Branch County SATF

Commonly Abused Drugs


Alcohol is the oldest and most widely used drug in the world. While most people don’t have a problem with alcohol, more than 15 million people do including 4.5 million adolescents. Use of alcohol can initially make you feel relaxed and reduce your anxiety. Alcohol, however, is a depressant and slows your central nervous system. Combining alcohol with other medications or drugs could have serious interactive effects including death.

Physically, the abuse of or dependence on alcohol can result in seizures, blackouts, malnutrition, alcohol poisoning and increased symptoms of mental health conditions. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which results in babies having been exposed to alcohol while in the womb, can suffer from permanent neurological disorders, physical deformities, and an intellectual disorder.

Adolescent drinking accounts for profound and lasting effects on brain development, not to mention motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and suicide.
If you or a loved one are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from a discontinuation of alcohol, seek medical attention immediately as this could result in significant medical concerns.

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Bath Salts

Although the name sounds like a start to a relaxing evening, this powdered stimulant has resulted in significant psychiatric hospitalizations due to the resulting psychosis. Bath salts are snorted, smoked, or injected in order to experience an effect similar to cocaine. The drug stimulates the central nervous system and produces hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), extreme paranoia, and violent behavior. It also causes a raised hear rate, sweating, clenching of the jaw, compulsive water drinking, and seizures. Bath salts can very dangerous and life changing – some users have been psychiatrically hospitalized long-term, and symptoms have remained indefinitely.

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Both cocaine and crack serve to stimulate the central nervous system causing the heart to beat faster than normal, and constricts the blood vessels making one susceptible to stroke or heart attack. Cocaine is a powder substance often snorted through the nose, although it can also be dissolved in water and injected. Crack is processed from cocaine and is usually smoked. Instead of a powder, crack is in a rock formation or small chips and produces a quicker, more intense high – and greater side effects. Tolerance develops quickly leaving the user needing to use more to achieve the same level of high.

The high experienced by cocaine and crack is very quick, but the “comedown” that follows can be significant. The “comedown” leaves the user feeling anxious, jumpy, fearful, and fatigued. Users describe this experience as having a feeling of not wanting to do anything or not knowing what to do next. Some say it’s wanting to fall asleep but can’t. Most agree that this “comedown” is very uncomfortable, leaving the user wanting to use again to avoid this discomfort. Some will try a drug intended to slow the heart down – heroin – with often fatal results. This mix is called a “Speedball” and has accounted for several local and national deaths.

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Energy Drinks

Energy drinks are highly caffeinated drinks that promise alertness and a boost of energy. The drinks are especially marketed to entice youth. The amount of caffeine in an energy drink is not regulated as it is with caffeinated sodas. In fact, the amount of caffeine in one drink could be as high as 14 cans of soda.

Too much caffeine can make you feel restless, anxious, and irritable. It can also lead to sleeplessness, headaches, and abnormal heart rhythms. Withdrawal symptoms are common.

It should be noted that some persons ingest an energy drink just prior to a drug test to dilute the results. This is an urban myth and in Branch County will only result in an automatic failure of your drug test.

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Heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs due to its intense high, which is short-lived thus prompting the user to use again quickly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug requiring the user to use more and more to experience previous highs.

Heroin, produced by morphine is a narcotic and slows the heart. It is produced by morphine and is usually in powder form but can also be in the form of a sticky, black solid referred to as “black tar”. Heroin is injected, snorted, or smoked. Injection produces the strongest effect as it enters the bloodstream directly. Heroin has a very high addiction potential with users preferring injection over other means in order to achieve the quick, intense high that the brain has come to crave.

The primary risk of heroin is overdose which is common as the user not only has to use more of the drug over time, but also in quicker doses to avoid withdrawal. Withdrawal, which happens quickly, includes muscle and bone pain, restlessness, and nausea. Users commonly describe the experience as the “worst flu ever”. Withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated by medications such as Buprenorphine (Suboxone) or Morphine. It is worthy to note that the highest risk of overdose is after detox as users may return to using heroin at the amount previously accustomed to which often causes heart failure.

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Inhalants produce a quick, but temporary high, which consists of feeling lightheadedness and a general good feeling when the fumes are breathed. The effect is short, and followed by drowsiness, headaches, or nausea often lasting longer than the high.

Solvents are a common source of inhalants and include gasoline, lighter fluid, spray paint, nail polish remover, computer keyboard cleaners, and paint. Whippets, found in the metal container of Whip Cream, are also sprayed to achieve a nitrous oxide high.

The fumes are either inhaled directly, poured on a sock or rag, rolled onto toilet paper rolls, for the strongest effect poured into a balloon and then secured over mouth and nose. As a result, the “huffer” is exposing themselves to organ damage, respiratory failure, blindness and/or permanent brain damage.

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Both K2 and Spice are street names for synthetic marijuana. The ingredients in K2/Spice are intended to mimic THC which is the psychoactive (mind-altering) ingredient in marijuana. Spice/K2 are marketed as an herbal alternative to marijuana, however the experience is very similar as are the withdrawal effects and addiction potential.

The ingredients in K2/Spice are illegal in Michigan which is prompting the drug manufacturers to create alternative ingredients in the drug. This results in the user no longer knowing what they are ingesting into their bodies. Reactions to smoking K2/Spice can be fatal in some cases. There have been cases of kidney failure and heart attacks. Some users experience hallucinations (seeing things that are not there), suicidal thoughts and intense fear or paranoia. Some of the mental health symptoms have lasted indefinitely.

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Call it “pot”, grass, weed or mary jane, but Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug, and more dangerous than people realize. Although cannabis contains at least 400 different chemicals, its main mind-altering ingredient is referred to as THC. The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug’s strength, and THC levels are affected by a great many factors, including plant type, weather, soil, and time of harvest. THC content of marijuana, which averaged less than 1 percent in 1974, rose to an average 4 percent by 1994. For the highly popular form of marijuana called Sinsemilla (from the Spanish "without seeds"), made from just the buds and flowering tops of female plants, THC content averages 7.5 percent and ranges as high as 24 percent.

Marijuana is usually smoked in a pipe or loosely rolled in cigarettes called “joints”. Marijuana rolled in cigars are called “blunts”. Marijuana produces a mild hallucinogen (mind-altering drug) effect. Users experience dry mouth and throat, increased heart rate, impaired coordination, delayed reaction time, and a dreamy state of relaxation. Although most of marijuana’s effects wear off within two or three hours, the drug itself tends to linger in the fatty tissues of the liver, lungs, testes, and other organs.

Marijuana reduces learning ability and increases the risk of cancer and lung conditions including chest colds, bronchitis, and emphysema. Although marijuana has dangers for all age groups, its greatest risk is on youth. Adolescents who smoke pot regularly are 30 times more likely to use cocaine than non-users.

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Methamphetamine (Meth) is a stimulant affecting the central nervous system. Methamphetamine is a crystal-like powdered substance that sometimes comes in large rock-like chunks. When the powder flakes off the rock, the shards look like glass. Meth can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected.

Immediately after smoking or injection, the user experiences an intense sensation, called a “rush” that lasts only a few minutes, but is powerful. Snorting or swallowing meth produces a lesser effect of euphoria rather than the intense rush you get from smoking or injection. After the initial “rush,” the user can experience agitation, sometimes extreme enough to be violent. Other common side effects include increased wakefulness and insomnia, decreased appetite, irritability/aggression, anxiety, nervousness, convulsions and heart attack.

Methamphetamine is addictive, and users can develop a tolerance quickly, needing larger amounts to get high. In some cases, users forego food and sleep and take more meth every few hours for days, ‘binging’ until they run out of the drug or become too disorganized to continue. Chronic use can cause paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive behavior (such as compulsively cleaning, grooming or disassembling and assembling objects), and delusions of parasites or insects crawling under the skin. Users can obsessively scratch their skin to get rid of these imagined insects. Following the discontinuation of meth, people can often experience a lengthy period of depression.

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Prescription Drugs

The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high has become increasingly prevalent among teen and young adults and is the number one precursor to heroin use. The most common prescriptions abused are Opiates (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet), Depressants (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan) and Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall). The most common over-the-counter medication abuse is Dextromethorphan found in cough syrup. All of these prescriptions have an addiction potential and result in extreme withdrawal symptoms.

It is important that you secure your medications to avoid others – especially youth – in accessing these medications. Youth parties called “Pharm Parties” are popular and involve youth bringing random medications from home and putting them in a large bowl with other unknown medications. Youth then ingest a handful of these unknown medications.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications should be disposed of anonymously at the Branch County Sheriff’s Department (County Jail). Medications should not be flushed down the toilet nor thrown away in the trash.

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Salvia is a hallucinogenic plant. Salvia is ingested by chewing the leaves or by drinking their extracted juices. Drying the leaves allows the user to smoke the plant as well.

Salvia produces hallucinations (seeing things that are not there) which can be experienced almost immediately, lasting approximately 30 minutes. Other psychedelic-like experiences include out-of-body experiences, a misperception of reality, and emotional swings. For some, the experiences are quite fearful and cause panic. While in this dream-like state, users can be easily confused and disoriented resulting in unintended injuries. Persons with co-occurring mental health conditions are extremely vulnerable to Salvia’s effects.

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