Types of Drugs

It is important as a young person to be educated on the dangers of drugs and to not just believe what friends or peers share. There are numerous drugs that people use recreationally. Below is a list of drugs frequently used by young people.  For more information on these drugs and to learn about others, visit https://teens.drugabuse.gov/

Alcohol (ethanol) is the main ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. It is a poison in the body and it kills more people than all other drugs combined due to accidents, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease, among other things. It affects each individual differently based on sex, size, medications being taken, etc. The legal drinking age for alcohol is twenty-one, which gives ones brain time to finish developing before introducing alcohol to it. Alcohol use at a young age can permanently impair brain development leading to issues with paying attention, verbal comprehension, memory, and learning skills. Consequences of alcohol use include loss of inhibitions, poor decision-making, accidents, legal problems, alcohol poisoning, and death. Alcohol is also highly addictive and can lead to alcoholism, especially when an individual starts consuming it at a young age or is using it to self-medicate.

Nicotine is the addictive chemical found in tobacco products, Juuls, and some vape juices. Juuls and vapes are popular among young people because of the false belief that they are safe. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical and is considered a stimulant, which means it speeds up the activity in the central nervous system, leading to feelings of increased heart rate and energy. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are linked to serious diseases like cancer and emphysema. Vapes and Juuls are also linked to lung damage from inhaling chemicals like heavy metals and artificial flavorings; however, these products have not been around long enough to know the true effects on the body. Like other drugs, nicotine seriously impacts brain development when it is used before the brain is mature around the age of twenty-five.

Marijuana is a green, leafy, mind-altering substance that has been genetically altered over time to provide an intense high for the user. The high comes from the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in Marijuana which is typically inhaled or ingested using blunts or joints, bowls or bongs, and concentrates and extracts edibles or dab pen/rig. THC levels in marijuana have been steadily increasing and the most potent forms are concentrates and extracts. These substances can contain up to 60-80% THC and can lead to dangerous effects, including hallucinations and delusions that sometimes result in self-harm or violence. Marijuana can seriously affect brain development, and lead to issues with paying attention, verbal comprehension, memory, and learning skills. It has also been linked to breathing diseases, chronic cough, bronchitis, emphysema, and lung inflammation. Many people believe marijuana is not addictive, and while it may not be as addictive as an opiate, one’s quality of life could be affected by withdrawal, with symptoms like the flu, irritability, insomnia, weight changes, depression, and anxiety. Some people claim marijuana helps them with insomnia or their mental health symptoms; however, withdrawal mirrors these symptoms and can lead to dependence. Many young people also do not realize the legal ramifications of Marijuana.  While many states have legalized it recreationally and it has been decriminalized in Maryland, one can still be charged with possession of the drug or its paraphernalia. This charge can remain on their permanent juvenile record and be accessed in the future during background checks for jobs, college, etc.

Heroin is a highly addictive opiate that can be taken in pill form, snorted, or injected.  It is a depressant that attacks the brain’s automatic bodily processes and slows down breathing and heart rate, leading to decreased presence of oxygen in the blood and decreased circulation of blood in the body. When someone uses heroin the high can put them in a semi-conscious state, which can make them look like they cannot stay awake or stand up straight. Heroin is so strong that one use can lead to addiction, overdose, or death. Overdose or death occurs when someone uses too much heroin, it is too potent, or it is laced with other potent drugs like fentanyl. This causes the heart rate and respiration to be suppressed to the point that they stop completely or are so slow and there is not enough oxygen present for the body to survive. Many times, heroin use and addiction is caused by an addiction to and misuse of prescription opioids.  Four out of five heroin addictions began with prescription drug use. It is very difficult for people who are physically dependent on opiates like heroin to stop using it because of the severe withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, increased heart rate, sweating, muscle cramps, and abdominal pain.  Individuals who experience withdrawal end up in so much pain they sometimes use the drug just to end the sickness.

Like heroin, prescription opioids are depressants and attack the brain’s automatic bodily processes and slow down breathing and the heart, leading to decreased oxygen in the blood and decreased circulation. Doctors and dentists often prescribe opioids to patients with severe pain. Common prescription opioids include morphine, tramadol, fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and OxyContin. Prescription opioids are highly addictive and should only be taken when necessary and under the supervision and direction of a medical professional. Because people can get addicted to prescription opioids, it is always important to use things like ibuprofen when possible. You or your family should advocate for less addictive alternatives if a healthcare provider wants to prescribe these medications following a sports injury, surgery or dental procedure.