To tell you the truth, I don’t understand why more people don’t smoke pot.
Pot had a strange effect on me. I viewed life through a checkerboard, able to see only through the white squares. While stoned, I only saw pieces of life. But then I started to feel that way even when I wasn’t loaded. I realized this is not how I wanted to experience life.
Sure there are some benefits from the hemp plant, but I wouldn’t want to get in a car with someone who just smoked a joint, nor would I want to be on the same road with another driver who just had a couple of hits on a bong.
Ann D., Michigan State University senior
Chapter 13. Other Drugs... alcohol is not the only danger
Obviously, this book is about alcohol because, when it comes to socializing, it is the drug of choice for most college students. Just like drinking, a common misperception about other drug use is that most students use some type of illegal drug. Yet all the research available indicates that the use of drugs other than alcohol on the college campus is done by a minority of students. The fact of the matter is that most students do not use illegal drugs and most of the students who do use them, do so only occasionally. Once again, in addition to numerous other research projects, the results of the 2013 Core Survey can shed some interesting light on the reality of illegal drug use. The number of students who reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime was 44.7 percent while the number reporting marijuana use at least once during the year prior to the survey was 32.5 percent, and cocaine use during the prior year was reported by 4.1 percent of students. The number of students who reported using marijuana at least once during the month prior to the survey was 18.8 percent, cocaine use during the prior month was reported by 1.6 percent of students.68
One of the primary reasons people believe the majority of students use drugs otherhan alcohol is that, just like high-risk drinking, the use of other drugs has a very high profile on the campus. Illegal drug use and all the surrounding complications create very spicy headlines. As a result, the newspaper coverage then raises the profile of these users, thus contributing to the misperception that many college students are using. Yes, the use of illegal drugs poses a serious threat to the health, safety and success of college students and must be addressed. However, do not let the high profile of drug users trick you into believing that everyone uses illegal drugs.
In the first edition of Beer, Booze and Books I included a very brief chapter on the other drugs. The response by many of the readers was, “Jim, you need to have more about the other drugs in your next book.” In meeting the suggestions of those students, I have now included a brief overview of many of the more popular drugs used by some college students. I hesitate to offer more than this brief overview due to the broad scope of the issues needed to be addressed when discussing other drugs. In particular, the changes in the laws of many states regarding recreational and medicinal use of marijuana need to be acknowledged. Additionally, there seems to be increased societal acceptance of marijuana use resulting in a backlash of resistance by those concerned about legalization and recreational use of marijuana. Hundreds of books are available regarding drugs and their unique qualities and dangers. Below are just a few of the higher profile drugs and the list only scratches the surface. Once again, let me refer you to Buzzed,69 one of the best books available for information regarding the pharmacological, psychological and emotional concerns we have for drug use. For the moment, however, here are some of the popular drugs and the pertinent information about their use.
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Type of Drug: Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant.
Historical Perspective: Processed cocaine is derived from the leaves of the cocoa shrub which is generally found in the mountainous regions of Central and South America. In leaf form it has been used for centuries by the indigenous people of that area as a mild stimulant and tonic for dealing with the rigors of mountain living.
Addiction Potential: High to extreme depending on the form and method of delivery. The intensity of the high as well as the immediate and extreme withdrawal following use, especially if smoked, contribute to the extreme addictive nature of cocaine.
Method of Delivery: Cocaine can be inhaled, smoked or injected depending on the form in which it is used. It can also be used, although rarely, intravenously.
Medicinal Use: Many people in Central and South America chew the leaves of the cocoa plant for its mild stimulating effects. It is also used by inhabitants of the mountains as a medicinal elixir to relieve the debilitating effects of altitude. Since it will cause a numbing effect when inhaled and acts as a vasoconstrictor, it can also be used by surgeons for nasal and throat surgery.
Acute Effects: Once ingested, usually by either sniffing or smoking, cocaine will create a mild feeling of euphoria accompanied by an increase in the user’s heartbeat, rate of breathing, and blood pressure, creating a perceived energy surge and alertness. Other physical symptoms include an increase in core body temperature, sweating, dilated pupils and pallor. It decreases the appetite of the user while also increasing blood sugar. Heavier dosages could lead to violent, bizarre and erratic behavior.
Short-Term Dangers: Cocaine will contribute to irritability, restlessness, and sleeplessness. It can also cause a seizure, heart attack or stroke with just one dose. And this dose does not need to be an overdose to be deadly! Some users combine alcohol or depressant drugs to mitigate some of the extreme restlessness caused by cocaine. This combination can also cause severe and possibly fatal reactions.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Initially, frequent users will develop prolonged cold-like symptoms. Over a longer period of time, if inhaled regularly, cocaine can contribute to erosion of the nasal septum. Heavy users who sniff the drug have been known to develop an actual hole in their septum. Since it is an appetite suppressant, frequent users and addicts often suffer from malnutrition. Long term cocaine users and addicts usually suffer from many of the same problems that those addicted to other drugs experience, including severe psychological, social, biological and financial problems.
Other Concerns: Sexual problems can develop, including erectile dysfunction, low sperm count and male infertility. As with any drug available on the street, you never know the exact strength of the dosage used. One time it may contain a high degree of additives and be about 50 percent pure. Another time it could be 95 percent pure and extremely deadly. Also, procaine, benzocaine or amphetamine may be used as additives or substitutes, thereby contributing to further dangers.
Type of Drug: Ecstasy is unique in that it is both a stimulant and an hallucinogen. This combination is what makes it so appealing and yet so dangerous.
Historical Perspective: Relatively speaking, ecstasy is new to the drug scene. It was originally developed as an appetite suppressant in the 1930s; however, recreational use did not emerge until the 1960s and 1970s. The misperception of ecstasy as a so-called “safe” drug has contributed to a dramatic increase in ecstasy use in the 1990s and will probably continue until prevention specialists are able to convince the public of the extreme dangers associated with this drug.
Addiction Potential: The potential for physical addiction to ecstasy is moderate.
Method of Delivery: Ecstasy is usually taken orally.
Medicinal Use: Due to its ability to increase empathic feelings in the user, it had originally been used in therapy, in particular couples therapy. I believe, along with most professionals in the alcohol and other drug field, the potential psychological, emotional and physical dangers involved in the use of this drug far outweigh any therapeutic value.
Acute Effects: The euphoric feelings generated by this drug are usually accompanied by mild hallucinations. It is referred to as the “love drug” or the “hug drug” due to the increased empathy and the enhanced sensuality that it creates. Some users report increased stimulation while others report a mild relaxation effect.
Short-Term Dangers: Some of the more uncomfortable effects include dilated pupils, nausea, muscle tension and grinding teeth. One of the most serious dangers resulting from the use of ecstasy is dehydration. This acute dehydration can cause kidney failure and possible death. Since it is a stimulant, the increased heart rate could also be deadly for those with heart problems. Unlike many of the other drugs, ecstasy can cause brain damage with just one use; however, the damage done is not noticeable initially.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Many users believe, or should I say want to believe, that ecstasy is not dangerous. It is hard for them to believe that something that could make us feel so good could be so dangerous. The most current research reveals that this is an extremely dangerous drug. Although uncommon, not only can ecstasy kill someone with the very first use, but brain damage can occur with just one use, or over a period of time and occasional use. Researchers now believe that continued exposure to ecstasy destroys the brain cells responsible for providing us with feelings of pleasure. So although this drug can provide an intense short-term pleasurable feeling, over time we may be able to generate only limited feelings of pleasure without the assistance of some drug.
Other Concerns: As indicated, this drug is known for its ability to increase sensuality. However, the interesting irony is that, if in fact a sexual encounter does develop, ecstasy will most likely contribute to sexual dysfunction. Male users may not be able to achieve an erection and, if they are capable, ecstasy can easily cause an inability to ejaculate. Female users experience greater difficulty in achieving an orgasm. Dentists report a growing concern for the dental health of users. The grinding effect produced by the drug has many users wearing away the enamel on their teeth, resulting in serious tooth decay. One other concern is the fact that ecstasy is usually made by non-professionals. As with many street drugs, you never quite know the exact dosage you are taking, nor do you know what other ingredients have been included or excluded. An inaccurately mixed dosage has been seen to produce Parkinson’s Disease-like symptoms in some users.
GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid)
Type of Drug: Sedative
Historical Perspective: Along with Rohypnol, GHB is sold in foreign countries as an aid to sleep disorders. It had been sold in health food stores in the United States in the 1980s as an alternative to steroids, but as the number of people dying due to its use rose, the federal government banned it in 1990.
Addiction Potential: The addiction potential for GHB is not currently known. However, since it is a sedative drug, for the regular user tolerance and withdrawal are probable.
Method of Delivery: Clear, somewhat salty liquid usually mixed with a drink.
Medicinal Use: GHB has been used in foreign countries for treatment of sleep disorders, narcolepsy and alcoholism. It has also been used as a surgical anesthetic.
Acute Effects: GHB produces a number of effects similar to Rohypnol, including mild euphoria, nausea and dizziness. This can be combined with memory loss and/or loss of consciousness. When combined with other drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, its effects can be extremely dangerous and deadly.
Short-Term Dangers: GHB can slow down the central nervous system so much so that the user can become comatose. Most users come out of the coma, but some still remain in a coma today. Others have died.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Presently there is little known about the long-term effects. Given that it is a sedative drug, the long-term effects are probably similar to, if not more toxic than, other sedative drugs.
Other Concerns: Because GHB can be manufactured on a kitchen stove with ingredients readily available (a mixture of chemicals normally used in cleaning fluids such as lye), users can never be sure of the dosage or the actual ingredients. The mild taste makes it easy to place in a drink without the drinker knowing it.
GHB (Clear liquid)
GHB (Powder and Clear liquid)
Type of Drug: Heroin is an opiate derived from opium, which is a product of the poppy plant. (The painkillers morphine, codeine, percoset, and oxycontin are also opiates - derivatives and synthetics.)
Historical Perspective: The use of opiates as a pain killer and for other medicinal purposes dates back to prehistoric times. Heroin was first synthesized from morphine and was originally considered to be non-addictive in the late 1800s. Shortly after its development, the true addictive nature of this drug was realized. In 1914, the Harrison Act established licensing procedures for medicinal opiate use, and non-medicinal use was banned.
Addiction Potential: Extreme. Although withdrawal from heroin addiction is extremely painful and debilitating, it is not deadly like the withdrawal from addiction to depressant drugs such as alcohol.
Method of Delivery: In the past, heroin was usually injected. Recently, snorting heroin has become more popular, probably due to the increased level of purity and/or perhaps as a result of fear of AIDS due to the use of infected needles. Smoking, also known as “chasing the dragon,” was popular in the opium dens of the late 1800s and continues today.
Medicinal Use: Heroin and its precursor morphine have been used as effective pain killers.
Acute Effects: Heroin injectors describe it as a rush of pleasure and a wave of relaxation. It creates an intense euphoric, dream-like state in the user, followed by drowsiness and sedation. Pain is also relieved by heroin.
Short-Term Dangers: The primary concerns for the user are similar to those concerns for anyone using street drugs: lack of consistency in dosage and lack of purity, both potentially resulting in a deadly overdose. Overdosing can cause respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, shock, coma or death. There is also the danger of an allergic reaction to
substances used to dilute the drug. Vomiting and constipation often accompany heroin use.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Dependency can develop within just a few weeks of daily use. Men may suffer from a number of different sexual dysfunctions and women often cease having menstrual cycles. Constipation and malnutrition are also seen in long-term users. Long-term users may also suffer from brain damage due to decreased levels of oxygen in the blood (hypoxia). Surprisingly, although many health problems do arise for the heroin user due to his/her lifestyle choices, damage to the rest of the body specifically caused by heroin is somewhat negligible.
Other Concerns: The risk of AIDS and other infectious diseases is extreme when addicts share needles.
Heroin (Black Tar)
LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)
Type of Drug: Hallucinogen
Historical Perspective: LSD was originally synthesized in the 1940s, though hallucinogen use dates back to prehistoric times. LSD use was most extreme in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Contrary to media reports about LSD’s loss of popularity, it remains one of the most commonly used hallucinogens today.
Addiction Potential: Low. Physical addiction is highly unlikely, but psychological dependence is easily developed.
Method of Delivery: LSD is taken orally via sugar pills, blotter paper or small gelatin pieces. It can also be ingested via teas or broths.
Medicinal Use: LSD has had limited use in mental hospitals and laboratories to study mental disorders.
Acute Effects: The user’s personality, experience with drugs, expectations and mood will trigger a variety of responses to LSD and other hallucinogens. The setting in which they are taken and the people surrounding the user will also have a dramatic impact on the acute effects of these drugs. As the name suggests, it induces hallucinations along with a distortion of time and space perception, as well as sensations of disconnectedness with reality. Other acute effects include blurred vision, visual patterns, feelings of increased personal insight and expansion of consciousness.
Short-Term Dangers: With the exception of possible acute anxiety reactions, LSD does not seem to cause dangerous physical reactions. However, any hallucinogenic experience can produce anxiety, paranoia or severe panic. Also, hallucinogens sometimes add to an existing neurosis or character disorder. Although uncommon, psychotic reactions can occur.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Flashbacks (experiencing hallucinations and other visual disturbances in the absence of the drug) are fairly common in heavy LSD users. Other visual disturbances experienced by the long-term user indicate the possibility of brain damage that will persist long after the cessation of use.
Other Concerns: There are a number of other hallucinogens, including psilocybin mushrooms, Phencyclidine (PCP), Ketamine (Special K), mescaline and mescaline-like drugs. These drugs place the user at risk for a number of adverse reactions and dangers. Some of these reactions and/or dangers are milder than those caused by LSD use, while others are much more serious, including death.
Since the second edition of this book was released, the status of marijuana in society has shifted significantly. Many more states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Some states have legalized so-called recreational use. And, although nation-wide legalization seems a long way off, we can expect more and more states to legalize it to some extent. There are numerous pros and cons to legalization, some of which make sense while others are based in emotion not valid research.
Type of Drug: Varied classification: Mild Hallucinogen; Mild Stimulant; Psychoactive (Mind altering)
Historical Perspective: Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant which has both psychoactive properties and medicinal value, as well as industrial applications. Concrete evidence of marijuana use in China for its psychoactive properties dates back to the first century BC, and there is evidence that it was probably even earlier. Evidence also suggests there was use of marijuana during this time in Europe and Egypt,
Addiction Potential: Low. Much controversy surrounds the question of marijuana’s addiction potential. Once again we can look to the DSM-5 for a better understanding of the potential problematic use of marijuana. The same 11 questions used to identify an Alcohol Use Disorder can be utilized in determining the presence of a Marijuana Use Disorder. For instance, users can certainly develop a psychological dependence on marijuana. Additionally, I have counseled numerous students who were experiencing significant day-to-day problems due to their continued use of marijuana. Current research suggests that heavy users may also experience symptoms of physical withdrawal in the absence of the drug, indicating physical addiction. However, these symptoms of withdrawal are not as profound as withdrawal from other “harder” drugs such as heroin or alcohol.
Method of Delivery: Marijuana is usually smoked. Popularity is increasing in consuming it via a vaporizer thus reducing the risks associated with the inhalation of marijuana smoke. It can be mixed with other ingredients, then cooked and eaten. “Edibles” have been growing in popularity since the legalization of recreational use in Colorado and Washington.
Medicinal Use: Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive metabolite that is present in the bloodstream following the ingestion of marijuana, has unique pharmacological actions and numerous medicinal uses. It can be used:
as an anti-nausea agent for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
to relieve the introcular pressure in the eye due to glaucoma
to increase appetite for HIV/AIDS patients
to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms
to relieve chronic seizures
It should be noted that there are other drugs that deliver these same benefits without the potential negative side effects of smoking marijuana, such as its psychoactive properties and the noxious chemicals also present in marijuana smoke. Scientists are currently attempting to develop efficient delivery methods which will not subject the patients to those negative side effects while still providing the medicinal benefits. Marinol is the only US FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid. It is often marketed as a legal pharmaceutical alternative to natural cannabis. Other medicinal uses of marijuana are currently under investigation.
Acute Effects: More so than most other drugs, the acute effects of marijuana are significantly impacted by the environment. Users may shift from extreme laughter to quiet introspection. Some people are stimulated by marijuana while others are sedated. The same people may experience different effects at different times based on the quality of the marijuana, the amount of the dose, and the people surrounding the user. High grade marijuana with elevated THC content and hashish (made from the resin of the plant) can potentially produce hallucinations. Other effects could include time distortion and paranoia.
Short-Term Dangers: Due to the nature of the drug, overdose is virtually impossible. However, injuries and death can occur due to poor judgment, lack of coordination, and other impairment complications. Contrary to what many students claim, users do not drive better when stoned. Most research indicates the greater the THC level in the blood, the greater the impairment of driving ability.
Effects of Long-Term Use: There are numerous potential negative effects resulting from long-term use of marijuana. However, the “marijuana trap” is that the nature of these undesirable negative effects often renders these effects unnoticeable by the user. An additional trap is that many users do not experience these effects. The absence of all or some of these negative effects in some users creates the potential illusion of “they won’t happen to me.” It is only after the cessation of use that the user notices how the marijuana had been impacting his/her performance. Some of the more profound problems include:
deficits in attention and recall
impairment in the ability to shift attention
deficits in verbal IQ and verbal learning
diminished ability to respond to unique complex tasks
inability to reject irrelevant sensory input
impairment of short-term memory
Even though many of the effects of long-term use may be reversible after a period of abstinence, and there is no evidence of gross organic change to the brain structure, marijuana use can have a significant negative impact on the success of regular users. Yes, just like alcohol use, there are those who can use heavily and be successful. More often than not, however, the regular marijuana user does not meet his/her true academic potential and level of success. The smoker is subjecting her/himself to numerous noxious and carcinogenic chemicals including benzopyrene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and tar when smoking. The presence of these carcinogens in the marijuana smoke suggests a greater risk for cancer in heavy smokers. Currently, there seems to be no epidemiological evidence of an increase in other diseases due to marijuana use, other than respiratory disease. Debate continues regarding the impact of marijuana on the immune system.
Other Concerns: The nature of this book limits a comprehensive look at marijuana. As you can see by the above information, marijuana remains a very controversial drug. Much of the research on both the short term and long term effects remains inconclusive. Often the results are quantity and frequency based as well as dependent upon the physical and emotional state of the user. What we do know however, is that the occasional use of marijuana by fully developed adults has minimal negative effects beyond the increased risks for impairment problems and yet marijuana use can have a significant negative impact on the physical, emotional and social development of teens and young adults.
Weed on Campus
Type of Drug: It is difficult to categorize nitrous oxide. It can best be described as an anesthetic.
Historical Perspective: Also known as laughing gas, nitrous oxide has been abused to produce a high for more than one hundred years. At least one nineteenth-century scientist reported his own use of nitrous oxide to achieve its psychedelic effects.
Addiction Potential: Low
Method of Delivery: Nitrous oxide is a colorless gas that is inhaled from pressurized tanks or capsules. When used medicinally, it is mixed with oxygen and has a concentration of 60-80% nitrous oxide.
Medicinal Use: It is used medically to produce a mild but clinically useful level of anesthesia. It is primarily used by dentists. It is also used as a prelude for a variety of medical procedures.
Acute Effects: The high from nitrous oxide lasts very briefly, and dissipates approximately five minutes after acute inhalation. It produces feelings of euphoria and a dream-like state. Additionally, nitrous oxide may produce a floating feeling or a “coasting” sensation. Some people experience negative feelings of uneasiness and anxiety.
Short-Term Dangers: The intoxication from nitrous oxide can contribute to unconsciousness, memory loss and psychomotor impairment, resulting in injuries due to accidents. Nitrous oxide can cause damage to the tissue it comes in contact with, including the mouth, trachea and lungs.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Chronic use of nitrous oxide can contribute to a decrease in the production of both red and white blood cells. This could lead to anemia and a possible increased risk for infection. This could also exaggerate any pre-existing immune system problem. Finally, regular users with emphysema or asthma risk a severe decrease in blood oxygen level, which could have a disastrous result.
Type of Drug: Sedative in the benzodiazepine family. (Valium, Librium and Xanax are also benzodiazepines.)
Historical Perspective: Even though it is manufactured and used in Europe, the Asian Pacific and Latin America, the manufacturers of Rohypnol, Hoffman LaRoche, have never sought approval for its use in the United States. It is not marketed legally in the United States, but is commonly imported illegally through Mexico and South America, where it is legal.
Addiction Potential: As with most sedative drugs, Rohypnol has a moderate to high addiction potential.
Method of Delivery: Rohypnol is usually taken orally in pill form.
Medicinal Use: Rohypnol is prescribed by physicians overseas for people with sleeping disorders.
Acute Effects: Rohypnol intoxication is generally associated with impaired judgement and motor skills, loss of inhibitions, and slowed heartbeat. When mixed with alcohol, narcotic drugs, or any other central nervous system depressant, the results can be life-threatening and fatal. Perpetrators of sexual assault find this drug particularly effective because it can cause extended memory loss (8-24 hours), especially when used in high dosages or when mixed with alcohol.
Short-Term Dangers: Blackouts are a serious concern with the use of Rohypnol. The loss of inhibitions are of major concern as well.
Effects of Long-Term Use: Like other sedative-hypnotics, Rohypnol can produce physical dependence. An abrupt cessation of use can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia, intense dreaming, intense sensitivity to light and sounds, possible seizure, and possibly death.
Other Concerns: Because the older form of Rohypnol was odorless, colorless and tasteless, it could easily be slipped into someone’s drink without their knowledge. These qualities of Rohypnol have fostered its use in “acquaintance rapes.” As a result, the manufacturers are now producing it so that when placed in a drink, it will turn the drink blue.
Recent national studies and reports indicate that the intentional abuseofprescriptiondrugs,such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives is a growing concern. Abuse of prescription drugs has become increasingly prevalent among young adults. Past year abuse of prescription pain killers now ranks second—only behind marijuana—as the Nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem.
As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of poisonings and deaths associated with the abuse of prescription drugs. The misperception held by many young adults is that, since they are legal, these drugs are a safe way to get high. However, when abused - when they're taken by someone who doesn't need them or when they're taken at a higher dose or more often than a doctor has recommended - prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as street drugs. They can cause serious health problems.
ADHD Medications include Ritalin and Aderall. When used under a psychiatrist's or other doctor's care they are effective and relatively safe for most people. They have been shown to help those with ADHD in a number of areas such as reducing smoking and substance abuse, limiting injuries, and automobile accidents, and helping improve relationships. Risks associated with the abuse of stimulant-type ADHD medication include increased heart rate and blood pressure, tremors, changes in mood, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and irregular breathing. There are serious risks for addiction with continued use.
Painkillers include vicodin, percocet, oxyContin and other opiods. Risks of abuse include nausea, constipation, drowsiness, respiratory failure and death. There are serious risks for addiction with continued use evidenced by the significant increase in opiod related deaths and addiction.
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