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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 (for example, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) or illegal (for example, cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin).

The experience that a person has when using drugs will be affected by the:

Individual: Mood, physical size, gender, personality, expectations of the drug experience, whether the person has food in his/her stomach and whether other drugs have been taken.

Drug: The amount used, how it is used and the strength and purity of the drug.

Environment: Whether the person is using it with friends, on their own, in a social setting or at home, at work, before or while driving.

People use drugs for a variety of reasons. Young people often use drugs for the same reasons that adults do.

Some of these include:

  • To have fun
  • To relax and forget problems
  • To gain confidence
  • To socialise
  • Out of curiosity
  • As a form of escapism
  • To lessen inhibitions
  • To remove personal responsibility for decisions
  • To celebrate or commiserate
  • To relieve boredom and stress
  • Self-medication to cope with problems. Friends, parents, older brothers and sisters and the media can also have some influence over a young person's decision to use drugs.

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