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Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs are usually produced (grown or manufactured) for sale on the street and used mainly for recreational purposes. They are often chemical products or other substances that when ingested, produce a mind-altering effect.

Cocaine/Crack Cocaine

"Cocaine/Crack Cocaine"

Cocaine comes from the leaves of a South American plant called the coca bush. Crack is a stronger and cheaper form of cocaine. It comes in the form of a white powder that is snorted or injected, or in the form of little crystals or rocks that are heated and then inhaled. This form is referred to as “freebase.” Those who share drug supplies such as needles, pipes, spoons and straws are at a higher risk of severe infections including HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Name How it Works Effects How to Tell if Someone has been Using

Cocaine/Crack Cocaine

Street Names: Blow, C, Charlie, Coke, Crack, Flake, Freebase,  Nose Candy, Rock, Snow, Stardust

Forms: Powder, crystals or rocks

Type: Stimulant
Cocaine is a strong stimulant that affects the brain and makes you very energetic and alert.
  • Euphoria
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Masks fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lowers inhibitions
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid heart and breathing rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chapped nostrils
  • Nose bleeding
  • Track marks
  •  Sniffling
  • Slurred speech
  • Rapid heart and breathing rate

Sources: Healthy Canadians – Cocaine/Crack Cocaine, RCMP Drug Identification Chart

Magic Mushroom

Magic Mushroom

The active component in mushrooms is psilocybin, which grows naturally in certain types of mushrooms. Psilocybin can also be made in illegal labs and sold on the street as a white powder, in tablets, or in capsules.

Magic mushrooms are often eaten raw or cooked. They may be steeped in hot water to make a mushroom "tea," or mixed with fruit juice to make a drink sometimes called a "fungus delight." Less often, the powdered mushrooms or psilocybin may be snorted or injected.

Name How it Works Effects How to Tell if Someone has been Using

Magic Mushrooms

Street Names: Mush, Schroom, Mushies, Fungus, Fungus Delight

Forms: Mushroom, brown powder

Type: Hallucinogen

Magic mushrooms are absorbed by the bloodstream and then travel to the brain where they alter one’s perception, and can lead to hallucinations.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Exaggerated reflexes
  • Paranoia/confusion
  • Loss of urinary control
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle weakness/ twitching

Sources: Healthy Canadians – Magic Mushrooms, RCMP Drug Identification Chart



Heroin is produced from morphine, which is a natural substance that derives from the opium poppy plant. While morphine is often used by doctors to treat pain and other illnesses, heroin is illegal. Pure heroin is a fine white crystalline powder with a bitter taste that can be smoked, snorted or injected.

The heroin sold on the streets varies in colour and consistency because it is often “cut” with other substances by those who sell it. By reducing the amount of pure heroin in a dose and mixing it with other substances, it allows the seller to sell more doses with less heroin and therefore gain a bigger profit. Its purity can range from 2% to 98%. In short, someone doesn’t really know what he/she is buying because there’s no way to tell for sure what is in the substance (Healthy Canadians). Those who share drug supplies such as needles, pipes, spoons and straws are at a higher risk of severe infections including HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Name How it Works Effects How to Tell if Someone has been Using


Street Names: Smack, Dope, H, Horse, Black Tar, Dust, Point

Forms: Fine, white crystalline powder, grainy brown substance, dark brown sticky gum

Heroin travels through the bloodstream to the brain. There it’s converted back into morphine, interacts with your brain and can change the way a person experiences pain.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of emotion
  • Headaches
  • Reduced appetite
  • Constipation
  • Itching of the skin
  • Decreased response to pain
  • Small (pinpoint) pupils
  • Slowed speech and movements
  • Track marks

Sources: Healthy Canadians – Heroin, RCMP Drug Identification Chart

Tolerance and Withdrawal

Chronic users of some illegal drugs can build up a tolerance to the drugs. In other words, their body becomes used to the drug and it requires a larger dose to achieve the same effects. As with many other drugs, a sudden stop in the use of the drug after a long period of use can cause the individual to experience withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms differ depending on the drug and how long the individual has been using. They can range from nausea/vomiting, to depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, weight loss, seizures, anxiety, tremors and muscle/bone pain.  For more information on withdrawal symptoms for specific drugs, visit:


The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act includes the sentencing and fines for each category of offence (selling, production, use, etc.) in accordance with certain drugs. Following the legalization of cannabis in Canada, the rules and standards that apply to cannabis are found in the Cannabis Act.

What You Can Do


If someone is asking you to try drugs, you can:

  • Respond with humor – say you don’t want to end up like “insert the latest celebrity to get arrested for a drug-related offence.”
  • Reference a health issue that may worsen (such as asthma or bronchitis).
  • Respond that real friends don’t make you do things you don’t want to.
  • Make up an excuse that you need to go, or that you have something to do tomorrow, so you don’t want to feel like garbage.
  • If you are really being pressured, focus on the things that mean a lot to you. Ask yourself how this decision could impact your life (in terms of getting into the college/university/apprenticeship you want, making the sports team you are trying out for, staying in the school band/other clubs, your relationship with your girlfriend/boyfriend or your parents etc.). Tell them that you would rather focus on those things rather than drugs. 

It’s never easy to deal with pressure to try drugs. If your friends won’t drop the issue, you may want to consider trying to find a new group; one that has similar interests to you. For more tips on how to deal with the pressure to try drugs, visit the National Anti-Drug Strategy Website

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be addicted to a drug or are currently abusing substances:

Talk to a school guidance counsellor, doctor, health care professional or a parent. If you do not feel comfortable talking with any of them, call the Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), a completely free and confidential resource for youth. Or, to find services available in your province/territory, check out: DrugsNot4me.


If you fear a youth you know may be addicted to drugs or is currently abusing substances – encourage them to get the help they need, immediately. To find services available in your province/territory, check out: DrugsNot4me.