known as mush, magic, shrooms, mushrooms and fungus delight

Magic Mushrooms have been used since ancient times. The natural, active ingredient in magic mushrooms is a chemical called psilocybin. It is a hallucinogen and produces similar effects to LSD. Its main effects are hallucinations and an altered state of consciousness. Effects appear within 20 minutes and can last about 6 hours.
Magic mushrooms may be sold as either dried whole mushrooms or as a brown powder, and the whole mushroom can be eaten raw or cooked, or drunk by steeping in hot water for tea or mixing with fruit juice.  When made into a powder, the mushrooms can be sniffed up the nose (snorted).
The active ingredient, psilocybin, can also be made in illegal labs. It is sold either as a white powder, or in tablets or capsules.
Short term effects are hallucinations, and people may feel happy, creative, and experience a sense of mental and emotional clarity. However there can also be paranoia, anxiety, muscle weakness or twitching and a loss of urinary control.

Longer term effects have not been studied, although there is a link to psychosis, and there is little evidence that people can become physically or psychologically dependent. 

Cocaine is also known as C, rock, snow, coke or blow

Cocaine and crack are powerful stimulants and highly addictive. Their effects on people‘s physical and mental health can be serious and sometimes fatal. 

It is made from the leaves of the South American coca bush. The leaves are processed into a fine, white powder that can be sniffed into the nose, or dissolved in water and injected into veins.
CRACK is also known as rock or freebase and is the smokable form of cocaine. The cocaine powder is melted and compressed into rocks, which are then smoked. Crack reaches the brain faster, and in higher doses is more addictive that regular cocaine that is snorted.
Cocaine changes brain chemistry so people feed a sense of euphoria. 
Short term effects can include:
- Feeling happy and mentally alert
- Having more energy and self-confidence
- Paranoid thinking
- Panic
-Temporary decrease in need for food and sleep
- Quicker startle reflexes and muscle twitches
The most serious short term side effect of cocaine or crack is the possibility of an overdose, which can be lethal.

The amount of cocaine needed to cause an overdoes varies, and the possibility of accidental overdose is higher when people don‘t know exactly what drug they are taking or how strong it is, use other drugs along with cocaine, or use the drug in a manner that enters into their system more quickly.  
Longer term use can cause:
- Extreme changes in mood
- Erratic or violent behavior
- Depression or paranoia
- Collapsed or inflamed lungs
- Nose and sinus problems (if regularly snorting)
- Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms

also known as E, XTC, X or Dove

Ecstasy is often consumed at parties or raves and has stimulant properties like amphetamine and can also cause hallucinations. People who use this drug often believe that ecstasy is a safe drug, but it can have short and longer term effects. 

Ecstasy is most often swallowed in tablets or capsules. Many pills do not have any ecstasy in them at all, and makers often use cheaper ingredients such as cornstarch, soaps or detergents as filler.  Common substitutions for active ingredients include LSD, ketamine, cocaine or methamphetamines. 

Ecstasy’s effects are not immediate; it takes about an hour to reach the brain and effects may last from 3 – 6 hours, although some effects may last up to 1 week or longer after the drug is taken.  However, physical dependence is rare. 

Short term effects of ecstasy include:
- Euphoria, empathy and energy
- Decreased appetite
- Panic attacks, paranoia or hallucinations
- Potential for serious dehydration, and raised temperature

Longer term use can cause:
- Mental confusion and sleeplessness
- Memory problems
- Chronic exhaustion

Ecstasy can be addictive and people can become tolerant, and experience withdrawal symptoms.

also known as meth, chalk, crank, crystal meth or ice

Methamphetamine is a powerful man-made stimulant that is only produced illegally. It is often sold as a white powder that people sniff up their nose, although it can also be mixed with water and injected, swallowed as tablets or smoked as crystals. 

Short term effects (generally last 6 – 8 hours) include:
- Higher energy and less fatigue
- Rapid flow of ideas and speech
- Sense of great confidence
- Twitching muscles

Longer term effects:
Can affect all body systems, including brain damage
- Anxiety and depression when drug wears off
- Potential for psychosis, paranoia and violence
- Severely damaged skin and poor nutrition
- Intense withdrawal symptoms

The stage of methamphetamine use when a person 'comes down' from a drug-induced state is commonly known as “tweaking”.  As the effects wear off the person feels a powerful combination of:  drug craving, anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability aggression and possible paranoia.

They can be very dangerous to themselves and for those around them, as cravings can be extremely intense.  

also known as special K, cat tranquilizers, vit K, kit kat or blind

Ketamine is a dissociative drug, meaning it creates a sense of detachment of the mind from the body. It also alters how sight and sound are experienced. 

GHB has similar effects and is also known as liquid ecstasy, G, grievous bodily harm, scoop and easy lay

Ketamine and GHB are odourless and colourless and their effects can make it hard for a person to resist sexual assault, so they are often considered a 'date rape' drug.

They can be used for medical purposes, in a liquid that is injected, and when sold illegally, are often in powder form that can be snorted, smoked, dissolved in liquid and injected or mixed with a drink and drunk.

Short term effects include: 
- Vivid dreams or hallucinations
- Inability to move or speak
- Confusion and loss of coordination
- Overdose is also a risk in large quantities

Long term effects for regular users may include urinary and bladder problems.

It is unclear whether ketamine or GHB is addictive; however, abruptly stopping use can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
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also known as dope, dust, junk, smack and horse

Heroin is a depressant made from morphine, a substance that comes from the opium poppy.  The drug produces a pleasurable and relaxed sensation, but can also have many negative mental and physical side effects and an overdose can be fatal.

Pure heroin is a fine, white, bitter tasting powder, and it is frequently mixed with other substances such as sugars, starch or quinine.  When sold on the street it may vary in colour, consistency and purity, depending on how it is made.  
It can be consumed in several ways including sniffed, smoked, dissolved in water and injected into a vein or muscle.  It generally affects a person within seconds and lasts anywhere from 45 seconds to a few minutes, and a period of tranquility or sedation may last up to an hour. 

To avoid withdrawal symptoms, individuals using heroin often feel the need to use every 6 – 12 hours.  Physical dependence can begin within weeks of regular use.  The risk of a heroin overdose is high as it is difficult to gauge the strength of the dose and it is often mixed with fentanyl which greatly increases and varies the potency of the dose.  


1.  Avoid, Delay, Reduce Use
2.  Don’t Use Alone
3.  Carry Naloxone, if around       Opioids: 

Toward the Heart

Greater Victoria School District Substance Use Philosophy and Goals
The Greater Victoria School District is committed to providing safe and healthy learning environments for all students. As part of our approach, we have been focusing on mental health and substance use topics to help us promote well-being in our schools.
Substance use is a complex topic that often highlights varied philosophies, myths, and a great deal of fear.
 The research shows us that early interventions, particularly around critical thinking and decision making, has an impact on delaying use in youth. As well, open dialogue with adults, intentionality around attachment, and a focus on the factors that contribute to substance use, as opposed to the actual substances, also prevent, delay and reduce substance use in our students.
Our goal is to create a more cohesive, systematized substance use plan focusing on social emotional learning, that includes our youth and schools, community partners, and families. We strive for a shared vision, common language and consistent messaging over time, in order to support positive youth culture and a healthy perspective on substance use and mental health.
The legal age in B.C for consumption of alcohol and cannabis is 19 years old.
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