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Protecting Children in Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau., ICF International. |
|Year Published: 2009|
Commonly Abused Substances
This appendix presents information about some of the most commonly abused types of substances and the drugs affiliated with those types. A table provides additional information on commonly abused substances, including street names and methods of use.
Types of Commonly Abused Substances
Cannabinoids (e.g., marijuana, hashish) can produce feelings of euphoria, anxiety, or depression as well as distort perception and slow reaction time. Marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug, has been associated with automobile and industrial accidents as well as physical ailments, most notably cancer.1 It is usually smoked, making its health risks similar to those of tobacco in terms of pulmonary and cardiac effects.
Club Drugs (e.g., GHB, ketamine, MDMA, flunitrazepan, yaba) include a variety of drugs from other drug categories (e.g., hallucinogens, depressants). The name is derived from the fact these substances often are used by younger people at nightclubs and parties. Some club drugs, gamma hydroxyl butyrate (GHB) and Rohypnol in particular, have gained notoriety for use in drug-assisted sexual assault cases and, therefore, are referred to as "predatory drugs."
Certain club drugs, such as ketamine, have medical or veterinary uses, but are used in a significantly different quantity or by a population other than for whom they are intended. Yaba, which means "crazy medicine" in Thai, is a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine and is becoming increasingly available at rave parties. Like methamphetamine, use of yaba can result in a rapid heart rate and damage to the small blood vessels in the brain, which can lead to stroke. Its use also can lead to violent behavior, paranoia, confusion, or insomnia.
Depressants (e.g., barbiturates) include some drugs that are prescribed to reduce anxiety or act as a sedative or anticonvulsant. Depressants are used illicitly to produce feelings of well-being and to lower inhibitions. Signs of use include fatigue, confusion, and impaired coordination and memory. Alcohol, the most commonly abused substance, is categorized as a depressant.
Hallucinogens (e.g., acid, mescaline, psilocybin, phencyclidine) have no known medical use and are illegal. These substances produce altered states of perception and feeling. Users often are disoriented or inattentive. The effects of hallucinogens are unpredictable and depend on several factors, including the user's personality, the surroundings in which they are used, the quantity taken, and the drug's purity.
Users may experience a "bad trip" that can include terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of insanity or death, and deep despair. An observable, long-term effect for some users is persistent perception disorder, which is commonly referred to as flashbacks.
Inhalants (e.g., aerosol sprays, nitrous oxide, butyl nitrate) usually are legal and readily available household and commercial products whose chemical vapors are inhaled to produce mind-altering effects. Observable effects of use include runny nose, watery eyes, and headaches. Users can ingest the substances by inhaling directly from product containers, sniffing a cloth saturated with the substance, or sniffing the substance from a plastic bag that is placed over the nose and mouth. Deeply inhaling vapors or using large amounts over a short time may result in disorientation, violent behavior, unconsciousness, or even death. High concentrations of inhalants can cause suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs. One of the significant factors in the use of inhalants is their accessibility, particularly for children. National surveys indicate inhaling dangerous products is becoming a widespread problem.2
Opioids and Narcotic Pain Relievers (e.g., heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone) are used illegally for their euphoric effects. Many opioids and narcotic pain relievers originally were developed to relieve pain, and doctors still prescribe some for that purpose. The pain of withdrawal from heroin and other opioids is made worse by the fact that these drugs medicate pain. Therefore, individuals in withdrawal may experience pain they did not feel while using opiates and may not be able to deal with pain as they normally would. Signs of use include needle marks as well as decreased pulse and respiration rates.
Stimulants (e.g., cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine) can produce effects such as increased alertness, over-activity, depression, and insomnia. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that primarily affects the dopamine system—the part of the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure and excitement. Cocaine use can cause violent or hypersexual behavior, paranoid thinking, and agitation or anxiety. Prenatal exposure to cocaine can cause premature labor, low birth weight, and fetal death. Studies also indicate that exposure to cocaine leads to problems in school-aged children in such areas as problem solving, inhibition, impulse control, and abstract reasoning.3 The effects of methamphetamine and amphetamines, which are other types of stimulants, are similar, although methamphetamine often has a greater impact on the central nervous system. Methamphetamine is generally less expensive than cocaine, and because the body metabolizes it more slowly, its effects may last as much as 10 times longer than a high from cocaine.4 Individuals who use methamphetamine may experience serious health and psychiatric conditions, including memory loss, aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, and potential coronary and neurological damage.5
Adhesives: Model airplane glue, household glue, rubber cement.
Aerosols: Spray paint, hair spray, air freshener, fabric protector.
Anesthetics: Nitrous oxide, ether, chloroform.
Cleaning agents: Dry cleaning fluid, spot remover, degreaser.
Gases: Nitrous oxide, butane, propane, helium.
Solvents: Nail polish remover, paint thinner, lighter fluid, gasoline.
The types of substances used by adolescents and adults change faster than current literature can document, and families may mention drugs that are unknown to child protective services caseworkers. Three valuable Federal Internet resources for current information on a variety of substances are:
|Drug Group||Drug||Street Names||Method of Use|
||Smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes, pipes, or water pipes (i.e., "bongs").|
|Marijuana||Grass, pot, weed|
|Club Drugs||Gamma hydroxy butyrate
||Mixed into drinks or injected.|
|Ketamine||Special K, "K," Kit Kat, vitamin K||Mixed into drinks, injected, added to smokable materials, snorted, or consumed in pill form.|
|MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy methamphetamine)||Ecstasy, X, XTC, E||Consumed in pill form, mixed into drinks, or injected.|
|Flunitrazepan||Rohypnol (commercial name), roofies||Mixed into drinks or injected.|
|Yaba||Crazy medicine, Nazi speed||Consumed in pill form, inhaled (by melting tablets and inhaling vapors), snorted, or injected.|
||Booze, juice, hooch
||Swallowed in liquid form.|
|Barbiturates, methaqualone, benzodiazepines||Downers, ludes||Consumed in capsules, tablet, or pill form; mixed into drinks; or injected.|
|Hallucinogens||Lysergic acid diethylamide||Acid, LSD||Swallowed in tablet or capsule form, or placed into thin squares of gelatin, paper, sugar cubes, gum, candy, or crackers.|
|Mescaline||Peyote, cactus, mesc||Chewed, swallowed in capsule or pill form, or ground and infused in hot water and consumed as tea.|
|Psilocybin/Psilocyn||Mushrooms, shrooms||Chewed, smoked, or ground and infused in hot water and consumed as tea.|
|Phencyclidine||Angel dust, crystal, PCP||Snorted, injected, applied to leafy material and smoked, or swallowed in liquid, capsule, tablet, or pill form.|
|Inhalants||Airplane glue, aerosol sprays, gasoline, paint thinner
||Air blast, highball
||Inhaled or sniffed, sometimes using a paper bag, rag, gauze, or ampoule.|
|Cyclohexyl, amyl nitrate, or butyl nitrate||Poppers, snappers|
|Nitrous oxide (N20)||Whippets|
|Opioids and narcotic pain relievers||Heroin||Smack, junk
||Injected, snorted, or smoked.|
|Morphine||M, monkey, white stuff||Injected, snorted, or smoked.|
|Opium||Black stuff, block, gum, hop||Swallowed or smoked.|
|Oxycodone||Oxycontin (commercial name), O.C||Swallowed, injected, or snorted.|
|Hydrocodone||Vicodin (commercial name)||Swallowed.|
|Stimulants||Amphetamines||Speed, uppers||Swallowed in capsule, tablet, or pill form; injected; smoked; or snorted.|
|Cocaine||Coke, blow, Connie||Snorted or injected.|
|Crack cocaine||Crack, rock||Smoked.|
|Methamphetamine||Meth, crystal, crystal meth, Tina, T, crank, speed||Snorted, injected, smoked, or swallowed.|
|Other compounds||Anabolic steroids||Anadrol (commercial name), Oxandrin (commercial name), roids, juice||Injected, swallowed, applied to skin|
|Dextromethorphan (DXM)||Robotripping, robo, triple C (Note: DXM is found in some cough and cold medications)||Swallowed|
For more information on commonly used drugs and their effects and health consequences, visit http://www.nida.nih.gov/drugpages/drugsofabuse.html.
1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2003). Marijuana: Facts for teens [On-line]. Available: http://www.nida.nih.gov/MarijBroch/Marijteens.html. Back
2 UNational Inhalant Prevention Coalition. (2004). About inhalants [On-line]. Available: http://www.inhalants.org/about.htm. Back
3 Lester, B. M., LaGasse, L. L., & Siefer, R. (1998). Cocaine exposure and children: The meaning of subtle effects. Science, 282(5389), 633–634. Back
4 American Council for Drug Education. (1999). Basic facts about drugs: Methamphetamine [On-line]. Available: http://www.acde.org/common/Meth.htm. Back
5 Otero, C., Boles, S., Young, N. K., & Dennis, K. (2004). Methamphetamine: Addiction, treatment, outcomes and implications. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Back
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