Most drugs that are abused by individuals are addictive and have an adverse impact on their lives. Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by a compulsive urge to use drugs despite their awful consequences in an individual’s life. An addicted person has an intense craving for a substance, making it difficult to stop using it. Most drugs alter a user’s judgment and thinking, which can increase the probability of injury or death. Here are the top five drugs most commonly abused in the United States today.
Marijuana is the number one among the top five drugs that are most commonly abused in America. It appears as a brown, green or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, seeds, stems or flowers of Cannabis sativa or hemp plant.
Most marijuana users roll it into a cigarette commonly called a “joint.” They also smoke it using a water pipe, mix it with foods or brew it as a tea. Others roll it into cigars known as “blunts.” This drug has a considerable impact on the lives of abusers.
Short-term Effects of Marijuana
• Distorted perception (sounds, sights or time)
• Difficulty in thinking and problem-solving
• Increased heart rate
• Impaired motor coordination
• Dry mouth and throat
Long-term Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana has many cancer-causing compounds that are also found in tobacco. As much as users risk getting cancer from marijuana, they can also suffer the following long-term effects:
• Additional stress on the heart, hardening of arteries and stroke
• Reproductive problems (suppresses hormone production, shrinks the testes, inhibits sperm production and inhibits ovulation in women)
• Poor concentration and short-term memory loss
• Weakened immunity
Marijuana addiction is hard to overcome because of the physical and emotional dependence it causes. Those who quit using will typically experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
• Loss of appetite
• Craving for the drug
Cocaine is the second among the top five drugs abused today. Three out of four people aged 26 to 34 report having used the drug at least once in their lives. While some are lucky enough to avoid becoming hooked, not many escape the trap.
Cocaine has several street names, such as coke, blow, dream, snow, powder, Yeyo and Peruvian lady. It’s ingested by the following methods:
• Snorting – absorbed through the mucous membrane of the nose
• Freebasing – smoked, and is sometimes mixed with marijuana
• Injecting – mixed with water then injected intravenously
• Crack cocaine – processed with baking soda or ammonia and smoked using a glass pipe
Short- and long-term effects are devastating for cocaine addicts. These effects include:
• Auditory and tactile hallucinations
• Constriction of blood vessels
• Mood disturbances
• High blood pressure
• Heart attack or stroke
Cocaine is highly addictive – 75 percent of those who try it end up becoming addicted to the substance. The use of this drug is extremely widespread – in fact, FBI chemists report that traces of cocaine powder can be found on almost every dollar bill.
Cocaine forms a dangerous compound called cocaethylene when combined with alcohol. This compound intensifies the euphoric effects of the drug and increases the risk of sudden death. Cocaine is also known to cause birth defects in babies born to addicted mothers.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug. According to the National Drug Control Policy, it’s the most widely abused and rapidly acting opiate. An opiate is an opium-compound derived from the poppy plant. Opiates include morphine and prescribed drugs, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Heroin is also known by names such as smack, hell dust, big H and nose drops (liquefied heroin).
Heroin comes in the form of a brown or white powder that can be injected, smoked or snorted. The injected form is the most preferred way to get high from low-purity heroin, but it also carries serious health risks because of shared needles that can lead to infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
It’s reported that 3. 8 million people aged 12 and above have tried heroin at least once in their lives. As much as there’s the risk of contracting diseases, snorting higher-purity form heroin increases the possibility of death from overdosing.
The drug causes a short period of euphoria that lasts for a few hours then disappears. The high is characterized by a warm flush on the skin, dry mouth, and heavy arms and legs. The euphoria is followed by going “on the nod,” a state between wakefulness and drowsiness where basic mental functions depreciate and are accompanied by:
• Slurred speech
• A slow gait
• Drooping eyelids
• Impaired night vision
Long-term Effects of Heroin
• Infected heart lining and valves
• Pulmonary disease
• Physical dependence and addiction including severe withdrawal symptoms
• Clogged blood vessels that affect the liver, brain and kidneys
• Liver disease
• High tolerance to the drug
Ecstasy is a club drug designed to help users party all night long, but its addiction can destroy an individual’s life. Also known as MDMA, ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug making the top five drugs list and is chemically similar to the drug methamphetamine. When used, it produces feelings of increased energy, emotional warmth, euphoria and distortion of time perception, and is highly addictive for some people.
Popular street names for ecstasy include four dot, E, beans, rolls, XTC, wafers, hug drug and white nothing. It’s often ingested orally as a capsule or tablet. Some people take it as part of a multiple-drug experience and combine it with cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs.
Short-term Effects of Ecstasy
• Increased heart rate
• Teeth grinding
Long-term Effects of Ecstasy
• Severe anxiety
• Drug craving
• Damage to the brain, impairing memory and thought processes
Individuals who attempt to quit using this drug experience acute withdrawal symptoms, such as:
• Panic attacks
• Paranoid delusions
• Difficulty in concentration
Withdrawal from this drug can prove to be difficult because street-level ecstasy is often mixed with other substances that have their own set of side effects.
5. Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs were never intended to cause addiction. Most users start taking these drugs for legitimate medical reasons. Under certain circumstances, prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety medications and pain relievers can be safe and appropriate. However, the trouble starts when individuals use the feelings of relaxation or euphoria produced by the medications to treat problems the pills weren’t intended to address.
Prescription drugs have become more available recently, likely adding to the number of addicted individuals. Approximately 6.9 million Americans use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. These drugs include painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants. Prescription medication abuse can cost individuals their jobs, ruin relationships and also result in death. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, prescription drugs have caused more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.
A few days of sobriety or detoxification from these drugs are characterized by:
• Mood swings
• Physical illness
The key to fighting drug addiction is treatment. Treatment does more than simply rid the body of these vicious drugs – it helps get to the cause of the addiction, or the emotional and psychological issues that led to substance abuse.