The kids just don't want to give up

Thousands use 'E' every week and only suffer a headache, says Liz Hunt

Attempts to deter teenagers from taking drugs by focusing on the health risks are rarely successful. Apart from glue-sniffing and its occasionally fatal consequences, the evidence is minimal for seriously damaging effects on physical well-being by such drugs as cannabis, amphetamines, LSD and even Ecstasy.

There have been several high-profile deaths linked with the use of Ecstasy at raves and dance clubs, and between 40 and 50 deaths have been attributed to the drug since the late Eighties. However there are hundreds of thousands of people using "E" week after week without suffering anything more serious than a bad headache.

Teenagers who smoke cannabis, the most popular of illegal drugs in this age-group, run the same kind of risks as those who smoke cigarettes. Cannabis smoke contains several carcinogens and tends to be held in the lungs for longer than tobacco smoke, resulting in an increased deposit of tar. The World Health Organisation is investigating a link between the drug and cancer of the lungs, upper airways and voice-box after anecdotal reports of an increase in the number of younger patients with these conditions and a history of joint smoking.

The WHO will report later this year, but whatever its finding few believe it will put young people off cannabis. Intensive national and local anti- smoking campaigns have so far failed to combat the attractions of cigarettes despite incontrovertible evidence for their damaging effects.

Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, when used for months at a time, will suppress the appetite, and can damage teeth and bones by leaching out calcium. In the long-run they contribute to the user feeling run-down and washed out, and it can take several months to recover their weight and general well-being. Some youngsters, still flirting with grunge, would view these side-effects of amphetamine use as an attractive bonus.

Drug experts and youth workers are less blase about the possible mental health consequences of some of the drugs used by schoolchildren. There is some evidence that LSD, magic mushrooms and other psychoactive chemicals, can result in long-term problems, ranging from depression to more serious psychological disturbances.

New strains of cannabis now gaining popularity, such as "skunk", "northern lights" and "buds" have a much higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient, and border on the hallucinogenic. Their use is likely to be more widespread than that of LSD.

But evidence for drug use resulting in mental problems has so far been limited to isolated cases. The fundamental questions remain unanswered: can drugs actually cause mental problems in otherwise healthy individuals, or do they act as a trigger for an existing condition which might have manifested itself later in the user's life anyway?

Until there is more evidence, using health risks to scare would-be younger users is likely to be no more effective than wielding the moral arguments against drugs. Horror stories will have limited impact because for every death or injury associated with the drug, a teenager is likely to know several people who have been using it safely for months, even years.

Drug counsellors believe that to make any impact on the escalating drugs problem in schools, children have to be given accurate information which allows them to make informed choices. If a drug doesn't cause problems, then they should be told so.

There are other arguments against using illegal drugs; the consequences of a criminal conviction, the risk of incurring huge debts, and the effect on the user's future career choices if he or she is known to have used drugs. And these, in the event, are likely to be rather more effective.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam