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Kids and Drugs

Your Child and Stimulants

Growing up and exploring limits.

from "your child and stimulants, ISBN 90-71187-53-5,

Netherlands Institute on Alcohol and Drugs, The Netherlands.


Trying is learning

Young people will try out everything: arrive home late, drink more alcohol than thirst dictates, challenge parents by ignoring rules and generally pay no attention to well meant advice. One moment they may reject any support the family may want to offer, the next moment they apparently invite it. Similarly, one moment they may wish to be left alone, the next they may look for warmth and comfort.

You as a parent are almost certain to regognise this type of behavior, if only because we all, at one stage, went through a phase like this. This kind of "testing" behavior does of course have a function. Young people have to try out different things in order to be able to determine their own position and their own behavior.

Anyone who is trying to discover what the limits are will have first have to go beyond them. There is therefore no great cause for alarm: for most adoloscents this is a normal step in their development toward independence. Most young people are most heavily influenced by the codes and norms that exist in their peer group, for instance in the way they dress. It may surprise you, but it is of the greatest importance to your child. It may make the difference between belonging to the group or not, and young people in particular want to be part of the group.

First experience of stimulants

Tobacco, alcohol, drugs and certain types of medicine can endanger a person's health. Even so, they are widely used because they provide a certain degree of enjoyment and pleasure as does gambling.

Such stimulants are very easy to get hold of. Most children go through a phase in which they want to try out that which is unknown to them. It is therefore highly likely that your child, also, will at one point be confronted with the choice; "shall I use this or shall I not use this." Your child is perfectly capable to decide responsibly for him or herself.

The crucial question is how this decision will be perceived by peers. If the decision matches the norms of the peer group, then there is nothing to worry about. It is when the decision is rejected that problems arise. For instance, when most members of the peer group are used to drinking a lot of alcohol it may be difficult for an individual child to say no to alcohol. Only very few children are able to resist this kind of peer pressure successfully and avoid placing themselves outside the group.

The freedom to choose

Every person has the right to make his own choices. Those who are growing up still have to learn to deal with that freedom, if only because their educators are not always present. Parents can of course offer guidance but at the end of the way young people have to be responsible for their own behavior. They therefore must explore the limits of their own freedom, including stimulants.

However,this is not all. There are a number of stimulants that are highly addictive (see table at end). It is obvious that such substances should never be offered to youngsters just to try them out. In this respect, a gambling machine can cause similar addiction.

Minimizing the risks

There is always a certain risk involved in trying out stimulants. This does not necessarily mean, however, that you should forbid their use just like that. If you do so your child will simply try them out when you are not present thus making it impossible for you to exert any kind of influence whatsoever. Amuch better way of trying to minimize possible risk is to monitor and guide your child as much as possible in this process of trying out.


The importance of knowledge

If you want to talk about stimulants effectively and sensibly it is important that you have the right basic knowledge about them. Knowledge can take away unfounded fear. Lots of people believe that smoking marijuana automatically leads to dependency on hard drugs. This is absolutely not the case. The word addiction, used in a general sense, often leads to all kinds of misunderstandings. People can also be addicted to food or work for instance. That is why the other term "dependency" is used, and there is a difference between physical dependency and mental dependency.

Physical dependency means that a person's body adjusts to a substance that the person uses intensively.

Without that substance the body no longer functions prperly. When the substance is withheld, different kinds of withdrawal systoms bnegin to surface such as fever or nausea.

The use of certain substances has to be progressive in order to achieve the same effect. This is what is called "tolerance". Physical dependency and tolerance are both determined to a large extent by the stimulant and not the user.

Mental dependency is entirely different. It is determined to a large extent by the user and not the stimulant. Mental dependency is a simple matter of "feeling good" something tastes "good" or makes you feel "good", so much so that you cannot do without it. The desire for the substance is very strong and completely dominates a person's thinking.

The tables below illustrate mental dependency, physical dependency, tolerance, short-term effects and long-term effects, based on intensive use of stimulants.

We warn you that this overview is necessarily concise and therfore not entirely complete.


mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency- yes

tolerance -yes

short term effect - person feels less inhibited (one or two glasses),

sedating ( more than one or two glasses) impairs sense of judgement, delayed

response, leads to over-confidence and indiffrence

long-term effects - serious damage to liver, brain, heart and stomach.

important - dangerous in combination with other stimulants

CAFFEINE (coffee, tea, cola)

mental dependency - small chance

physical dependency - small chance

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - enhances concentration, suppresses tiredness.

long-term effects - sleeplessness, restlessness

important - intensive use carries risk of cardio vascular diseases.

CANNABIS (marijuana, hash)

mental dependency - small chance

physical dependency - no

tolerance - no

short-term effects - relaxing, boosts emotions, impairs concentration and

response. High dose may lead to loss of consciousness.

Long-term effects - lung cancer

important - in combination with alcohol increases the effects of alcohol

considerably. Risk of overdose when eaten (spacecake)

COCAINE (including base & crack)

mental derpendency - high risk

physical dependency - no

tolerance - no

short-term effects - stimulating, surpresses tiredness and appetite

long-terms effects - loss of weight, sleeplessness, delusions

important - exhaustion, dpression after stopping. the smokable form of

cocaine is called crack or base. crack causes a much greater degree of

dependency than cocaine.


mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency - small chance

tolernace - yes

short-term effects - relaxing, sedating, indifference, overconfidence

long-terms effects - weight gain, inactivity, muscular weakness

important - in combination with alcohol increases the effects of alcohol


OPIATES (opium, morphine, heroin, methadone)

mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency yes

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - decreased awareness of pain, euphoria, reduced

awareness of fear, emotional numbness, constipation

long-term effects - indifference, reduced sexual activity

important - malnutrition, neglect of the body due to indiffrence


mental dependency - high risk

physical depency - no

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - increased ability to concentrate, tiredness and sleep

are surpressed. loss of appetite, overconfidence

long-term effects - restlessness, irritablity, loss of weight, fears and

suspicions, delusions and agressiveness

important - exhaustion o f the body. dangerous for people withncardio

vascular problems.


menatl depndency - high risk

physical depndency - yes

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - drowsiness, judgement and response affected, loss of

coordination and control

long term effects - loss of weight, irritablity, confused behavior

important - dangerous in combination with alcohol


mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency - no

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - slight drowsiness, loss of coordination, reduced sense

of judgement, loss of consciousness at high dose

long-term effects - brain-, liver-, kidney- and mucous-membrane damage.

important - not possible to trace overdose


mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency - slight

tolerance - yes

short-term effects - stimulating, tremor in the hands, coughing, reduced

temperature in extremities, irritation of eyes and nose

long-term effects - loss of fitness, cardio vascular diseases, bronchitis,

throat and lung cancer


mental dependency - no

physical dependency - no

tolerance - no

short-term effects - heightening of the emotions, visual hallucinations

long-term effects - mental disturbances (long lasting)

important - reduced sense of reality. increased sense of fear and can lead

to temporary insanity.


mental dependency - small chance

physical dependency - no

tolerance - yes, for stimulating effect. no, for social effect

short-term effects - stimulating, socially relaxing

long-term effects - not known

important - dangerous in combination with other stimulants. dangerous for

people with cardio vascular problems


mental dependency - high risk

physical dependency - rarely applicable

tolerance - not applicable

effects - nervousness, tension, sleeplessness, loss of concentration,

neglect of health.

important - high risk of financial problems.

from "your child and stimulants, ISBN 90-71187-53-5,

Netherlands Institute on Alcohol and Drugs, The Netherlands.

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