Key Signs Of Drug Abuse
As her friends figured out, Lucyna is smoking marijuana, an illegal drug. She is one of millions in the United States who abuse marijuana and other illegal drugs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 23 million people age 12 and older have used illegal drugs during the past year.
* Cannabis: marijuana
* Depressants: alcohol, barbiturates, and tranquilizers
* Hallucinogens: LSD and PCP * Narcotics: heroin and opium
* Stimulants: crack/cocaine and amphetamines, including methamphetamine and ice.
Each of these drugs affects the user’s feelings, perceptions, and behavior. People abuse these drugs because of their psychoactive or mind-altering properties. All these drugs also affect users physically. When Lucyna smokes marijuana, for example, her reaction time slows down. She may not realize she is slower because the drug alters her sense of time and movement.
Know the Risks
Anne and Serena decided to get more information on the health effects of marijuana and other drugs of abuse. Here are some facts they learned:
* Cannabis – Marijuana (grass, pot, weed, dope) increases the heart rate and causes red eyes, and dry mouth and throat. Because marijuana blocks messages going to the brain, it alters perceptions and emotions, vision and hearing. Users have difficulty keeping track of time. Their short-term memory decreases. They can’t carry out complex tasks well, such as driving a car, because their concentration and coordination decrease. Marijuana increases the appetite, resulting in weight gain. With chronic use, both males and females can have lower fertility. Chronic female users can sprout facial hair and. more body hair, and develop acne.
* Depressants – These drugs depress or slow down the central nervous system, calming the user and causing sleep. Depressants alter judgment and are addictive. Alcohol is a depressant. Producing effects similar to alcohol, barbiturates (barbs, downers) include phenobarbital, amytal, nembutal (yellow jackets, nembies), and seconal (reds, red devils). Non-barbiturates produce similar effects. These drugs include methaqualone (quaaludes) and tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium). Users develop a tolerance and must take more of the depressant each time to produce the same effects. Combining alcohol with other depressants is dangerous and can be fatal.
* Hallucinogens – These unpredictable, mind-altering drugs affect a person’s perception, feelings, thinking, self-awareness, and emotions. Taking lysergic acid (LSD, acid) can result in panic, confusion, anxiety, terror, and hallucinations. This can lead to serious injury. Phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust, crystal) can cause bizarre behavior that can be combative, wide mood swings, and speech problems. Use of PCP by teens may interfere with hormones that regulate their normal growth and development and can interfere with the learning process. Hallucinogens increase the heart rate and blood pressure and can cause muscle tremors, convulsions, coma, as well as heart and lung failure.
* Narcotics – Opium-based narcotics are derived from the juice of opium poppy seeds, but now there are synthetic ones as well. Narcotics relieve pain and cause sleep. All narcotics, including opium (Dovers Powder) and heroin (junk, smack, brown sugar), are extremely addictive. Users of narcotics develop a tolerance and must take increasingly large doses to get the same effects.
Heroin is responsible for most narcotics abuse, quickly building tolerance, and physical and psychological dependence. Withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and runny eyes and nose, begin four to eight hours after the last dose, so users always want more of the drug. The risk of AIDS infection is high because users inject heroin with a syringe. Their syringes and needles may not be sterile. One-third of AIDS cases are related to IV use.
* Stimulants – These drugs include crack, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine (speed and ice). Cocaine and crack are highly addictive. Cocaine is a white powder that comes from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Users call it coke, snow, blow, toot, nose candy, or flake. Crack is cocaine that has been chemically changed so it can be smoked. Both drugs decrease appetite and cause sleeping problems, a runny nose, erratic behavior, sweating, anxiety, and tremors. Cocaine and crack stimulate the central nervous system and increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. This can lead to swift death from a heart attack, stroke, brain seizure, or breathing failure.
Methamphetamine is speed; ice is the crystalline form of methamphetamine. These share many of the same health effects as crack and cocaine: excessive activity: increased pulse rate, blood pressure, and body temperature; sleeping problems; loss of appetite; sweating; and confusion.
Keep Your Eyes Open
If you think someone is taking drugs, look for these warning signs:
* Red eyes, constant runny nose, or sniffles * Changes in friends, especially if the new friends use drugs * Rapid mood swings * Withdrawal from family, former friends, school, former activities, hobbies * Being vague and secretive about friends and non-school activities * Unexplained weight loss or gain * Loss of coordination, attention, or balance * Smell of burnt marijuana on clothing * Unusual sleep patterns * Stealing or borrowing money from family members or friends * Cutting classes, dropping grades
What You Can Do
If you think a friend is using drugs, get involved and be active. Talk to your friend about your concerns. Try to remain calm, factual, and honest when speaking about your friend’s behavior and its day-to-day consequences. Let the person with the problem know what you have learned about drug abuse.
Your friend may deny using drugs or that there’s a problem. Realize, though, that most people with drug troubles really want to talk it out if they know you are concerned about them.
Find nearby sources of help. Write down some treatment referrals and support groups, and give this information to your friend. Health agencies, schools, community mental health centers, and other organizations often provide short-term counseling. Discuss your concerns with someone you trust – a counselor, friend, parent, social worker, teacher, or someone from the clergy.
Protect yourself! Refuse to ride with someone who’s been using drugs. Avoid parties where getting high is the only reason for going. Be wary of a date, friend, or anyone who is trying to get you to take drugs.