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Youth & Young Adults


faqGroupLookupString: Alcohol
Alcohol
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What is Alcohol?
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​ Alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) is the ingredient found in beer, wine and spirits that causes drunkenness. Everyone known the immediate effects of alcohol: dizziness, impaired judgment, loss of motor skills. But alcohol has more serious immediate effects including short-term memory loss, violent behavior, mood swings, lack of coordination, vomiting, brain damage, and death. ​
Alcohol and the Law
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Alcohol isn’t just bad for your body and mind – it’s illegal to consume alcohol under age 21. 

The most common alcohol-related offenses include underage drinking, public intoxication and disturbing the peace, providing alcohol to underage drivers, drinking and driving.

An alcohol-related crime can cause you to have trouble finding a job or even getting a driver’s license. 

The CDC reports that alcohol-related car accidents kill about 32 people a day. It’s easy to avoid drinking and driving. Just don’t do it. 
What is binge drinking?
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The term “binge drinking” is used to describe consuming several alcoholic drinks in a short period of time – but how much is several? 
In general, five drinks or more in about two hours is considered binge drinking if you’re a guy, and if you’re a girl, it’s four drinks or more. 

When you drink a beer, a glass of wine, or a mixed drink, alcohol gets into your bloodstream and heads into your liver, which is the organ responsible for filtering harmful toxins out of your body. Your liver can process about one drink an hour. When you drink more than one drink, your liver has a hard time keeping up. That “drunk” feeling is your body’s way of telling you that you’ve had too much alcohol.

In addition to making you feel sick and behave as you normally wouldn’t, binge drinking can lead to serious consequences, like alcohol poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 80,000 people die every year from drinking too much alcohol. People who binge drink are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors like driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sex.​
Long term effects of excessive alcohol use and binge drinking
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Alcohol is a drug – that means if you drink regularly, you run the risk of becoming addicted. You eventually get to the point where you need to drink just to feel normal.

Here are the ways the body is affected by excessive use and binge drinking.
Brain:
Alcohol can interfere with the brain’s communication pathway, causing changes in mood, behavior, and increased difficulty with clear thinking and coordination.

Heart:
Excessive drinking or binge drinking can cause heart conditions such as cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms), stroke, and high blood pressure.

Liver:
Excessive drinking can lead to a variety of liver problems such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.

Pancreas:
Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. 

Cancer:
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast. 

Immune System:
Excessive alcohol use can weaken your immune system, making your body more susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. 

What to do if a friend is having alcohol poisoning
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If you ever notice that a friend has any of the signs  of alcohol poisoning, it’s critical that you get help right away. Call an ambulance, dial 9-1-1, or get in touch with a trusted adult – don’t wait.

Signs of alcohol poisoning:
  • Confusion or disorientation 
  • Vomiting
  • Hypothermia                                                              
  • Inability to stay conscious
  • Cold or clammy skin                                                 
  • Lack of physical coordination/can’t walk
  • Irregular Pulse                                                            
  • Depressed breathing
  • Seizure                                                                        
  • Choking
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control                           
  • Blue-tinged skin, especially around the lips  or fingertips
No matter what you do, though, never – ever – let a friend “sleep it off” if you suspect that they have alcohol poisoning. Try to keep them awake and moving, or get medical attention right away. If you let them sleep, they may never wake up. ​
faqGroupLookupString: Cocaine and Crack

Street names: Coke, Yayo, Snow, Freebase, Lady, Aunt Nora, Blow, Bolivian Marching Powder, Big C, Flake, Nose Candy, Rock, Snowbird, Toot, White Lady

Cocaine and Crack

Street names: Coke, Yayo, Snow, Freebase, Lady, Aunt Nora, Blow, Bolivian Marching Powder, Big C, Flake, Nose Candy, Rock, Snowbird, Toot, White Lady

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What is cocaine?
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Cocaine is a drug made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Crack is created using cocaine and several additional chemicals. It is snorted, injected, or smoked.
What does cocaine do?
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Cocaine increases levels of the natural chemical messenger dopamine in brain circuits related to the control of movement and reward.

The brain normally recycles dopamine back into the cell that released it. However, cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled, causing large amounts to build up in the space between nerve cells and stopping their normal communication. This flood of dopamine in the brain’s reward circuit strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviors, because it eventually adapts to the excess of dopamine caused by cocaine and becomes less sensitive to it. 

As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses in an attempt to feel the same high, and to obtain relief from withdrawal. 

Short-term Effects
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  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nose bleeds
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
Long-term Effects
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  • Seizures
  • Breathing problems
  • Risk of Heart Attack
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dependence to cocaine​
  • Death
faqGroupLookupString: Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs

Common Hallucinogens: LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, DMT, and ayahuasca

Common Dissociative Drugs: PCP, ketamine, dextromethorphan, and Salvia divinorum​

Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs

Common Hallucinogens: LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, DMT, and ayahuasca

Common Dissociative Drugs: PCP, ketamine, dextromethorphan, and Salvia divinorum​

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What are hallucinogens and dissociative drugs?
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Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations and profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens are found in some plants and mushrooms, and can be man-made. Hallucinogens are divided into two broad categories: classic hallucinogens (such as LSD) and dissociative drugs (such as PCP). Under the influence of either type of drug, people report rapid, intense emotional swings and seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not. 
Short-term Effects of Hallucinogens
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  • Visual hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Distortion of Reality
  • Psychosis
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
Long-term Effects of Hallucinogens
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LSD and use of hallucinogenic drugs produce tolerances that require increasingly larger doses to produce similar effects, and also produces tolerance to other drugs in this class. Use of classic hallucinogens do not produce tolerance to drugs that act on different receptors in the brain, such as marijuana, amphetamines, or PCP, among others. Tolerance for hallucinogens are short-lived, and physical withdrawal symptoms are not typically experienced.

Two long-term effects—persistent psychosis and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)—have been associated with use of classic hallucinogens, although occurrence of either is rare. Both conditions are more often seen in individuals with a history of psychological problems but can happen to anyone, even after a single exposure.​
Common effects of Dissociative Drugs
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Low to Moderate Doses:
  • Numbness Disorientation, confusion, and loss of coordination
  • Dizziness Nausea and vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in Perception
  • Detachment
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate 
High Doses:
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Respiratory distress
  • Physical distress, including dangerous changes in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature​
Long-term Effects of Dissociative Drugs
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Research shows that repeated PCP use can lead to development of tolerance and eventually substance use disorder that includes withdrawals when the drug is stopped. 

Other long-term effects of PCP use include persistent speech difficulties, memory loss, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and social withdrawal that can last for a year or more after chronic use stops.

The long-term use of most dissociative drugs is needing more systematic investigation. 

faqGroupLookupString: Marijuana
Also known as: Weed, Pot, Boom, Cannabis, Chronic Dope, Ganja, Grass, Hemp, Herb, Mary Jane, Reefer, Skunk
Marijuana
Also known as: Weed, Pot, Boom, Cannabis, Chronic Dope, Ganja, Grass, Hemp, Herb, Mary Jane, Reefer, Skunk
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What is it?
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Marijuana comes from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa and it also contains hundreds of chemicals, including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the drug’s main mind altering ingredient. Extracts can be made from the cannabis plant, and are called edibles. 

Second to alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used recreational drug in the United States, with an estimated 19.8 million users.

Marijuana is usually smoked in joints, pipes, bongs, blunts, and hookahs. It can also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea.​​​
​​

What does it look like?
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Marijuana can be compact, green buds, or dry, shredded green and brown mix of leaves, flowers, seeds and stems.
What does it do?
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THC takes just seconds to go to your head and attach itself to your brain’s receptors – which help the brain communicate with the rest of your body. Once it's in your brain, the THC activates these receptors, called neurotransmitters, and gives you the feeling of being high. In short, marijuana changes the physical and chemical balance in your brain and this is what people refer to as a 'high'."
Signs of Use
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  • Dilated Pupils 
  • Bloodshot Eyes
  • Sleepy Appearance
  • Reduced Motivation
  • Overeating
  • Smell on clothing, in room, or car
Short-term Effects
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  • Increased appetite
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Red eyes and dry mouth
  • Delusions
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of consciousness
Long-term Effects
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  • Weight gain from increased appetite
  • Risk of oral cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Depression
  • Psychological Dependence
  • Chest and lung problems, including emphysema, bronchitis and chest colds
Not Just Affecting Schoolwork
Smoking marijuana can lead to serious, long-term consequences that go beyond just feeling high.
  • Addiction. Research shows that marijuana affects the pleasure and reward centers of the brain. If a teenager or young adult starts using marijuana, his or her changes of becoming addicted are higher than if an adult begins smoking marijuana
  • Higher drug use. Marijuana is considered a “gateway drug”, meaning it leads to harder drug use.
  • Weight Gain. Marijuana users report weight gain because of their increased appetite.
Relationship to Marijuana Use and School
Other long-term effects go beyond messing with your weight; marijuana can mess with your entire future. Since most marijuana users are only 13-19 years old, it is worth looking into how their academic achievement is affected.
  • The negative effects of marijuana use on memory, attention, and problem solving can last much longer than a few hours – it can last as long as weeks or even months.
  • People who smoke marijuana regularly are less likely than their non-smoking peers to finish high school, much less go to a college or a trade school.
Several studies have also shown a relationship to marijuana use and lower income, unemployment, criminal behavior and welfare dependence. Overall, heavy marijuana users report having lower satisfaction with their lives.​

Marijuana use can actually shrink parts of your brain including your hippocampus (the part of your brain that controls memory) and your amygdala (the part that helps with emotions and memory)​​
What is edible marijuana?
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Edible marijuana is usually created in three ways: mixing it in food such as brownies, cookies, or candy, brewing it as a tea or creating a pill form. Many people underestimate the strength of edibles made from marijuana. It’s also difficult to gauge how much THC is left behind in the grease. Many people who make their own edible marijuana have difficulty in keeping it consistent. When ingested, THC is converted to another chemical in the liver that is even more potent. 

In Colorado, where the recreational use of marijuana is legal, an estimated 45% of marijuana sales involve edible marijuana, including THC-infused food, drink, and pills. In addition to being more potent as an edible form than smokes, there is a relatively slow onset of effect, and can take a person one to two hours to feel any effects. ​
What to do if you accidentally ingest edible marijuana
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Don’t Panic. Anxiety can be worsened by marijuana. Many people experience paranoia – extreme and unreasonable distrust of others. Try to remain calm.

Depending on how much THC you ingest, hallucinations may be anywhere from mild to extreme. Remembers the hallucinations are not real. 

Call a trusted person to come get you. Tell them you make have accidentally ingested a THC-infused food item. Under no circumstances should you attempt to drive.

There is no lethal dose of marijuana, so there is no need to call poison control or 911 unless there is another medical emergency caused by eating marijuana-infused food or drink. 
faqGroupLookupString: MDMA (Ecstasy)/Club Drugs

Common names : Adam, Beans, Club Drug, Disco, Biscuits, Ecstasy, Love Drug, Molly, Scooby Snacks, X, XTC

MDMA (Ecstasy)/Club Drugs

Common names : Adam, Beans, Club Drug, Disco, Biscuits, Ecstasy, Love Drug, Molly, Scooby Snacks, X, XTC

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What is MDMA?
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MDMA, also known as Ecstacy, Molly, or X, is a man-made drug that produces energizing effects similar to the stimulants called amphetamines, as well as psychedelic effects, similar to the hallucinogens mescaline and LSD. MDMA is known as a “club drug” because of its popularity in the nightclub scene, at “raves” (all-night dance parties), and music festivals or concerts. MDMA’s effects generally last from 3 to 6 hours.

Most people who take MDMA take it in a pill, tablet or capsules. Sometimes they are different colors and have cartoon-like images on them. Even though MDMA refers to the pure crystalline powder, most “Molly” contains other harmful and deadly drugs in addition to MDMA. Frequently, MDMA is mixed with synthetic cathinones, the chemicals in “bath salts”. Some MDMA pills have been found to have dextromethorphan (found in cough syrups), amphetamines (meth), PCP, or cocaine. ​
Effects of MDMA
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A person may experience the intoxicating effects of MDMA within 45 minutes or so after taking a single dose. Those effects include an enhanced sense of well-being, increased extroversion, emotional warmth, empathy toward others, and a willingness to discuss emotionally-charged memories. In addition, people report enhanced sensory perception as a hallmark of the MDMA experience.

However, MDMA can also cause a number of acute adverse health effects. For example, while fatal overdoses on MDMA are rare, they can potentially be life threatening—with symptoms including high blood pressure (hypertension), faintness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, hyperthermia (increased body temperature) a loss of consciousness and seizures.

Some users experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms after regular (daily or almost daily) use of the drug is reduced or stopped, such as:
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • depression
  • trouble concentrating
Sleep disturbances, lack of appetite, concentration difficulties, depression, heart disease, and impulsivity have been associated with regular use of MDMA. In addition, heavy MDMA use over a 2-year period of time is associated with decreased cognitive function.
Can you overdose or die if you use MDMA?
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Yes, you can die from MDMA use. MDMA can cause problems with the body’s ability to control temperature, especially when it is used in active, hot settings (like dance parties or concerts). On rare occasions, this can lead to a sharp rise in body temperature (known as hyperthermia), which can cause liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.
faqGroupLookupString: Methamphetamine
Street names: Meth, chalk, crank, crystal, crystal meth, speed, glass, ice, tweak, black beauties.
Methamphetamine
Street names: Meth, chalk, crank, crystal, crystal meth, speed, glass, ice, tweak, black beauties.
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What is methamphetamine?
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Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Meth usually comes in the form of a white or yellowish powder. It can be smoked, snorted, swallowed and injected.​

Meth is made of synthetic chemicals including battery acid and antifreeze.
It’s a felony to make, use, buy, or sell meth. ​​

What does methamphetamine do?
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Methamphetamine increased the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain, which is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. When you take methamphetamine high levels of dopamine are released into the brain, reinforcing drug-taking behaviors and making the user want to repeat the experience. 

Because the “high” from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a “run”, giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days. 

Warning Signs of Abuse
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  • Burns and nosebleeds            
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Track marks on arms                                
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities
  • Weight loss                                                 
  • Loss of sleep for long periods of time
  • Unusually active                                        
  • Paranoia and anxiety   
Short-term Effects
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  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions, seizures and death
Long-term Effects
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  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Poor healing sores
  • Violent, Aggressive Behavior
  • Acne
  • Poor dentition
  • Brain damage
  • Twitching and convulsions
  • Tolerance to methamphetamine​
  • Stroke and death
faqGroupLookupString: Opioids

Types of Opioids: Morphine, Fentanyl, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Methadone​​

Opioids

Types of Opioids: Morphine, Fentanyl, Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Methadone​​

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What are opioids?
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Opioids are a class of highly addictive drugs that come from the opium poppy plant. Opioids are made to mimic feel good receptors in the brain and are most commonly used as prescription painkillers.  Users typically smoke, short, inject, ingest or chew forms of opioids.

Opioids take many forms including a while powder, liquid, pills and even lollipops. ​​
​​
What does it do?
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Opioids work by fusing to the body’s opiate receptors, the areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. When opiate drugs fuse to these receptors, they can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation.
Warning Signs of Abuse
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  • Isolation from family and friends                 
  • Poor academic performance
  • Difficulty Communicating                              
  • Extreme changes in appearance and attitude
  • Injection wounds or track marks                  
  • Fatigue followed by patterns or alertness
Short-term Effects
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  • Pain Relief                  
  • Cough Suppression
  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Feelings of Euphoria
  • Lethargy
  • Paranoia
  • Slowed Breathing
  • Nausea​
Long-term Effects
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  • Nausea and vomiting            
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Liver damage
  • Tolerance Development  
  • Brain damage from prolonged breathing depression
  • Dependence to opioids
faqGroupLookupString: Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs
Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs
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What are over the counter drugs?
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Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are those that can be sold directly to people without a prescription. OTC medicines treat a variety of illnesses and their symptoms including pain, coughs and colds, diarrhea, constipation, acne, and others. Some OTC medicines have active ingredients with the potential for misuse at higher-than-recommended dosages.​
What are some commonly misused OTC medicines?
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Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is found in over 120 different kinds of over-the-counter cough medicines. When taken as directed, it relieves coughing, but large amounts of DXM can cause hallucinations, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, liver damage, and heart attacks. These symptoms can worsen if you take DXM with other drugs. 

Loperamide is an opioid designed not to enter the brain. However, when taken in large amounts and combined with other substances, it may cause the drug to act in a similar way to other opioids.

Meclizine is found in OTC medications to ease upset stomach. Taking too much of this ingredient can cause hallucinations, as well as brain, liver, kidney and stomach damage. It’s hallucinogenic ingredient is usually known by its brand name, Dramamine. 

Can you overdose on OTC medicines?
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Yes, a person can overdose on cold medicines containing DXM or loperamide. An overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce a life-threatening reaction or death.

As with other opioids, when people overdose on DXM or loperamide, their breathing often slows or stops. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term mental effects and effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage and death.
faqGroupLookupString: Prescription Drugs
Prescription Drugs
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What is prescription drug misuse?
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Prescription drug misuse has become a large public health problem, because misuse can lead to addiction, and even overdose deaths. For teens, it is a growing problem:

  • After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older.

  • Teens misuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, such as to get high, to stop pain, or because they think it will help them with school work.

  • Many teens get prescription drugs they misuse from friends and relatives, sometimes without the person knowing.

  • Boys and girls tend to misuse some types of prescription drugs for different reasons. For example, boys are more likely to misuse prescription stimulants to get high, while girls tend to misuse them to stay alert or to lose weight. 
What makes prescription drugs unsafe?
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Prescription drugs are often strong medications, which is why they require a prescription in the first place. Every medication has some risk for harmful effects, sometimes serious ones. Doctors consider the potential benefits and risks to each patient before prescribing medications and take into account a lot of different factors, described below. When they are misused, they can be just as dangerous as drugs that are made illegally.

  • Personal information. Before prescribing a drug, health providers take into account a person's weight, how long they've been prescribed the medication, other medical conditions, and what other medications they are taking. Someone misusing prescription drugs may overload their system or put themselves at risk for dangerous drug interactions that can cause seizures, coma, or even death.

  • Form and dose. Doctors know how long it takes for a pill or capsule to dissolve in the stomach, release drugs to the blood, and reach the brain. When misused, prescription drugs may be taken in larger amounts or in ways that change the way the drug works in the body and brain, putting the person at greater risk for an overdose. For example, when people who misuse OxyContin crush and inhale the pills, a dose that normally works over the course of 12 hours hits the central nervous system all at once. This effect increases the risk for addiction and overdose.

  • Side effects. Prescription drugs are designed to treat a specific illness or condition, but they often affect the body in other ways, some of which can be uncomfortable and in some cases, dangerous. These are called side effects. For example, opioid pain relievers can help with pain, but they can also cause constipation and sleepiness. Stimulants, such as Adderall, increase a person’s ability to pay attention, but they also raise blood pressure and heart rate, making the heart work harder. These side effects can be worse when prescription drugs are not taken as prescribed or are used in combination with other substances.
How are prescription drugs misused?
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How Prescription Drugs are Misused
  • Taking someone else’s prescription medication. Even when someone takes another person’s medication for its intended purposes (such as to relieve pain, to stay awake, or to fall asleep) it is considered misuse.

  • Taking a prescription medication in a way other than prescribed. Taking your own prescription in a way that it is not meant to be taken is also misuse. This includes taking more of the medication than prescribed or changing its form—for example, breaking or crushing a pill or capsule and then snorting the powder.

  • Taking a prescription medication to get high. Some types of prescription drugs also can produce pleasurable effects or “highs.” Taking the medication only for the purpose of getting high is considered prescription drug misuse.

  • Mixing it with other drugs. In some cases, if you mix your prescription drug with alcohol and certain other drugs, it is considered misuse and it can be dangerous. 

What are the commonly misused prescription drugs?
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  • Opioids—used to relieve pain, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine

  • Depressants—used to relieve anxiety or help a person sleep, such as Valium or Xanax

  • Stimulants​— used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall and Ritalin
What are prescription depressant medications?
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Depressants 
Sometimes referred to as central nervous system (CNS) depressants or tranquilizers, slow down (or “depress”) the normal activity that goes on in the brain and spinal cord. Doctors often prescribe them for people who are anxious or can't sleep.

When prescription depressants are taken as prescribed by a doctor, they can be relatively safe and helpful. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks. These risks increase when these drugs are misused. 

Depressants can be divided into three primary groups: barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleep medications. 


Depressants​​​ ​
Type​ Conditions They Treat​
​​​ ​Barbiturates​
   Mephobarbital (Mebaral)​​
   Sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Seizure disorders  
  •  Anxiety and tension
Benzodiazepines​ ​​​
​​​  ​​​  Diazepam (Valium)
    Alprazolam (Xanax) 
    Estazolam (ProSom)     
    Clonazepam (Klonopin)     
    Lorazepam (Ativan)
 
  • Acute stress reactions  
  • Panic attacks  
  • Convulsions   
  • Sleep disorders
 Sleep Medications​​ ​
​  Zolpidem (Ambien) 
  Zaleplon (Sonata) 
  Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • ​​  Sleep disorders

As depressants slow down brain activity, they cause other effects:
  • slurred speech
  • shallow breathing, which can lead to overdose and even death.
  • sleepiness
  • disorientation
  • lack of coordination
​ These effects can lead to serious accidents or injuries. Misuse of depressants can also lead to physical dependence, another reason they should only be used as prescribed. Dependence means you will feel uncomfortable or ill when you try to stop taking the drug, and it can lead to addiction.

​​​Depressants should not be combined with any medicine or substance that causes sleepiness, like prescription pain medicines, certain over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, or alcohol. If combined, they can slow both the heart rate and breathing increasing the risk of overdose and death.​
What are prescription stimulants (amphetamines)?
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Prescription stimulants increase—or "stimulate"—activities and processes in the body. This increased activity can boost alertness, attention, and energy. It also can raise your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster. When prescribed by a doctor for a specific health condition, they can be relatively safe and effective. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks when taking prescription stimulants. These risks increase when these drugs are misused. Taking someone else's prescription drugs or taking the drugs to get “high” can have serious health risks.

There are two commonly misused types of stimulants: amphetamines (e.g., Adderall) and methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin). In the past, stimulants were used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma and other breathing problems, obesity, and health problems that affect your nervous system. Now, because the risk for misuse and addiction is better understood, doctors prescribe them less often and only for a few health conditions. They are still prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), and, in some instances, depression that has not responded to other treatments.

   
​​Stimulants​​​ ​
​Type ​Conditi​ons  They  Treat
Amphetamines (Adderall and Dexedrine) 
Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)​
  • ADHD 
  • Narcolepsy (sleep disorder) 
  • Depression
Stimulant use can have side effects, even when prescribed by a doctor. Misusing them can be especially dangerous. Taking high doses of a stimulant can cause:
  •  
  • increased blood pressure
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dangerously high body temperatures
  • decreased sleep
  • lack of interest in eating, which can lead to poor nutrition
  • intense anger or paranoia (feeling like someone is going to harm you even though they aren’t)
  • risk for seizures and stroke at high doses
​​​​​
What happens to your brain when you use prescription stimulants?
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The brain is made up of nerve cells that send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. Common stimulants, such as amphetamines and methylphenidate, have chemical structures that are similar to certain key brain neurotransmitters including dopamine​ and norepinephrine. Stimulants boost the effects of these chemicals in the brain and body.

When doctors prescribe stimulants for a medical condition, they start with low doses and increase them slowly until they find the dose that works best. However, when taken in amounts or ways other than prescribed, like snorting or injecting, stimulants can increase the dopamine in the brain very quickly. This changes the normal communication between brain cells, producing a ‘high’ while also increasing the risk for dangerous side effects. Over time, this can lead to addiction​, which is when you continue to use the drug despite negative consequences.
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Can you overdose or die if you use prescription drugs?
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Yes, more than half of the drug overdose deaths in the United States each year are caused by prescription drug misuse. Deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs have been increasing since the early 1990s, largely due to increases in misuse of prescription opioid pain relievers. More than 29,700 people died from a prescription drug overdose in 2015, with alarming increases among young people ages 15 to 24.1 Learn more about drug overdoses in youth.​

Mixing different types of prescription drugs can be particularly dangerous. For example, benzodiazepines mixed with opioids increase the risk of overdose. Also, combining opioids (pain relievers) with alcohol can make breathing problems worse and can lead to death.
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Are prescription drugs addictive?
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Yes, prescription drugs that effect the brain, including opioid pain relievers, stimulants, and depressants, can cause physical dependence that could lead to addiction. Medications that affect the brain can change the way it works—especially when they are taken over an extended period of time or with escalating doses. They can change the reward system, making it harder for a person to feel good without the drug and possibly leading to intense cravings, which make it hard to stop using.

This dependence on the drug happens because the brain and body adapt to having drugs in the system for a while. A person may need larger doses of the drug to get the same initial effects. This is known as “tolerance.” When drug use is stopped, uncomfortable withdrawal​ symptoms can occur. When people continue to use the drug despite a range of negative consequences, it is considered an addiction. When a person is addicted to a drug, finding and using that drug can begin to feel like the most important thing—more important than family, friends, school, sports, or health. 

Carefully following the doctor’s instructions for taking a medication can make it less likely that someone will develop dependence or addiction, because the medication is prescribed in amounts and forms that are considered appropriate for that person. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks when taking certain types of prescription drugs. These risks should be carefully weighed against the benefits of the medication and patients should communicate any issues or concerns to their doctor right away.

Other kinds of medications that do not act in the brain, such as antibiotics used to treat infections, are not addictive.
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​​​​​​​​​​​​If you need information on treatment and where you can find it, you can call:​

​​Gateway Call Center is available: Monday - Friday from 8:00 a.m. to  5:00 p.m.
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National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK  (they don't just talk about suicide—they cover a lot of issues and will help put you in touch with someone close by)

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD — for hearing impaired) ​
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Last updated: 8/15/2019 11:24 AM