The Face of an Enemy
Over 300 million people in the U.S. use recreational drugs. Of those 300 million, an estimated 200 million use drugs illegally. With almost half of the U.S. population using drugs, it is imperative for us to be well-educated on what these drugs are and how they affect one’s system. The most commonly used drugs are:
Cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco (chew, dip), hookah, and vaporizing (vaping) are the most common ways to use tobacco. Tobacco is a naturally growing plant containing nicotine, which causes a spike in blood sugar and a rush of energy when released into the bloodstream. Nicotine also causes dopamine to release in the brain’s motivation and pleasure centers. This dopamine release leads to addiction, as the brain begins to depend on nicotine for the dopamine instead of producing it naturally.
Alcohol is a liquid produced by the fermentation of sugar in different forms. It is the main ingredient in alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. When ingested, alcohol enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain where it impacts mood and behavior. “Binge drinking,” or consuming alcohol to excess results in the user becoming drunk. Long-term negative effects of alcohol include liver damage, depression, anemia, blood sugar problems, and addiction.
Marijuana is a plant that is often smoked or ingested. It’s the active ingredient, THC, enters the bloodstream through a person’s lungs or stomach, stimulating the pleasure centers of one’s brain. Marijuana use can result in impaired judgment, increased or decreased anxiety, memory problems, and an increase in appetite.
An opioid is a type of drug that includes both prescription drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as the illegal drug heroin. These drugs reproduce chemicals that cause pain-relief that are naturally produced by the body. This drug is highly addictive, as it can diminish the body’s own ability to provide pain-relief on its own. Short-term effects of opioid use include drowsiness, slowed breathing, nausea, and unconsciousness. Long-term use can lead to addiction, which increases the risk of coma or death.,,,
Cocaine is an illegal stimulant that comes from the coca plant. It is most commonly found in white powder form and “snorted,” or ingested through the nose. Cocaine acts as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which creates a “high,” or feelings of bliss. Cocaine use can result in short-term effects such as decreased appetite, nausea, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, anxiety, and paranoia. Long-term use of cocaine can lead to heart attack, lung damage, psychosis, severe depression, and addiction.