How do I clear up methacne

Drugs: Any idea what you're using?

Have you ever put a cardboard under your tongue? Do you know that there is a lot more talk about crystal meth than that this horror drug is actually used in Germany? Which psychoactive substance is the deadliest? ZEIT ONLINE helps your drug knowledge on the jumps, because millions of people get intoxicated, whether with alcohol, e-cigarettes or even illegal cannabis or ecstasy. Is that unhealthy? Definitely! Is that why people don't do it, do they deter bans? In most cases not. The best health tip is to steer clear of all drugs.

The ZEIT-ONLINE drug report shows, however, that this advice falls short. Around 36,000 readers have just told us that they use all kinds of psychoactive substances now and then or often. You are not alone, an estimated 247 million people worldwide use prohibited drugs, but very few - almost 12 percent - develop severe and permanent problems such as addiction and chronic diseases, and 0.08 percent kill directly (World Drug Report, 2016).

Sven Stockrahm

Head of Knowledge and Editor Health & Digital, ZEIT ONLINE

to the author page

This does not include alcohol and tobacco as they are legal in many countries. Together, around 10 million users around the world die each year from the two most widespread drugs. It is believed that more than two billion people regularly drink alcoholic beverages, and that more than one billion people smoke.



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Any drug, whether legal or illegal, is harmful to the body. But sometimes there are ways to make yourself less vulnerable. ZEIT ONLINE has therefore summarized important information on the most common drugs that you can sort yourself, for example according to substances with a high addictive factor or herbal ingredients (further sources can be found under the glossary). The glossary gathers the knowledge of experts, prevention researchers, official bodies and from survey results. This cannot replace individual addiction counseling, and anyone who owns, buys or sells prohibited substances can be liable to prosecution (Contact points for emergencies and drug issues can be found here). But there is an insight into the most dangerous substances:

Drugs in the check - a glossary

  • Cannabis: The banned bulk drug and medicine for a few

    • Consumption: Hash (hemp resin pressed into lumps) and weed / marijuana (dried leaves, flowers) are mostly smoked as a joint. Cannabis is also consumed through hookahs and vaporizers or mixed in with biscuits, cakes and beverages.
    • Effect: Cannabis can stimulate with the active ingredient THC, with the substance CBD it can have a calming effect. Hemp mostly relaxes, changes the perception of the senses, time and space, increases the appetite, depending on the mood, happy or sad moods intensify.
    • Dangers: Consumers can become confused, have anxiety attacks, panic attacks, feel sick, and have trouble concentrating. People who are inclined to do so can suffer from psychosis in the long term. The drug is not deadly.
    • Distribution: A little more than three million 18- to 64-year-olds took cannabis in 2015. No banned drug is more common in Germany. 9.7 percent of adolescents and 34.5 percent of young adults have experience with hemp.

    Addiction factor: Consumers do not become physically addicted, but can be psychologically dependent. Occasional consumption usually has no negative consequences.

    Hints: In Germany, cannabis has been allowed to be prescribed by doctors to seriously ill patients since 2017, who are no longer helped by medication. Medicinal hemp can relieve pain, for example in people with multiple sclerosis. The health insurance companies usually cover the costs.

    No other prohibited drug is used more frequently. This is not healthy, especially young people who consume a lot are more harmful to weed and hash. There is no such thing as safe or even healthy consumption. If you want to avoid harm, you shouldn't even start using cannabis. However, there are tips on how dangers can at least be reduced, from people who have experience with it and from addiction experts from the Global Drug Survey:

    • Do not mix or smoke with tobacco: Tar and other toxins go directly to the lungs, which increases the risk of cancer. The nicotine in tobacco can also be addictive.
    • Vaping instead of smoking: Vaping weed is probably less damaging to the airways. At least there are fewer chemicals. With vaporizers, however, the content of the intoxicating hemp ingredient THC is often higher and the high is more difficult to control.
    • Leave the car and bike behind: cannabis changes perception, you have problems reacting quickly. The risk of accidents is high. It's better to walk, take the bus and not be on your own.
    • Know what's inside: Sometimes cannabis is stretched or contaminated with toxic substances like lead. Growing yourself could help, but it is forbidden. The basic rule is: Always dose small amounts first.
    • Don't start in the morning: You get used to cannabis quickly. Without being intoxicated, you are more productive and can manage things better, even at school, university or at work.
    • Keeping control: Many problems arise from too high a dosage.
    • Taking breaks: Going without a month or more clarifies the importance of hemp in life. Those who rarely consume can get along well.
    • Cleaning bongs and pipes: tar and germs don't stand a chance.
    • Eating cannabis: Mixing cannabis with food or drinks means less risk of lung damage. The intoxication can last longer, often delayed by an hour, and is more difficult to control. Dosage very low.
    • Don't inhale: If you smoke weed, you don't have to take a deep breath to get high. Inhaling only does additional harm: more tar is deposited in the lungs.
    • Avoid highly potent cannabis: Participants in the Global Drug Survey, the largest drug survey on the net, often describe weed with a high THC content (skunk) as particularly unpleasant. It leads to memory lapses and paranoia more often.
  • Alcohol: the most popular and therefore the most dangerous drug

    • Consumption: Alcohol is mainly consumed in the form of wine, beer, sparkling wine, schnapps and mixed drinks.
    • Effect: Those who are drunk react uninhibited and less anxious, relaxed, more willing to talk and take risks, and lose control of movements and language.
    • Dangers: Alcohol is a cell poison, too much of it damages the brain, organs like the liver and the nervous system. In the long term, personality can change. Binge drinking can be fatal.
    • Distribution: Two thirds of all adolescents and around 95 percent of all young adults have had alcohol experiences. Around 37 million of the 18 to 64 year olds stated in 2015 that they had drunk in the last 30 days.

    Addiction factor: Very high. 1.3 million people in Germany are addicted to alcohol, 9.5 million regularly overdo it. Around 74,000 people die in Germany every year from complications and, to a lesser extent, from overdoses.

    Hints: Alcohol is the only drug for which there are official tips for low-risk consumption: Men should drink a maximum of half a liter of beer or two glasses of wine (0.2 liters) every day - women no more alcohol than in a small glass of beer (0 , 25 liters) or wine (0.1 liters). The problem: Many people consciously drink more because they want the intoxication. Surveys among drug users, such as the Global Drug Survey, are aimed at these people and provide tips on how they can control their drinking behavior in such a way that it does them as little harm as possible:

    • At least two days off a week: Of course, it's not a good idea to drink excessively on the other five days.
    • Eat first, then drink: those who are full do not get drunk as quickly. The risk of throwing up later and inflaming the gastric mucous membranes also decreases.
    • Take a two-week break several times a year: Drinks shouldn't play a major role in life.
    • Drink water: Alcohol actually removes water from the body. That is also the reason for the hangover the next day.
    • Avoid high-proof: Schnapps, vodka, gin or rum make you drunk very quickly. It is not uncommon for you to miss the moment when it was too much.
  • Tobacco: No drug leads to more deaths

    • Consumption: The dried leaves of the tobacco plant are mostly smoked, for example as a cigarette, in a pipe or water pipe. Tobacco is also available for sniffing and chewing. The active ingredient nicotine also gets into the body via the e-cigarette.
    • Effect: The nicotine in tobacco wakes you up, stimulates and slightly lifts your mood.
    • Dangers: Up to 110,000 Germans die every year as a result of their tobacco consumption. Nicotine is a powerful neurotoxin and triggers withdrawal symptoms. Smoking promotes bronchitis and asthma and can cause cancer, especially of the lungs, throat and larynx.
    • Distribution: 14.6 million of the 18- to 64-year-olds (29 percent) stated in 2015 that they had smoked in the last 30 days, three million smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day. Young people keep their distance: 79 percent of 12 to 17 year olds have never smoked.

    Addiction factor: Nicotine is physically and psychologically addicting. Doctors assume that around half of all smokers are addicts. This means that nicotine has a similarly high addictive potential as heroin, only crack (cocaine) makes even more users dependent.

    Hints: In addition to nicotine, smoke and the burning of ingredients such as tar are particularly unhealthy and are directly harmful to the lungs. The e-cigarette is an alternative, but the dosage of nicotine can be problematic and lead to addiction more quickly (see also e-cigarette in this glossary).

  • Caffeine (coffee / energy drinks): The most commonly used psychoactive substance

    • Consumption: Coffee is drunk worldwide, the roasted and ground beans of the coffee plant contain caffeine. The active ingredient is also found in tea, energy drinks, lemonades and is also sold in tablet form.
    • Effect: In small amounts, caffeine wakes you up, improves concentration and mood and stimulates the intestines.
    • Dangers: Too much caffeine leads to palpitations, difficulty concentrating, inner restlessness, tremors, sleep disorders and anxiety. Symptoms of poisoning can show up from ten cups of coffee. Extreme amounts (100 cups of coffee) can kill a person.