Facts about drugs
- Narcotics: Narcotics (such as heroin, morphine, Oxycontin, etc.) are used to dull the senses and reduce pain. Narcotics can be made from opium (from the opium poppy) or created in a laboratory (synthetic and semi-synthetic narcotics).
- Stimulants: Stimulants reverse the effects of fatigue on the body and brain. Sometimes they are referred to as “uppers.” Cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine and Ritalin™ are stimulant drugs. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant grown in South America. Nicotine (found in tobacco) is also a stimulant.
- Depressants: Substances included in this category are tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, anti-anxiety medications and alcohol.
- Cannabis: Marijuana and hashish are substances referred to as cannabis and THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocanabinol) is the ingredient in cannabis which makes the user feel “high.”
- Hallucinogens: These substances alter the perceptions and moods of users. LSD, Ecstasy, PCP and Ketamine are made in laboratories, some of which are clandestine; non-manufactured hallucinogens include peyote and mescaline.
- Inhalants: Many common items such as glue, lighter fluid, paint products, cleaning fluids, gasoline, and propellants in aerosol cans contain chemicals that produce intoxicating effects similar to alcohol. Inhalant abuse is the deliberate inhaling or sniffing of these products to get high.
- Steroids: Anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance that is chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone and promotes muscle growth. Some steroids are used for legitimate medical reasons, but many are illegally manufactured and distributed.
When asked, young people offer a number of reasons for using drugs; most often they cite a desire to change the way they feel, or to “get high.”
Other reasons include:
- Escape school
- Escape family pressures
- Low self-esteem
- To be accepted by their peers
- To feel adult-like or sophisticated
- Perception of low risk associated with drugs
- Availability of drugs
Prevention experts have identified “risk factors” and “protective factors” to help determine how drug abuse begins and how it progresses.
Young people are most vulnerable to drug use during times of transition; for instance, when teens make the switch from elementary to middle school or when they enter high school, new social and emotional challenges affect them on many levels.
- Here are some early signs of risk that may predict later drug use:
- Association with drug abusing peers
- A lack of attachment and nurturing by parents or caregivers
- Ineffective parenting
- A caregiver who abuses drugs
- Aggressive behavior
- Lack of self-control
- Poor classroom behavior or social skills
- Academic failure
- Scientists have also studied the adolescent brain, and have determined that the teen brain is not fully formed until young adulthood. Using drugs during the time that the brain is developing increases the potential for drug addiction. According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adults who had first used substances at a younger age were more likely to be classified with dependence or abuse than adults who initiated use at a later age. This pattern of higher rates of dependence or abuse among persons starting their use of marijuana at younger ages was observed among all demographic subgroups analyzed.
- Protective factors can reduce the risks. It’s important to remember that not everyone at risk for drug abuse actually becomes a drug user. It is important parents provide
Many adults are uninformed—or in denial—about drug use, and their attitudes contribute to or enable young people to engage in drug-using behavior. According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, many parents need to get better educated about the drug situation.
- Today’s parents see less risk in drugs like marijuana, cocaine and even inhalants, when compared to parents just a few years ago.
- The number of parents who report never talking with their child about drugs has doubled in the past six years, from 6 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2004.
- Just 51 percent of today’s parents said they would be upset if their child experimented with marijuana.
- While parents believe it’s important to discuss drugs with their children, fewer than one in three teens (roughly 30 percent) say they’ve learned a lot about the risks of drugs at home.
- Just one in five parents (21 percent) believes their teenager has friends who use marijuana, yet 62 percent of teens report having friends who use the drug.
- Fewer than one in five parents (18 percent) believe their teen has smoked marijuana, yet many more (39 percent) already are experimenting with the drug.