Research indicates that cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK and the illegal drug most likely to have been tried by young people (homeoffice.gov).
People who use illegal drugs usually start with tobacco and alcohol and often continue with cannabis or weed in some form. As with alcohol (see ‘Alcohol: the first time’) early experiments with cannabis are often in the mid teenage years. The first time often requires deception, planning and taking advantage of an empty house when someone’s parents were away.
First reactions to cannabis covered a wide range: people we talked to described everything from no noticeable effect, through to enjoyable sensations and giggles, to feelings of such fear and paranoia that one very young girl ended up in A&E.
Girls who hung around with older boys were sometimes introduced to cannabis, and other drugs, particularly early. Michelle’s best friend knew some ‘older lads’ who gave her a spliff, which she smoked with her friends.
It is curiosity that seems to have encouraged most of these young people to try cannabis and to find out ‘what it was like’. While trying cannabis could help them ‘to fit in with friends’ none of the young people we talked to described it as simple peer pressure. And, of course, not every teenager who was offered cannabis accepted.
Others, who enjoyed the effect of feeling ‘relaxed’ and ‘chilled’ had often continued to use cannabis.
Young people who had started smoking cigarettes when they were in their early teens sometimes described smoking cannabis as an unremarkable or even ‘natural’ event. In contrast.
Young people’s use of illegal substances and alcohol abuse are hot topics in medical circles and in the media. Official statistics and social survey results suggest that the use of illegal drugs among young people worldwide has increased and the debate centres on the potential health effects of these drugs, how they affect the brain and their psychological effects (see parliament.uk).
To find out more about drugs, including how they are classified go to Talk to Frank.