Drug Information

Prescription Drug Abuse

Ever hear the phrase, “Too much of a good thing can hurt you?” Nowhere is this saying more true than with prescription medicine. Under the supervision of medical professionals, prescription medication helps countless people cope with or overcome serious physical and mental health disorders. But people who abuse medicines or take them for recreational purposes can end up making themselves sicker than they ever dreamed.

Medicines that help people can actually hurt them when the instructions are not followed. Some people take a larger amount than they are [prescribed] or more often…

There are three commonly abused types of prescription medicine: stimulants, depressants, opioids.

What are stimulants?

Also known as amphetamines, stimulants are used to treat physical and psychological disorders, including narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD).

Stimulants are usually colorful pills or tablets. Examples include Dexedrine, Preludin, and Ritalin.

Stimulants raise users’ overall alertness. They may become excited and talkative. As their heart rate, breathing and blood pressure rise, their behavior may become aggressive, paranoid, or even violent.

Physically, stimulant use has many unpleasant side effects. Users may have more acne, dry mouths, or their skin may feel itchy all the time. Stimulant abuse also can lead to headaches, blurry vision, and diarrhea. Abusers may develop speech problems or experience memory loss. Over the long-term, stimulant abuse can lead to brain bleeding, seizures, and fatal heart attacks.

What are depressants?

Depressants slow down a user’s brain and body functions. They are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. They also may be used to relieve pain.

Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines are the two types of depressants most commonly prescribed. Brand names for barbiturates include Seconal, Tuinal, and Nembutal, while common benzodiazepines are Valium, Tranxene, or Xanax.

Depressant users may feel sleepy as their breathing and brain activity slows down. They may have confused thought processes, slurred speech, and a loss of coordination that could lead to harmful accidents. Depressant abusers have problems remembering things and their moods may swing quickly back and forth between happy and sad.

Depressant abuse wreaks havoc with a person’s brain and body. The brain may race out of control once the effects of the drug wear off. This can cause seizures and other harmful complications.

What are opioids?

Opioids put the user in a dreamlike state, masking pain. Most opioids that are prescribed for pain come in pill or tablet form. Some examples are Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol, and Vicodin.

The powerful sedative effects of opioids help people cope with the pain of serious injuries or deadly illnesses such as terminal cancer. But tolerance to opioids develops as quickly as it does to depressants. Users feel less and less relief with every dose, making doctors very cautious about how these drugs are used by their patients.

Addiction? Withdrawal? Overdose?

While the three types of prescription medicine all help people in different ways, they have some very deadly risks in common.

Opioids and depressants are both highly addictive drugs. Users quickly build a tolerance to these drugs, meaning they have to take larger amounts to feel the same effects. At the same time, users’ bodies become dependent on the drug, meaning they have to take it all the time to feel normal. If they try to stop, they will feel any number of negative effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, sleeplessness, anxiety, or severe pain in their muscle and bones. This is called withdrawal. Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal are the three signs of addiction. Users usually do not develop a physical dependence to stimulants. However, they may begin to use them unnecessarily and in greater quantities – a psychological addiction, in other words.

Overdose is a real danger with any prescription medication. Taking too much of any of these drugs can kill a person. A stimulant overdose can cause comas, seizures, or heart attacks. Depressant and opioid overdoses can slow down a person’s body functions to the point that they just stop working altogether.

By Prescription Only

There’s a reason that depressants, stimulants, and opioids have phrases on their labels like “Use only as recommended.” Research shows that these drugs can help sick people if they are taken the right way, but only the right way…

In the Know. Prescription Drug Abuse Help Turns to Harm. Metairie: In the Know, 2010. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.


The Nicotine Trap

You’ve probably heard that smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco are bad for you. Have you ever wondered why so many people use tobacco anyway? The simple, one-word answer is addiction. The addiction to nicotine is as hard to break as the addiction to heroin.

All tobacco has nicotine. In fact, the level of nicotine in spit tobacco is about three times as high as in cigarettes. When a smoker inhales tobacco smoke, nicotine reaches the brain in a few seconds. Spit tobacco is absorbed into the blood stream through the gums. No matter how it enters the body, nicotine affects the way brain cells, or neurons, communicate with each other. Nicotine excites many neurons to release excess “messengers” or neurotransmitters. After a few uses, the brain becomes used to higher levels of those neurotransmitters.

Goodbye Nicotine? Hello Withdrawal

Without nicotine, the addicted brain suffers withdrawal. Withdrawal makes users depressed, frustrated, angry, or irritable. They may have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, headache, fatigue, and increased appetite. Withdrawal leads the user to start using tobacco again for relief.

Short-term Effects of Tobacco Use

Tobacco use causes bad breath, smelly hair and clothes, and it puts yellow and brown stains on the teeth. Elevated heart rate occurs after brief use. Using tobacco also increases the risk of other drug abuse.

Smokers quickly lose athletic ability because smoking decrease lung capacity from the first drag. Young smokers’ lungs stop growing, and their lung function is limited for life. Smokers have chronic coughs and increased incidence of bronchitis and severe asthma.

Spit tobacco [causes] chewers [to] drool. The gums pull away from their teeth, and they don’t grow back. Gum loss leads to more tooth decay. Chewers often have sores, white and red patches, and lumps in the mouth. Many of these sores are pre-cancerous.

Long-term Effects of Tobacco Use

  • Prematurely wrinkled skin
  • Permanent gum and tooth loss
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Weakened immune system
  • Abnormal sperm cells and impotence
  • Miscarriage or premature, undersized babies
  • Menstrual disorders and early menopause
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks and congestive heart failure
  • Blocked blood vessels and strokes
  • Cancer of the upper lung, respiratory tract, mouth, and throat
  • Cancer of the bladder, kidney, pancreas, and cervix
  • Emphysema (collapsed lung structures)
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease

Secondhand Smoke

The smoke that comes off the end of a cigarette is even dirtier than the smoke the smoker inhales. The toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke cause bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, coughs, and ear infections in children or co-workers of smokers. Nonsmoking spouses of smokers are 40% more likely to develop lung cancer and heart disease than others.

A Deadly Crop

Tobacco has killed tens of millions of users over many centuries. In fact, millions die every year. What makes tobacco use so widespread?

Tobacco contains the most addictive substance known to science, nicotine. About one-third of all people who try nicotine even once become addicted to it! Nicotine is found in all tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, and spit tobacco or snuff. It is processed from the leaves [of] the white-flowered plant Nicotiana tabacum.

All tobacco is harmful to users, but the smoke from cigarettes and cigars hurts everyone in the environment, not just the smokers. The smoke contains more than 4,000 different chemicals in addition to nicotine. At least 43 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer, and 400 others are known toxins. Some of the chemicals are also known toxins. Some of the chemicals also are used as nail polish remover, toilet cleaner, battery acid, gas chamber poison, and for preserving dead bodies.

In the Know. Tobacco License to Kill. New Orleans: In the Know, 2006. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.


Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder, however some heroin looks like black tar and is produced in Mexico.


Short-term effects include a surge of euphoria followed by alternately wakeful and drowsy states and cloudy mental functioning. Associated with fatal overdose and – particularly in users who inject the drug – infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Long-term users may develop collapsed veins, liver disease, and lung complications.

Common Street Names

Smack, H, Skag, Junk, Horse, Brown Sugar, Dope

Health Hazards

Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and particularly in users who inject the drug, infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

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 appear after repeated use over a period of time. Chronic users may develop 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 heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.

Heroin abuse during pregnancy and its many associated environmental factors (e.g., lack of prenatal care) have been associated with adverse consequences including low birth weight, an important risk factor for later development delay.

In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of groups of cells in vital organs.

Tolerance, Addiction, and Withdrawal

With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the user requires more heroin to achieve the same intensity of effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.

Withdrawal, which in regular users may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), kicking movements (“kicking the habit”), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal, although heroin withdrawal is considered less dangerous than alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal.


There is a broad range of treatment options for heroin addiction, including medication as well as behavioral therapies. Science has taught us that when medication treatment is integrated with other supportive services, patients often are able to stop heroin (or other opiate) use and return to more stable and productive lives.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate medication that blocks the effects of heroin for about 24 hours, has a proven record of success when prescribed at a high enough dosage level for people addicted to heroin. Other approved medications are naloxone, which is used to treat cases of overdose, and naltrexone, both of which block the effects of morphine, heroin, and other opiates.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use

  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Slowed down respiration
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea

Signs of a Heroin Overdose

  • Shallow breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Clammy Skin
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

Street Drugs. Heroin Resource Guide. Plymouth: Street Drugs, 2007. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

“Cheese” Heroin

What Is “Cheese” Heroin?

  • Black tar heroin combined with crushed nightime pain relievers
  • Highly addictive and very dangerous
  • Tan-colored powder usually snorted through the nose with a tube, straw, or small ballpoint pen
  • Packaged in a small paper bindle or zip lock baggie
  • Can be bought for as little as $2
  • Especially popular among Hispanic juveniles, both male and female
  • Has been identified in Dallas and surrounding suburbs

Symptoms of Use

  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Euphoria
  • Excessive thirst
  • Disorientation
  • Sleepiness and hunger
  • Sudden change in grades and friends
  • Unusual bloody noses

Symptoms of Withdrawal

(may begin within a few hours of use)

  • Mood swings, insomnia
  • Headache, chills, nausea, vomiting – like a bad case of the flu
  • Muscle spasms/bone pain
  • Anxiety, agitation, disorientation
  • May last five to six days

Who To Call For Help

  • A heroin overdose results in respiratory depression. If you think someone has taken heroin and they are “passed out,” call 911. Do not let them sleep it off lying on their back. Get help.
  • If you encounter “cheese” at your school, contact your school counselor.
  • If you have information about drug dealers or drug locations, contact the Dallas Police Narcotics Division at 214.671.3120.
  • If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse, contact the Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse at 214.522.8600 for Substance Abuse Helplines.

This information is available in flyer form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this flyer and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.


What are inhalants?

The name “inhalants” covers a group of [more than] 2,000 common household products. They include cleaners or strippers, paint thinners, gasoline, glues, markers, paints, aerosol sprays, medical gases, and other specialized chemicals. Some of these chemicals are flammable or explosive. All of them are harmful or deadly if used in the wrong ways.

Inhalants in the Body

When someone inhales a chemical, the linings of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs quickly soak it up and pass it to the blood. The toxins race to the brain, and begin to affect behavior and sensations. The toxins circulate throughout the body’s organs, doing permanent damage everywhere they go.

Short-term Effects

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Runny and red nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • Lost sense of smell
  • Blisters or rash around the nose or mouth
  • A cough that won’t go away
  • Lost control of bowels and bladder—possibly permanent
  • Lost muscle coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Sudden mood swings
  • A “don’t care” feeling and attitude
  • Stomachache or vomiting
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Seizures and blackout

Long-term Effects

Inhalants destroy the outer lining of the brain cells, making it impossible for those cells to communicate. Inhalants damage intelligence, memory, problem-solving ability, and the senses of hearing, taste, smell, and sight. The heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and bones can be permanently damaged. Inhalants also cause severe muscle weakness and dramatic changes to a person’s appearance. Some inhalant abusers develop blood diseases and digestive problems. Kids have died from heart attacks and “Sudden Sniffing Death.”

Signs of Sniffing or Huffing Habits

Any of the following signs could mean someone is sniffing or huffing inhalants:

  • Missing school more than usual
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Spots and/or sores around the mouth.
  • Breath or clothing that smells like chemicals
  • Acting drunk, dazed, or dizzy.
  • Marks like paint or ink near the nose

In the Know. Inhalants Something Deadly in the Air. New Orleans: In the Know, 2006. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

Hallucinogens (Mescaline, Mushrooms, Salvia Divinorum, LSD, PCP)

Hallucinogens Gone Wrong

A friend hands you a little strip of paper with a cartoon design on it. He says it will make you feel good. It looks harmless enough, so you put it in your mouth.

At first, you don’t feel much. Then you start to feel funny and your vision is playing tricks on you. You feel good, euphoric—you start laughing uncontrollably. But then, your trip turns bad—really, really bad.

Suddenly, you’re seeing scary things that won’t go away. Your brain can’t process the world around you—cars and street signs seem more like alien life forms than everyday objects. Then, the paranoia creeps in. You’re certain that your friends are out to get you—you’re sure of it—and you can’t get rid of this intense fear. You spend the next four hours curled up on the floor, crying and terrified. Nobody can convince you that you’re just hallucinating.

The scary part about hallucinogens is that they can send your brain reeling out of control. And, once the bad trip starts, there’s almost nothing you can do to stop it. A dose of anti-psychotic medicine from a doctor may be able to stop a bad trip, but even that can’t protect you from the flashbacks which can occur years later. A flashback can hit you any time, making you relive that bad trip all over again.

And, for some people, one bad trip can last forever, leading to a permanent state psychosis.

Facts about Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens mess with your perceptions, thoughts, and emotions. Some people see or hear things that aren’t there; others have paranoid, delusional thoughts. You can’t always predict how a hallucinogen will affect you because you never know exactly what you’re getting—or how your body will react.

What hallucinogens will do is seriously mess with the chemistry in your brain. Most hallucinogens contain chemicals that attach themselves to the serotonin receptors in your brain, causing hallucinations and mood changes. Some drugs can make you permanently crazy—even if it’s your first trip. Others can make you do dumb things, like hurting yourself or running onto a busy highway. And some hallucinogens may just kill you.

Unnatural Highs

Some people think that if a drug is natural, it’s safer than a chemical drug. They couldn’t be more wrong: There are a lot of natural hallucinogens out there that are just as dangerous as chemical drugs.

Angel’s Trumpets

“Angel Trumpets” are flowers that bloom only at night, but, when smoked or swallowed, these dangerous flowers produce a hallucinogenic high. They’re also highly toxic: Take too much, and you’re looking at paralysis, convulsions, or even death.


“Mescaline” is a psychoactive chemical found in several different cactus plants, including the peyote cactus. Parts of the cactus are either chewed or soaked in water to produce a liquid. When you drink this liquid, mescaline starts [affecting] your mind, inducing hallucinations.


Certain types of mushrooms, aka “magic mushrooms,” contain natural chemicals called psilocin and psilocybin that closely resemble the serotonin in your brain. So when you ingest mushrooms, the chemicals attach themselves to transmitters in your brain, [affecting] your perception and emotions.

Salvia Divinorum

Salvia Divinorum is a leafy, green plant that causes people to completely lose touch with reality for a few minutes. The scary part about salvia is that no one really knows what the long-term effects of the drug may be—but it has been linked to depression, suicidal tendencies, and schizophrenia.

All of these “natural” drugs have additional side effects, like:

  • Confusion, distortion of reality, loss of coordination, and dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea, sweating, irregular heartbeat, sleeplessness, and headaches
  • Major long-term memory problems
  • Bad trips, flashbacks, injury, and death


You’ve probably heard of a drug called LSD, sometimes referred to as “acid,” “battery acid,” “blotter,” “windowpane,” “microdots,” or “loony toons.” Lysergic acid diethylamide, the scientific name for LSD, is odorless, colorless, and tasteless; it can be sold as a pure liquid, on small squares of blotter paper, as tablets or gelatin squares, or on sugar cubes or candy. Even in very small amounts, LSD interferes with the serotonin in your brain, causing changes in your behavior, perception, and mood.

What are the side effects of an acid trip? Well, in the short term, you can expect things like:

  • Distorted emotions and perceptions
  • Nausea, sweating, and chills
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Paranoia, delusions, and panic

The worst part about LSD is, once the trip starts, it can last for more than 12 hours—and you can’t stop it if you have a terrifying experience. People who use LSD regularly are facing long-term [negative] effects like:

  • Flashbacks
  • Drug-induced psychosis (like schizophrenia)

Long-term users may eventually end up trapped in a permanent acid trip, unable to recognize reality, think rationally, or communicate with others. Think twice before dropping acid—the effects could stick with you for the rest of your life.


Ever heard of phencyclidine? That’s the medical name for PCP, sometimes called “angel dust.” Despite its innocent-sounding name, PCP is one of the most dangerous drugs out there.

PCP comes in liquid and powder form; sometimes dealers mix it with dyes to make colored powders or tablets. Users can swallow, snort, smoke, or inject PCP—and that’s when the trouble starts.

People who use PCP experience instant euphoria—that’s because the drug causes your brain to release massive amounts of dopamine. PCP also [impacts] the parts of your brain that control pain, memory, and emotion, causing some pretty scary side effects:

  • Feeling invincible, like you could do anything
  • Hostile, violent behavior
  • Confusion, disorientation, or feelings of alienation
  • Panic, terror, and fear of impending death
  • Irregular heartbeat and breathing
  • Vomiting

The effects of one dose of PCP can last between 6 and 24 hours. And that’s just one dose. Use it regularly, and you’re looking at long-term effects, such as:

  • Speech problems, like stuttering or the inability to speak at all
  • Severe anxiety and depression
  • Psychosis, paranoia, and delusions

Safe Series. Hallucinogens A Bad Trip. Reserve: Safe Series, 70084. Print. 2009

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine

GHB (gamma hydroxyl-butyrate)

Chemically similar to a substance that is found in every cell of the human body. Some users claim that this means it’s safe, but they are wrong. GHB is a depressant, so it slows the brain and body. Using any depressant without a doctor’s supervision is hazardous. In the past, doctors have used GHB to treat various conditions, including childbirth problems and anxiety. Some weightlifters claim it builds muscle, but no scientific studies have proven that. GHB was outlawed in 1990 because of the ease of overdose and addiction.

Effects of GHB

In small doses, GHB produces a mild sedative effect, slowed heart and breathing rates, inability to think quickly or logically, and physical weakness. Repeated use can lead to addiction and [difficult] withdrawal. If someone takes too much at once, GHB can produce seizures, coma, or death.

GHB Names and Forms

GHB’s street names include G, liquid Ecstasy, Georgia Home Boy, Grievous Bodily Harm, Gamma G, Growth Hormone Booster, and many others

GHB is usually found in liquid, which users sip from bottle caps. The drug is clear and odorless and tastes like salt water, but when mixed with a sweet or strong-flavored drink, its taste is mostly covered up.


Rohypnol is the brand name of flunitrazepam, a surgical anesthetic used legally by doctors around the world. It is about 10 times more potent than most common sleeping pills. Rohypnol is illegal in the U.S. and Canada.

Effects of Rohypnol

Rohypnol causes muscle relaxation, unconsciousness, and amnesia. [Those] who take small amounts feel hypnotized. Rohypnol can be addictive, and people in withdrawal often suffer seizures. Rohypnol is incredibly dangerous, especially if taken with other sedatives like alcohol…

Rohypnol Names and Forms

Rohypnol tablets may be called Roofies, Roach, Roofenol, Roche, Roll-and-Fall, or The Forget-Me Pill.

The pills are usually round, white, and labeled “roche,” with a circled number “1” or “2.” Sometimes the pills are ground into powder. Rohypnol dissolves quickly in liquid. It has a bitter taste when mixed in a drink, but its taste can be mostly covered.


Ketamine was developed in the 1960s as an anesthetic for surgeries. It is closely related to PCP. Both are called “dissociatives,” which means that they cause a splitting from reality. Ketamine is legal for use by veterinarians.

Effects of Ketamine

Ketamine causes unconsciousness, hallucinations, loss of body control, and numbing. It can also cause agitation, confusion, and difficulty communicating. Overdose can be fatal.

Ketamine Names and Forms

Some of Ketamine’s street names are Special K, Vitamin K, Ketaject, and Cat Tranquilizers

Ketamine is found in a white powder or a liquid in small pharmaceutical bottles. It has a horrible, strong, bitter flavor. It works quickly, so if you tasted it by surprise in your drink, you would have only seconds to protect yourself before losing consciousness.

In the Know. GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine Knockout Punch. New Orleans: In the Know, 2006. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.


Meth and Your Brain

Methamphetamine, or “meth” for short, is a stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, or injected. When you ingest meth, it floods your brain with dopamine, the naturally occurring chemical that your brain produces when you’re doing something fun, like laughing or eating or working out. But once the drugs wear off, you experience increasing levels of anxiety and pain, called “crashing.”

And that’s how people get hooked.

Because meth destroys your brain’s natural ability to produce dopamine, it takes more and more meth for a user to feel high. Eventually, users don’t even get high anymore – they just use meth to avoid the pain and anxiety of withdrawal symptoms.

… Because methamphetamine contains chemicals like battery acid and anti-freeze, meth actually eats holes in your brain tissue. Use enough meth, and eventually the parts of your brain that control your moods and your movement will be completely gone – and brain tissue doesn’t grow back. Hardcore users often resemble people with Parkinson’s disease, their bodies constantly twitching and their moods constantly changing.

Short-term Effects of Meth

Because methamphetamine is an upper, it makes people feel euphoric – like they’re unstoppable and invincible – speeding up their minds and bodies…

… Short-term users put themselves at risk for some pretty serious side effects like:

  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Convulsions
  • Heart attack
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Overdose
  • Death

The Ugly Side of Meth

If the short-term effects of using [meth] aren’t scary enough…by speeding up your metabolism, meth also speeds up the aging process. That’s why many hardcore meth users look so old and worn out. And, it doesn’t take long… An 18-year old who uses meth for an extended period of time soon starts to look like a 40- or 50-year-old.

…But there are more [long-term consequences of meth use]:

  • Paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions
  • Violent, aggressive behavior
  • “Meth mouth”
  • Acne
  • Sores that never heal
  • Brain damage
  • Inability to control muscle movements
  • Stroke
  • Death

It’s easy to spot a meth user: They look old and they act erratically. The most obvious sign of a meth user is “meth mouth”- black, rotten, and cracked teeth caused by the chemicals in meth that break down tooth enamel.

Where Does Meth Come From?

Methamphetamine is made from pseudoephedrine – the active ingredient in many cough medicines. When used properly in cough medicine, pseudoephedrine makes your sore throat feel better.

Drug dealers use cough medicine to cook up meth in makeshift chemical labs, often in kitchen sinks or bathtubs. And because dealers have to add dangerous chemicals like ammonia, battery acid, anti-freeze, and kerosene when they’re making meth, the volatile, flammable fumes can blow up an entire house or apartment building in an instant. Even being around a meth lab and breathing the toxic fumes can make you seriously sick.

Safe Series. Meth (Methamphetamine) An Ugly Future. Reserve: Safe Series, 70084. Print. 2009


What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It has a strong, sweet odor when burned.

Marijuana in the Brain

The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It also contains more than 400 other chemicals. THC binds to nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain, which controls learning and memory and integrates the senses with emotions and motivations. THC changes the way sensory information is processed by the hippocampus. All of this means there is a major break between what a pot user senses and what he does about it.

How is marijuana used?

Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (called a “joint” or a “nail”) or in a pipe or “bong.” Sometimes it is in a “blunt,” a cigar emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana and other drugs like crack or PCP. Marijuana may be mixed into foods or tea.

Street Names of Marijuana

There are [more than] 200 slang terms for marijuana including:

  • Pot
  • Herb
  • Weed
  • Boom
  • Mary Jane
  • Gangster
  • Chronic
  • Bud
  • Sinsemilla, ganja, hashish and hash oil (stronger forms of marijuana.)

Marijuana and the Mind

Marijuana’s effects can be unpredictable. The effects that [users] are seeking include relaxation and giddiness. Pot smokers laugh at anything—funny or not. Many users becoming dizzy have difficulty walking, and red, bloodshot eyes. Terrible thirst, “cotton mouth,” and hunger, “the munchies,” are typical. Some people fall asleep when they use pot. Others experience anxiety or paranoia every time they use the drug.

Short-term effects of Using Marijuana

After only a few uses of marijuana, users have problems with memory, learning, and problem solving. They have bad grades and weak relationships. [Users] lose coordination and their senses of sight, hearing, touch, time, and depth are distorted. Performance in sports or other activities is [impacted negatively]. Marijuana also increases heart rate and causes anxiety and panic attacks.

Long-term Effects of Using Marijuana

The most common long-term effect of marijuana abuse is amotivational syndrome. [Users] lose interest in the future and stop caring about things that used to be important to them. They neglect school, chores, personal health, and relationships. It can take up to two years off pot to regain a normal motivation level.

Marijuana can cause a great deal of other damage over time, including:

  • Increasing tolerance—The need for increasing amounts to feel effects.
  • Permanent damage to thinking and reasoning ability.
  • Chronic bronchitis, frequent chest colds, and pneumonia
  • Increased risk of lung or oral cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Damage to the reproductive system and infertility in both sexes.
  • Miscarriage or brain damage to fetuses.

In the Know. Marijuana Stone Cold Stupid. New Orleans: In the Know, 2006. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

Herbal Incense/Fake Marijuana (Spice, G-Four, K2 and Mojo)

Deceptive Packing

Because they’re sold as incense, products like Spice, G-Four, K2 and Mojo don’t have to list all of their ingredients. The ingredients they don’t list are not only potentially dangerous; some of them can get you in trouble with the law…

Spice, sold as an ‘herbal smoking mixture’ (while clearly marked on the package as not for human consumption), was the subject of a forensic chemical investigation. The effects of the drug—a longer-lasting, more powerful, marijuana-like high—were too powerful to be caused by the listed ingredients. Testing discovered the truth: it was laced with HU-210, the illegal laboratory created cannabinoid.

Guinea Pig You

HU-210, like the other chemical agents used in these ‘smoking mixtures’ is a research chemical. Do not make the mistake of thinking that these chemicals are safe. These are mainly untested chemicals with unknown toxicity, addiction potential, long-term effects and allergic reactions. In other words, unknown danger.

People who smoke [unknown substances] are literally making themselves into science experiments. There is no way of knowing which of these experimental chemicals you’re taking: the company won’t tell you and tests have shown three different chemicals in three different samples. Each batch was different.

This is bad news not only because the smoker can’t count on getting the same mixture twice in a row—increasing the chance of a bad reaction—but also because at least one of the active chemicals shows up on drug tests. HU-210 is as illegal as any other illicit drug and it does show up on marijuana tests. Anyone who thinks they can get high and escape drug tests is in for a rude awakening.

More Than Bargained For

They sell it all over, [so] how strong could it be?

The answer is, too strong.

If you’re thinking about trying any of these herbal incenses because you think they might be safer or less potent than marijuana, think again. Marijuana users who switch to these mixtures because of probation, occupational drug testing or as a way to try to quit using marijuana describe it as being stronger, longer lasting and having more negative effects.

Users report greater:

Anxiety Discomfort
Nausea Confusion
Paranoia Desire for the feeling to end

Just as Dangerous as THC

What research has been done on these herbal smoking mixtures shows that they have all the same negative consequences as smoking marijuana but, because they are more pure, the effects are amplified. Both marijuana and these synthetic chemicals negatively affect:

Short-term memory Emotional stability
Motivation Learning
Reasoning ability Stamina

Smoking and Your Health

Inhaling burning plant matter means you’re sucking down carbon monoxide—that’s the stuff that makes car exhaust poisonous. Yes, you are inhaling poison. Yes, it is bad for you. It’s not ‘cool.’ It’s not ‘risk-taking.’ Carbon monoxide poisons you by stopping your blood’s ability to carry oxygen. You’re hanging yourself without a noose.

If that’s not enough, think about the other effects of smoking: lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, impotence and narrowing of the blood vessels. And then there’s Smoker’s Face.

Every puff a smoker takes moves them closer to the set of attributes that doctors call Smoker’s Face. Lines. Wrinkles. Yellowing, sallow, crinkly skin. Yellowed teeth. Essentially, smokers are aging their faces noticeably. You can see this for yourself: guess the ages of people [who] you see smoking and people [who] do not smoke, then ask them how old they are. You’ll be surprised at the difference.

The Bottom Line

The fact is that these herbal incenses and smoking mixtures are not herbal, not safe and, in some cases, not legal. It’s not safer than marijuana, can show up on drug tests and lawmakers are working to make them illegal in the United States just like they are in the military, Austria, Chile, Germany, France, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Russia and South Korea.

Herbal? Nonsense

It comes in one and three-gram packs. It has catchy names. It’s ground up leaves, flowers and stems. It’s sold behind head shop counters, in convenience stores and over the Internet. Users put it in a pipe or roll it into a cigarette and inhale it—and they think it’s safe.

On the Internet, in convenience stores, gas stations and head shops, products calling themselves herbal incense are being bought and smoked by people looking for a safe, legal way to get high. What these people find is not what they are looking for.

The ingredients listed on these “incense packs” are seemingly harmless blends of common plants like lotus blossoms and mugwort. But the listed ingredients are not all that is in the mix. The dried up, crumbled plant matter is laced with synthetic laboratory chemicals purposely formulated to mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

The chemicals have names like JWH-018 and CP 47,497. Most of them work by tricking your brain into thinking it is exposed to THC. These are called cannabinoid receptor agonists because of the part of the brain they activate. At least one of these chemicals, HU-210, is not an agonist—it is a synthetic cannabinoid that is so similar to THC that it is actually illegal. You do not know when you’re ingesting it and it does show up on drug tests.

In the Know. Herbal Incense Fake Marijuana. Metairie: In the Know, 2010. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

Cocaine and Crack

Cocaine and the Brain

Can you imagine going through life physically unable to be happy? We’re not talking about having a bad day or even a bad month – we’re talking about a complete inability to feel joy. The things that used to make you smile – your best friend’s jokes, a day at the beach with your girlfriend, your hobbies, or playing sports – none of it does anything for you anymore.

In fact, the only thing that matters is this little white powder. Your friends, you family, your future…it all fades into the background. Only one thing can make you happy now.

That’s what it feels like for a cocaine addict.

Cocaine takes away your brain’s natural ability to produce dopamine, the hormone that makes you feel good when you’re having fun. And the scary thing is that the sudden dopamine-deprived crash you feel after using cocaine can be so awful that many first-time users immediately turn back to the drug, just to try to feel normal.

That’s what makes crack and cocaine incredible addicting. You see, crack and cocaine rob you of the natural high you can get yourself, and then replace that natural high with an unnatural substitute. That’s why it’s so hard for people to stop using once they’ve started.

Question: What’s in Coke?

If you’re ever hiking through the Andes Mountains in South America, you may notice a native plant with red berries and clusters of yellow flowers. But this isn’t a harmless sunflower or pretty mini cherry tree. This deadly little blossom is the coca plant.

By the time it reaches major cities, the coca plant has been processed, mixed with other dangerous substances (like rat poison and arsenic), and sold in the form of crack or cocaine.

Cocaine can be snorted, smoked, or injected. But however you use it, it’s absorbed into the body either through the mucus membranes in your nose, through your lungs, or directly into your bloodstream.

Short-term Effects at a High Cost

We know how cocaine makes you depend on the drug to feel good – but what exactly does it do to your body? Some of the short-term effects of cocaine really aren’t so pretty.

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Convulsions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

What’s more, depending on how a person ingests cocaine, there may be other short-term side effects. Snorters lose their sense of smell and may have regular sore throats and nosebleeds. People who smoke cocaine often have breathing problems, including chronic bronchitis and a recurring cough. And if you inject cocaine, expect a lot of scarring around the needle sites and possible exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Cracking up

The Long-term Effects of Crack and Cocaine Use

Because cocaine is addictive, and because users have to take more and more to get the same high after their tolerance increases, the health problems that go along with cocaine also get worse…and worse…and worse.

The long-term effects of cocaine abuse are:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing failure
  • Death

Aside from the health problems it causes, cocaine also affects your relationships with your parents and your friends. And, because users are so hooked on cocaine, they’ll do almost anything to get more, even acting out violently, lying, stealing, and skipping work or school.

Cocaine vs. Crack

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant and sold on the streets in the form of a white powder. Users either snort the powder through their noses or mix it with water and inject it into a vein. Some of the street names for cocaine include big C, blow, coke, flake, freebase, lady, nose candy, rock, snow, snowbirds, and white dragon.

Crack is technically called “crack cocaine.” It’s made from powdered cocaine that is processed with ammonia, baking soda, and water. The mixture is boiled to produce solid chunks, called “rocks.” Because crack is smoked, users experience an immediate high – but the high lasts only for a few minutes. Crack users experience all the same side effects as cocaine users, with the added bonus of lung and breathing problems.

So what’s the big difference between cocaine and crack?

There’s not one, really. They’re both highly addictive and dangerous, and they’ll both kill you.

Safe Series. Cocaine and Crack Blinded By Blow. St. Reserve: Safe Series, 2009. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.


What is alcohol?

The yeast enzyme, zymase, changes simple sugars in potatoes, cereals, or grapes into ethanol, which is found in:

  • Beer and malt liquor
  • Wine
  • Liquor (whiskey, etc)
  • “Wine cooler”-fruit-flavored drinks
  • Liqueurs (like crème de menthe)

How much is “a drink” of alcohol?

A standard drink is 12 grams of pure ethanol, which equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1 ½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (whiskey, etc.)

How does alcohol work biologically?

Alcohol is a depressant. It slows the function of the brain, releases the brain chemical dopamine, increases the level of opioid, peptides, numbs pain, and makes the drinker sleepy. As a person drinks more, the central nervous system slows down dangerously. Over time, alcohol causes neuroadaptation-permanent changes in the brain.

Short-term Effects of Drinking

  • Slower reactions and poor coordination
  • Heavy sweating
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lowered reasoning ability
  • Doing or saying things you otherwise would not
  • Lower heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Anxiety, restlessness
  • Mental confusion, memory loss
  • Coma
  • Death from respiratory arrest

Advertising, Peer Pressure, and Lies

If advertisements could be believed, you might think drinking alcohol would get you tons of dates, move you into a deluxe apartment near all of your sophisticated friends, and clear up your skin. There’s nothing “sophisticated” about a hangover, or vomiting, nothing “deluxe” about a prison cell or mortuary. Those images don’t usually make it into the ads.


It happens. Alcohol is addictive. One in seven drinkers becomes dependent on alcohol. The disease of alcoholism worsens over time. Alcoholics continue to drink in spite of the real problems alcohol causes in their lives. It’s a true, physical addiction, complete with painful withdrawal symptoms. And it can happen to anyone.

Long-term Health Consequences of [Drinking] Alcohol

Long-term use of alcohol can wreck a person’s health. Alcohol can and will kill anyone who drinks too much or too long, but it’s not exactly equal opportunity… Every effect of alcohol is more damaging in teenagers than it is in adults. In addition, most alcohol-related diseases progress more rapidly in women than in men. Heavy or long-term drinking causes irreversible, often fatal damage to the body including:

  • Liver diseases
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Brain cell death
  • Cancer of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, breast, pancreas, liver, colon, and rectum
  • Decreased bone density
  • Damage to eyes and skin
  • Malnutrition and gastric illnesses
  • Sexual problems in men and women

Plus, alcohol will literally stunt your growth! It slows the rapid bone growth that occurs in normal young bodies.

Women who are – or could be – pregnant must not drink any alcohol! Alcohol use during pregnancy is the #1 cause of nonhereditary mental retardation and causes lifelong hyperactive behavior and learning disabilities.

Legal Consequences of Drinking Alcohol

It is no wonder that for people under 21, alcohol is illegal. Of course, it is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol. For minors, penalties for buying, possessing, or drinking alcohol include:

Juvenile detention

  • Probation
  • Losing your driver’s license
  • Mandatory alcohol rehabilitation

The Alcohol 4-1-1

Here [are] a few of alcohol’s deadly statistics:

  • Alcohol kills [more than] 100,00 people every year
  • Alcoholism affects more people than diabetes, lung cancer, breast cancer, or heart attacks, and as many people as high blood pressure
  • Alcohol use in pregnancy is the most common nonhereditary cause of mental retardation
  • Drunk driving accidents kill about 15,000 and injure [more than] 300,000 people every year

Alcohol use is involved in:

  • Half of murders, accidental deaths, and suicides
  • A third of drowning, boating, and aviation deaths
  • Half of all crimes

Thirty-two percent of incarcerated teens were drunk at the time of their crime and/or arrest.

In the Know. Alcohol Straight Facts: Serious Dangers. Metairie: In the Know, 2010. Print.

This information is available in brochure form in the Council’s Prevention Resource Center, serving all 19 counties of Health & Human Services Region 3. Please contact 214.522.8600 ext. 204 for this brochure and other quality prevention, intervention and recovery promotion materials available.

Community Assessments

Tobacco Free North Texas Needs Assessment – 2010
Dallas County Drug Impact Index – 2010
Alliance on Underage Drinking (ALOUD) – 2009
Dallas County – 2008
Health & Human Services Region 3 – 2007



What is the difference between drug addiction and drug dependency?

The difference is quite simple. A drug-dependent person has improved function with their use of the drug while the drug-addicted person does not.

An addict uses a drug compulsively, despite the fact that it causes harm — the key component of addiction. Most smokers know cigarettes are damaging to their health. Most want to quit, but can’t overcome the cravings to the drug (nicotine).

Dependence is a physical state that occurs when the lack of a drug causes the body to have a reaction. A good example is a heavy coffee drinker. If one is used to drinking several cups of coffee each day, they soon learn about physical dependence when they suddenly miss a day or two. This does not mean they are addicted to the caffeine; it only means the body is surprised not to see what it has come to expect.

As any person with diabetes will testify about insulin, or any heart patient will testify about blood pressure medication, dependence is not necessarily indicative of addiction. In fact, regular use of these medications is essential for good health. Addiction and physical dependence often occur together — but you can have addiction without physical dependence, and physical dependence without addiction.

Does drug treatment really work?

Yes — treatment definitely works. Addiction is often described as a chronic, relapsing condition characterized by waves of abuse, decreased use, and abuse again.

For many people, more than one treatment episode may be required before improvements (such as reductions in use or sustained remission) are seen. Studies show that after six months, treatment for alcoholism is successful for 40–70% of patients.

The improvement rate for people completing substance abuse treatment is comparable to that of people treated for asthma and other chronic, relapsing health conditions.

How can I get help finding a job with a drug arrest on my record?

Operating under the umbrella of Texas’ Health & Human Services Commission, the DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services may provide the assistance you seek. Counselors can help qualified clients develop a resume, effective job interviewing techniques, and access a broad array of services to assist in the search for employment. The Division may even provide funds for training and/or schooling to help clients develop marketable skills.

Call (800) 628-5115 to find the field office closest to you. A guide for Vocational Rehabilitation applicants is available in both English and Spanish languages:

  • A Guide for Applicants (in English) (FORMS)
  • Una Guía Para los Solictantes (en Español) (FORMS)

Please refer to the guide for eligibility requirements

Why can’t people addicted to drugs quit on their own?

Nearly all addicted individuals believe in the beginning that they can stop on their own, and most try to stop without treatment. However, most of these attempts fail to achieve long-term abstinence.

Long-term drug use results in significant changes in brain function that persist long after the individual stops using drugs. These drug-induced changes in brain function may have many behavioral consequences, including the compulsion to use drugs despite adverse consequences — the defining characteristic of addiction.

Understanding that addiction has such an important biological component may help explain an individual’s difficulty in achieving and maintaining abstinence without treatment. Research studies indicate that even the most severely addicted individuals can participate actively in treatment and that active participation is essential to good outcomes.

What exactly is detox?

Over time, drinking alcohol or using certain drugs eventually causes a physical dependence. The actual stopping of drinking alcohol or using drugs results in what is known as withdrawal. Detox, short for detoxification (withdrawal), without medical supervision and assistance is potentially very dangerous and should not be attempted. Alcohol and or other drug detox can result is severe consequences — such as the delirium tremors (aka the “DTs”), seizures, convulsions, shakes, nausea, hallucinations, high blood pressure, anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.

The term detox refers to the detoxifying of the residual toxins left in the human body as a result of taking alcohol and other drugs. From a medical prospective, detox is the process of medically managing the body’s physical withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs to minimize the possible side effects and help prevent potentially harmful consequences. There are a variety of methods for the actual medical process of detox.

Detox is the first step of rehab and treatment. As long as there is alcohol or other drugs in a person’s body and as the body goes into withdrawal, the result is a craving for more alcohol or the substance. Also, until a person is mentally and physically stabilized, they are not prepared to participate in a treatment program.

The length of time required for detox depends on the process being utilized. In general, alcohol detox, when done in a medical environment, can take anywhere from 3–5 days. For drugs such as heroin, opiates, methadone, or benzodiazepines the time can range from 5–7 days of medically supervised detox. The medical process of detox usually includes administering a variety of substances to relieve the withdrawal symptoms and minimize the potentially harmful consequences.


What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes these four symptoms:

  • Craving – a strong need, or urge, to drink
  • Loss of Control – difficulty stopping once drinking has begun
  • Physical dependence – withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety) after stopping drinking
  • Tolerance – need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to feel effects

How long does alcohol stay in the body?

A number of factors determine how long alcohol will stay in a person’s system — including age, sex, weight, body fat, and physical condition. No matter how much alcohol is consumed or what blood alcohol concentration level has been achieved, the liver, which breaks down approximately 95% of all alcohol consumed, requires about one hour to metabolize the alcohol in one standard drink. The remaining 5% passes out via the urine, the breath, and perspiration. One standard drink is defined as a 12 oz. beer, a 4 oz. glass of wine, or a shot (1.5 oz.) of liquor.

A person can still be affected by alcohol after it’s “out of the system.” In one study, participants were asked to drink between 10 pm and 2 am and were then tested performing various tasks at 9 am the next morning. Subjects showed significant impairment in their ability to recall information, retrieve information, and other cognitive tasks. This impairment was present even though blood alcohol levels were at or very near .00.

Is alcoholism a disease?

Yes. Alcoholism is a chronic disease — meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime, follows a predictable course, and has symptoms. Left untreated, alcoholism is considered terminal. On average, people dying from alcohol-related causes lose 26 years from their normal life expectancy.

The alcohol cravings an alcoholic feels can be as strong as the need for food or water. Some alcoholics will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems. The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person’s genes and by his or her lifestyle.

There is no cure for alcoholism. However, like other chronic diseases, alcoholism is treatable — and entirely preventable.

Is alcoholism inherited?

Research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism does indeed run in families. The genes a person inherits partially explain this pattern, but lifestyle is also a factor. Currently, researchers are working to discover the actual genes that put people at risk for alcoholism.

Risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families doesn’t mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically become an alcoholic too. Some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem. By the same token, not all children of alcoholic families get into trouble with alcohol. Knowing you are at risk is important, though, because then you can take steps to protect yourself from developing problems with alcohol.

How long does it take for alcohol to reach the brain?

The first wave of alcohol reaches the brain within 30 seconds of consumption. Alcohol is very soluble in water, so it’s quickly absorbed by the body into the bloodstream and can then easily pass into the brain. The amount of alcohol in the blood reaches a maximum about 20–30 minutes after consumption.

When a person has a drink, the alcohol passes through the mouth and esophagus before entering the stomach and then the small intestine. Although alcohol can be absorbed anywhere along this route, it’s the stomach and small intestine that are the most important. About 25% of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and the rest in the small intestine.

Many factors can alter the rate of alcohol absorption. If you have eaten a heavy meal, the release of the stomach contents to the small intestine slows down, delaying alcohol absorption. Stronger alcoholic drinks tend to be absorbed more quickly, though very strong drinks may slow the process. Fizzy drinks, like champagne, can get you drunk quicker, since the carbon dioxide they contain may speed up the drink’s passage from the stomach to the small intestine.

Are there medications to treat alcoholism?

A range of medications can be used to treat alcoholism. But it’s important to understand there is no medication to “cure” the disease. Benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium) are sometimes used during the first days after a person stops drinking to help them safely withdraw from alcohol (also known as detoxification). These medications are not used beyond the first few days, however, because they can be highly addictive.

Other medications, such as naltrexone (Revia), help people remain sober. When combined with counseling, naltrexone can reduce the craving for alcohol and help prevent a person from returning to drinking (known as relapsing). Another medication, disulfiram (Antabuse), discourages drinking by making the person feel very sick if they drink alcohol.

Though several medications help treat alcoholism, there are no “magic bullets.” No single medication is available that works in every case and / or in every person. Developing new and more effective medications to treat alcoholism remains a high priority for researchers.

How can you tell if someone has a problem with alcohol?

Sometimes it’s tough to tell. Most people won’t walk up to someone they’re close to and ask for help. In fact, they will probably do everything possible to deny or hide the problem.

There are certain warning signs that may indicate that a person is having problems with alcohol. Exhibiting one or more of the following signs can be an indication:

  • getting intoxicated on a regular basis
  • lying about things, or the amount of alcohol being using
  • avoiding you and others in order to get drunk
  • giving up activities they used to do (such as sports, homework)
  • no longer hanging out with friends who don’t drink
  • frequent talking about using alcohol
  • risk taking
  • pressuring others to drink
  • getting into trouble with the law
  • feeling run-down, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
  • missing work / poor work performance
  • belief that in order to have fun, they must drink
  • suspension from school for an alcohol-related incident

Many of the signs, such as sudden changes in mood, difficulty in getting along with others, poor job or school performance, irritability, and depression, might be explained by other causes. Unless you observe excessive drinking, it can be hard to determine the cause of these problems. Your first step is to contact a qualified professional in your area who can give you further advice. Contact the Council’s Substance Abuse Helpline for assistance with this and other related matters. (214) 522-8600

Can a problem drinker simply cut down?

Alcoholics who try to cut down on drinking rarely succeed. A person dependent on a substance needs it, often in increasing amounts, even when trying to cut back. Cutting out alcohol — that is, abstaining — is usually the best course for recovery. People who are not alcohol dependent but who have experienced alcohol-related problems may be able to limit the amount they drink. If they can’t stay within those limits, they need to stop drinking altogether.

If an alcoholic is unwilling to get help what can you do about it?

An alcoholic can’t be forced to get help except under certain circumstances, such as a violent incident that results in court-ordered treatment or medical emergency. But you don’t have to wait for someone to “hit rock bottom” to act. Treatment specialists suggest the following steps to help an alcoholic get treatment …

Stop all cover-ups.

Family members often make excuses to others or try to protect the alcoholic from the results of their drinking. It’s important to stop covering for the alcoholic so that he or she experiences the full consequences of drinking.

Time your intervention.

The best time to talk to the drinker is shortly after an alcohol-related problem has occurred — like a serious family argument or an accident. Choose a time when he or she is sober, both of you are fairly calm, and you have a chance to talk in private.

Be specific.

Tell the family member that you are worried about his or her drinking. Use examples of the ways in which the drinking has caused problems, including the most recent incident.

State the results.

Explain what you will do if he or she doesn’t go for help — not to punish the drinker, but to protect yourself from the drinker’s problems. What you say may range from refusing to go with the person to any social activity where alcohol will be served, to moving out of the house. Don’t make any threats you’re not prepared to carry out.

Get help.

Gather information in advance about treatment options in your community. If the person is willing to get help, call immediately for an appointment with a treatment counselor. Offer to go with the family member on the first visit to a treatment program and/or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Call on a friend.

If the family member still refuses to get help, ask a friend to talk with the drinker using the steps described above. A friend who is a recovering alcoholic may be particularly persuasive, but any person who is caring and non-judgmental may help. The intervention of more than one person, more than one time, is often necessary to “coax” an alcoholic to seek help.

Find strength in numbers.

With the help of a health care professional, some families join with other relatives and friends to confront the alcoholic as a group. This approach should only be tried under the guidance of a health care professional who is experienced in this kind of group intervention.

Get support.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Support groups offered in most communities include Al-Anon, which holds regular meetings for spouses and other significant adults in an alcoholic’s life; and Alateen, which is geared to children of alcoholics. These groups help persons understand that they are not responsible for an alcoholic’s drinking and that they need to take steps to take care of themselves, regardless of whether the alcoholic chooses to get help.

What is a safe level of drinking?

For most adults, moderate alcohol use — up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people — causes few if any problems.

Certain people should not drink at all, however:

  • individuals younger than age 21
  • recovering alcoholics
  • women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • those taking certain medications (RX or OTC)
  • those planning to drive an auto / operate machinery
  • those engaging in activities requiring alertness / skill
  • those with medical conditions made worse by drinking

Is it safe to occasionally drink (wine) during pregnancy?

No. Alcohol can have a number of harmful effects on the baby. The baby can be born mentally retarded or with learning and behavioral problems that last a lifetime. We don’t know exactly how much alcohol is required to cause these problems. We do know, however, that these alcohol-related birth defects are 100% preventable, simply by not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Does alcohol affect older people differently?

Yes. Slower reaction times, problems with hearing and seeing, and a lower tolerance to alcohol’s effects put older adults at higher risk for falls, car crashes, and other types of injuries that may result from drinking.

Older adults also tend to take more medicines. Mixing alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription medications can be very dangerous, even fatal. More than 150 medications interact harmfully with alcohol. In addition, alcohol can make many of the medical conditions common in older people, including high blood pressure and ulcers, more serious. Physical changes associated with aging can make an individual feel the effects even after drinking a small amount. So even if there is no medical reason to avoid alcohol, older men and women should limit themselves to one drink per day.

Does alcohol affect women differently?

Yes. Women become more impaired than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account.

The female body has a lower water content than the male. Because alcohol mixes with this body water, a given amount of alcohol becomes more highly concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s. In other words, it would be like dropping the same amount of alcohol into a much smaller pail of water. This is why the recommended drinking limit for women is lower than for men. (one vs. two drinks a day)

Chronic alcohol abuse also takes a heavier physical toll on women. Alcohol dependence and related medical problems, such as brain, heart, and liver damage, progress more rapidly in women than in men.

Is alcohol good for your heart?

There may be benefits associated with moderate alcohol use for some individuals, although even moderate levels of drinking are implicated in accidental injury and death.

Studies have shown that moderate drinkers — men who have two or less drinks per day and women who have one or less drinks per day — are less likely to die from one form of heart disease than are people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink more. It’s believed that these smaller amounts of alcohol help protect against heart disease by changing the blood’s chemistry, thus reducing the risk of blood clots in the heart’s arteries.

If you are a nondrinker, however, you should not start drinking solely to benefit your heart. You can guard against heart disease by exercising and eating foods that are low in fat. You should not drink alcohol if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have been diagnosed as alcoholic, or have another medical condition that could make alcohol use harmful.

If you can safely drink alcohol and you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Heavy drinking increases the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as causes many other medical problems, such as liver cirrhosis.


If near someone who is smoking pot, will I test positive for it?

Passive inhalation of marijuana smoke is sometimes given by people as a reason for their positive urine test. Studies show that it is highly unlikely that a non-smoking individual could inhale enough secondhand smoke to result in a positive urine test.

In tests at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individuals were placed in a tiny unventilated room, and exposed to the smoke of 4, then 16 marijuana cigarettes for one hour a day, six straight days. After exposure to smoke from 16 marijuana cigarettes (in smoke so dense that volunteers needed goggles to protect their eyes), the percentage of positive urine tests was nearly equivalent to that of a person smoking one marijuana cigarette.

How can I tell if my teen has been using marijuana?

A person under the influence of marijuana might exhibit some of these signs:

  • dizziness, trouble walking
  • seem silly and giggle for no reason
  • dry mouth
  • very red, bloodshot eyes
  • unusually large appetite (“the munchies”)
  • hard time remembering things that just happened

Watch for changes in behavior. Look for withdrawal, depression, fatigue, carelessness with grooming, hostility, and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends. Other warning signs that could be related to drug abuse include changes in academic performance, increased absenteeism or truancy, lost interest in sports or other favorite activities, and changes in eating or sleeping habits. However, these signs may also indicate problems other than use of drugs.

Parents should also be aware of:

  • drug paraphernalia, including pipes / rolling papers
  • odor on clothes and in the bedroom
  • use of incense and other deodorizers
  • frequent use of eye drops
  • clothing, posters, jewelry, etc. promoting drug use

Parents always have the option of drug testing their children. A physician can arrange laboratory testing. Your local drug store will also carry an assortment of reliable home testing kits, as will a number of Internet sites.

Can marijuana be used as medicine?

In considering possible medical uses of marijuana, it’s important to distinguish between whole marijuana and pure THC or other specific chemicals derived from cannabis.

Whole marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, some of which are clearly harmful to health. THC, manufactured into pill form and taken orally, not smoked, can be used for treating the nausea and vomiting that go along with certain cancer treatments and is available by prescription. Another chemical related to THC (nabilone) has been approved by the FDA for treating cancer patients who suffer nausea. The oral THC is also used to help persons living with HIV maintain their body weight.

Scientists are studying whether marijuana, THC, and related chemicals in marijuana may have other medical uses. More research needs to be done on marijuana’s side effects and potential benefits before it can be recommended for medical use.


When are youth most likely to start using drugs?

Research shows that the vulnerable times for most children are periods of “transition,” when growing from one developmental stage to another. But exposure to risks can start even before a child is born; this is one reason that mothers are advised to abstain from alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy.

The first big transition for children is when they leave the security of the family and enter school.

When they advance from elementary school to middle school or junior high, they often face social challenges, such as learning to get along with a wider group of peers. It’s at this stage, early adolescence, that children are likely to encounter drug use for the first time.

Later on, upon entering high school, youth face social, psychological, and educational challenges as they prepare for the future, and these challenges can lead to use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

When young adults go on to college, get married, or enter the workforce, they again face new risks from alcohol and other drug abuse in their new adult environment.


Are anabolic steroids addictive?

Yes. Those who abuse steroids become addicted, as evidenced by their continuing to take steroids in spite of physical problems, negative effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability. They spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and the desire to take more steroids.

The most dangerous withdrawal symptom is depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts. Untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs

Also see, “What is the difference between drug addiction and dependency?”


Is nicotine really as addictive as heroin?

Yes. A February 2000 Royal College of Physicians report confirms, “Nicotine is as addictive as Class A drugs like heroin and cocaine.”

Addictive Qualities of Popular Drugs
Dependence Withdrawal Tolerance Reinforcement Intoxication
Nicotine 6 4 5 3 2
Heroin 5 5 6 5 5
Cocaine 4 3 3 6 4
Alcohol 3 6 4 4 6
Caffeine 2 2 2 1 1
1-Least Addictive < < < • > > > 6-Most Addictive

How long does nicotine stay in the body?

The breakdown product from nicotine (cotinine) may be detected in the urine for about seven days. The physiologic effect of nicotine is gone in about 14–48 hours. Nicotine can be extracted from hair for as long as several months. The physiological readjustment begins after the body detoxifies from nicotine, with the powerful conditioning effects persisting neurologically for quite some time.

Substance Abuse Helpline

Trained specialists provide telephone assistance to callers matching their unique needs with local community alcohol and other drug prevention, intervention and recovery resources

214.522.8600 or Toll Free at (800) 246-HOPE (4673)

Helpline services are available Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For alcohol and other drug information at other times, call 1-877-9NO-DRUG (1-877-966-3784).

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