Psychoactive Drugs

The chemical composition of most controlled substances are addictive. Therefore, when recreational use of a drug like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol continues, the progression to abuse and then to addiction is inevitable without intervention.

While most drugs that we now find dangerous and highly-addictive were first used or created to serve as medication, the medical benefits never outweighed the risks. When damage and impairment were discovered, drugs like cocaine, used to treat tuberculosis for example, were banned from use. Eventually the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined criteria to categorize all substances that alter the mind and distort perception.

Controlled substances, which include illegal drugs like cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, GHB, marijuana, and substances that are currently legal like alcohol and prescription drugs, each fall into one of five categories, listed as I, II, III, IV, and V. Schedule I substances are the most dangerous for human use, and the risks involved decrease from Schedule I down to the least harmful substances in Schedule V.

The chemical composition of most controlled substances are addictive. Therefore, when recreational use of a drug like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol continues, the progression to abuse and then to addiction is inevitable without intervention.

If you, or someone you know, needs treatment now, call the team at Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.

Illegal Drugs

Cocaine, heroin, club drugs, and marijuana are abused at alarming rates. The true impact of these substances is widely unknown by the millions of people who abuse them each day.

Drugs categorized as Schedule I or II are highly addictive and extremely damaging to the human body and brain.

With around 5.6 million people in the United States who use cocaine in a given year, the problem is widespread. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 1.7 million Americans use crack cocaine on a monthly basis.

Cocaine, in powder form, is generally snorted to experience a high that increases energy, mood, and confidence. Crack cocaine in rock form, is usually smoked to achieve the high faster and with greater intensity. Each form of this drug is addictive and can quickly lead to addiction among its users.

While cocaine creates pleasure it also creates the following short-term effects:

  • Mental alertness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased energy levels
  • Exposure to high-risk sexual activity
  • Hepatitis and HIV (when IV users share needles)

Over time, cocaine abuse and addiction cause even more detrimental effects:

  • Irritability and agitation
  • An inability to regulate mood (mood swings, long periods of depression or anxiety when cocaine is not used)
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Cardiovascular damage and failure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tremors
  • Memory lapse
  • Mental confusion
  • Physical violence and homicidal ideations
  • Miscarriage, placental separation, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when cocaine is used while pregnant
  • Psychosis

As a member of the opiate family, heroin is used as a pain reliever. When abused in high doses, users experience a complete lack of pain and an inability to properly function. Consequently, heroin is classified as a Schedule I substance by the DEA and the FDA.

Heroin, that can be injected, snorted, smoked, or swallowed, creates the following effects:

  • Complete insensitivity to pain
  • Controls cough
  • Stops diarrhea
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases heart and respiratory rates
  • Creates mental confusion
  • Causes eyelids to droop and the head to nod
  • Slurs and slows down speech
  • Affects coordination and walking gait
  • Pinpoints pupils
  • Releases histamine that leads to itchiness and dry skin
  • Impairs sexual function
  • Causes constipation
  • Alters a woman’s menstrual cycle

Physical dependence on the drug and an increased need for more heroin when tolerance has developed happens quickly. When heroin is unavailable, the user begins to experience painful withdrawal symptoms that lead right back to the drug’s use.

MDMA, better known as ecstasy, Molly, E, or X, plus GHB, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and methamphetamine are associated with techno and electronic trance music. In an effort to have an altered perception, an escape from reality, or a fun night out, young people are abusing these club drugs at an alarming rate.

These substances are especially dangerous because the combinations of chemicals used to make ecstasy, for example, can be different for each batch created. Without knowing what a user is getting, and how his or her individual chemistry will react, the effects and potential risks involved in club drug use are unpredictable and highly dangerous.

The progression from recreational use to abuse, and onto addiction, is equally as possible with club drugs.

In 1960, only 3.4 million people in the United States (2% of the total population) had tried marijuana. The number rose to more than 14.6 million people in 2005, or 6% of all citizens aged 12 years and older, and those users were abusing cannabis on a monthly basis. Further, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 3.2 million Americans currently use marijuana on a daily basis.

The debate constantly continues over the true dangers of marijuana, or cannabis, use because the drug is not as physically addictive as other substances. However, the psychological component of addiction is likely with marijuana because the drug alters perception and creates a mental separation from the environment. When an escape seems to be more enjoyable than reality, the high is desirable, and marijuana use increases to abuse and addiction.

A 16-year-old recovering marijuana addict shares:

It’s kind of like life without a coherent thought. It’s kind of like an escape. It’s like when you go to sleep, you forget about things. It’s like everything’s dreamlike and there are no restraints on anything. You can have freedom to say what you want to say.

Legal Drugs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 100 people die every single day, in the United States alone, from a drug overdose, and 75% of those deaths are directly linked to the abuse of prescription painkillers, like Vicodin.

While some psychoactive drugs are technically legal, various forms of their abuse are against the law. For example, drinking alcohol, when at least 21 years of age, is legal, but driving after consuming a certain amount is illegal. Similarly, prescription drugs, written to you by a medical professional and taken as prescribed, is legal, but taking a prescription that is not yours, or taking more than prescribed, is illegal.

Any legality of alcohol or prescription drugs does not minimize the internal damage done by the regular use of each. These substances are highly addictive and create major physical, emotional, mental, and psychological damage to users. Tolerance for these drugs and dependence on one or more substances is as harmful for legal drugs as it is for illegal ones.

126 million Americans drink at least one alcoholic beverage every month and 16 million of these people meet the criteria for heavy drinkers, or alcohol abusers. Close to 30% of all hospital admissions are directly attributed to the complications of alcohol abuse, and more than half of all rapists, murderers, and murder victims were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crime.

Alcohol is socially-acceptable, and is used to have a good time without a true understanding of its risks and ongoing internal damage. Although alcohol is a legal substance, it is one of the most physically damaging. As the body tries to metabolize the components of alcohol, the liver, lungs, kidneys, and other major organs are greatly taxed. As alcohol makes it way through the digestive system, the entire central nervous system is impacted, as evidenced by the debilitating hangover the following day. For regular alcohol abusers, with a high tolerance for and a dependence upon the drug, the withdrawal symptoms create a craving and seemingly desperate need to consume alcohol again.

Marc Schuckit, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California Medical School in San Diego, shares his take on alcohol abuse and addiction by saying, “Most alcohol-dependent people or drug-dependent people, when terrible crises occur, they can stop. Their trouble, however, is staying stopped. So when they do back to use, whether it’s the first or the thirtieth time they use, you can bet money that one of those times they won’t be able to stop and problems are going to develop dramatically.”

As alcohol changes the brain, the body then craves the substance. Dependence has formed and withdrawal symptoms will be present when alcohol consumption stops, even for just a day. Alcohol poisoning and alcohol withdrawal are often fatal.

To break the cycle of alcohol abuse or addiction, contact Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.

Pills manufactured to help with true medical or psychological diagnoses generally work when taken as prescribed. The problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States is the endless abuse of prescription drugs. Taking another person’s prescription, or taking your own prescription in any way other than as directed, is drug abuse. Just like repeated heroin, cocaine, or alcohol abuse will lead to addiction, so will the ongoing abuse of a pharmaceutical drug.

As with alcohol, the legality of prescription pills does not reduce the potential harm or possibility of addiction. People of all ages are taking these drugs without an understanding of the damage. Vicodin, Xanax, Percocet, OxyContin, codeine, morphine, Norco, Valium, Ambien, Ritalin, Adderall, Ativan, and several others are taken regularly by people without a true medical or psychological need for such strong chemicals. The effects of these drugs range from liver failure to seizure, coma, and even death.

The rates of overdose from drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin are astronomical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 100 people die every single day, in the United States alone, from a drug overdose, and 75% of those are directly linked to the abuse of prescription painkillers, like Vicodin. More than 12 million people are currently abusing prescription drugs, leading to nearly 500,000 emergency room visits each year.

Drug Abuse & Addiction

While addiction is generally associated with drugs like heroin and crack cocaine, any substance that leads to the five criteria listed below constitutes addiction:
  1. Loss of Control Over Use
  2. Obsession Over Drug Use
  3. Continued use Despite Adverse Life Consequences
  4. Denial of Any Problem with Substances
  5. A High Likelihood of Relapse, or a Return to Substance Use After Quitting

The difference between recreational use or habitual use of a psychoactive substance and drug abuse is the continued use despite adverse life consequences. Whether social, financial, relational, physical, mental, or professional, anything that has a negative impact on a drug user’s life that does not lead to a change in choices indicates a greater problem of drug abuse.

When abuse continues despite even greater consequences, and control over use is lost, an obsession over use begins, a complete denial of any problem exists, and the likelihood of relapse after periods of abstinence is high, abuse has progressed further into diagnosable addiction.

A 38-year-old recovering polydrug addict shares his experience with addiction:

The craving was just continuous. It was just like if I was coming off speed, I wanted heroin. If I was coming off heroin, I wanted to snort cocaine. And if I was coming off that, I wanted to stay numb. I wanted to go from one drug to another. If I wanted to stay up all night, I would do speed.

Treatment for Drug Abuse & Addiction

Whether a drug is legal or illegal, the likelihood of abuse from repeated use progressing to addiction, and the negative impact of regular use, are very real with all psychoactive drugs. Treatment is needed to break the cycle of drug abuse and addiction. With various forms of therapeutic intervention, and techniques to implement healthy coping skills, any addict, using any set of drugs, can stop, heal, and begin a new, substance-free life in recovery.

By contacting the team at Recovery Now TV, you can save your own life or the life of someone you love. Call now: 800-281-4731.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Uppers, Downers, All Arounders by Darryl S. Inaba & William E. Cohen
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