Illegal drugs can damage the brain, heart, and other important organs. They can affect our emotions and the way we feel, they may cause you to do things you wouldn't normally do. While using drugs, a person is less able to do well in school, sports, and other activities. It's often harder to think clearly and make good decisions for a person who is using drugs.
There may be long-term effects from taking drugs that we don't know about. When people use drugs they can do dumb or dangerous things that could hurt themselves or others. You can die from taking drugs, even the first time you take them.
Drugs cause different experiences and reactions for different people. How a drug will affect you can depend on many things like your age, your body type, or your mental state. So just because someone else has tried it and had a certain feeling, does not mean it will be the same for you.
Signs of an Overdose
If you are using drugs, or are with someone who has used drugs, and you or they have any of these symptoms call 9-1-1 immediately.
The following syptoms are signs of an overdose:
- Breathing is slow or not breathing at all
- Nails and/or lips are blue
- Choking or throwing up
- Making gurgling sounds
- Skin is cold and clammy
- Can't wake them up
Commonly Abused Illegal Drugs
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug of abuse. Individuals who have tried cocaine have described the experience as a powerful high that gave them a feeling of supremacy. However, once someone starts taking cocaine, one cannot predict or control the extent to which he or she will continue to use the drug.
Short term effects include; paranoia and agression, increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Some cocaine users report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety, both while using and between periods of use.
Long-term effects include the ulceration of the mucous membrane of the nose and can damage the nasal septum enough to cause it to collapse. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.
Added Danger. When people mix cocaine and alcohol, they are compounding the danger each drug poses and unknowingly causing a complex chemical interaction within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to manufacture a third substance, cocaethylene, which intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects and possibly increases the risk of sudden death.
MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, called “Ecstasy”, “Molly”, “XTC” or “Adam” on the street, is a synthetic, psychoactive (mind-altering) drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Its chemical structure is similar to two other synthetic drugs, MDA and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage.
Short-term psychological effects include; confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia during and sometimes weeks after taking MDMA.
Short-term physical symptoms include; muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure are a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.
Recent research findings also link MDMA use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory. It is believed that the drug causes damage to the neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater.
Some short-term effects are irritability, anxiety, insomnia, Parkinson-like tremors, convulsions and paranoia.Users may become obsessed or perform repetitive tasks such as cleaning, hand-washing, or assembling and disassembling objects.
Longer-term effects can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, damage to blood vessels in the brain, stroke and even death.
Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years even after the user has stopped taking the drug.
Crack cocaine or “freebase” are smokeable forms of cocaine which look like crystals or rocks. These forms of cocaine are made by chemically changing cocaine powder.
Short term effects include reduced appetite, increased blood pressure and heart rate, exaggerated reflexes, anxiety, paranoid thinking, severe agitation, paranoid psychosis, nausea and vomiting, elevated body temperature and cold sweat, hallucinations, tremors (shaking) and muscle twitching.
Taking large amounts of cocaine for a long time can have many unwanted effects. People using cocaine may become depressed, have mood swings, or become restless and excitable. Their behaviour may be erratic, bizarre, or violent.
Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed-pod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder. Street names associated with heroin include “smack,” “H,” “skag,” and “junk.” Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as “Mexican black tar.”
The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system.
Long-term effects of heroin include collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.
PCP is a white crystalline powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. Available in tablets, capsules, liquids, crystals, pastes, and coloured powders. Frequently passed off as LSD or other drugs. Snorted, smoked, or eaten. PCP may be used unknowingly since it is often used as an additive in other drugs.
PCP is a “dissociative drug,” meaning it distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self.
Short term effects range from shallow breathing, flushing, and profuse sweating to nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, flicking up and down of the eyes, drooling, loss of balance, and dizziness.
Long-term effects include addiction, memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. Symptoms can persist up to a year after cessation of PCP use. Mood disorders also have been reported. Flashbacks may occur.
GHB and Rohypnol® are central nervous system depressants. People may unknowingly be given the drug which, when mixed with alcohol, can incapacitate and prevent a victim from resisting sexual assault. Also, Rohypnol® may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants.
Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid or GHB, is a compound that was initially used by body builders to stimulate muscle growth. GHB is odourless and nearly tasteless. Users report that it induces a state of relaxation. The effects can be felt within 5 to 20 minutes after ingestion and the high can last up to four hours.
GHB users risk many negative physical effects including vomiting, liver failure, potentially fatal respiratory problems, and tremors and seizures, which can result in comas.
Rohypnol® produces sedative-hypnotic effects including muscle relaxation and amnesia. In Miami, one of the first sites of Rohypnol® abuse, poison control centers reported an increase in withdrawal seizures among people addicted to Rohypnol®.
LSD, aka “acid,” is odorless, colorless, and has a slightly bitter taste and is usually taken by mouth. Often LSD is added to absorbent paper, such as blotter paper, and divided into small, decorated squares, with each square representing one dose.
The effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on the amount taken; the user’s personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used.
Sensations and feelings change much more dramatically than the physical signs. The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. If taken in a large enough dose, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations. The user’s sense of time and self changes. Sensations may seem to “cross over,” giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. These changes can be frightening and can cause panic.
LSD trips are long – typically they begin to clear after about 12 hours. Some users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of losing control, fear of insanity and death, and despair while using LSD. In some cases, fatal accidents have occurred during states of LSD intoxication.
Psilocybin is a hallucinogen that occurs naturally in certain species of mushrooms. Hallucinogens alter a person’s perceptions such as seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not really there.
Short-Term Effects include anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations and a loss of touch with reality.
Long term effects have not been studied. Some people have had prolonged psychosis that resembles paranoid schizophrenia. Psychosis is a loss of touch with reality. It is a mental disorder that affects the personality.