Drug Facts Introduction

Family members are often caught between caring about the person with addiction and struggling to cope with the situation. Constant worry is corrosive yet it is a common occurrence in families living with excessive alcohol/drug use and addiction.

Messages family members need to hear

While there is stress and strain for many families, there is also help and hope. There are messages that will help family members and that young people particularly, need to hear:

  • You’re not alone.
  • It’s not your fault.
  • It’s important to talk.
  • It’s okay to feel the way you do.
  • You deserve help and there are people who can help.
  • Treatment can be effective.
  • Children can live a good life even if their parent(s) continues to drink or use drugs.

This section deals with critical health issues related to the most commonly used and lethal illicit drugs. If you are concerned about someone you know or suspect someone may be affected by drug abuse, we urge you to consider supporting them to seek medical advice.

What is a Drug?

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 e.g. alcohol, caffeine and tobacco or illegal e.g. cannabis, extacy, cocaine, heroin etc.


A very broad definition of a drug would include "all chemicals other than food that affect living processes." If the effect helps the body, the drug is a medicine. However, if a drug causes a harmful effect on the body, the drug is a poison. The same chemical can be a medicine and a poison depending on conditions of use and the person using it. 

Another definition would be "medicinal agents used for diagnosis, prevention, treatment of symptoms and cure of diseases".

According to the data available, there appears to have been no change during the past 5 years with regards to the local ‘drugs of choice’ with cocaine and cannabis the most commonly used drugs in Gibraltar, although other common modern day drugs like Ketamine and MDMA or Ecstasy, are also known to be popular in the local market. 

Intelligence also suggests other known dangerous substances like ‘Legal Highs’, known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), are now also part of/or has entered the local drug market. 

( Legal Highs or NPS are pyschoactive drugs that contain various chemical ingredients, some of which are illegal while others are not. They produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy).

Abuse v Addiction

Many people often view the terms drug abuse and drug addiction as being the same, however this is not the case. Experts in the field are of the general opinion that drug abuse generally refers to the consumption of a drug which will harm an individual's mind and body. The use of the drug in this case is often uncontrollable and follows a powerful pattern. An example of an individual who suffers from drug abuse would be someone who would go to a party and participate or 'binge' in a harmful manner i.e binge drinking. In this case, the victim is clearly overusing a drug, which will often lead to harm, mentally or physically.

Drug addiction, which is frequently misconstrued as drug abuse, possesses a completely different meaning than it is generally thought to have. Drug addiction occurs when an individual processes the intense thought that they are unable to function properly, mentally (psychological dependence) or physically (physical dependence), without the use of a particular drug. Their mind and body develop a state of dependence for this drug. In many cases, when those who are dependent on a drug and are forced to quit for various reasons, they may experience withdrawal. Within this circumstance, the individual may experience intense physical pain and overwhelming cravings.

Drugs/Alcohol and the Effects on Crime

The effects of drugs and alcohol on our society are becoming more and more evident. Even though drugs and alcohol have been around for centuries, they are becoming increasingly popular. Along with major drugs like cocaine and other alternatives including "designer drugs', like MDMA/Ecstasy and GHB, these are becoming increasingly popular with the younger generation. Drugs and alcohol can have major effects on a person's life and of those around them.

 Today drugs are becoming increasingly popular and expensive, which usually instigates criminal activity. When it comes to drugs and alcohol there are many different crimes that are associated with them. Whether it's selling drugs, stealing to fund addiction or committing a crime whilst under the influence of drugs, they are all categorised as drug related crimes. As you will see, drugs and alcohol play a major role in the crime world.

It has been officially recognised in Gibraltar that the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol has had dramatic effects on the number of crimes that are committed. Statistics show that over 75% of crimes committed in Gibraltar are alcohol or drug related and often lead to custodial sentences. Offences such as domestic violence, driving whilst intoxicated, property offences, drug offences, public-order offences and offences of a violent nature have all increased in recent years. 

The use of these substances can negatively affect all aspects of a person’s life, impact on their family, friends and community and place an enormous burden on society. One of the most significant areas of risk with the use of drugs and alcohol is the connection with crime.