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 who may be affected by drug abuse, we urge you to consider supporting them to seek medical advice.
Drug Facts - did you know?
Of great concern is the increase in use of illicit drugs that have become popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs and "raves." These drugs, include MDMA/Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), and ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride).
MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.
GHB, is either an odorless, colorless liquid for as a white powder material, is taken orally, and is frequently combined with alcohol. It is often associated with ‘date rape’.
The abuse of ketamine induces hallucinations. Both liquid and powder form of ketamine is injected, consumed in drinks, or added to smokable materials.
Dangers and Health Issues and other stuff
MDMA interferes with the body's ability to regulate temperature, sometimes leading to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death. MDMA users also risk increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Psychological effects of MDMA use can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. Additionally, these problems can occur during as well as sometimes days or weeks after using the drug.
GHB, and ketamine are all central nervous system depressants.GHB has been shown to produce drowsiness, nausea, unconsciousness, seizures, severe respiratory depression, and coma. Additionally, GHB has increasingly become involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and fatalities.
The use of ketamine produces effects similar to PCP and LSD, causing distorted perceptions of sight and sound and making the user feel disconnected and out of control. The overt hallucinatory effects of ketamine are relatively short-acting, lasting approximately one hour or less. However, the user's senses, judgment, and coordination may be affected for up to 24 hours after the initial use of the drug. Use of this drug can also bring about respiratory depression, heart rate abnormalities, and a withdrawal syndrome.
Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Other forms of cannabis include sinsemilla, hashish, and hash oil. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs.
The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Short-term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, and anxiety.
Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (called a joint) or in a pipe or bong.
Marijuana abuse is associated with many detrimental health effects. These effects can include frequent respiratory infections, impaired memory and learning, increased heart rate, anxiety, panic attacks and tolerance. Marijuana meets the criteria for an addictive drug and animal studies suggest marijuana causes physical dependence and some people report withdrawal symptoms.
Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, a heightened risk of lung infections, and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may also be promoted by marijuana smoke. Marijuana has the potential to promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract because marijuana smoke contains 50 percent to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.
Marijuana's damage to short-term memory seems to occur because THC alters the way in which information is processed by the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation
According to the 2004 National Household Survey on Drugs, cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia. It has many health and safety issues and can no longer be called ‘safe’.
Did you know that:
Symptoms of use (for concerned parents):
Dr Ingrid Lantner, a pediatrician and an expert on marijuana use among teenagers, notes these common symptoms of the chronic marijuana-using youngster: red eyes (often "handled" with eye drops, which can be a clue to pot use)... constant fatigue... uncalled for irritability and edginess (the "don't hassle me!" syndrome)... caring less about everything ("the drop-out syndrome") with a resultant drop in school grades... abrupt and unexplained mood changes... increasing friction with peers and family... feelings of paranoia... impaired ability to concentrate and loss of short term memory... flat, expressionless speech... lack of interest in grooming and appearance... increases difficulty in fighting off common infections... cough, asthmatic wheezing, chest pains... skin rashes... irregular menstrual cycle... distorted time sense (when asked to raise a hand in 60 seconds or less... and, of course, impaired driving ability.
It is important for parents to realise that, unlike the alcohol user, most pot-smoking youngsters are able to "come down" from a high and act normally when parents are around. Thus many parents of chronic pot-smoking youngsters may remain unaware of this fact for several years.
Also, in the words of Dr. Dean Parmelee, director of the Adolesence In-patient Services at Charles River Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine:
"Some youngsters show some symptoms of chronic marijuana use; some show other symptoms. And some bright youngsters with outgoing personalities seem to be able to maintain their grades and activities for a few years-although gradually all users, youngsters and adults, compromise their potential, their activities and their lifestyles".
In other words, your teenagers may have no apparent symptoms of marijuana impairment. Except in one area. Driving. No matter how well they tolerate, adjust to or compensate for their pot use in other areas, over 70 research studies show that pot-induced driving impairments remain. And they are dose related. The more one smokes and the more potent the pot, the worse the driving impairments.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug and is the most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is processed from morphine, extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.
Most illicit heroin is a powder varying in color from white to dark brown. It is injected and brings with it high risk of infection, including HIV and Hepatitis C.
The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after taking the drug. After the initial feeling, the user experiences an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Due to the depression of the central nervous system, mental functioning becomes clouded. Additionally, breathing may be slowed to the point of respiratory failure.
After repeatedly using heroin for a period of time, the long-term effects of the substance begin to appear in the user. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver disease. Additionally, pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may also result in the user.
One of the most significant effects of heroin use is addiction. With regular heroin use, tolerance to the drug develops. Once this happens, the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect that they are seeking. As higher doses of the drug are used over time, physical dependence and addiction to the drug develop.
Within a few hours after the last administration of heroin, withdrawal may occur. This withdrawal produces effects such as drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, users who inject heroin also put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C (HCV), and other infectious diseases.
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