Drug abuse is the use of illegal drugs, or the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for at least a year with negative consequences.
Marijuana is also called "grass," "pot," "reefer," "joint," "hashish," "cannabis," "weed," and "Mary Jane."
About 2 in 5 Americans have used marijuana at least once in their life.
Marijuana comes from a plant called hemp (cannabis sativa). The main, active ingredient in marijuana is THC (short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). This and other ingredients, called cannabinoids, are found in the leaves and flowering parts of the marijuana plant. Hashish is a substance taken from the tops of female marijuana plants. It contains the highest amount of THC.
How fast you feel the effects of marijuna depend on how you use it:
Marijuana acts on your central nervous system. Low-to-moderate amounts of the drug may cause:
- If you breathe in marijuana smoke (such as from a joint or pipe), you may feel the effects within seconds to several minutes.
- If you eat foods containing the drug (such as "hash brownies,") you may feel the effects with 30 -60 minutes.
Other effects can include:
- Increased appetite ("the munchies")
- Feeling of joy (euphoria)
- Relaxed feeling
- Increased sensations of sight, hearing, and taste
Regular users may have withdrawal effects when they stop marijuana use. These may include:
- Feelings of panic, or rarely severe paranoia
- Decreased ability to perform tasks that require a lot of coordination (such as driving a car)
- Decreased interest in completing tasks
- Delirium or seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
- Bloodshot eyes
- Changes in body image
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthma in heavy users
- Irritation of the airways causing narrowing or spasms
- Possibly weakening of the immune system
- Sore throat
- Trouble concentrating and paying attention, which can interfere with learning
- Trouble telling oneself from others
- Violence (may be related to marijuana that is laced with a drug called PCP)
The medical use of marijuana is controversial, yet it's active ingredient (THC) is legal for medical purposes in at least 16 states. (Whole marijuana is illegal, even for medical use.)
THC has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the following medical purposes:
PHENCYCLIDINE (PCP, "angel dust")
- Relieving chronic pain and spasticity
- Stimulating appetite in patients with AIDS or who have undergone chemotherapy
- Treating glaucoma
- Treating nausea caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients
PCP is an illegal drug that comes as a white powder, which can be dissolved in alcohol or water. PCP may be smoked, shot into a vein, or taken by mouth. How quickly it affects you depends on how you take it.
Different doses of PCP will cause different effects:
- Shooting up: If given through a vein, PCP's effects start within 2-5 minutes.
- Smoked: The effects begin within 2 - 5 minutes, peaking at 15 - 30 minutes.
- Taken by mouth: In pill form, or mixed with food or drinks, PCP's effects usually start within 30 minutes. The effects tend to peak in about 2 - 5 hours.
Because of the pain-killing (analgesic) properties of PCP, users who get seriously injured may not feel any pain.
- Lower doses of PCP typically produce feelings of joy (euphoria) and less inhibition, similar to being drunk.
- Higher doses cause numbness throughout the body, and perception changes that may lead to extreme anxiety and violence.
- Large doses may produce paranoia, "hearing voices" (auditory hallucinations), and psychosis similar to schizophrenia.
- Massive doses, usually from taking the drug by mouth, may cause acute kidney failure, heart arrhythmias, muscle rigidity, seizures, and even death.
A number of other illegal drugs have become popular and available in recent years, including:
LSD AND OTHER HALLUCINOGENS
- Ketamine, a substance related to PCP, commonly called "Special K"
- "Ecstasy," or MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine)
- GHB and Rohypnol, also called "date rape," "acquaintance rape," or "drug-assisted assault" drugs
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a very strong hallucinogen. Only tiny amounts are needed to cause effects, such as hallucinations. Other commonly abused hallucinogens include:
LSD use may cause:
- Psilocybin (mushrooms, "shrooms")
- Peyote (a cactus plant containing the active ingredient mescaline)
Hallucinogens can lead to extreme anxiety and lack of reality, called "bad trips". These experiences can come back as a "flashback," even without using the drug again. Such experiences typically occur during times of increased stress, and tend to occur less often and intensely after stopping the drugs.
- Blurred vision
- Dilated pupils
- Seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
- Paranoid delusions
The abuse of cocaine increased dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but is now on the decline. Other names to describe different forms of cocaine include "crack," "coke," "snow," and "speedball."
Cocaine may be taken in different ways:
Smoking cocaine produces a nearly instant and intense sense of joy (euphoria), which is attractive to abusers. Other effects include:
- Snorting: Inhaling it through the nose
- Shooting up: Dissolving it in water and injected it into a vein
- Speedball: Mixed with heroin and shot into a vein
- Smoked: Cocaine may be changed into a smokeable form known as freebase or crack
Regular users of cocaine may need larger amounts of the drug to feel these effects. Regular users of cocaine may have:
- Feelings of increased confidence and energy
- Less inhibition
- Local numbness
- Powerful stimulation of the central nervous system
Heavy use may cause paranoia, which can lead to violence.
- Loss of interest in school, work, family, and friends
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems
- Social withdrawal
Amphetamines are stimulants. Other names used to desrribe amphetamines or methamphetamines include "crystal," "go," "crank," and "cross-tops." See: Methamphetamine overdose
Amphetamines are very addictive. Prescription amphetamines are considered controlled substances. Over-the-counter (OTC) amphetamine look-alike drugs are often abused. These drugs typically contain caffeine and other stimulants, and are sold as appetite suppressants or stay-awake/stay-alert aids.
Signs and symptoms of stimulant use:
- Dilated pupils
- Exaggerated feeling of well-being (euphoria)
- Fast heart rate
- Restlessness and hyperactivity
- Skin flushing
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight loss
Inhalant use became popular with young teens in the 1960s with "glue sniffing." Since then, a greater variety of inhalants have become popular. Inhalant use typically involves younger teens or school-age children.
Commonly abused inhalants include:
Negative effects of inhalant abuse include:
- Aerosols for deodorants or hair sprays
- Cleaning fluids
- Liquid typewriter correction fluid
- Model glue
- Spray paints
OPIATES, OPIOIDS, AND NARCOTICS
- Brain damage
- Liver or kidney damage
- Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
- Sudden death
Opiates come from opium poppies. These drugs include morphine and codeine. Opioids are artificial substances that have the same effect as morphine or codeine. The term "narcotic" refers to either type of drug.
Narcotics are powerful painkillers that cause drowsiness (sedation) and sometimes, feelings of euphoria.
These drugs include:
Signs and symptoms of narcotic use:
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin)
Because heroin is commonly injected into a vein (used intravenously), there are health concerns about sharing contaminated needles among IV drug users. Complications of sharing contaminated needles include hepatitis, HIV infection, and AIDS.
- Coma, respiratory depression leading to coma, and death in high doses
- Needle marks on the skin ("tracks") if drug use is by injection
- Rapid heart rate
- Relaxed or euphoric state
- Scars from skin abscesses if drug use is by injection
- Small "pinpoint" pupils
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DEPRESSANTS
These substances produce a sedative and anxiety-reducing effect, which can lead to dependence.
These types of drugs include:
Signs and symptoms of alcohol or other depressant use:
- Barbiturates (amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital), also called "yellow jackets"
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Xanax)
- Chloral hydrate
CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
- Decreased attention span
- Impaired judgment
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- If you are concerned about the possibility of getting addicted to any prescribed medications
- If you are concerned about possible drug abuse by yourself or a family member
- If you are interested in getting more information on drug abuse
- If you are seeking treatment of drug abuse for yourself or a family member
There are a number of different support groups available to help those with drug abuse. They include:
Alternative Names: Substance abuse; Illicit drug abuse; Narcotic abuse; Hallucinogen abuse
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- LifeRing Recovery
- Moderation Management
- SMART Recovery
Samet JH. Drug abuse and dependence. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 32.
Update Date: 3/20/2011
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Source: National Institutes of Health