Types of Drugs



What is marijuana?

Marijuana is the nation’s most used illicit drug.  According to the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more than 83 million Americans (37%), have tried marijuana at least once.   Marijuana is a mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seed and flowers of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa.  The chemical that causes the ‘high’ is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  The amount of THC is what dictates the potency of the marijuana that is being used.

When someone smokes marijuana, the THC is passed from the lungs to the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the organs in the body.  When in the brain, the THC connects to nerve cells on cannabinoid receptors and affects the activity of those cells.  Many of these receptors are found in the parts of the brain that affect memory, thought, pleasure, concentration, sensory, time perception and coordinated movement. 

How is marijuana used?

Marijuana is most usually smoked through pipes, water pipes (bongs), or can be cooked in foods such as brownies. 

What are the short term effects of marijuana use?

Marijuana’s effects begin as soon as the drug enters the brain and will generally last for 1-3 hours.  If marijuana is consumed in food or drink, the short term effects will begin more slowly but will last up to 4 hours.  Within a few minutes of smoking marijuana, heart rate increases, the bronchial passages relax, and blood vessels in the eyes expand. 

As the drug enters the body, dopamine is released, and this is what causes the high.  While smoking marijuana, a person may experience more pleasant, strong sensations than usual, and time will appear to move very slowly.  The user’s mouth may feel dry, they may shake, and they may become very hungry and thirsty.  Marijuana also impairs a memory and ability to recall events.  Coordination and balance is also disrupted.  Therefore, it is imperative that people who are taking marijuana do not drive while under the influence of the drug.  Studies show that 6-11% of fatal accident victims test positive for THC.

What are the long term effects of marijuana use?

Because marijuana is generally smoked, there are obviously serious and potentially fatal respiratory ailments that occur from smoking marijuana. People who smoke marijuana frequently are more at risk for chronic cough, bronchitis, and emphysema as well as cancer of the head, neck and lungs.

Marijuana has significant negative consequences on school, work and social life.  Students especially suffer from decreased performance due to the effects of THC.  Studies have shown that students who smoke marijuana heavily have decreased attention and memory even 24 hours after smoking the drug.  However, after four weeks of remaining abstinent, memory and cognition seem to reappear.

Other Drugs of Use and Abuse


What is cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that directly affects the brain.  There are two chemical forms of cocaine, hydrochloride salt and freebase, and these are the types that are used the most.  On the streets, cocaine is sold generally as a white powder that is generally cut with either inert substances or other stimulants such as amphetamines.

How is cocaine used?

The main ways that cocaine is ingested are as follows: oral, intranasal, intravenous, and inhalation.  Hydrochloride salt cocaine is dissolved in water and used intravenously while the freebase form is used by smoking it.

What are the short term effects of cocaine use?

The short term effects of cocaine use are as follows: increased energy, decreased appetite, mental alertness, increased heart rate, increased temperature, and constricted blood vessels.

Large amounts (several hundred milligrams or more) intensify the user’s high, but may also lead to bizarre, erratic, and violent behavior.  These users may experience tremors, vertigo, muscle twitches, paranoia, or, with repeated doses, a toxic reaction closely resembling amphetamine poisoning.  Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. In rare instances, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.

What are the long term effects of cocaine use?

The long term effects of cocaine use are as follows: addiction, irritability, restlessness, paranoia, hallucinations and death, possibly sudden death as explained above.


What is ecstasy? 

Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drugs that is similar the meth.  It is used very commonly as a rave drug.  In 2003, 470,000 people in the US had used ecstasy in the past 30 days.  Therefore, it is a widely used drug.

How is ecstasy used?

Ecstasy is taken orally.

What are the short term effects of ecstasy use?

Ecstasy causes many people to feel relaxed, upbeat, and more sociable.  However, there are many negative side effects such as confusion, anxiety, sleeplessness, paranoia, nausea, chills, sweating, blurred vision, depression, and aggression.

What are the long term effects of ecstasy use?

There is much research that points to the fact that even using ecstasy a few times can cause serious brain damage.


What are hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are drugs that cause hallucinations - profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. Some hallucinogens also produce rapid, intense emotional swings.

What are common types of hallucinogens?

  • LSD is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It was discovered in 1938 and is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
  • Peyote is a small, spineless cactus in which the principal active ingredient is mescaline. This plant has been used by natives in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States as a part of religious ceremonies. Mescaline can also be produced through chemical synthesis.
  • Psilocybin is obtained from certain types of mushrooms that are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States.
  • PCP (phencyclidine) was developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic. Its use has since been discontinued due to serious adverse effects.

How are hallucinogens used?

  • LSD is sold in tablets, capsules, and, occasionally, liquid form; thus, it is usually taken orally. LSD is often added to absorbent paper, which is then divided into decorated pieces, each equivalent to one dose.
  • Peyote. The top of the peyote cactus, also referred to as the crown, consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut from the roots and dried. These buttons are generally chewed or soaked in water to produce an intoxicating liquid.
  • Psilocybin. Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried and are typically taken orally.
  • PCP is a white crystalline powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. PCP can be snorted, smoked, or orally ingested.

What are the short term effects of hallucinogen use?

Importantly, and unlike most other drugs, the effects of hallucinogens are highly variable and unreliable, producing different effects in different people at different times. This is mainly due to the significant variations in amount and composition of active compounds, particularly in the hallucinogens derived from plants and mushrooms. Because of their unpredictable nature, the use of hallucinogens can be particularly dangerous.

Some of the images seen from these hallucinations can be from the past or imaginary images of unnecessary things. These images are called “trips”. You could have a “normal trip” which means you visualize regular images, or you could have a “bad trip”. A “bad trip” can lead you to see monsters or unpleasant images. By taking hallucinogens, you can receive dangerous physical, emotional, mental, short-term, and long-term effects. Depending o the properties, dosage, and potency of the drug, the personality and mood of the drug taker, and the environment, the drug effects will vary. Visually, perception of light and space is altered, and colors and detail take on increased significance. Also you will have an increase heart rate, increased blood pressure, and dilated pupils. Physical effects include disorders of thought associated with time and space. Some of the experiences may be either pleasurable or extremely frightening. Examples of some short term effects are: experiencing bright colors and sharp sounds, you could confuse your senses, minutes will feel like hours, you will have a changed body image (you could feel like you are floating), dilated pupils, rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure, nausea, paranoia and confusion, or you could feel strong feelings of anxiety or fear.

What are the long term effects of hallucinogen use?

Long term effects of hallucinogenic drugs include have flashbacks daily, weekly, or monthly. Two long-term effects persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), more commonly referred to as "flashbacks"-have been associated with use. The causes of these effects, which in some users occur after a single experience with the drug, are not known.


What is Heroin?

Heroin is the not only the most abused opiate, it is also illegal and very addictive.  Heroin is processed from morphine and is generally sold as a white or brownish powder.

How is heroin used?

Heroin is usually injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked.  A heroin user will usually inject up to four times a day.  Intravenous injection causes the greatest high in the shortest amount of time; therefore, injection is the most common method of heroin use.

What are the short term effects of heroin use?

Heroin is especially addictive because of the short time that the chemical takes to cross the blood-brain barrier.  There is usually a pleasurable ‘rush’, accompanied by a skin flushing, dry mouth, and a ‘heavy feeling’.  There may also be nausea, vomiting, and itching.  Cardiac and respiratory functions also slow, sometimes to the point of death.

What are the long term effects of heroin use?

Because heroin is so addictive, one of the most detrimental effects of heroin use is just that: addiction.  Also very serious is the threat for HIV/AIDS due to the fact that users often inject the drug.  People who use heroin are also at risk for bacterial infections, abscesses, heart problems, arthritis, and collapsed veins.


What are inhalants?

Inhalants are substances that produce chemical vapors that when inhaled cause a mind altering effect.

How are inhalants used?

Inhalants can be breathed in through the nose or mouth in the following ways:

  • Sniffing or snorting fumes from containers
  • Spraying aerosols directly into the mouth
  • Sniffing fumes from substances sprayed into a plastic or paper bag
  • Huffing from an inhalant soaked rag
  • Inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide

What are the short term effects of inhalants use?

Inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication than causes drowsiness, disinhibition, lightheadedness, and agitation.  If sufficient amounts of chemicals are inhaled, a loss of sensation and unconsciousness may occur.  Other effects that may occur both during and after use include: headache, euphoria, slurred speech, depressed reflexes, muscle weakness and apathy.

What are the long term effects of inhalants use?

There are many devastating consequences of inhalant use, these include: Asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions, coma, choking, and fatal injury.  Also, long term use can cause damage to the brain and nervous system.  Not only are inhalants damaging to the brain and nervous system, but they are also highly toxic to other organs.  Chronic exposure can cause damage to the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.


What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that is made in underground labs with over the counter ingredients.  Methamphetamine is also known as speed, meth, and chalk.  It is a white, odorless, crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water and alcohol.  When in the body, meth affects the central nervous system.

How is methamphetamine used?

Meth comes in many forms and can be injected, smoked, snorted, intravenously injected, or ingested.

What are the short term effects of methamphetamine use?

The short term effects of meth include increased attention and decreased fatigue, increased activity, decreased appetite, euphoria, increased respiration, hyperthermia.

What are the long term effects of methamphetamine use?

The long term effects of meth include: Dependence, paranoia, hallucinations, mood disturbances, repetitive motor activity, stroke, and weight loss.

The tolerance and addiction to meth happens very quickly due to the fact that the ‘rush’ felt when first taking the drug fades very quickly, and therefore, users will often binge on the drug in order to manta in their high.


Three types of steroids:

  1. Anabolic (male hormone)- steroids most frequently used
  2. Cortical
  3. Estrogenic (female hormone)

You probably know why steroids are used…

  • Increase strength
  • Increase muscle size
  • Help muscles recover

But did you know that abuse of steroids may cause…

  • Severe acne, rashes, stunted growth
  • Sexual function problems
  • Women to take on masculine traits, develop hairiness
  • Behavioral changes, aggressiveness ("roid rages")
  • Long-term effects, such as cholesterol increases, heart disease, liver tumors, cancer, cataracts and death.

Rohypnol & GHB (“Date Rape Drugs”)

What are Rohypnol and GHB? 

Rohypnol and GHB are most commonly known as date rape drugs.  Oftentimes they are administered to people unknowingly.  However, some people may take Rohynol (roofies) to enhance a heroin high or to help come down from a crack binge.  GHB is now being called ‘liquid ecstasy’ due to the high that it produces.

How are Rohypnol and GHB used?

Rohypnol is a drug that is in pill form. It is generally dissolved in drinks where people unknowingly take it.  GHB is a clear liquid that comes in little bottles that have approximately 9 hits, and has a very distinct taste. 

What are the short term effects of Rohypnol and GHB use?

There are several serious effects of both rohypnol and GHB.  These include: nausea, dizziness, a feeling of being extremely drunk, labored respiration, seizures, and blacking out.

What are the long term effects of Rohypnol and GHB use?

Rohypnol can cause physical and psychological addiction if used frequently. There has been very little research on long term effects of GHB.

Prescription Drug Use

What prescription drugs are used and abused? 

There are several categories of prescription drugs that are used and abused:

Opioids: Used to treat pain

  • Morphine, Codiene, Vicodin, Other narcotics

CNS Depressants: Used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders

  • Mebaral, Nembutal, Valium, Xanax

Stimulants: Used to treat sleep disorder narcolepsy, ADHD, and obesity

  • Dexedrine, Ritalin, Meridia

According to the 1999 Drug Abuse Warning Network, college students non-medical use of pain relievers such as oxycodone is on a rise.

How are prescription drugs used?

Most prescription drugs are taken orally in pill form.

What are the short term effects of prescription drug use?

Opioids: Blocked pain messages, drowsiness, constipation, depressed respirations CNS Depressants: A sleepy and uncoordinated feeling Stimulants: Elevated blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, suppressed appetite, and sleep deprivation.

What are the long term effects of prescription drug use?

Opioids: tolerance, dependence, addiction and withdrawal CNS Depressants: tolerance, dependence, addiction and withdrawal Stimulants: addiction

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