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Alcohol -- including beer, wine, and hard liquor -- is the most commonly used and widely abused psychoactive drug in the country.
Alcohol is the most widely tried drug among teenagers; over 50% of 8th graders and 8 out of 10 12th graders report having tried alcohol.
Many teenagers report binge drinking -- in 1995, 30% of 12th graders surveyed reported binge drinking (5+ drinks in a sitting) in the previous 2 weeks. Even young teens report irresponsible use of alcohol -- 25% of 8th graders have been drunk.
When a person drinks alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and goes to all the tissues. The effects of alcohol are dependent on a variety of factors, including a person's size, weight, age, and sex, as well as the amount of food and alcohol consumed. The disinhibiting effect of alcohol is one of the main reasons it is used in so many social situations. Other effects of moderate alcohol intake include dizziness and talkativeness; the immediate effects of a larger amount of alcohol include slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea, and vomiting. Alcohol, even at low doses, significantly impairs the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely. Low to moderate doses of alcohol can also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including domestic violence and child abuse. Hangovers are another possible effect after large amounts of alcohol are consumed; a hangover consists of feeling headachy, nauseated, thirsty, dizzy, and tired.
Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction (alcoholism). Sudden cessation of long term, extensive alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Long-term effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol, especially when combined with poor nutrition, can lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and liver. In addition, mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants may suffer from mental retardation and other irreversible physical abnormalities. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other children of becoming alcoholics.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy. It is a "downer" that affects the brain's pleasure systems and interferes with the brain's ability to perceive pain. Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user preference and the purity of the drug. Heroin can be:
- Injected into a vein ("mainlining")
- Injected into a muscle
- Smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette
- Inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as "chasing the dragon"
- Inhaled as powder via the nose
Heroin is a fast-acting drug, especially when injected or smoked. Injected heroin reaches the brain in 15 to 30 seconds; smoked heroin reaches the brain in 7 seconds. The high from heroin is experienced as intense pleasure. Once a person begins using heroin, they quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and need more and more to get the same effects.
Certain types of naturally occurring mushrooms contain hallucinogenic chemicals -- psilocybin and psilocin. These mushrooms are generally grown in Mexico and Central America and have been used in native rituals for thousands of years.
Dried mushrooms contain about 0.4% psilocybin and only trace amounts of psilocin. Hallucinogenic effects can be obtained by ingesting 4-8 milligrams of the active hallucinogenic chemicals or about 2 grams of the dried mushrooms. The mild hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms last about six hours.
Mushrooms, which have a strong bitter taste, can be eaten or brewed into a tea. The effects of mushrooms are unpredictable each time they are used due to varying potency, the amount ingested, and the user's expectations, mood, surroundings, and frame of mind.
Once ingested, mushrooms generally cause feelings of nausea and other physical symptoms before the desired mental effects appear. The high from using mushrooms is mild and consists of distorted perceptions. Effects may include different perceptions of stimuli like touch, sight, sound and taste. The effects are similar to LSD but milder.
Some users order kits with the spores and grow their own in a closet or basement. Others look for naturally growing mushrooms, running the danger of mistakenly selecting poisonous mushrooms, which can cause death or permanent liver damage within hours of ingestion. Some dealers sell regular grocery store mushrooms laced with LSD or PCP as magic mushrooms.
Amphetamines are stimulants or "uppers" which are usually made synthetically in unsafe illegal labs. The effects -- stimulation of the central nervous system; a sense of well-being and high energy; a release of social inhibitions; and feelings of cleverness, competence, and power -- are similar to the effects of cocaine but last longer, from 4 to 6 hours depending on dose and potency.
The term "amphetamine" is used to refer to a large class of stimulants: amphetamines (black beauties, white bennies), dextroamphetamines (dexies, beans), and methamphetamines (crank, meth, crystal, speed). The different types of amphetamines have such similar chemical make-ups and effects that even experienced users may not be able to tell which drug they have taken.
Amphetamines can be taken orally, injected, smoked, or snorted. Injecting or smoking leads to an immediate intense sensation -- a "rush" -- that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use produces a milder euphoria, a high, but not a rush. Amphetamines taste extremely bitter, and injection and snorting are painful.
"Ice," a slang term for smokeable methamphetamine with a translucent rock-like appearance, is a highly addictive and toxic form of amphetamine.
Chronic amphetamine use produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Extremely violent and erratic behavior is frequently seen among chronic abusers of amphetamines.
"Ice" is a slang term for a very pure, smokeable form of methamphetamine. It is an extremely addictive stimulant. Its effects are similar to those of cocaine but longer-lasting. "Ice" can cause erratic, violent behavior among its users. The nickname "ice" is derived from its translucent rock-like appearance.
The "ice" high can last anywhere from 2 to 24 hours depending on how much is used. After taking "ice," users (especially those binging) experience a crash or depression that can last as long as 3 days.
Rohypnol is the brand name for a drug called Flunitrazepam, which is a sedative that is 10 times more powerful than Valium. Rohypnol is not legally available for prescription in the United States, but is legal in over 60 countries worldwide for treatment of insomnia. The drug has gained popularity in the last few years as a recreational drug called "roofies" among young people, especially in the South and Southwest. The drug creates a sleepy, relaxed, and drunk feeling that lasts 2 to 8 hours and a single dose costs from $1.50 to $5.00.
"Roofies" are frequently used in combination with alcohol and other drugs. They are sometimes taken to enhance a heroin high, or to mellow or ease the experience of coming down from a cocaine or crack high. Used with alcohol, "roofies" produce disinhibition and amnesia.
"Roofies" have recently gained a reputation as the "date rape" drug. Girls and women around the country have reported being raped after being involuntarily sedated with "roofies," which were often slipped into their drink by an attacker. The drug has no taste or odor so the victims don't realize what is happening. About 10 minutes after ingesting the drug, the woman may feel dizzy and disoriented, simultaneously too hot and too cold, and nauseated. She may experience difficulty speaking and moving, and then pass out. Such a victim will have no memories of what happened while under the drug's influence.
Cocaine is a drug extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. It is a potent brain stimulant and one of the most powerfully addictive drugs.
Cocaine is distributed on the street in two main forms: cocaine hydrochloride is a white crystalline powder that can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected; and "crack" is cocaine hydrochloride that has been processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water into a freebase cocaine. These chips, chunks, or rocks can be smoked.
Cocaine may be used occasionally, daily, or in a variety of compulsive, repeated-use "binges". Regardless of how it is used, cocaine is highly addictive. Crack cocaine and injected cocaine reach the brain quickly and bring an intense and immediate high. Snorted cocaine produces a high more slowly.
Cocaine can produce a surge in energy, a feeling of intense pleasure, and increased confidence. The effects of powder cocaine last about 20 minutes, while the effects of "crack" last about 12 minutes. Heavy use of cocaine may produce hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, insomnia, and depression.
Cocaine's effects are short lived, and once the drug leaves the brain, the user experiences a "coke crash" that includes depression, irritability, and fatigue.
Inhalants are ordinary household products which are inhaled or sniffed by children to get high. There are hundreds of household products on the market today which can be misused as inhalants. Inhalants are frequently abused; over one in five 8th graders has used inhalants.
Examples of products kids abuse to get high include model airplane glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, hair spray, gasoline, the propellant in aerosol whipped cream, spray paint, fabric protector, air conditioner fluid (freon), cooking spray and correction fluid. These products are sniffed, snorted, bagged (fumes inhaled from a plastic bag), or "huffed" (inhalant-soaked rag, sock, or roll of toilet paper in the mouth) to achieve a high. Inhalants are also sniffed directly from the container.
Like anesthesia, inhalants slow down the body's functions. The user may feel stimulated, disoriented, out-of-control, giddy, light-headed, and even display violent behavior. Inhalant abuse can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system, leading to impaired mental and physical functioning. Because inhalants can starve the body of oxygen, they can lead to unconsciousness and death, commonly referred to as sudden sniffing death (SSD), even if used only once. Some kids use inhalants by spraying the substance into a plastic bag, paper bag or balloon and holding the bag over their nose and mouth, putting them at risk of suffocation.
A heavy user of inhalants may find that he or she needs more and more to get high. These heavy users are most at risk for brain damage.
Special K is ketamine hydrochloride, a drug widely used as an animal tranquilizer by vets in pet surgery. Special K is made by drying ketamine (often in a stove) until it turns from a liquid to a powder. It is a powerful hallucinogen.
A dose of Special K costs $20 to $40. The drug is usually snorted but is sometimes sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked. Special K is frequently used in combination with other drugs, such as Ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
Users sometimes call the high caused by Special K "K hole" and describe profound hallucinations that include visual distortions and a lost sense of time, sense and identity. The high lasts anywhere from a half hour to 2 hours.
Ketamine was first synthesized by a pharmaceutical company in the early 1960s to be used as an anesthesic for surgeries. Special K, or powdered ketamine, emerged as a recreational drug in the 1970s and was known as "Vitamin K" in the underground club scene in the 1980s. It resurfaced as "Special K" in the 1990s in the rave scene.
Designer drugs are a class of drugs often associated with "raves," all-night underground dance parties frequented by teens and college students. Designer drugs are modifications of restricted drugs, made by underground chemists in order to create street drugs that are not specifically listed as controlled (i.e., restricted) substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration. A designer drug is created by changing the molecular structure of an existing drug or drugs to create a new substance. An example of a designer drug is Ecstasy. The street names of designer drugs vary according to time, place, and manufacturer. Because designer drugs are created in clandestine laboratories by unlicensed and untrained amateurs, they can be extremely dangerous. In many cases, the designer drugs are more dangerous and more potent than the original drug.
The pharmaceutical drug, fentanyl, was originally created for anesthesia during surgeries. Designer drugs derived from fentanyl are extremely potent and have a strong potential for overdose. They have been associated with hundreds of unintentional deaths in the United States.
Fentanyl-based designer drugs' effects are short lived, about 30 to 90 minutes. Sometimes fentanyl-derived designer drugs are injected. Increasingly the drug is sniffed or smoked, in part to avoid the risk of getting HIV via infected needles.
Fentanyl-derived designer drugs are extremely dangerous. The respiratory paralysis that may occur is so sudden after drug administration that often victims who injected the drug are found with the needle still in their arm.
LSD is the most common hallucinogen. LSD was discovered in 1938 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, and is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD is classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which includes drugs with no medical use and/or high potential for abuse.
LSD, commonly referred to as "acid," is sold on the street in tablets, capsules, or occasionally in liquid form. It is odorless and colorless, with a slightly bitter taste, and is usually taken by mouth. Usually LSD is sold as "blotter acid," where the drug is imprinted on small, colorful sheets of paper. A single dose costs around $4-$5 and the effects can last from 3 to 12 hours.
Users refer to their experience with LSD as a "trip," and to acute adverse reactions as a "bad trip." The user may experience panic, confusion, suspicion, anxiety, and loss of control. Flashbacks can occur even when use has ceased.
Most users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop its use over time. LSD is not considered to be an addicting drug because it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior like cocaine, amphetamines, heroin, alcohol, or nicotine do.
Anabolic steroids are a group of powerful compounds closely related to the male sex hormone testosterone. Research leading to their development began in the 1930s and steroids are seldom legitimately prescribed by physicians today. Current legitimate medical uses include treatment of certain kinds of anemia, severe burns, and some types of breast cancer. Steroid abuse has become a national problem. These drugs are used illegally by body builders, long-distance runners, cyclists and various other athletes who claim that steroids give them a competitive advantage and/or improve their physical appearance.
Taken in combination with a program of muscle-building exercise and diet, steroids may contribute to increases in body weight and muscular strength. Steroid users subject themselves to more than 70 side effects, including psychological as well as physical reactions. The liver and cardiovascular and reproductive systems are most seriously affected by steroid use. In males, use can cause withered testicles and sterility. In females, irreversible masculine traits can develop along with breast reduction. Psychological effects may be seen in both sexes and may increase aggressive behavior and depression. While some side effects appear quickly, other potential health effects, such as heart attacks and strokes, may not occur for years. Steroid abuse in young adults can interfere with bone growth and lead to permanently stunted growth. Many effects are irreversible. People who inject steroids risk contracting HIV from infected needles.
Ecstasy, or MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), is a synthetic drug that acts simultaneously as a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Users sometimes take Ecstasy for the sense of well-being, the sensory distortions caused by the drug, or to stay awake through an hours-long rave. It stimulates the central nervous system and produces hallucinogenic effects. The price of Ecstasy depends on the supply and demand in the area, but usually ranges from $10 to $40 per dose.
Ecstasy has been shown to cause brain damage in animals. It depletes a very important chemical in the brain, serotonin, which affects mood, sleeping and eating habits, thinking processes, aggressive behavior, sexual function, and sensitivity to pain. Studies with rats and monkeys have shown that the use of Ecstasy can reduce serotonin levels in the brain by 90% for at least 2 weeks.
Users who take Ecstasy at raves risk exhaustion and dehydration from a combination of the drug and non-stop dancing, and users have died from heat stroke.
Ecstasy is derived from methamphetamine and amphetamine, and belongs to a class of drugs known as designer drugs. Designer drugs, especially Ecstasy, are often associated with "raves," all-night underground parties with techno music and extensive drug use. Raves are often frequented by teens and college students.
A designer drug is created by changing the molecular structure of an existing drug or drugs to create a new substance. The street names of designer drugs vary according to time, place, and manufacturer, and the names change frequently. Designer drugs are created in clandestine laboratories and can be extremely dangerous.
Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). It is the most often used illegal drug in this country.
Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a "joint"). The drug can also be smoked in a water pipe, called a "bong." Some users mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew a tea. Hash users either smoke the drug in a pipe or mix it with tobacco and smoke it as a cigarette.
Lately, young people have a new method for smoking marijuana: they slice open cigars and replace the tobacco with marijuana, making what's called a "blunt." When the blunt is smoked with a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor, it is called a "B-40."
All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs; they all contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. There are about 400 chemicals in a cannabis plant, but THC is the one that affects the brain the most.
Because marijuana users often inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and then hold it in their lungs as long as possible, marijuana is damaging to the lungs and pulmonary system. Marijuana smoke contains some of the same carcinogens and toxic particulates as tobacco, sometimes in higher concentrations. Long-term users of cannabis may develop psychological dependence and require more of the drug to get the same effect. The drug can become the center of their lives.
The smoking of tobacco products is the chief cause of preventable death in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report which concluded that cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting, and that nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction. In addition, the report stated that smoking was a major cause of stroke and the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Despite this warning, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse shows that more than 50 million Americans continue to smoke cigarettes, making nicotine one of the country's most used addicting drugs.
Nicotine is both a transient stimulant and a sedative to the central nervous system. It is physically and psychologically addictive. The ingestion of nicotine results in an almost immediate "kick" because it causes a discharge of epinephrine (adrenalin) from the adrenal cortex. This stimulates the central nervous system, as well as other endocrine glands, which causes a sudden release of glucose. Stimulation is then followed by depression and fatigue, leading the abuser to seek more nicotine.
Nicotine has been reported to reduce anxiety, and smokers report that they get calming effects from it. It is absorbed readily from tobacco smoke in the lungs. Nicotine taken in by cigarette smoking takes only seconds to reach the brain, but has a direct effect on the body for up to 30 minutes. With regular use, levels of nicotine accumulate in the body during the day and persist overnight. Thus, daily cigarette smokers are exposed to the effects of nicotine for 24 hours each day. Tobacco legislation is currently being considered by Congress. The "anti-smoking" statute would likely consist of a number of financial penalties, a restriction on marketing and advertising activities, FDA regulation of nicotine, and strict monetary fines, if teenage smoking does not drop to specified levels.