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.
Substance abuse; Illicit drug abuse; Narcotic abuse; Hallucinogen abuse
MARIJUANA (also called "grass," "pot," "reefer," "joint," "hashish," "cannabis," "weed," and "Mary Jane")
About 2 in 5 Americans have used marijuana at least once. About 10% of the population uses it on a regular basis.
The source of marijuana is the hemp plant (cannabis sativa). The active ingredients are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and other cannabinoids, which are found in the leaves and flowering shoots of the plant.
Hashish is a substance taken from the tops of female plants. It contains the highest amount of THC.
The drug dose in marijuana varies greatly depending on how it is prepared.
You may feel the effects of marijuana within seconds to several minutes after breathing in the smoke (from a joint or pipe), or within 30 - 60 minutes after eating foods containing marijuana, such as "hash brownies."
Unpleasant effects that may occur include:
Other troubling side effects may include:
Other marijuana effects may include:
Regular users may have withdrawal effects when they stop marijuana use. These may include:
Because the substance formed when the body breaks down marijuana may be stored in the body's fat tissue, heavy users may show evidence of marijuana use in urine tests for up to 1 month after stopping the drug.
The active substance in cannabis is believed to have medical properties, which include:
THC has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for these purposes.
The use of whole marijuana remains very controversial. More than 13 states have laws to provide legal sanction for the medical use of marijuana. The federal government still considers whole marijuana to be a controlled substance that is illegal, even for medical use.
PHENCYCLIDINE (PCP, "angel dust")
It is difficult to estimate the current use of phencyclidine in the United States, because many people do not know that they have taken it. Other illegal substances (such as marijuana) can be laced with PCP without the user being aware of it.
PCP can be made easily and cheaply by anyone who knows organic chemistry. This makes it a prime drug for the illegal drug industry. It is available illegally as a white powder that can be dissolved in either alcohol or water.
PCP may be taken in different ways. How fast it affects the user depends on how it is taken.
Different doses of PCP will cause different effects:
Because of the pain-killing (analgesic) properties of PCP, users who get seriously injured may not feel any pain.
A number of other club drugs have become popular and available in recent years:
In addition to PCP, other commonly abused hallucinogens include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (mushrooms, "shrooms"), and peyote (a cactus plant containing the active ingredient mescaline).
Most hallucinogens are used only one or a few times per year.
Hallucinations related to these drugs tend to involve seeing things, and may include patterns or halos around lights. People who have such visual hallucinations after taking drugs usually know that their perception is distorted.
Signs and symptoms of LSD use:
LSD is a very strong hallucinogen. Only tiny doses are needed to produce effects. Compared to LSD, psilocybin is 100 - 200 times weaker, and mescaline (peyote) is about 4,000 times weaker.
Hallucinogens can lead to extreme anxiety and lack of reality at the height of the drug experience ("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.
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 "speed," "crack," "coke," "snow," and "speedball."
Smoking cocaine produces a nearly instant and intense sense of joy (euphoria), which is attractive to abusers. Other effects include:
Increased use of and addiction to cocaine probably occur because it produces a very pleasurable high that is very short lived. This encourages the user to use the drug more often or regularly to get the desired effects.
Both the need to use larger amounts of the drugs to get the same effect (tolerance) and dependence may occur with regular cocaine use. Regular users may have:
Because heavy use may cause paranoia, cocaine users may become violent.
Other names used to describe amphetamines or methamphetamines include "crystal," "go," "crank," and "cross-tops."
During the 1950s and 1960s, amphetamines were often prescribed for conditions such as fatigue, obesity, and mild depression. Such use has stopped because the drugs are very addictive, and are now 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:
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. Groups of children will usually use inhalants as an experiment.
Commonly abused inhalants include:
The chemicals are poured into a plastic bag or soaked into rags, then breathed in. The drugs are absorbed through the respiratory tract and cause an altered mental state within 5 - 15 minutes.
Negative effects of inhalant abuse include:
Most inhalant use occurs among teens or preteens who do not have ready access to illegal drugs or alcohol.
OPIATES, OPIOIDS, AND NARCOTICS
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.
Opiates and narcotics are powerful painkillers that cause drowsiness (sedation) and sometimes, feelings of euphoria.
These drugs include:
Signs and symptoms of narcotic use:
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.
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:
CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
Also seek out information and support from local 12-step support groups, such as:
Other support groups include:
Samet JH. Drug abuse and dependence. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 32.