Drug Abuse Facts

Sooner or later, nearly all youngsters find themselves in situations in which they must decide whether or not to try drugs. These decisions are especially hard to make in the midst of conflicting information, peer pressure, curiosity and the many other influences that are part of adolescence.

If your child has not experimented with drugs consider yourself fortunate, but DO NOT discount the possibility that it could happen sometime in the future. Learn the facts and be prepared to answer questions or deal with the situation if it should occur.

Marijuana

Marijuana comes from a plant called Cannabis Sativa which grows in many parts of the world. A marijuana "joint" or cigarette is made from dried parts of the plant (except the stem and roots).

The word "high" is often used to describe the felings caused by marijuana. After smoking marijuana, some people become giddy and laugh about things they would not usually find funny. Others talk a lot or become quite quiet. Thinking takes longer and time seems to slow down. Marijuana users may sometimes experience acute panic reactions to the drug which include paranoia, abnormal fears and anxiety. First time reactions to marijuana may differ depending on the strength and amount of marijuana.

The "high" from marijuana is caused by a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short. THC is a psychoactive or "mind-changing" drug. The more THC in marijuana, the stronger the high will be and the longer it will last. Special tests can find marijuana's in the body up to a month after use. A full month of not smoking is necessary in order to completely rid the body of THC.

Hashish

Hashish also comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is a dark green or brown gum-like substance that comes from the plant's flowers or "buds". Like marijuana, the strength of hashish is determined by the amount of THC it contains. Hashish is sometimes stronger than marijuana.

Effects

Learning - Marijuana makes learning more difficult. Studies show that marijuana actually interferes with thinking and memory. Reading, speaking and doing arithmetic are especially more difficult.

Hormones - When males smoke marijuana, the amount of testosterone, a sex hormone in boys and men, is often lowered. marijuanan also reduces the number of sperm produced in the body. Sex hormones in females are also affected by marijuana. This can affect the menstrual cycle. Furthermore, babies born to marijuana smoking mothers run a higher than normal risk of birth defects.

Brain Damage - Brain damage is a real possibility. When marijuana is smoked, THC reaches and affects the brain. Scientists are now trying to learn how THC produces long-term physical damage to the brain.

Heart - Marijuana makes the heart beat up to 50 percent faster than normal. It can cause chest pains and very low blood pressure in people with heart problems.

Lungs - Inhaling any kind of smoke into the lungs over a long period of time is harmful. This is particularily true of marijuana because it is usually inhaled very deeply in to the lungs and held there for as long as possible.

Cancer - Marijuana smoke has more cancer-causing ingredients than tobbaco smoke. When the tars from marijuana smoke are put on the skin of animals, tumours grow. Lab experiments with human lungs find that abnormal cells develop. Lung diseases is inevitable with inhaling any smoke over a long period of time.

Crack

Crack is a freebase cocaine sold in the form or tiny, ready-to-smoke "rocks". Crack spares the user the delay and bother of having to extract the more potent freebase form of cocaine from its parent compound, cocaine hydrochloride powder. Unlike cocaine powder, freebase can be smoked rather than snorted up the nostrils. It is usually smoked in a glass waterpipe, but is sometimes used by placing it into a tobacco or marijuana cigarette.

Why is Crack so Dangerous?

As compared to snorting cocaine powder, smoking freebase produces a more intense and more rapid euphoria ("high"), a higher concentration of the compulsion in the user to repeat the experience. The "high" from each dose lasts only five minutes and is followed immediately by an unpleasant "crash" characterized by feelings of irritability, agitation and intense cravings for more cocaine.

The primary danger of crack is the drugs ability to cause an extremely rapid and severe addiction that controls the user's behaviour and dominates their life. Many crack users also become addicted to alcohol, tranquillizers or heroin to alleviate the unpleasant side effects of crack use.