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Other Drugs


Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine looks like a fine, white, crystal powder.


Cocaine can be ingested nasally or orally. The powder can also be dissolved in water and injected it into the bloodstream. Another method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called "freebase cocaine"). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack.


Cocaine increases levels of dopamine in brain circuits controlling pleasure and movement. Normally, the brain releases dopamine in these circuits in response to potential rewards. It then recycles back into the cell that released it, shutting off the signal between nerve cells. Cocaine prevents dopamine from recycling, causing excessive amounts to build up between nerve cells. This flood of dopamine ultimately disrupts normal brain communication and causes cocaine’s high. Cocaine's effects appear almost immediately and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. The length of time and intensity of the effects are dependent on the method of use.

Short term effects can include extreme happiness and energy, mental alertness, hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch, irritability and paranoia. Additional health effects might include constricted blood vessels, nausea, increased heartbeat, tremors, increased body temperature and blood pressure. Death from cocaine overdose can occur.


Ecstasy, also known as Molly or MDMA, acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.


It is most frequently taken orally, usually in a tablet or capsule. The effects last approximately 2 to 5 hours.


Ecstasy has become a popular drug, in part because of the positive effects that a person may experience within an hour or so after taking a single dose. Those effects include feelings of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, empathy toward others, a general sense of well-being, enhanced sensory perception and decreased anxiety.

Additional effects include irritability, sadness, impulsiveness, aggression, sleep disturbance, increased anxiety, thirst, high blood pressure, cramping, sweating/chills, heart/kidney failure and dehydration.

In the hours after taking the drug, ecstasy produces significant reductions in mental abilities (information processing, performing complex activities, etc.). These changes, particularly those affecting memory, can last for up to a week, and possibly longer in regular users.


Heroin (also known as dope, junk, smack and H) is a powerful opiate pain-killer that produces euphoria and blissful apathy. It is known for leading to addiction and difficult physical withdrawal symptoms.


Heroin can be taken orally, though it is typically snorted, smoked or injected. Intravenous injection has the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria (7 to 8 seconds), while intramuscular injection produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (5 to 8 minutes). There are several risks associated with injection. When heroin is sniffed or smoked, peak effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes. Although smoking and sniffing heroin do not produce a “rush” as quickly or as intensely as intravenous injection, all three forms of heroin administration are addictive.


Heroin is a fast-acting opiate which results in a suppression of pain. When it’s injected, there is a surge of euphoria that arrives within seconds. Those using the drug other ways may not feel this surge as sharply.

Other characteristic effects include dry mouth, flushed skin, constricted pupils, itching, nausea and vomiting, constipation, feelings of heaviness and dopiness, fading in and out of wakefulness, slowed breathing, memory loss, unclear thinking, and deteriorated decision-making and self-control.


Marijuana (also known as marihuana, pot, weed, grass, mary jane, etc.) is a fast-growing, bushy, annual plant with dense sticky flowers. It produces psychoactive cannabinoid chemicals, such as THC and CBD. Marijuana is the most widely used illegal psychoactive and it has a long history of medicinal, recreational, and industrial use. The legal status of marijuana is rapidly changing in the United States and around the world.


Marijuana is typically smoked though it can be taken orally. It can be smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), in emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana (blunts), or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). To avoid inhaling smoke, vaporizers are used, which pull the active ingredients from the marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. A person then inhales the vapor, not the smoke.

Marijuana can also be mixed in food or drink (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brewed as tea.

A method of use that is on the rise is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins (dabbing). Various forms of extracts can be used, including:

  • hash oil or honey oil—a gooey liquid

  • wax or budder—a soft solid with a texture like lip balm

  • shatter—a hard, amber-colored solid

These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC and their use has sent some people to the emergency room. Another danger is in preparing these extracts, which usually involves butane (lighter fluid). A number of people who have used butane to make extracts at home have caused fires and explosions and have been seriously burned.


When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. Blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, the user generally feels the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function. Marijuana over-activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the "high" that users feel. The primary effects sought by those using marijuana are euphoria, relaxation, and changes in perception. Effects vary depending on dosage. Effects at low doses including a sense of well-being, mild enhancement of senses (smell, taste, hearing), subtle changes in thought and expression, talkativeness, changes in mood, and mild closed-eye visuals. At higher doses, effects may include impaired body movement, sense of time is altered, attention span and memory are frequently affected, and thought process and mental perception may be significantly altered.

Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental, that may last a long time or even be permanent. Other long-term effects include breathing problems, increased heart rate, extreme confusion, short-term memory loss, hallucinations, panic, paranoia and worsening mental health symptoms.


Methamphetamine (also known as speed, meth, crystal, crank, tina, ice) is a chemical widely known for its stimulant properties on the human body.


Methamphetamine can be taken orally, nasally, smoked or injected. Onset can be immediate (in the case of injection), or can take as long as 30-40 minutes if ingested orally. Different peoples' metabolisms work at different rates, and drug strengths vary, so there is no way of stating a "safe" or "unsafe" level of use.


Some of the effects include euphoria, hyper-excitability, extreme nervousness, accelerated heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, restlessness, insomnia, tooth grinding, incessant talking.

Prescription Drugs

The three classes of prescription drugs that are often abused include

  1. Opioids: type of narcotic pain medication (hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codein).

  2. Benzodiazepines: central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin)

  3. Stimulants such as amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) or methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin) most commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy


  • Opioids can induce a euphoric feeling that's usually mild. However, opioids such as OxyContin are sometimes inappropriately snorted or injected to increase the euphoric effects.

  • Benzodiazepines depress the central nervous system (CNS). They are used by millions in the U.S. to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, including insomnia. These drugs affect the brain neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA works by decreasing brain activity, which results in a drowsy or calming effect.

  • Stimulants give your body a fast jumpstart, causing an increase in alertness, energy, and attention. Stimulants increase heart rate, blood sugar, and blood pressure, constrict blood vessels, and open the pathways of the respiratory system.

According to the FDA, guidelines for using prescription medications safely include:

  • Always follow the prescription medication directions carefully.

  • Don't increase or decrease medication doses without talking with your doctor first.

  • Never stop taking medication on your own.

  • Don't crush or break pills (especially important if the pills are time-released).

  • Be clear about the drug's effects on driving and other daily tasks.

  • Learn about possible interactions of the prescription medicine with alcohol and other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

  • Talk honestly with your doctor about any history of substance abuse.

  • Never allow other people to use your prescription medications and don't take theirs.

Resources for additional information on these substances: