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Prescription Drugs

Using prescription medications to get high can be as dangerous and addictive as using illicit drugs. Combining prescription drugs with other prescription medications or over the counter medications and/or alcohol increases the effects of each drug and the risk of overdose.

Narcotics can cause restlessness, nausea, dizziness, confusion, respiratory depression, scars, loss of appetite, coughing, lethargy, and unconsciousness. 

  • Withdrawal affects include watery eyes, runny nose, cramps, loss of appetite, irritability, nausea, tremors, panic, and chills. 
  • Signs of overdose include slow, shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, respiratory depression or arrest (stop breathing), coma, or even death.

Depressants can cause intoxication symptoms similar to alcohol including slurred speech, impaired memory and judgement, loss of motor coordination, respiratory depression, staggering or stumbling, difficulty staying awake or concentrating, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, lowered blood pressure, and confusion. 

  • Withdrawal affects include anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors, loss of appetite, convulsions, and delirium. 
  • Signs of overdose include shallow breathing, clammy skin, dilated pupils, abnormal pulse (too weak or too rapid), respiratory depression or arrest (stop breathing), coma, or even death.

Stimulants can cause an increased or irregular heart rate, elevated blood pressure, decreased appetite, loss of coordination, unhealthy weight loss, excess perspiration, blurred vision, irritability, argumentativeness, nervousness, dilated pupils, insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, and delusions. 

  • Withdrawal affects include apathy, insomnia, irritability, depression, convulsions, disorientation. 
  • Signs of overdose include agitation, increase in body temperature, hallucinations, nervousness, convulsions, heart failure, or even death.

Drug Classification: Hallucinogen Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: Moderate

Modes of Administration:
Oral (consumed in foods such as brownies and tea)
Inhalation (smoked in a hand-rolled cigarette, pipe or bong)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): The primary chemical in marijuana, THC, enters the bloodstream from eating or smoking marijuana (Cannabis sativa). Effects peak within 30 minutes of ingestion and residual effects can last up to 3 hours. Chemicals from marijuana remain in the body for much longer, including several weeks, depending on amount and potency of the marijuana used.

The effects vary from person to person depending on how strong the marijuana is, how it is taken (mode of administration), and whether other drugs are taken in combination.

Drug Action(s): Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Increased heart rate (average of 29 beats per minute MORE)
  • Dryness of eyes and mouth
  • Hypothalamus stimulation resulting in increased hunger (“munchies”)
  • Disruption of coordination
  • Distortion of thinking, perception, and problem solving
  • Disturbed memory and learning processes
  • Anxiety and paranoia are not uncommon and full blown panic attacks have been reported

Long terms effects on the mind and body include:

  • Health issues similar to those faced by cigarette smokers: bronchitis, emphysema, cancer and heart problems (1 marijuana joint = 5 cigarettes)
  • Delay of puberty and reduced sperm production in males; disrupted menstrual cycle and discharge of eggs from the ovaries in females. Pregnant women may miscarry; babies may be stillborn, have lower birth weight, or have nervous system disorders such as learning problems
  • Damage to immunological system resulting in longer times to recover from disease
  • Amotivational syndrome: one avoids doing the tasks he/she doesn’t want to do but must
  • Onset or relapse of schizophrenia and depression in predisposed people

A Word about Marijuana as a “Gateway Drug”

Debate continues on whether marijuana is physiologically addictive or a gateway drug. Former users have substantiated physical withdrawal symptoms and animal studies suggest physical dependence. Marijuana was the primary drug for 25% of all admissions to drug treatment in 2000. In 95% of those who have used other illicit drugs, marijuana was used first. Research is being done now on whether marijuana “primes” the brain by making it more easily affected to drugs used in one's future.


Drug Classification: Hallucinogen & Stimulant Drug Schedule: II

Modes of Administration:
Oral (aspirin-sized pill or clear capsule)
Intranasal (snorted into the nose)
Intravenous (injected)

Onset of Drug Effect(s):
Onset is typically within an hour, depending on stomach contents. Initial effects last two to six hours, depending on potency/dosage. The “hangover” effect can last up to five days.

Drug Action(s):
The active chemical MDMA or MDA combines the effects of methylated amphetamines, which stimulate, with hallucinogenic effects of LSD. Ecstasy triggers neurons to release all stored serotonin and prohibits its re-absorption. This neurotransmitter promotes feelings of bliss, empathy, and perceived insight as well as affecting specific physiological changes.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Euphoria, self-confidence, hyperactivity
  • Sexual disinhibition & increased affection
  • Distortion of time, exaggerated sensory perception, paranoia, anxiety
  • Nystagmus (eye wiggles), creating blurred vision
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Involuntary teeth grinding, muscle tension
  • Increased body temperature, sweating, chills, fainting, dehydration
  • Depression and fatigue for days following use
  • Teeth clenching
  • Muscle cramping

The following effects have been reported for individuals who have used Ecstasy over a longer period of time:

  • Neurotoxicity – permanent damage to serotonin-releasing neurons with consequent memory and thought impairment
  • Elevated impulsivity
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease
  • Death has been reported in individuals, usually when a combination of other drugs is present or because of the dehydration

Addiction potential: Unknown

A Word about Drug Combinations

Ecstasy is illegally manufactured and is often used in combination and adulterated with other drugs. Ecstasy is also commonly “cut” with the following: chalk, LSD, amphetamines, heroin, caffeine, ketamine, and ephedrine.


Drug Classification: Stimulant Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: HIGH

Modes of Administration

  • Oral (chewing leaves & dissolved in mouth)
  • Intranasal (snorted into the nose)
  • Intravenous (injected)
  • Inhalation (smoked in pipes, bowls or joints)
  • Transdermal (rubbed into the gums


Onset of Drug Effect(s)

Oral cocaine use provides a slower, longer high which lessens the cardiovascular effects but increases the chance of poisoning due to difficulties determining dose.

Snorted cocaine is felt within a minute with a high for 30 minutes or less. Because of the short duration for the high, repetitive use is common.

Smoking powdered cocaine can be inefficient - it tends to burn - so most frequently smoked is a processed cocaine form called crack. Smoked cocaine is felt immediately and lasts less than 15 minutes, again prompting repeated use.

Injected cocaine produces effects within seconds.

Drug Action(s)

When released, the neurotransmitter dopamine stimulates pleasure areas of the brain. A transporter protein recycles dopamine back to its originating neurons. Cocaine binds with this protein allowing dopamine to build up. The acute effects on the mind and body from cocaine use include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Constricted blood vessels, increased heart rate and blood pressure with possible death by heart attack or stroke if sensitive
  • Increased body temperature and sweating
  • Increased energy, mood, and sense of euphoria
  • Decreased appetite and need for sleep
  • In large doses psychosis including paranoia, hallucinations, erratic or violent behavior may occur

The following effects have been reported after continued use of cocaine:

  • Restlessness, anxiety, irritability, insomnia
  • Mood disturbances, apathy, depression, suicidal ideation
  • Weight loss
  • Runny nose, nosebleeds, perforated septum in the nose
  • Paranoia, auditory hallucinations
  • Heart disease, chaotic heart rhythms, heart attacks, chest pains
  • Strokes, seizures, convulsions, coma
  • Respiratory failure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Gastrointestinal complications

A Word about Crack

Crack, the freebased form of cocaine, produces an immediate rush within 5-10 seconds of ingestion but only lasts for a total of 5-15 minutes. This cycle of quick “rush” and “crash” creates a cycle of craving.


Drug Classification: Stimulant Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: HIGH

Modes of Administration:
Oral (chewed)
Inhalation (smoked)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): People think that tobacco tastes good, feels good and looks cool. On the downside, tobacco has over 4,000 harmful chemicals in it that can cause things such as colds, coughing, loss of sense of taste and smell, premature wrinkles, problems with sleeping, mouth sores, and smelly clothes and hair!

Some think that chewing tobacco is safer, but it’s not true. Smokeless tobacco can cause bleeding gums and sores of the mouth that never heal. Eventually you could end up with cancer.

When tobacco is smoked, nicotine is absorbed by the lungs and quickly moves into the bloodstream, where it is circulated throughout the brain. Nicotine reaches the brain in roughly 8 seconds after someone inhales. Nicotine can also enter through mucous membranes that line the mouth (when chewed) or nose (when snuffed), and even through the skin.

Drug Action(s): Nicotine affects the entire body. It acts directly on the heart to increase heart rate and blood pressure. It also acts on the nerves that control respiration patterns. In high concentrations, nicotine is deadly. In fact, one drop of pure nicotine on the tongue will kill someone. It is so lethal that is has been used as a pesticide for centuries.

The nicotine molecule is shaped like the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which it attaches to and mimics. As such, nicotine impacts muscle movement, heart rate, learning and memory. They also impact the subsequent release of other neurotransmitters and hormones that affect mood, memory, appetite, and more.

Nicotine also activates several areas of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward. Scientists recently discovered that nicotine actually produces increased levels of dopamine in the areas of the brain that directly control the experience of pleasure. Researchers are beginning to believe that this increased level of dopamine in pleasure centers of the brain contribute greatly to addiction and may explain why nicotine is such an addictive drug.


Drug Classification: Synthetic derivative of testosterone 

Drug Schedule: III

Addiction Potential: Moderate

Modes of Administration: 
Oral (pill or capsule)
Intravenous (injected)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): Steroids are synthetic, man-made substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. Doctors will prescribe steroids to help people with certain kinds of anemia or with men who do not produce enough testosterone. Doctors also prescribe corticosteroids to reduce swelling. Corticosteroids are not anabolic steroids and do not produce the same harmful consequences associated with them.

Steroids promote the growth of skeletal muscle and increase lean body mass. Anabolic steroids were first abused by athletes seeking to improve performance. Today, athletes and others abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance and also to improve physical appearance.

Drug Action(s): Steroids can, in fact, stimulate muscle growth. But they also cause things like major acne, trembling, high blood pressure, yellow skin, bloating, liver problems, stunted growth, and weaker tendons. Baldness, facial hair, and a deeper voice often develop. Irregular menstrual cycles and infertility are what females have to worry about, while men can look forward to a reduced sperm count and testicular shrinkage and, sometimes, breast development. Over time, steroid use can cause serious violent behavior, delusions, paranoid jealousy, and bad judgment. These are the kinds of side effects that can lead people to suicide.

Over the long-term, steroids affect individual cells and promote protein growth. For example, the liver can grow tumors and develop cancer. Steroids can also lead to heart attack and stroke as a result of fatty deposits in the arteries.


Drug Classification: Hallucinogen Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: Moderate

Modes of Administration: 
Oral (eaten)
Intranasal (snorted into the nose)
Inhalation (smoked in pipes, bowls or joints)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): PCP was developed in 1950 and was used as an IV anesthetic. The drug produces a rapid onset and can last up to several hours.

Drug Action(s): PCP results in a “rush” or euphoria in the user, as it blocks pain and stimulates dopamine in the brain.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Shallow rapid breathing
  • Increased blood pressure/heart rate/respiration
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Decreased pain awareness
  • Distortion of time, place, and body
  • Suicidal behavior
Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs
Modes of Administration: 

Oral (pill, tablet, liquid)
Inhalation (snort crushed pill or tablet)

The allure of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs is cheap cost, easy and wide availability, and legal status. Most adolescents and young adults do not even recognize the risks associated with abuse of OTC drugs, even though very clear consequences are denoted on the packaging of all OTC drugs.

In recent years, OTC drug abuse has dramatically increased, particularly with a drug called DXM, the cough suppressant substance in medicines such as Coricidin Cough and Cold®. DXM is a depressant and is used correctly to suppress cough; however, in large doses can result in hallucinations, blurred vision, confusion, drowsiness, and dizziness.

Sudafed®, or pseudoephedrine, is a decongestant and stimulant that is used correctly to treat sinus infections. However, in large doses, it causes restlessness, insomnia, hallucinations, and dizziness.

There is an exhaustive number of OTC drugs that carry the potential for abuse. It is important to recognize that a drug is a drug is a drug. When taken in doses other than those recommended, it can also lead to life-threatening situations, particularly when combined with other drugs. Simply because a drug is legal and available does not mean that it is safe for you to take.

A Word about OTC Drugs & Alcohol

Someone should always check for possible drug interactions when taking an over-the-counter drug, particularly with regard to consuming alcohol. As with many prescription drugs, alcohol may interrupt, counteract, or combine to create life-threatening consequences.


Drug Classification: Stimulant Drug Schedule: II

Addiction Potential: HIGH

Modes of Administration:
Oral (powder, capsule or pill)

Inhalation (crystallized form smoked)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): Methamphetamine was created in a chemistry lab - it is an artificial chemical substance. 

Methamphetamine basically keeps you awake - people use it if they want to stay up. Unfortunately, it can keep them up for days. Some people feel high, others just feel like they have had way too much coffee. The average dose of methamphetamine can last anywhere from 4-8 hours!

Drug Action(s): Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hyperactivity
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion & mild hallucination

Long terms effects on the mind and body include:

  • Development of anorexia
  • Stroke, due to damage done to heart and blood vessels
  • Reduced levels of dopamine, leading to Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms
  • Psychotic symptoms (auditory hallucinations, paranoia, hostility)
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Chronic stress syndrome
  • HIV infection (associated with injection drug use)

Drug Classification: Hallucinogen Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: Moderate

Modes of Administration: 
Oral (liquid)
Intranasal (snorted into the nose)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): Onset of effects from LSD use generally occur within 30-90 minutes of ingestion and last up to 12 hours in higher doses.

Drug Action(s): The effects of LSD are unpredictable with each use and with each user. They depend on the amount of the drug taken, the user’s personality/mood/expectations, and the environment in which the drug is used.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increase in body temperature/heart rate/respiration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Altered sense of time and space
  • Great risk for personal injury and fatal accidents
  • Dramatic mood swings

Long terms effects on the mind and body include:

  • Physical exhaustion
  • Psychosis, schizophrenia-like symptoms
  • Adverse drug reaction
  • Flashbacks

Drug Classification: Opiate/Narcotic Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: HIGH

Modes of Administration: 
Oral (powder)
Intranasal (snorted into the nose)
Intravenous (dissolved in water & injected)

Onset of Drug Effect(s):
Since heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier very quickly, the onset of action is typically within minutes with effects lasting up to several hours.

Drug Action(s):
Because people who are high on heroin, or craving the next fix, do not use good judgment, they often share needles with other users. Sharing needles means significant risk for HIV infection and hepatitis, two incurable diseases which can ultimately kill.

Heroin is illegal and expensive, so dealers often "cut" it with similar-looking powders, like cocaine or even baking soda or cleansers. Users never know how pure their drug is, so every dose is different. This means that a major overdose could happen at any time...even one use could result in a coma or death. Other signs of an overdose include difficulty breathing, clammy skin, and convulsions.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Feeling “mellow,” dreamy or euphoric
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Decreased breathing and heart rate
  • Contracted pupils
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremor
  • Panic
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Libido suppression
  • Severe itching
  • Heavy extremities

Long terms effects on the mind and body include:

Addiction. As soon as users come down, they want another fix. The desire for another fix becomes stronger with the more heroin they do. Many addicts resort to stealing from friends and family, and participating in illegal acts like selling drugs or getting involved in prostitution for money.

Signs of an overdose include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Covulsions

Drug Classification: Depressant Drug Schedule: I

Addiction Potential: HIGH

Modes of Administration: Oral (powder, pill, liquid)

Onset of Drug Effect(s): Initial effects occur in 10 to 20 minutes, depending on when and how much someone has consumed. Acute effects last 1-½ hours with lesser effects for another four hours. GHB is out of the body within 24 hours.

Drug Action(s): The active chemical, gammahydroxybutyrate, naturally occurs in the body. Synthesized, it is odorless, colorless, and only slightly salty, making it practically undetectable in a drink – the normal route of ingestion.

GHB inhibits dopamine release in the brain, creating a stockpile which is later released. This provides a sense of well-being after GHB is out of the system.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Relaxation, disinhibition, tranquility
  • Drowsiness, grogginess
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Increased pituitary growth hormone
  • Increased protein synthesis
  • Deeper, slower respiration
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased body temperature

Because the range of safe dosage is extremely narrow, the potential for overdose is VERY high. Overdose symptoms include:

  • Extreme grogginess with periods of unarousable sleep
  • Dizziness, nausea
  • Disorientation
  • Unconsciousness and vomiting, which may occur simultaneously
  • Gag reflex suppressed
  • Depressed breathing, convulsions, coma
  • Amnesia

A Word about Sexual Violence

Because GHB can be added to beverages without detection or the consent or knowledge of an unsuspecting person, it is often implicated in incidents of sexual violence. GHB can render a person incapable of resisting or remembering an assault.

While alcohol is the number one predatory drug, GHB is usually accompanied by alcohol which creates greater risk for overdose with the subsequent synergistic depressant effects of both drugs.

It is also important to note that many people choose to consume GHB recreationally and also fall prey to predatory behavior, including sexual violence.


Drug Classification: Depressant Drug Schedule: IV 

Addiction Potential: Moderate

Modes of Administration:
Oral (pill or powder)
Intranasal (snorted into the nose)

Onset of Drug Effect(s) and Drug Action(s): Rohypnol® is artificial. It was created in a chemistry lab during sedative medical research.There is no medical use of Rohypnol® in the United States.

Rohypnol® makes users really relaxed, confused, and spaced-out. It can totally take away all inhibitions, making people do things they ordinarily wouldn’t do. Enough Rohypnol® can make people pass out, and even slip into a coma if taken in combination with other drugs or in large doses. Average doses of Rohypnol® take effect in 15-20 minutes and can last up to 12 hours.

Rohypnol® is famous as "the date rape drug.” Because Rohypnol® is tasteless and odorless, many people have slipped it into an unsuspecting person’s drink at a party or a bar, then taken advantage of them sexually when they’re too “out of it” to say no or even really know what’s going on.

There are many other "copycat" drugs also out now - drugs that are similar to, or more dangerous than Rohypnol®, but they act the same way - and people use them to commit predatory acts. Keep your eyes, ears, and instincts alert, and never leave your drink unattended, even for a short period of time.

Acute effects on the mind and body include:

  • Loss of motor control
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blurred speech
  • Respiratory depression
  • Amnesia

A Word about Sexual Violence

Because Rohypnol® can be added to beverages without detection or the consent or knowledge of an unsuspecting person, it is often implicated in incidents of sexual violence. Rohypnol® can render a person incapable of resisting or remembering an assault.

While alcohol is the number one predatory drug, Rohypnol® is usually accompanied by alcohol which creates greater risk for overdose with the subsequent synergistic depressant effects of both drugs.