Category Archives: Drug Types

Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine AbuseCocaine is a stimulant, which means it speeds up the brain and nervous system. The effects that people get from cocaine are related to the amount they have, which can vary significantly. Cocaine has both a pain killing effect because it blocks the transmission of pain impulses from the nerves to the brain, and a “high” because it stimulates and energizes people to greater alertness, intensifying their mood. Cocaine looks like white powder and can be smoked, snorted and injected.

What is Cocaine?

The narcotic drug cocaine comes from the leaves of the Bolivian coca plant (Erythroxylumcoca) or the Peruvian coca plant (Erythroxylum novgranatense) which is processed to make the drug.

Street cocaine

Cocaine hydrochloride is the product (in various strengths and forms) known as street cocaine. The product is extracted from coca paste by the addition of hydrochloric acid, and produces a fine powder used for snorting or injecting. It is estimated that street cocaine can be “cut” anywhere from one to eight times. Cutting means adding chemicals such as glucose and lactose to make it go further and therefore make more profit. The great variability in strength of “street cocaine” adds to the risk of overdose, due to not knowing how much cocaine is in the powder.

Crack cocaine

Crack cocaine is cocaine made into a form that can be smoked. The process of making crack cocaine involves treating cocaine with various products and chemicals that free the cocaine base from the hydrochloride and lower the temperature at which the cocaine can be melted. It is then removed and allowed to dry and broken into “rocks”. Each rock usually ranging from one tenth to half a gram. Crack is white to light brown or beige in color, and is in the form of slivers or crystalline rocks. Cocaine treated in this way is known as free base and the process is called freebasing. Crack gets its name because when it is smoked, the baking powder residue left in it makes a crackling sound. Crack is extremely addictive because smoking causes its effects to be felt within 10 seconds after use.

Other names

Cocaine is also known as Bump, Coke, Snow, Toot, Lady, Flake, “C”, Candy, Charlie, Sherbert, Charles, Blow, Dust, Bernice, Dream, Nose Candy. Crack is also known as Rocks, Wash, Freebase.

Absorption by the body


Cocaine is usually smoked in a pipe and the vapor is inhaled into the lungs where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream. Cocaine users who smoke the drug achieve maximum physiological effects approximately two minutes after inhalation. When cocaine is administered as an inhalant (heated to allow vaporization) it is absorbed almost immediately into the bloodstream, taking around 20 seconds to reach the brain.


When cocaine is snorted, cocaine powder is inhaled through the nostrils and absorbed into the bloodstream. The effects are felt more slowly than when it is smoked.


Cocaine powder is sometimes dissolved in water and injected directly into the bloodstream. When the levels of cocaine in the body start to decrease, the user can start to feel “the crash” which involves feeling sad, frustrated, depressed, anxious and sometimes suicidal. Often people become dependent on cocaine because they take it again before these symptoms start to avoid the “crash”.

Effects on the body

Because cocaine is a stimulant, the effects after taking it can, possibly cause a person to:

  • feel good and confident
  • be excited or upset
  • take more risks than usual
  • feel aggressive
  • be less hungry
  • feel alert and energetic
  • want to have sex

Initially the effects of cocaine will lead to a high feeling for the user, but continued use will result in tolerance for the drug. Cocaine and crack are highly addictive drugs. Cocaine brings about strong feelings of ecstasy, creating a craving for the drug. Some of the effects of long term use include the following:

  • Aggressive and violent behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Memory problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Snorting cocaine can cause a stuffy or runny nose and chronic snorting can cause a rupture of the membrane in the nose causing blood noses
  • Cocaine may also harm the health and development of infants born to women who use cocaine during pregnancy
  • Injecting cocaine puts the user at risk of contracting AIDS, bacterial infections, hepatitis and other diseases, particularly when injecting equipment is shared or not sterile

People using cocaine and crack put themselves at risk of death every time they use. Cocaine can kill a person in the following ways:

  • Heart attack – cocaine raises the heart rate and constricts the arteries. The heart has less oxygen than it needs to operate and this may cause a heart attack.
  • Stroke – cocaine increases blood pressure and may cause the blood vessels in the brain to burst. This is a stroke.
  • Cardiac arrest – Cocaine can disrupt the brain’s electrical message to the heart. The heart beats inconsistently and cannot be regulated, resulting in a possible cardiac arrest.
  • Overdose – drop in heart rate, slowing of breathing and circulation, unconsciousness. The amount needed for an overdose is unknown and is different for everyone.

Some research has shown that if a woman who is pregnant uses cocaine, her developing baby is more likely to have delayed development and learning problems, which continue during school. Other research has not shown a developmental problem.


Withdrawal from cocaine may produce similar symptoms to those of someone withdrawing from amphetamines, but for a shorter period. Withdrawal symptoms may include depressed mood, fatigue, disturbed sleep or dreaming, and suicidal thoughts. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are gone after nearly 24 hours. However, the person may experience a few days of feeling depressed, guilt, and craving for the drug.

Because cocaine is so addictive, it will make giving up very difficult. If you want to stop, talk to someone you can trust (who is not using) about wanting to give up. If there is no one close to you that you can talk to, see a counselor and ask for advice on dealing with quitting. You do not have to give up alone. There may even be a support group or organization to help you through.

Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. It is a dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; THC for short.

How is Marijuana Abused?

Marijuana AbuseMarijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana. Since the blunt retains the tobacco leaf used to wrap the cigar, this mode of delivery combines marijuana’s active ingredients with nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Marijuana can also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form it is called hashish, and as a sticky black liquid, hash oil.* Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor.

How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

Scientists have learned a great deal about how THC acts in the brain to produce its many effects. When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body.

THC acts upon specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the “high” that users experience when they smoke marijuana. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thoughts, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.

Not surprisingly, marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory. Research has shown that marijuana’s adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off.2 As a result, someone who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time.

Research on the long-term effects of marijuana abuse indicates some changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term abuse of other major drugs. For example, cannabinoid withdrawal in chronically exposed animals leads to an increase in the activation of the stress-response system and changes in the activity of nerve cells containing dopamine. Dopamine neurons are involved in the regulation of motivation and reward, and are directly or indirectly affected by all drugs of abuse.

Addictive Potential

Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction; that is, compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite its known harmful effects upon social functioning in the context of family, school, work, and recreational activities. Long-term marijuana abusers trying to quit report irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which make it difficult to quit. These withdrawal symptoms begin within about 1 day following abstinence, peak at 2–3 days, and subside within 1 or 2 weeks following drug cessation.

Marijuana and Mental Health

A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia. Some of these studies have shown age at first use to be a factor, where early use is a marker of vulnerability to later problems. However, at this time, it not clear whether marijuana use causes mental problems, exacerbates them, or is used in attempt to self-medicate symptoms already in existence. Chronic marijuana use, especially in a very young person, may also be a marker of risk for mental illnesses, including addiction, stemming from genetic or environmental vulnerabilities, such as early exposure to stress or violence. At the present time, the strongest evidence links marijuana use and schizophrenia and/or related disorders6. High doses of marijuana can produce an acute psychotic reaction, and research suggests that in vulnerable individuals, marijuana use may be a factor that increases risk for the disease.

What Other Adverse Effect Does Marijuana Have on Health?

Effects on the Heart

One study found that an abuser’s risk of heart attack more than quadruples in the first hour after smoking marijuana. The researchers suggest that such an outcome might occur from marijuana’s effects on blood pressure and heart rate (it increases both) and reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of blood.

Effects on the Lungs

Numerous studies have shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which further increases the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. Marijuana smokers show dysregulated growth of epithelial cells in their lung tissue, which could lead to cancer; however, a recent case-controlled study found no positive associations between marijuana use and lung, upper respiratory, or upper digestive tract cancers. Thus, the link between marijuana smoking and these cancers remains unsubstantiated at this time.

Nonetheless, marijuana smokers can have many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, a heightened risk of lung infections, and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. A study of 450 individuals found that people who smoke marijuana frequently but do not smoke tobacco have more health problems and miss more days of work than nonsmokers. Many of the extra sick days among the marijuana smokers in the study were for respiratory illnesses.

Effects on Daily Life

Research clearly demonstrates that marijuana has the potential to cause problems in daily life or make a person’s existing problems worse. In one study, heavy marijuana abusers reported that the drug impaired several important measures of life achievement including physical and mental health, cognitive abilities, social life, and career status.11 Several studies associate workers’ marijuana smoking with increased absences, tardiness, accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and job turnover.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol affects people differently depending on their size, sex, body build, and metabolism. General effects of alcohol are a feeling of warmth, flushed skin, impaired judgment, decreased inhibitions, lack of muscular in coordination, slurred speech, and memory and comprehension loss. In states of extreme intoxication, vomiting is likely to occur and may be accompanied by incontinence, poor respiration, and a fall in blood pressure. In cases of severe alcohol poisoning coma and death can occur.

Drinking heavily over a short period of time usually results in a “hangover” – headache, nausea, shakiness, and sometimes vomiting. These side effects begin from 8 to 12 hours later. A hangover is due partly to poisoning by alcohol and other components of the drink, and partly to the body’s reaction to withdrawal from alcohol.

Combining alcohol with other drugs can make the effects of these other drugs much stronger and more dangerous. Many accidental deaths have occurred after people have used alcohol combined with other drugs. Cannabis, tranquillizers, barbiturates, sleeping pills, or antihistamines (in cold, cough, and allergy remedies) should not be taken with alcohol. Even a small amount of alcohol with any of these drugs can seriously impair a person’s ability to drive a car or make sound decisions.

People who drink on a regular basis become tolerant to many of the unpleasant effects of alcohol, and thus are able to drink more before suffering these effects. Yet even with increased consumption, many such drinkers don’t appear intoxicated. Because they continue to work and socialize reasonably well, their deteriorating physical condition may go unrecognized by others until severe damage develops. It may take hospitalization for unrelated reasons for alcohol abuse to show up as they suddenly experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological dependence on alcohol may occur with regular use of even relatively moderate daily amounts. It may also occur in people who consume alcohol only under certain conditions, such as before and during social occasions. This form of dependence refers to a craving for alcohol’s psychological effects, although not necessarily in amounts that produce serious intoxication. For psychologically dependent drinkers, the lack of alcohol tends to make them anxious and in some cases even panicky.

Physical dependence occurs in consistently heavy drinkers. Since their bodies have adapted to the presence of alcohol, they suffer withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms may include jumpiness, sleeplessness, sweating, and poor appetite, to tremors (the “shakes”), convulsions. hallucinations. and sometimes death.

Alcohol abuse can take a negative toll on people’s lives, fostering violence or a deterioration of personal relationships. Alcoholic behavior can interfere with school or career goals and lead to unemployment.

Long term alcohol abuse poses a variety of health risks, such as liver damage and an increased risk for heart disease. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may result from a pregnant woman’s use of alcohol. This condition causes facial abnormalities in the child, as well as growth retardation and brain damage. Fetal Alcohol Syndrom is often manifested by intellectual difficulties or behavioral problems.

It is the concentration of alcohol in the blood that causes the effects. In the following table, the left-hand column lists the number of milligrams of alcohol in each deciliter of blood – that is, the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC. (For example, an average person may get a blood alcohol concentration of 50 mg/dL after two drinks consumed quickly.) The right-hand column describes the usual effects of these amounts on normal people – those who haven’t developed a tolerance to alcohol.


Meth, speed, Tina, dope, go, etc increases arousal in the central nervous system by pumping up levels of two neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. When taken at low doses, it boosts alertness while blocking hunger and fatigue. At higher doses, it causes exhilaration and euphoria. At very high doses, meth can cause agitation, paranoia, and bizarre behavior. Physical effects include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and elevated body temperature.

Widely available in the 1960’s, meth faded in the ’70s, as controls were tightened on legal production, which reduced its diversion onto the black market. But in the early ’90s, meth made a huge comeback. Since then its popularity has been rising and it is currently the most widely abused deadly drug used.

Risks of using meth are so extreme because the drug works so well at over-loading the central nervous system and zapping feelings of hunger and fatigue. Meth users take the drug for days and sometimes weeks on end without food or rest, putting impossible demands on their bodies and brains. For needle users, there are the added hazards that come with injecting any drug. And for meth smokers, multiply it all by the still largely-unknown risk factor of exposing lung tissue to vaporized meth crystals. Meth, more than any other drug pushes the mind and body faster and further than either was meant to go.

All across the United States meth addiction is running rampant. During 1999 4.3% (9.4 million people) of the U.S. population reported trying meth at least once in their lifetime. The highest rate of meth use was among adults ages 18-25. Although meth use is an epidemic across the United States, nowhere is it a bigger problem that in the Midwest. Meth accounts for nearly 90% of all drug cases in the Midwest, and is most prevalent in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, meth is surpassing cocaine as the drug of choice. The state medical examiner’s office reports the number of death cases testing positive for meth have been higher than cocaine for the past three years. The office also reports meth is found in more and more cases of homicides, and motor vehicle accidents.

Psychological meth addiction is due to its tight hold on the individual’s pleasure center. As time goes by, meth begins to rule over the individual’s life, demanding attention at all times. This in turn leads them to resent circumstances when they are unable to use meth, such as with non-using friends, work, school, and family. As this resentment builds the individual will push others away who no longer “fit” into their desired lifestyle. No one wants to be a meth addict, but this doesn’t stop people from getting addicted.


Heroin has made a comeback. As if the current epidemic of prescription painkillers wasn’t enough, addicts are finding pure heroin cheaper and easier to get than ever before. As a result heroin is getting more and more media attention.

With pharmaceutical companies reformulating painkillers so they are more difficult to abuse, people are turning to the street drug heroin for a stronger, more affordable high. Here is what a former addict had to say about the influx of heroin in San Diego:

“I had been in a car accident in February (2012) and was put on Loritab and Roxicodone (Oxycodone) by my doctor. After a while it just got too expensive and too degrading to always go to the doctor and beg for refills. So I knew this guy. It seemed like more and more of my friends were doing this thing (heroin) and I could pay so much less for a big bag of tar. No doctors, no insurance to explain things to. Just meet a guy and get high all the time. Heroin is everywhere. I used to think it was this legendary thing of nightmares. Now, it’s more common than anything else. Even pot.”
-MD San Diego

Heroin in its pure form is a white powder with a bitter taste. However, most heroin varies in color from white to dark brown. “Black tar” heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal, and its color may vary from dark brown to black. Users administer heroin by injecting, smoking, or snorting it.

Heroin comes to America through foreign sources of opium. Production of this drug occurs in South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. Nationwide, in 2000, South American heroin ranged from $50,000 to $200,000 per kilogram. At that time, southeast and southwest Asian heroin ranged in price from $40,000 to $190,000 per kilogram. Wholesale-level prices for Mexican heroin were the lowest of any type, ranging from $13,200 to $175,000 per kilogram. Prices are different depending on who the buyer and seller are, how much is purchased, how often it is purchased, how pure it is and how much it costs to transport the drug.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is derived from morphine. Morphine comes from the opium poppy. Opiate drugs such as heroin slow down the activity of the central nervous system and messages going to and from the brain and parts of the body. This includes physical, mental and emotional responses. The side effects of heroin include: euphoria, drowsiness, apathy, nausea and vomiting, slurred speech, constricted pupils, decreased physical activity, convulsions, respiratory depression, and greater susceptibility to infection. The risks of taking heroin also include contracting hepatitis or AIDS from infected needles, entering a coma, and death.

Heroin addiction is a serious and life threatening problem. It can occur very quickly among abusers who use heroin on a regular basis. This is due to the fact that tolerance develops upon repeated use of the drug. Users suddenly find that they are using more and more heroin to achieve the same high that they originally felt. Heroin affects the user’s brain in regions that produce euphoric sensations as well as physical dependence. This drug is notorious for its ability to produce both psychological and physical addiction. Chronic heroin users will experience withdrawal symptoms when heroin use is discontinued. Heroin overdose is responsible for the majority of accidental drug related deaths in the U.S.

During 2000, there were approximately 146,000 new heroin users in the United States. The average age of those who first used heroin during the year was 22 years. According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, approximately 3.1 million (1.4 percent) Americans age 12 or older had tried heroin at least once in their lifetime, 456,000 (0.2 percent) used heroin in the past year, and 123,000 (0.1 percent) reported past month heroin use. Results from the 2002 Monitoring the Future Study show that 1.6% of 8th graders, 1.8% of 10th graders, and 1.7% of 12th graders surveyed reported using heroin at least once during their lifetimes.