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Drug Abuse

Drug Abuse

Everyone uses drugs once in a while, don't they?
How do drugs affect my body and mind?
Where can I get help?

Using drugs isn't smart. But there are many reasons why you may be tempted to try drugs. Some teens do it to rebel against their parents or fit in with their friends. Others use drugs to feel better or escape their problems. Sometimes drugs may seem exciting to try.

If you are pretty shy and you use drugs at a party, for instance, you may feel more confident and relaxed. It's important to remember that the sense of power and calm that drugs can give you is false—it's not real. Drugs can't make you popular, prettier, or thinner. They can't make you friends, either—not real friends. In fact, using drugs causes you to lose your ability to make good choices. When you use drugs, you are more likely to put yourself in a dangerous situation without thinking about it, such as driving under the influence or having unsafe sex. Using drugs can cause memory loss and cause your grades to drop.

On top of all this, using drugs is illegal. If you use drugs, you can get into trouble with the law, leading to fines or even jail time.

In the long run, regular drug use can lead to physical, mental, and social problems that can unravel a young person's life. Even experimenting with drugs once can have serious consequences. You may see friends use drugs once or twice, or even regularly, and think, "I'm just going to try it once. I'll be fine." But everyone's body is different. Cocaine, for example, could cause a heart attack or stroke—even the first time you use it. Marijuana may make your friend feel relaxed and happy, but it could make you feel anxious and even have a panic attack. Drugs affect your body in serious ways and can cause serious health problems. back to top

Everyone uses drugs once in a while, don't they?
Not true. Actually, statistics show that the use of many illegal drugs among teens has gone down or stayed the same in recent years. However, the use of two drugs has gone up: club drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy) and anabolic steroids (drugs abused by athletes for their muscle-building effects). back to top

How do drugs affect my body and mind?
  • Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States, and it tends to be the first drug that kids try. You may know people who use marijuana to help them relax and have fun. But marijuana can make it hard to keep track of time and remember things. It can also make it hard to do tasks that take concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Plus, smoking marijuana gives you bad breath and makes your eyes bloodshot. It can also make your heart beat too fast and cause you to feel anxious and panicky. It can cause long-term effects too, like lung disease and hormone problems.
  • Club drugs are used at dance clubs and all-night parties called raves. MDMA ("ecstasy" or "x"), Rohypnol ("roofies"), GHB, and Ketamine are club drugs. Club drugs can cause a bad reaction, even brain damage—especially if you drink alcohol while you take them. You could even die. Club drugs can keep you from feeling the signals your body is giving out. For example, if you're dancing hard, you may not feel thirsty until you are totally dehydrated and sick. Ecstasy can make you feel confused, depressed, and anxious. It makes your blood pressure go up and can cause chills and sweating.
  • Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine are nicknamed "date-rape drugs" because they can make a girl unable to fight off unwanted sexual advances. They can cause you to black out so that you wake up in the morning and can't remember anything from the night before. You don't pass out when you're on these drugs—you may still be moving around and may even be talking. But you could have sex with someone and not even realize it. Worse, you may not even remember it later.
  • Methamphetamine ("speed") has a strong effect on the brain. It is taken as a pill or as a powder that is snorted or injected. Those who inject the drug and share needles are at risk for getting HIV. Crystallized methamphetamine ("crystal meth," or "crystal") is a smokable form of the drug that is even more powerful. Methamphetamine causes serious problems (even death) when it is mixed with other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine. Other effects of methamphetamine include faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, trouble sleeping, increased physical activity, and loss of appetite (being "spun out"). It can cause a seizure or a stroke and can permanently damage blood vessels in the brain.
  • Dexedrins (Ritalin) are speedlike drugs. They are prescribed for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but are sometimes taken inappropriately—either in high doses or snorted for a high. These stimulants can cause the same problems as methamphetamine.
  • Cocaine is a white powder that is either snorted or injected. Injecting the drug and sharing needles puts you at risk for getting HIV. Crack is a form of cocaine that has been chemically changed so that it can be smoked. For a little while, cocaine and crack make people feel powerful and energetic, but soon they wind up feeling depressed, nervous, and craving more. The desire for these drugs can become so strong that it takes over a person's life. Other effects of the drugs include faster heartbeat and breathing rate, higher blood pressure, higher body temperature, heart attack, stroke, breathing problems, and seizures. It can also cause confusion, anxiety, depression, loss of reality, and itchiness (feeling as if bugs are crawling on your skin).
  • Hallucinogens are drugs that distort a person's view of reality. The best-known hallucinogens are PCP ("angel dust"), LSD ("acid"), psilocybin ("magic mushrooms"), mescaline, and peyote. Teens who take these drugs often hurt themselves or become violent toward others, and their unpredictable behavior can lead to serious injuries or death. Since everyone reacts differently to these drugs, there is no way to predict if a given person will have a bad experience. Hallucinogens cause the same physical damage as other drugs and also seriously affect your brain. Even if you only use them once and then stop, you can have "flashbacks" later, when you feel as though you are losing touch with reality and time is slowing down, even though you took the drug a long time ago.
  • Inhalants are substances that are sniffed (often called "huffing") for an immediate high. They include a number of chemicals that are found in ordinary household products such as spray paint, hairspray, paint thinner, gasoline, glues, correction fluid, felt-tip markers, and butane lighters. Because these products are cheap and easy to get, you may think they are relatively harmless. However, this is far from the truth. Using inhalants just once can kill a person, since the user may stop breathing, have a heart attack, or choke on vomit. back to top
Where can I get help?
Treatment can help someone overcome even the toughest drug addiction. Some drug treatment programs teach you how to handle peer pressure and deal with social situations without using drugs. Others help you learn how to better control your behavior and think before you act. Still others offer support from other teens who are dealing with a drug abuse problem.

Your family may be involved in the treatment as well. Family therapy focuses on problems at home that may play a role in drug abuse.

Serious drug abuse combined with other problems may require a short stay in the hospital. A hospital stay gives people the support they need and keeps them away from drugs until they are back on their feet. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001
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