Ethyl alcohol, the form of alcohol found in beer, wine, and liquor, is a psychoactive drug. It is classified as a central nervous system depressant, although its effects are often misinterpreted as stimulating. Low doses of alcohol significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to safely operate a motor vehicle. Moderate to high doses cause marked impairments in higher mental functions and alter a person’s ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses can cause respiratory depression and death. About one in 10 people will find it difficult to control consumption, will have continuing problems associated with alcohol use, and will develop the disease of alcoholism. Even those who do not eventually develop alcoholism can experience and/or cause considerable harm to themselves, others, and the community. Individuals with a family history of chemical dependency face a higher chance of developing alcoholism or other forms of drug addiction. Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants have irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. In addition, alcohol use has been found to be significantly related to the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancy, fighting, assaults, vandalism, and the incidence of acquaintance rape and other crimes.
Drugs included in this classification include cocaine (e.g., coke, crack), methamphetamine, Ritalin/Adderall, amphetamines (speed), high doses of caffeine, and other stimulants. Cocaine has been known to cause sudden death by causing the heart to beat in an abnormal rhythm resulting in a heart attack. The heart attack can be sudden and unexpected and can occur at any time when a person is using cocaine. Stimulants can cause a person to become emaciated, resulting from an increased metabolism and an extremely decreased appetite. Psychologically, cocaine and most amphetamines are extremely addictive and affect the pleasure center of the human brain. Stimulant intoxication can lead to visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations and delusional type thinking. After a person develops dependence upon cocaine or an amphetamine, sudden or gradual cessation in use can cause markedly diminished interest or pleasure in most daily activities. Fatigue, insomnia, and feelings of worthlessness are also common and can possibly result in suicide attempts.
Drugs included in this classification include opium, morphine, codeine, heroin, OxyContin, methadone, Percodan, Percocet, and other opium derivatives and synthetics. Narcotics are the most physically addictive illicit drugs. The first or second administration of narcotics results in a tremendous euphoric feeling that cannot be repeated due to the rapid development of tolerance to the drug. This leaves the user with high cravings and low benefits from continued drug use. The user must continue ingesting the drug in order not to develop withdrawal symptoms. A major physical risk associated with the use of narcotics is sudden death resulting from respiratory arrest. Other risks include infection due to IV drug use. Psychologically, cravings for narcotics can be severe.
These drugs form a distinct category of their own because the effects produced are unlike any other drugs. Ketamine (“Special K”) and Phencyclidine (PCP) act similarly to a hallucinogen, in some respects. In other respects, they act similarly to that of a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant as well as a CNS depressant. Among their side effects are delirium, visual disturbances, hallucinations, and severe violence. Some evidence of long-term memory disorders and psychological disturbances resembling schizophrenia also has been linked to the use of these drugs.
Drugs in this classification include LSD (acid), mescaline (peyote), mushrooms (psilocybin), amphetamine variants (ecstasy), and other hallucinogens. The greatest short-term risks associated with ecstasy are dehydration and overheating. Additionally, consequences that ecstasy may have on the brain include depression, anxiety, and effects on the brain’s ability to think and store memories. The greatest risk associated with LSD use is a “bad trip,” which can occur at any time, even with individuals who have used the drug many times. A bad trip is a psychological reaction to the ingestion of LSD and is primarily based upon the user’s mindset and environment at the time of administration. A bad trip can result in extreme paranoia, panic attacks, and a loss of self-control. The most extreme outcome of a bad trip can be permanent psychosis or even death.
Nicotine is the powerfully addictive substance in tobacco that can “hook” a user in as few as three cigarettes. Short-term health effects related to smoking can include wheezing, coughing, frequent colds, and decreased senses of smell and taste. Smoking can also trigger asthma symptoms. Long-term health effects can include chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, or cancer of the mouth, throat, bladder, pancreas, or kidney.
Inhalants include a wide variety of breathable chemicals that produce mind-altering results. The three major subcategories of inhalants include volatile solvents, aerosols and anesthetics. The most commonly abused inhalants are gas, glue, paint, and nitrous oxide (including whippets). A major physical consequence in inhalant use is sudden death occurring from heart beat irregularities. Inhalants produce an inebriation effect with associated bizarre thoughts, dizziness, numbness and a lack of coordination. The intoxicated person will have problems performing even the most mundane tasks, and serious accidents can result. Long-term effects can include brain damage, poor concentration and memory loss.
Drugs in this classification include marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hashish, and hashish oil. Physical risks of marijuana use include damage to the lungs, chromosomes, and reproductive system. The most severe consequences of cannabis use affect brain functioning. Chronic marijuana use can result in changes in perception, motor activity, sensation, emotional response, motivation, memory, and states of awareness.
Drugs in this classification include Rohypnol and other barbiturates, benzodiazepines, Xanax, valium, GIIB, and other depressants, including alcohol. Depressants produce rapid tolerance. Severe withdrawal, including seizures and death, can occur if depressant use is immediately stopped. Depressants also can cause sudden death by respiratory arrest or by stroke resulting from a marked increase in blood pressure. Mixing alcohol with other depressants can be lethal.