Substance abuse; Illicit drug abuse; Narcotic abuse; Hallucinogen abuse
Marijuana is also called "grass," "pot," "reefer," "joint," "hashish," "cannabis," "weed," and "Mary Jane."
About 2 in 5 Americans have used marijuana at least once in their life.
Marijuana comes from a plant called hemp (cannabis sativa). The main, active ingredient in marijuana is THC (short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). This and other ingredients, called cannabinoids, are found in the leaves and flowering parts of the marijuana plant. Hashish is a substance taken from the tops of female marijuana plants. It contains the highest amount of THC.
How fast you feel the effects of marijuana depend on how you use it:
If you breathe in marijuana smoke (such as from a joint or pipe), you may feel the effects within seconds to several minutes.
If you eat foods containing the drug (such as "hash brownies,") you may feel the effects with 30 -60 minutes.
Marijuana acts on your central nervous system. Low-to-moderate amounts of the drug may cause:
PCP is an illegal drug that comes as a white powder, which can be dissolved in alcohol or water. PCP may be smoked, shot into a vein, or taken by mouth. How quickly it affects you depends on how you take it.
Shooting up: If given through a vein, PCP's effects start within 2-5 minutes.
Smoked: The effects begin within 2 - 5 minutes, peaking at 15 - 30 minutes.
Taken by mouth: In pill form, or mixed with food or drinks, PCP's effects usually start within 30 minutes. The effects tend to peak in about 2 - 5 hours.
Different doses of PCP will cause different effects:
Lower doses of PCP typically produce feelings of joy (euphoria) and less inhibition, similar to being drunk.
Higher doses cause numbness throughout the body, and perception changes that may lead to extreme anxiety and violence.
Large doses may produce paranoia, "hearing voices" (auditory hallucinations), and psychosis similar to schizophrenia.
Hallucinogens can lead to extreme anxiety and lack of reality, called "bad trips". These experiences can come back as a "flashback," even without using the drug again. Such experiences typically occur during times of increased stress, and tend to occur less often and intensely after stopping the drugs.
The abuse of cocaine increased dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but is now on the decline. Other names to describe different forms of cocaine include "crack," "coke," "snow," and "speedball."
Cocaine may be taken in different ways:
Snorting: Inhaling it through the nose
Shooting up: Dissolving it in water and injected it into a vein
Speedball: Mixed with heroin and shot into a vein
Smoked: Cocaine may be changed into a smokeable form known as freebase or crack
Smoking cocaine produces a nearly instant and intense sense of joy (euphoria), which is attractive to abusers. Other effects include:
Feelings of increased confidence and energy
Powerful stimulation of the central nervous system
Regular users of cocaine may need larger amounts of the drug to feel these effects. Regular users of cocaine may have:
Loss of interest in school, work, family, and friends
Heavy use may cause paranoia, which can lead to violence.
Amphetamines are stimulants. Other names used to desrribe amphetamines or methamphetamines include "crystal," "go," "crank," and "cross-tops." See: Methamphetamine overdose
Amphetamines are very addictive. Prescription amphetamines are considered controlled substances. Over-the-counter (OTC) amphetamine look-alike drugs are often abused. These drugs typically contain caffeine and other stimulants, and are sold as appetite suppressants or stay-awake/stay-alert aids.
Signs and symptoms of stimulant use:
Exaggerated feeling of well-being (euphoria)
Fast heart rate
Restlessness and hyperactivity
Inhalant use became popular with young teens in the 1960s with "glue sniffing." Since then, a greater variety of inhalants have become popular. Inhalant use typically involves younger teens or school-age children.
Opiates come from opium poppies. These drugs include morphine and codeine. Opioids are artificial substances that have the same effect as morphine or codeine. The term "narcotic" refers to either type of drug.
Narcotics are powerful painkillers that cause drowsiness (sedation) and sometimes, feelings of euphoria.
These drugs include:
Oxycodone (Percocet or Oxycontin)
Signs and symptoms of narcotic use:
Coma, respiratory depression leading to coma, and death in high doses
Needle marks on the skin ("tracks") if drug use is by injection
Rapid heart rate
Relaxed or euphoric state
Scars from skin abscesses if drug use is by injection
Small "pinpoint" pupils
Because heroin is commonly injected into a vein (used intravenously), there are health concerns about sharing contaminated needles among IV drug users. Complications of sharing contaminated needles include hepatitis, HIV infection, and AIDS.
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM DEPRESSANTS
These substances produce a sedative and anxiety-reducing effect, which can lead to dependence.
These types of drugs include:
Barbiturates (amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital), also called "yellow jackets"
Benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Xanax)
Signs and symptoms of alcohol or other depressant use:
Decreased attention span
Lack of coordination
CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
If you are concerned about the possibility of getting addicted to any prescribed medications
If you are concerned about possible drug abuse by yourself or a family member
If you are interested in getting more information on drug abuse
If you are seeking treatment of drug abuse for yourself or a family member
There are a number of different support groups available to help those with drug abuse. They include:
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.