When people suffer from substance abuse, they are not the same people that they are when they are sober. Most drugs that people abuse alter their judgment and thinking. Not only does substance abuse lead to altered personalities, it can also lead to health risks, such as addiction, driving while under the influence of the drug and even exposure to infectious diseases.
Also known as drug addiction, substance abuse is a disease that affects the user’s brain and behavior. Once they have become addicted to the substance, users are unable to control how much and how often they use. While some substance abuse may be familiar, such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, drugs like alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are also considered subject to abuse. When you have a drug problem, you may not be able to stop using on your own, even if you are aware of the harm that it is causing you and your loved ones, which is why it is crucial to understand addiction to the drugs and to know where to find help.
One of the most commonly abused drugs is alcohol. Alcohol is legal to purchase in the United States if you are 21 years of age, and many social events and celebrations involve alcohol, which can make it hard to avoid. However, just because alcohol is a legal substance, it does not mean that it cannot be abused.
Alcohol abuse may be hard to define since the drug affects everyone differently. The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, and factors that also vary include how much and how often you drink, how old you are, your health status and your family history. Drinking alcohol itself may not be the problem. The problem may start when you begin to drink too much and do not know when to stop. It is during that stage that most people who abuse alcohol begin to see consequences in their lives. These include physical, social, legal and mental health issues.
Marijuana, commonly known as weed or pot, is the most widely used illegal drug in the country. Marijuana contains THC and other compounds, which are mind-altering chemicals. When consumed, most commonly by smoking the dried leaves or stems, marijuana causes the user to enter a “high” feeling, since the drug over-activates parts of the brain that have the most receptors. Other effects of the drug include:
- Mood changes and impaired memory.
- Altered sense of time.
- Seeing brighter colors as a result of altered senses.
- Trouble with body movement.
- Having a hard time with thinking and problem-solving.
If you consume marijuana in a large quantity, you may also experience hallucinations, delusions and psychosis. Additional physical effects of the drug include breathing problems, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting and complications for a pregnant woman during and after pregnancy. While many people believe that marijuana does not do any damage to the brain, it can affect brain development. People who use the drug in the long term may begin to see impairments in their thinking and memory. Long-term use of marijuana may make it harder for those using the drug to deal with anxiety once they are no longer taking it, leading to or exacerbating existing anxiety disorders.
Many illegal drugs are used in individual or private settings. Then there are drugs like MDMA (ecstasy) LSD (acid), ketamine and methamphetamine, which are commonly used in party settings, such as bars and nightclubs.
- MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly) is a synthetic drug that is usually consumed by taking a capsule or tablet or by sometimes snorting the powder form, which alters your awareness to your surroundings by changing your mood and perception of reality. MDMA produces intense feelings of pleasure, energy, empathy and emotional warmth. A chemical that resembles both hallucinogens and stimulants, MDMA distorts your sense of the world around you. Additional effects of the drug on your health are nausea, blurred vision, sweating, chills, dehydration and involuntary teeth clenching. If consumed in high doses, MDMA can affect how the body can regulate its temperature, which can result in kidney and liver failure, as well as heart failure and death.
- LSD (Acid) is a hallucinogen drug that alters your perception and distorts your awareness of your surroundings, such as how you interpret your thoughts and feelings. LSD is known as one of the most potent hallucinogens and is made from an odorless material. Hallucinogens like LSD can cause users to feel like they are disconnected from their bodies and the world around them. It can also affect their emotions, mood, sense or perception, sexual behavior and pain perception. Taking LSD can result in the user showing odd behavior, which can lead to public altercations and run-ins with law enforcement.
- Ketamine, also known as K or Special K, is an anesthetic drug that is used for humans and animals and is often abused as a recreation drug. Most of the ketamine that is sold in clubs initially comes from veterinary offices and is sold as a liquid that is injected into the bloodstream, even though manufacturers of the drug mostly sell the product as pills or powders. The powder can also be snorted or mixed in alcoholic drinks. Ketamine is a hallucinogen drug that distorts the user’s sense of perception. It can make users disconnected from the real world and not in control of their bodies. A person who consumes ketamine may start to feel an increased heart rate and may have higher blood pressure. Side effects of the drug include rapid eye movement and dilated pupils. A user can overdose on the drug, which can cause unconsciousness and prolonged breathing.
- Methamphetamine, or meth, is a highly addictive illegal drug that acts as a stimulant to the user. The drug can be swallowed, snorted, smoked or injected, and long-term effects of the drug can result in not only addiction but also in altered moods and behaviors. Side effects include becoming anxious, violent and increasingly paranoid, aggressive and prone to delusions. Consuming meth, even in small doses, can result in rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, rapid heart rate, decreased appetite and increased physical activity. Most deaths that are the result of a meth overdose include stroke, heart attack or organ problems as a result of overheating.
Also known as coke, cocaine is a highly addictive illegal substance. Cocaine is a strong stimulant that is often snorted but can also be injected into the bloodstream from the veins after it has been dissolved in water. Cocaine is a drug that users are likely to binge, and they usually do not stop a binge until they have run out of the drug or they have exhausted themselves.
Since a cocaine user can build tolerance for the drug quickly, the user will start to consume higher doses of the drug. Taking the drug in large doses for an extended time can result in the user experiencing paranoia. After a user has ended a coke binge and crash, the euphoria of the drug is often met by physical and mental exhaustion. The ensuing depression that can last up to several days. However, after they have recovered from a cocaine crash, many cocaine abusers will start using the drug again, which puts them in a continuous cycle. Extreme users of cocaine may experience increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite and insomnia. Long-term use of the drug can result in not only respiratory syndrome but also the erosion of the upper nasal cavity and cardiovascular problems.
Heroin is an opioid and is one of the most addictive illegal drugs. While heroin is extracted from various poppy plants, the drug is typically sold as a white or brownish powder that people either snort, smoke or inject. Heroin is a dangerous drug because it enters the brain as soon as it is consumed. It is addictive both physically and psychologically, and users are known to feel a state of euphoria known as a “rush” then they usually fall into a twilight state of being asleep and awake.
Users of heroin are at high risk of overdose or death because they do not know where the drug originated how potent the drug is when they consume it. Signs that a user is overdosing from heroin include breathing that becomes slow and shallow, lips and fingernails turning blue and convulsions. These symptoms can result in the user falling into a coma and even death.