Illegal Drug Use

Overview

Illegal Drug abuse can take many forms, and there are several illegal drugs that are commonly abused. All can alter a person's perceptions and lead to short and long term health risks. Even occational use of illegal drugs can be dangerous. If you have an illegal drug problem, or if you believe your child has a drug problem, take it seriously. Talk to a professional drug counselor to determine which resources are available for the child and the best way to intervene.


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Heroin

Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is a very addictive opiate. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known as "black tar heroin." Most street heroin varies in color from white to dark brown. The differences in color are because of impurities left from the manufacturing process or additives. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or what substance was used to cut it, they are at risk of overdose or death. Overdoses are common. It's easy to take a dose that was not diluted enough, and too much heroin can suppress breathing or cause users to suffocate in their own vomit.

Users get high by snorting, smoking, or injecting the heroin. Injection is the most efficient way to use low-purity heroin. Intravenous injection gives a feeling of euphoria seven to eight seconds after injection; intramuscular injection takes five to eight minutes. Sniffing or snorting heroin produces peak effects within 10 to 15 minutes. The availability of high-purity heroin and the fear of infection by sharing needles have made snorting and smoking the drug more common.

In an addicted person, withdrawal occurs within a few hours after the last use. Symptoms of withdrawal can be drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and last about a week. Symptoms can be very intense, and the addicted person may return to using again if he or she doesn't receive treatment for withdrawal symptoms and treatment intervention to help break the cycle of addiction.


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Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that remains a major burden on users, their families, communities, and law enforcement agencies in the United States. Methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance that can be prescribed, but most methamphetamine that is abused is manufactured in underground or illegal laboratories. It is related to the legally prescribed stimulant amphetamine but has stronger effects. Known as speed, meth, tweak, uppers, or black beauties, the drug is taken in pill form, or snorted or injected in powdered form. Crystallized methamphetamine, a more powerful form of the drug, is smoked. The drug causes an immediate feeling of increased activity or a "rush" along with decreased appetite.

Methamphetamine is apealing because it creates a euphoric high, excess energy, and weight loss. In addition, users may decide to take more methamphetamine because after the effect wear off, a person experiences a long bottoming-out period of irritabilitiy, listlessness, and headaches, lasting up to three days. In addition, it also can be easily found. Unlike other stimulants, methamphetamine can be made in the kitchen sink using cheap household ingredients; however, it is a potentially explosive and dangerous process.

The stimulant coaxes the body to work harder. The heart rate increases and metabolism speeds up. The brain's ability to balance sedation and activity is altered. The increase in heart rate can lead to aneurysms and heart failure, even in the very young, as the drug drives the heart to exhaustion. People who are chronic methamphetamine abusers can suffer long-term health effects. In particular, areas of the brain that control speed of muscle movement, verbal learning, emotions and memory can be damaged. Some of the damage may be reversed if a person quits abusing the drug, but recovery can take years. Methamphetamine abuse also increases the risk for stroke, and this damage can be irreversible.


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Cocaine & Crack

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain. Cocaine generally is sold on the street as a fine, white, crystalline powder derived from the dried leaves of the coca plant. Cocaine is also known as "coke," "C," "snow," "flake," or "blow." Street dealers usually dilute it with inert substances, such as cornstarch, talcum powder or sugar, with active drugs, such as procaine (a chemically related local anesthetic), or with amphetamines. The powdered form dissolves in water and can be injected into a vein or snorted into the nose.

"Crack" is the street name given to the drug's freebase form, which is processed to form a rock crystal that can be heated in a pipe and the vapors smoked. Crack cocaine resembles white or tan pellets. The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound heard when the mixture is smoked. Because crack is smoked, the user experiences a high in less than 10 seconds. The immediate effects and crack's low cost have made it popular.

Cocaine use ranges from occasionally to compulsively. Cocaine is a stimulant. Its effects appear almost immediately after a single dose and disappear within a few minutes or hours. The drug usually makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert. It also can temporarily decrease the need for food and sleep. The short-term effects also include increased heart rate and blood pressure, constricted blood vessels, increased temperature, and dilated pupils.

There is no safe way to use the drug—any way it's taken can lead to a heart attack or stroke that could be fatal. Cocaine also may cause bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior. The health consequences of long-term cocaine abuse include disturbances in heart rhythm, heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, convulsions, and coma. Cocaine abusers are at increased risk for contracting HIV or AIDS, not only due to the sharing of contaminated needles and other drug paraphernalia, but also as a result of engaging in risky sexual behaviors.


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For more information about illegal drug abuse and other illegal substances, click here.

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