The Health Effects of Teen Drug Use:

In recent years, much has been learned about the health effects of teen drug use. Drugs are readily available to those who choose to use them in either an “experimental” way or to those who are chronic drug abusers. The consequence of such use, even causal use, can be devastating to both the user and to the users family members. But, teen drug use is costly to more than just families. It is especially costly to our society as a whole. Youth’s immature physical, emotional, and psychological development make them MORE susceptible than adults to the harmful effects of drug abuse. In the 7 years that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has published the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse, results have indicated that teens and their parents view drugs as their biggest concern.

The health effects of teen drug use can vary, depending on such factors as frequency of use, the kind of drug taken, how much is taken, how quickly it gets into the brain, what other drugs are taken at the same time, the differences in body size and chemistry, the length of time the drugs are used, and other components. Some, but certainly not all, of the most frequently used drugs and their effects will be discussed in this article.

Street names: speed uppers, dexies, bennies
How they are used: Amphetamines can be swallowed, inhaled, or injected
Effects and Dangers:
*Swallowed or snorted, these drugs hit users with a fast high, making them feel powerful, alert and energized.
*Uppers pump up heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure, and they can also cause sweating, shaking, headaches, sleeplessness, and blurred vision.
*Prolonged use may cause hallucinations and intense paranoia.
How addictive? Amphetamines are psychologically addictive. Users who stop using them report that they experience various mood problems such as aggression and anxiety and intense cravings for the drugs.

Cocaine and Crack:
Street names: coke, snow, blow, nose candy, white, big C
Street names for crack: freebase, rock
How they are used: Cocaine is inhaled through the nose or injected. Crack is smoked.
Effects and Dangers:
*Cocaine is a stimulant that rocks the central nervous system, giving users a quick, intense feeling of power and energy. Snorting highs last between 15 and 30 minutes; smoking highs last between 5 and 10 minutes.
*Cocaine also elevates heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
*Snorting can put a hole inside the lining of your nose
*First-time users-even teens-of both cocaine and crack can stop breathing or have fatal heart attacks. Using either of these drugs even one time can kill you.
How addictive? These drugs are highly addictive, and as a result, the drug, not the user, calls the shots. Even after one use, cocaine and crack can create both physical and psychological cravings that make it very, very difficult for users to stop.

Cold and Cough Medicines (DXM):
Several over-the-counter cough and cold medicines contain the ingredient dextromatorphan (also called DXM). If taken in large quantities, these over-the-counter medicines can cause hallucinations, loss of motor control, and “out-of-body” (or disassociative) sensations.
Street names: triple C, candy, DM, drex, red devils, robo, rojo, skittles,tussin,velvet, vitamin D
How they are used: Cough and cold medicines, which come in tablets, capsules, gel caps, and lozenges as well as syrups, are swallowed. DXM is often extracted from cough and cold medicines, put into powder form and snorted.
Effects and dangers:
*Small doses help suppress coughing, but larger doses can cause fever, confusion, impaired judgment, blurred vision, dizziness, paranoia, excessive sweating, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, headache, lethargy, numbness of fingers and toes, redness of face, dry and itchy skin, loss of consciousness, seizures, brain damage, and even death. Sometimes users mistakenly take cough syrups that contain other medications in addition to detromethorphan. High doses of these other meds can cause serious injury of death.
How addictive? People who use cough and cold medicines and DXM regularly to get high can become psychologically dependent upon them.

The most widely used illegal drug in the United States, marijuana resembles green, brown, or gray dried parsley with stems or seeds. A stronger form of marijuana called hashish (hash) looks like brown or black cakes or balls. Marijuana is often called a gateway drug because frequent use often leads to the use of stronger drugs.
*Street names: pot, weed, blunts, chronic, grass, reefer, herb, ganja
How it is used: Marijuana is typically smoked in cigarette (joints), hollowed out cigars (blunts), pipes (bowls), or water pipes (bongs). Some people mix it into foods or brew it as a tea.
Effects and dangers:
*Marijuana can affect mood and coordination. Users may experience mood swings that range from stimulated or happy to drowsy or depressed. Marijuana also elevates heart rate and blood pressure. Some people get red eyes and feel very sleepy or hungry. The drug can also make some people paranoid or cause them to hallucinate. Marijuana is as tough on the lungs as cigarettes-steady smokers suffer coughs, wheezing, and frequent colds.
How addictive? Teens who use marijuana can become psychologically dependent upon it to feel good, deal with life, or handle stress. In addition, their bodies may demand more and more marijuana to achieve the same kind of high experienced in the beginning.

Inhalants are substances that are sniffed or “huffed” to give the user an immediate rush or high. They include household products like glues, paint thinners, dry cleaning fluids, gasoline, felt-tip marker fluid, correction fluid, hair spray, aerosol deodorants, and spray paint. *How it is used: Inhalants are breathed in directly from the original container (sniffing or snorting), from a plastic bag (bagging), or by holding an inhalant-soaked rag in the mouth (huffing).
Effects and dangers: Inhalants make you feel giddy and confused, as if you were drunk. Long time users get headaches, nosebleeds, and may suffer the loss of hearing and sense of smell. Inhalants are the most likely of abused substances to cause severe toxic reaction and death. Using inhalants, even one time, can kill you.
How addictive? Inhalants can be very addictive. Teens who use inhalants can become psychologically dependent upon them to feel good, deal with life or handle stress.

The reasons teens choose to use drugs vary widely. Some teens use drugs to be popular or to fit in with their friends. Others use drugs to get attention from their parents, while others use them to escape or solve problems. Drug abuse does NOT solve problems, it only masks emotions and problems, often making things worse. Drugs can take over a life to the extent that nothing else matters; food, friends, family, health, etc. Some users go to great lengths to get drugs using, whatever means necessary. The drug becomes the master of the users life. It will crush an individuals emotional, spiritual, and physical health, ruining every aspect of their life.

Work Cited: Originally reviewed by: Jonathan A. Schneider, DO Updated and reviewed by: Michele Van Vranken, MD November 2004 National Drug Intelligence Center, a component of the U. S. Department of Justice, Fast Facts pamphlet form