Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a non-flammable gas used for pain relief and sedation. It was discovered in the 1700s, and since then, medical practitioners, including dentists, use it as an anesthetic to sedate their patients before conducting minor procedures. Other anesthetic gases commonly used in the United States are: isoflurane, halothane, sevoflurane, and desflurane.
Other than medicinal uses, NO2 is used in the automotive industry and food industry. In the automotive industry, some enthusiasts use nitrous oxide to improve engine performance.
With the rising number of drug abuse cases, partygoers discovered nitrous oxide and started using it to feel high or intoxicated. Today, it is one of the most common drugs in the music festival scene. You’ll likely find nitrous oxide at any concert you attend. It goes by several names, including: whippets, nangs, hippy crack, balloons, nitro, buzz bomb, N20, NO and ice cold fatties.
Nitrous oxide is a dissociative anaesthetic. Therefore, it somehow dissociates the mind from the body, giving patients or users a sense of floating. Other common side effects include intense visual hallucinations and distorted perceptions.
This article discusses the various effects of nitrous oxide gas when consumed as a recreational drug. Additionally, we will look at the results of mixing it with other drugs and the risks of inhaling nitrous oxide.
Users commonly inhale NO2 by releasing nitrous gas cartridges (whippets/bulbs) into a different object, e.g., a balloon. Some inhale it directly from the gas cylinders, like a can for whipping cream.
The effect of nitrous oxide abuse varies from person to person. Some of the factors that determine how nitrous oxide affects an individual are:
Inhaling nitrous oxide has both short-term and long-term effects.
Shortly after an individual inhales the gas from latex balloons or cartridges, they get excited, a rush of euphoria, and a sense of floating. This feeling disappears after a few minutes. Nitrous oxide abuse can cause the following short term effects:
If individuals consume excess nitrous oxide at once, they may experience high blood pressure, temporary loss of consciousness, or even get a heart attack.
Continuous use of nitrous oxide may lead to the following long term effects:
At the moment, there’s not enough research to conclude that mixing nitrous oxide with other illegal drugs increases an individual’s health risks. However, there are instances when combining nitrous with other drugs increases results in other additional symptoms.
If you mix nitrous with alcohol, you are likely to experience the following symptoms:
Other than that, mixing nitrous oxide with alcohol may increase one’s risk of accidents and death.
If you mix nitrous oxide with any stimulant, the chances are that the combination will affect your heart rate and breathing rate.
Mixing nitrous oxide with depressants like opiates or benzodiazepines may increase the chances of an overdose due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
When you inhale nitrous oxide from the tanks or whippets, the gas is extremely cold, approximately -40 degrees Celsius. Therefore, you will likely get frostbite on your lips, nose, throat, and vocal cords.
Additionally, nitrous oxide is generally under constant pressure. Therefore, when you inhale it directly from the containers, they may cause your lung tissues to rupture.
Another risk is that the gas dispensers may explode if they are faulty. If this happens, you may end up hurt in the process.
Crackers used to dispense gas canisters may also result in cold burns on your hands.
Since nitrous oxide is a gas, there aren’t any doses associated with overdose or toxicity. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has specific standards on the nitrous oxide amounts that dentists and other medical practitioners should use on patients, specifically for medicinal reasons. The WHO classifies the standards into two categories: chronic exposure and acute exposure.
WHO recommends that medical practitioners use 20 parts per billion (ratio between nitrous oxide and breathable air) for chronic exposures. For acute exposures, they should (ideally) use any amount below 100 parts per billion for one hour.
People who directly inhale nitrous from the containers are more likely to exceed this recommended amount. Consequently, they experience overdose and toxic side effects a few minutes after inhaling the gas.
Some signs of overdose include:
If your loved one shows any signs of overdose, call an ambulance immediately and inform the operator that the individual overdosed on nitrous oxide. If they lose consciousness, place them in the recovery position and ensure that their airway is clear. Check the breathing to ensure they are still breathing. If not, do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
When the paramedics arrive, inform them of the exact drugs your loved one took, especially if they mixed them with other drugs.
There is no safe level of using drugs or alcohol, and nitrous oxide is no exception. There’s always a risk that comes with any drug and alcohol abuse.
Using nitrous oxide can affect your health, finances, work, relationships, school, and other aspects of your life. If you notice that nitrous oxide has negatively affected you or your loved one, seek professional help. Contact us today to start your recovery journey. We will help you settle on a treatment center that suits you best.
Many drugs are available in the market today. When abused, they can have dangerous effects on the user’s health including heart attacks. This article will discuss various white powdered drugs, how they are used, and their effects on users. Let’s dive in.
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug. It is derived from leaves of the coca plant and sold in three forms; crack, cocaine hydrochloride, and freebase.
Crack cocaine consists of white crystals with a yellow or pink hue. Most times, crack contains impurities.
Cocaine hydrochloride is an ultra-fine white powder that has a tart, numbing flavor. Most times, vendors cut or mix cocaine powder with other substances, including talcum powder, sugar, or lidocaine, before selling it.
Freebase is also a white powder, but unlike cocaine hydrochloride, it does not contain impurities.
Most addicts snort cocaine hydrochloride and smoke freebase or crack. Regardless of whether one snorts or smokes cocaine, it has various side effects, including:
If you use cocaine regularly, you can suffer long-term consequences, such as heart disease, lung disease, sexual dysfunction, kidney failure, hypertension, seizures, and lung conditions, among others.
If you want to stop using cocaine, it would be best to seek professional help, especially if you are dependent. Medical practitioners can help you deal with withdrawal symptoms that can sometimes be overwhelming.
This is a dissociative drug. It affects specific brain chemicals to distort one’s auditory and visual, consequently detaching them from reality. Medical practitioners use doses of ketamine as a sedative. Unfortunately, some people illegally use it to get high.
Ketamine is sold as a white powder. It also goes by the names KitKat, horse trank, special K, and ket. Most people snort ketamine, but others smoke it with tobacco or cannabis. Ketamine can affect one’s senses or coordination for 24 hours.
Ketamine has several negative effects. Some effects of ketamine include:
If you become dependent on ketamine, you can suffer long-term effects like poor memory, poor kidney function, poor liver function, treatment-resistant depression, among others.
Ketamine addiction is a serious problem. If you notice that your dependence on ketamine addiction affects your health, relationships, school, work, or financial capability, you should seek professional help.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug made from morphine. It is sold as a white or brown powder and is ‘cut’ with quinine, sugar, powdered milk, or starch.
There are three types of heroin; white heroin, brown heroin, and black tar heroin.
Cheap heroin contains many impurities, so the more expensive it is, the fewer impurities it is likely to have.
Pure heroin is white. Most drug users smoke or snort pure heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse study revealed that snorting appeals to new users since they do not have to inject themselves with the drug.
Impure heroin is usually dark in color due to the simple methods of processing. Normally, heroin users dilute it and inject it under their skin, in their muscles, or veins.
Heroin has several effects on the body. The short term effects are:
Long term effects include:
When you use heroin, your tolerance may build up. Therefore, you may need frequent or higher doses to achieve the high you want. Heroin addiction is a major problem. It can affect one’s health, social interactions, school, work, and finances, among other things.
If you decide to stop using heroin, you may have severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it is best to seek help from professionals who will guide you through the process. They may prescribe behavioral therapy and medicine to help you in your journey.
OxyContin is a prescription drug. It contains oxycodone which is a very strong pain killer. Most people who abuse OxyContin start by taking the prescribed amount. With time, their bodies build tolerance, and they need to take more to feel relieved or get high.
OxyContin tablets are round and can either be white or blue. Most 10mg pills are white, while the blue ones are 160 mg. You can buy the capsule form of OxyContin or the liquid form.
People suffering from terminal illnesses or battling terminal conditions are more likely to get addicted since most people market it as a painkiller that gives relief for over 12 hours.
If you use OxyContin regularly, you are likely to become dependent because of its euphoric effects. People who struggle with OxyContin addiction crush OxyContin tablets to form a white powder. They then snort the powder to enhance OxyContin’s euphoric effect.
Like other drugs, crushed OxyContin can have serious negative effects. Some of the potential effects of abusing OxyContin include:
Adderall is a prescription drug usually prescribed to people who have ADHD. It simulates part of the brain and controls hyperactivity, enabling one to focus more and have more clarity on issues.
Some people illegally use Adderall for non-medicinal purposes, e.g., students when they are studying for exams. Since Adderall tablets are white, they crush it to form a white powder and snort it to enhance its effects.
Unfortunately, Adderall is highly addictive, and its misuse can lead to a substance use disorder. Using crushed Adderall for non-medicinal purposes can have risk factors, including:
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, commonly known as GHB, is a popular party drug used in clubs and house parties alike. GHB is sold in three forms; liquid, capsule, or powder. Powdered GHB is white.
GHB is a depressant for the nervous system. When you use it, it slows your heart rate and makes you feel drowsy. It can also make a user go into a coma.
Most addicts use GHB because of its euphoric effect. Some use it as a date rape drug. They slip the GHB into their victims’ drinks, and when it kicks in, they sexually assault them. Other common date rape drugs are flunitrazepam, alcohol, and ketamine.
Like other drugs, GHB has negative long-term effects. Some of them are:
If you struggle with addiction to any white powdered drug, you should seek medical help and treatment. The more you continue abusing drugs, the more adverse their effects will be.
Summertime is a fun time, especially for teens and young adults. It’s hard to get bored on a summer day or night. That’s because there are plenty of parties, music festivals, trips and camping going on. But along with the fun, comes the risk of using drugs and alcohol.
Drugs and alcohol are a mainstay for most summer parties and events. And with all the free time and no commitment, teens are more inclined to indulge in use. Drug use can lead to addiction and overdose. But the hot weather also increases the risk of overheating, which may spiral out to other serious problems. So, before throwing caution to the wind during this season, you need to consider how impactful a single wrong decision can be.
A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) that ran from 2011 to 2017 shows that most teens and young adults tried out recreational or illegal drugs for the first time during summer.
Surprising? This should be more concerning than surprising as the seasonal environment tends to increase exposure to drugs.
Here are the top factors that make drug use so rampant during summer:
Summer tends to come just when you are done with your semester or free to enjoy longer holiday weekends. This gives you so much free time on your hands and room to be introduced to drugs and alcohol.
Who stays indoors in such hot weather? Summer plans are meant to be as exciting as possible, which is why it is the period that outdoor activities and social gatherings peak. Nevertheless, as you hop from one party or event to the next, there is no limit to the number of drugs and amount of alcohol you will get exposed to.
It is great that you received a nod from your parents/guardians to go for that camping trip or have your holiday by the beach. This means there is no adult to watch your actions as you spend time with daring friends who are willing to try out anything. Unfortunately, this also means lots of drugs and alcohol will be coming your way.
Summer might be the best time for outdoor activities and getting in touch with family and friends, but it is also a dangerous time to use drugs. The high heat and humidity experienced means that you need to quickly cool off to avoid overheating. This is why your body naturally increases blood flow to the skin, which acts as a radiator, and you sweat more to increase heat loss.
But, these well-coordinated biological processes do not remain the same when you take drugs. The disruption that most recreational and illegal drugs cause to your body’s natural cooling mechanism is extremely dangerous as it increases your risks of overheating.
Generally, most drugs will mess you up regardless of the weather and should be avoided at all costs. During summer, the odds are higher, and here are the most dangerous drugs to use when it is hot:
A recent publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine authored by Dr. Craig Crandall describes cocaine as a double-edged sword during summer. On the one hand, this is because it affects your body’s ability to regulate temperatures naturally. But, on the other hand, it gets you agitated, yet you don’t feel hot.”
Studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have further shown that cocaine-related deaths spike in summers. In addition, the risk of heat stroke or sudden shock and death is higher when you use cocaine because it leads to increased heart rate, confusion, having too much energy, and promotes blood clotting.
The most popular drug in outdoor music festivals for teens and young adults is MDMA or Ecstasy, or Molly, commonly used in pill form. Unfortunately, while it is used as a ‘rave drug’ that helps get into a party mood, it affects your ability to regulate body temperatures and increases heart rate and blood pressure. The results are often catastrophic as it leads to hypothermia, a life-threatening condition when urgent medical care is not provided.
Another drug that is taking the day across the United States is mephedrone or bath salts. This is a synthetic drug often sold as plant food, decorative sand, or toy cleaner.
However, bath salts are nothing close to the veil they wear as a ‘safe product.’ Used in hot weather, it causes increased heart rate and disrupts your ability to regulate body temperature. This can easily lead to heat stroke or death when emergency medical attention is not provided. It also has severe side effects such as teeth clenching and can quickly become addictive.
It is saddening that heroin use among teenagers and young adults is on the rise. This illegal drug commands a big share of the opioid epidemic that has affected the nation. It has severe effects when used during hot weather and could easily cause hypothermia, leaving you unconscious or in a coma.
Having legal access to alcohol as a young adult does not mean your summer should be all about binge drinking. Drinking alcohol in hot weather will see you quickly lose body water & nutrients, disrupt heat regulation, and impair your judgment. This will cause your body to overheat, increasing the risk of dehydration or heat stroke.
Summers should be a time of creating good memories by bonding with your friends and family. As you grow older, these memories will make some of the best highlights in your life. In turn, the last thing you need to do is let the seasonal environment or party wave influence you to start taking drugs.
If you have already started taking drugs, be sure not to turn into a long-term addict. In addition, there is no fun in having your body overheat because of using drugs in hot weather. This could quickly turn fatal, turning a happy summer into a dreadful moment for you and your loved ones.
Since it is becoming more challenging to avoid exposure to drugs, especially during summer, it is best to talk to a substance abuse counselor. This way, you will be better prepared to go through your teenage years and young adult life without abusing drugs. It also helps never to forget that summer fun does not have to involve indulgence in drugs.
There is a strong connection between mental health and substance use disorders. Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 31.3% of adults with any mental illness were binge drinkers compared to 25.3% of adults with no mental illness. Also, 49.4% of adults with mental illness used illegal drugs, compared to only 15.7% who had no mental illness. When someone struggles with a mental illness, like depression and a substance abuse problem at the same time, they have a co-occurring disorder or dual-diagnosis.
Roughly 9.5 million American adults reported having a dual diagnosis in the 2019 NSDUH survey on Drug Use and Health. The reason is that people with mental health issues like depression turn to alcohol or drugs as they try to cope with sad feelings. On the flip side, depressant drugs and alcohol can increase feelings of fatigue and sadness, and people can experience depression as the effects of drugs wear off or as they face the impact of addiction.
Whenever addiction and depression are discussed together, the question becomes, which one comes first. The basic addiction disease model dictates that substance misuse changes the brain so that it can’t self-regulate. For many, depression serves as a gateway to addiction. For others, substance abuse can lead to depression. Either way, these two disorders always seem to co-occur.
Everyone has bad days, whether it’s because of loss, relationships, family, or workplace issues. Most people shake the feelings off and get on with their lives. But for people with depression, the periods of unhappiness don’t go away. They feel sad, helpless, and worthless for days to weeks. Depression is a severe mental health problem that affects about 10% of adults in the US. Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate the following as risk factors for depression.
People with depression tend to turn to drugs to try to relieve these depressive symptoms. As estimated, one-third of people with major depressive disorder engage in substance abuse as a way to self-medicate to relieve feelings of despair, low self-esteem, and hopelessness. Unfortunately, abusing alcohol and drugs doesn’t resolve these feelings. It only makes them worse. In fact, it can lead to depression symptoms like sadness, hopelessness, lethargy and in some cases, they can turn to acts of self-harm.
There are many different types of depression. Here are some common examples:
Major depression is a common type of depression that affects about 7% of people in the US. If untreated, the major depressive disorder can recur throughout the person’s life.
Persistent depressive disorder is a chronic form of depression that lasts for a year or more. Since it's milder, it’s usually easier to cover with drugs or alcohol. However, the condition may eventually lead to major depressive disorder.
As the name implies, seasonal affective disorder is seasonal, mostly happening in winter months. The disorder is diagnosed when someone exhibits the symptoms of depression over three consecutive winters.
Depression serves as an entry point into alcohol and drug use. As mentioned earlier, those struggling with depressive disorders turn to substances to escape the symptoms of depression. But drugs don’t do much to help them feel better. If anything, one feels worse once the effects of drugs start to wear off. Yet, the person keeps using it to try to forget their problems. It is like a catch 22. Eventually, their bodies become tolerant and need larger doses to attain the same effects.
At this point, they can’t stop using or reduce intake because of withdrawal symptoms like trembling, nervousness, agitation, cold, sweats, or nausea set in. So they may start feeling sad and guilty because they are abusing drugs. Some try to quit cold turkey. But with the withdrawal symptoms and mental disorder, it’s almost impossible.
Besides, quitting leads to an even stickier situation for those with severe depression. People who’ve been abusing substances for years may have a more pronounced depression when they stop using. It is, therefore, a good idea to seek dual diagnosis treatment that addresses both issues in one go.
Depression itself isn’t a cause of substance abuse – but it makes one more susceptible to addiction. The inability to cope with hard feelings and life stressors is one of the causes of depression and addiction. Here are some ways depression may lead to addiction.
People struggling with depression are afraid to ask for help. They fear that people will judge them for their condition, so they choose to keep it to themselves. Again, unlike other medical conditions, it is hard to identify the symptoms of depression. So, even if the person gathers the courage to seek help, they may find it hard to explain what they’re going through. So, most people may turn to substances as a way to cope.
One of the hidden risks of drug use is that mental health issues happen gradually. So, a person might not even realize they have depression. So, they’ll take stimulants to keep up with work or a bottle of wine to try to cheer up. When someone doesn’t know they’re dealing with a mental disorder, they’ll keep up with the unhealthy coping mechanism.
Many people are afraid of taking psychiatric medication, not just because of how others will view them but also because of the “damaging effects.” They are scared that the drugs will change their personality or ability to function and that they might not handle the side effects. So they turn to drugs assuming that they are a safer option. Alcohol and drugs offer instant fixes without the hassle of getting a prescription.
Luckily, dual disorders are treatable. If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction and depression, it’s a good idea to enroll in a rehab that offers holistic treatment. This way, you won’t have to treat depression or addiction separately.
Misuse of prescription drugs is a serious health issue in the US. A 2017 report by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 18 million people misused prescribed medications at least once in 2016. Most of these people assume that pain drugs are safer than illicit substances because they are prescribed medically. But they have become a "gateway drug" for many Americans.
When these drugs are taken in ways not intended by the doctor or taken by someone who’s not the patient, they can lead to severe health issues. Studies show that misuse of opioid pain relievers has opened the door to heroin use. Mental health is important, and mental illness can further drive drug use through something known as dual diagnosis.
Prescription opioids contain chemicals that relax the body and relieve pain. They are an essential component of treatment that, when used correctly, can enhance the quality of life and provide pain relief. But since opioids make people feel very relaxed and high, they’re sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This poses a serious risk of addiction. Opioids are highly addictive, and their misuse often leads to opioid use disorders, drug overdoses, and death. Common examples of prescription opioids include:
· Oxycodone (Percocet®, OxyContin®)
· Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)
· Oxymorphone (Opana®)
· Morphine (Avinza®, Kadian®,)
Opioid medications are effective for pain management. They are generally safe when used for a short time and according to the doctor’s prescription. Opioid misuse happens when a person:
Humans have opiate receptors in the brain that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain. Opioids work by binding to these opiate receptors in the spinal cord, brain, and other locations in the body. They mimic the effect of pain-relieving chemicals that are produced naturally and block the pain perception.
Repeated use increases tolerance. So one may need to take higher doses to achieve the same pain-relieving effects or reduce withdrawal symptoms. At this stage, someone becomes opioid-dependent and may develop drug-seeking behaviors to sustain their need for use. Others may turn to non-prescription alternatives like heroin, because it’s cheap, easy to access, and has a similar chemical composition as synthetic opioids.
Most sober people won’t use hard drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine because of the perceived danger. They tend to keep away because they are aware of the drugs’ potency and danger. On the other hand, pain-relieving opioids create a different perception. Most people see them as safe because they are prescribed at the hospital.
On their own, prescription drugs might not pose a threat. But when combined with some risk factors like mental health or misuse problems, prescription drugs may indeed be dangerous. In fact, they may serve as a doorway to other more powerful and highly addictive substances – like cocaine and heroin. People who are struggling with addiction or mental health issues are less likely to have inhibitions about using cocaine or meth.
Heroin has a similar chemical composition as prescription opioids. It is also cheaper and highly accessible as compared to prescription opioids. This makes it an appealing alternative for people who are addicted to opioid drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 4 to 6 percent of those who misuse prescribed opioids switch to heroin.
The most current data shows 33% of those entering treatment for opioid use disorder reported heroin as the first opioid they used frequently to get high. A study in the Chicago metropolitan area identified prescription opioid abuse as a path to heroin addiction.
As with any other addiction, patients with opioid dependence will always try to find more drugs to stay high. Current state laws and regulations limit opioid prescription. This makes it hard for these addicted patients to access prescription drugs so most of them turn to the streets to buy opioids and other drugs.
When they reach this point, they become determined to At this point, high and/or reducing the withdrawal symptoms. They only focus on what’s available and what they can pay for. Unfortunely, they ignore the impurities in the pills or resulting side effects.
While opioid overdose deaths are prevalent these days, a new study analyzed the role people sharing their pain medications with others may play in driving this drug epidemic. Of the 1,200 Americans in the study, 75% said they believed selling or sharing unused prescriptions fueled the nation’s addiction epidemic. 10% admitted that they had given or offered their medications to friends or family members for recreational or medical use.
When people (other than the patient) misuse prescription drugs for recreation or other reasons, they may develop an addiction that pushes them to get more drugs. Unfortunately, many of these people end up abusing other drugs to get high or offset the withdrawal symptoms. This puts them at risk of drug overdose and even death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug overdose deaths involving prescription opioids rose from 3,442 to 17,029 between 1999 and 2017.
The short answer is yes. Drug abuse is a spectrum. It can start with prescription drug misuse or outright drug experimentation and end up in a full-blown addiction to the same or other drugs. People who knowingly or unknowingly misuse prescription drugs may feel the need to sustain their high.
When they can longer get a prescription from the hospital, they will branch out to find readily available drugs that will “quench their thirst.” The same applies to those who use prescription medication for recreational or experimentation reasons.
Substance abuse disorder is a complicated problem. But the good news is that programs exist to help people stop abusing prescription and illicit drugs and regain control of their lives. No matter how severe the situation is, health care experts in addiction treatment centers can offer the much-needed help.
Many people assume that those struggling with addiction have loose morals, weak willpower, or are unwilling to stop. But that is certainly not the case. Addiction is a brain disease. According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, it is a disorder that leads to “functional changes to brain circuits involved in stress, self-control, and reward.” Other reputable bodies like the Institute of Medicine, American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association also recognize addiction as a brain disease. Does this brain disease result from some type of genetic disorder?
Since addiction is a disease of the brain, have you ever stopped to wonder why it affects some people and not others? As it turns out, some factors such as genetics may play a role in determining whether one is likely to develop a substance use disorder. The National Institute of Health reveals that up to 50% of addiction risk is based on genetics. One is more likely to experience addiction if they have a family member who has had an addiction.
Drug addiction is a chronic brain disease. Like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses, it can run in families. Children whose parent(s) have a substance use disorder are 2 to 4 times more likely to struggle with substance abuse issues of their own, later on in life.
The reason is that there’s an inherited component that can pass down to generations through genes. That’s why family history gives hints about one’s vulnerability to addiction.
Despite the higher risk, some people don’t end up with genetic addiction. It could be that they never inherited the genes for drugs or alcohol abuse or that their environment helped shape the specific expression of those genes. The heredity issue is also not as strong when it comes to extended family members like uncles, aunties, or grandparents who struggle with addiction.
Genetics is a risk factor for addiction and can increase the risk of drug and alcohol abuse in different ways. For starters, the genetic mutation that leads to changes in the brain’s function and structure may affect how a person responds to exposure from the substance. Secondly, a person may be genetically inclined to display temperamental and mental health issues that may escalate their chances of abusing drugs or alcohol.
A review by NIAAA experts reveals that genetic factors contribute up to 40-60% of the variance between people at risk of abusing alcohol. The genes that make one susceptible to addiction are alcohol-specific (like 1 S allele) like those that affect the brain’s reward center. Serotonin transporter polymorphism also influences addiction according to one review article dubbed Genetics, Inheritability Factors, and Addiction.
Substance abuse can change one’s brain to crave a particular substance. This is especially true for someone who uses drugs or alcohol for a long time. Even without a genetic aspect, one can still inherit a predisposition to substance abuse because of the culture they grow up in, or where use like binge drinking is encouraged.
According to scientists, some genetic predispositions may expose one to the dangers of addiction. However, not everyone with a genetic predisposition ends up being an addict. Conversely, some people can have problems even if no one in their family has substance use disorders.
Genetics is only one of the risk factors when looking at whether one has a higher risk of developing an addiction. Environmental factors like growing up with people who abuse drugs can also predispose one to the condition.
Scientists in the genetics of substance abuse field say that addiction and comorbid mental health disorders have similar neurological features. They also co-occur in more than half of those struggling with substance abuse. People with mental illnesses like anxiety, stress, depression, or social disorders are more likely to abuse drugs for various reasons.
Some use the drugs to get temporary relief from these feelings—others, for a sense of well-being and euphoria. After all, mental health and substance abuse issues affect the same parts of the brain, thereby elevating abuse potential.
Children that grow into stable homes with supportive parents tend to have a lower chance of using or abusing drugs. But if the home is unstable, has no structure, or has parents who abuse drugs or have a mental illness, then it’s highly likely that the children may use the abused drug. Young people who experience neglect or abuse from parents may also use alcohol or drugs to cope with their emotions.
The influence of friends is another common reason people end up with addiction. When one hangs out or around peers who use drugs, they are highly likely to give into the pressure of using. The availability of substances in a social circle can also affect one’s risk of developing an addiction. For example, large amounts of drugs being available in many social settings can cause one to start and continue using.
The age at which one starts to use drugs or alcohol can also be a risk factor. A survey by NIAAA found that people aged between 18 and 24 were most likely to have both drug and alcohol addictions. Abusing drugs and alcohol at a young age may also affect one’s brain development, exposing one to mental illness as they grow older and their addiction progresses.
Drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine tend to be more addictive than marijuana or alcohol. They also have a physically painful withdrawal phase, which can make one continue use to prevent the pain. This can increase the addiction process as well as the risk of serious health complications.
Many treatment options exist to help people with substance abuse disorders. If someone close to you needs help with the abuse of drugs or alcohol, you should help them find treatment. Health care professionals in addiction treatment facilities have the right resources to help treat genetic addiction. They will assess the person’s using pattern, their overall health, and design a treatment plan.
Since addiction often co-occurs with other conditions, your loved one may also need to undergo counseling and group therapy in addition to medications. Reputable facilities even provide after-care to help one in their journey to sobriety. Older adults with medical conditions such as a risk for heart disease or risk for severe illness should reach out today to conquer their drug or alcohol dependence.
People who consume illegal drugs use various ways to get the drugs into their bloodstream. Some take it orally, while others prefer snorting because it offers a faster "high." When drugs are snorted, it causes a much quicker onset of effect than oral ingestion. This is because of how fast the drug gets into the bloodstream through the soft tissue in the nasal cavity.
Drugs that users commonly snort include cocaine, heroin, meth, tobacco, amphetamines, and even prescription drugs, such as opioids or prescription stimulants like Adderall. Users chop the pills into a fine powder using a razor blade or credit card on a hard surface. They then divide the drug of choice into "lines" and use a rolled paper, dollar bill, or straw to inhale the drug up into the nasal passages. But users may also snort a drug in aerosol or liquid forms. Snorting is a preferred method of administration for these drugs because it amplifies the drug's effect and speeds up the onset of effects. Snorting drugs comes with a range of short- and long-term effects, as you'll notice in this article.
Snorting (also called insufflation) involves inhaling drugs into the body. It is an effective delivery option that’s noninvasive, virtually painless, and easy to administer. In fact, doctors use intranasal administration when delivering medication to children who fear needles or have a hard time swallowing tablets or pills.
Because of these reasons, snorting drugs is a preferred method among people who use recreational drugs. And the fact that it produces a faster onset of the desired effect makes it even more desirable for users who want a quick fix. It takes about 5-10 minutes for the drug to get into the system and produce the high. This is because of how fast the drugs diffuse through the mucus membrane in the nose.
Drugs that are commonly snorted include:
Let's look at some of these drugs.
MDMA is an amphetamine. Structurally, it is similar to the hallucinogen mescaline and stimulant methamphetamine. MDMA comes in capsule, tablet, powder, and liquid forms. “Molly” is a pure crystalline powder form of MDMA that's popularly sold in capsules. It's known to produce feelings of intense empathy, euphoria, and heightened sensations of sound and color. Usually, those who snort ecstasy want a faster onset of effects and a more intense high. This drug is very popular in rave scenes, across the United States.
Xanax is a Central Nervous system depressant that slows down brain activity to produce a tranquilizing and sedating effect. It's these calming effects that make it effective for treating mental health disorders. Xanax comes in tablet form that's taken orally. The prescription drug is meant to be swallowed whole, but users crush the tablet to snort it. Like snorting meth or heroin, snorting Xanax is believed to give one a quicker high because it enters the bloodstream faster. But Xanax and other benzodiazepines are not only harmful to snort, but this also makes them less effective. This is thanks to the particular chemical markup of the drug.
Snorting cocaine might not be the fastest way to achieve a high like injecting and smoking. But it produces long-lasting effects. As one inhales the drug, it coats the soft tissue in the nasal cavity and gets absorbed by the sensitive nasal membranes. Cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream and flows to the brain to produce the desired effect. In the process, it narrows various blood vessels, thus restricting the flow of blood to specific tissues. Cocaine is one of the most commonly snorted drugs in the US. In 2014 alone, there were about 1.5 million current cocaine users 12 years and over. Unfortunately, cocaine abusers are at a high risk of seizures, cardiac arrest, and sudden death.
Snorting heroin is not the most common way of administration. But those who think it's safer will choose to snort to avoid IV drug use complications. Some users mistakenly believe that snorting heroin makes it less addictive. This is not true. In fact, one study shows that those who start by snorting often end up injecting it, because of the tolerance they build-up over time. The most immediate risk of snorting heroin is overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 14,019 overdose deaths in the US in 2019.
Drug abuse by itself is a risky undertaking with a host of dangers. But the mode of administration may impact the risk even further. Snorting drugs or sniffing inhalants can change one's cognition, damage the brain and create several other mental and physical complications.
Snorting any drug is dangerous. Many users assume that prescription drugs are safe, but that's not the case. The chemicals components in prescription drugs are designed to contact gastrointestinal tissues and not the nasal cavities, nasal passages, sinuses, or lungs. Snorting exposes these tissues to chemicals, causing inflammation, irritation, and damage.
While the actual risk may vary from one drug to the next, here are some general risks of snorting drugs:
Those who snort drugs may have an increased risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis C if they share equipment as the nasal mucous may have blood.
It is also not uncommon for those snorting prescription drugs to snort other drugs like heroin. Besides, one may experience mental and behavioral changes because of abusing drugs and struggling with the side effects. As the problem becomes evident, an individual may struggle with shame, anxiety, and low self-esteem to the extent of becoming socially isolated.
Above all is the most overlooked risk – the adverse effects of filler agents used in the drug. Most illegal drugs that come in powdered forms, like cocaine and heroin, are often cut with other drugs or substances. Cocaine and heroin, for instance, may include fentanyl. Fentanyl is potent. It increases the dose strength and causes overdose among those who have no idea they're even taking it. Household products, foodstuffs, and talcum, are also pretty common fillers. Talcum is harmful. Studies show it might cause low blood pressure, convulsion, chest pain, lethargy, fever and even coma.
Dependence may happen when an individual snorts drugs. Drugs are habit-forming and addictive. So users build tolerance and have to take more of the drug to achieve a high. Any attempt to stop might cause withdrawal symptoms, which can be mild or severe depending on the type of drugs, individual, and period of use. In case the symptoms are severe, one should find a treatment facility that will help with the detox and rehabilitation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the US in the 12 months ending May 2020. Synthetic opioids – mainly manufactured fentanyl – are the leading cause of these deaths. But there has been a notable increase in overdose deaths among heroin and cocaine abusers during the pandemic.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word meth? If you are like most people, it would probably be "illicit drug," or "club drug," etc. But that’s to be expected. Meth is a common street drug that never misses on parties, clubs, and even among peers. According to the National Institute on Drugs abuse, 1.6 million Americans used meth in 2017. But when is meth prescribed as a medical treatment? Does this happen often?
There actually is more to methamphetamine than it being a substance of abuse. In fact, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule II stimulant that makes it legally available through a non-refillable prescription. Meth is prescribed as a medical treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) and weight-loss. We'll dive into these and more treatments later on in this article, but first, let's make sure we are on the same page.
Meth is a strong and highly-addictive, white, odorless, and bitter-tasting crystalline powder. It is used as a stimulant and affects the body's central nervous system. According to the NIDA, meth was developed in the early 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine. The drug was originally applied in bronchial inhalers and nasal decongestants.
Meth, like amphetamine, stirs a range of effects. It increases activity and talkativeness, reduces appetite, and triggers euphoria or a pleasurable sense of well-being. But unlike amphetamine, greater amounts of meth get into the brain. This makes it a more potent stimulant. It also produces longer-lasting and more dangerous effects on the central nervous system than amphetamine at comparable doses. That explains why many people misuse the drug.
It's important to note that there are variations of meth. Crystal methamphetamine – a street version of the drug meth – is more potent. It is a common "club drug" that's hard to miss in rave parties and night clubs. Crystal meth also goes by other names like glass, ice, blade, chalk, black beauties, etc. Meth users will smoke it with a small glass pipe or swallow, snort or inject it into a vein.
Crystal meth is simply a poison that acts as a stimulant at first, but then it begins to destroy the body, systematically. It is linked to severe physical and mental health conditions like aggression, memory loss, psychotic behavior, and potential brain and heart damage. Again, the drug burns up the body's resources, causing a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug.
If an individual continues to use crystal meth, they expose themselves to a wide range of mental and physical damage. A common example of this is meth mouth. Meth users often present with severe tooth decay, fracture or loss, and a host of other teeth and gums issues. One Clinical Oral Investigation study revealed that meth users had higher levels of periodontal disease and gingival bleeding. For most users, this damage is often irreparable even after recovering from their substance use disorder.
Meth was originally used as a respiratory stimulator and nasal decongestant. It was then used to keep the army alert and their enhance mood and endurance during the Second World War. But later, it became apparent that meth was highly addictive. In the 70s, it was added to the Schedule II list of controlled substances. Meth is illegal, save for when a doctor prescribes it to a very limited number of medical conditions. These include obesity, ADHD, and narcolepsy (off-label).
Stimulants are the first course of prescription drugs for ADHD treatment. Studies show that stimulants, like Adderall can improve ADHD symptoms in about 70-80% of people. Central nervous system stimulant medications work by increasing the amounts of norepinephrine and dopamine hormones in the brain. This, in turn, boosts concentration and lowers fatigue that's common with ADHD. Amphetamines and methamphetamine are good examples of stimulants used for ADHD treatment. Stimulants like meth increase attention and reduce restlessness in people who are:
Methamphetamine is an integral part of a complete ADHD treatment program. It's meant to be used along with other treatments like counseling. However, this drug is available only with a health care provider's prescription and is non-refillable. Meaning, a patient has to get a new prescription each time they need this medicine.
Along with ADHD treatment, doctors will occasionally give obese patients prescription methamphetamine for weight loss. While the drug can curb appetite, its effects on the nervous system and metabolism also seem to weigh in on its weight loss abilities. But because of the drug's addictive nature, there's an increased risk of addiction. So when physicians prescribe it, it's usually only for a short period. Methamphetamine is issued alongside other interventions like exercise and diet.
As mentioned earlier, only a doctor can prescribe this drug to patients. The doctor will weigh the pros and cons of using the drug and determine whether or not it's safe. Patients should inform the doctor about:
Doctors consider a lot of things before prescribing methamphetamine. But despite this, there's always an addiction risk when someone abuses the drug or takes drugs prescribed for another person.
For example, a patient may notice that the original dose no longer works. So they increase their dosage, creating tolerance that leads to addiction. Or the patient finds they no longer need the drug. But once they stop, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms that often compel them to take more of the drug.
Common side effects that are linked to prescription meth include:
A patient should contact a doctor as soon as they notice one or more of these side effects.
Meth addiction is one of the hardest drug addictions to treat. But treatment programs exist to help patients with addiction problems quit using and go back to leading a healthy life. Treatments can also help patients struggling with withdrawal symptoms. Recovery from meth needs a holistic treatment plan that includes detox, counseling and therapy.
It is easy to wonder why or how someone in their right minds would self-harm. But as it turns out, "normal" people intentionally hurt themselves every day. Some do it to cope with stress and discomfort or to feel real and alive. Others do it to punish their bodies or to feel empowered. Sometimes, people don't even know why they cause self-harm, but they still do it anyway.
Self-harm and cutting are a form of addiction as many young adults crave the relief that these behaviors elicit. Like substance abuse, users continually cut, punch, bang, and burn themselves to self-medicate but end up having trouble stopping. Most of them describe a specific type of high, connectedness, release, or a sense of calm after the self-injury.
Individuals who inflict self-injury are trying to release pent-up emotions. They see their actions as positive as it allows them to express feelings and remain in control. So they keep hurting themselves to try to release or control feeling of sadness, fear, frustration, anger, overwhelm, or even happiness.
But sadly, hurting yourself never truly resolves the feeling. It only leaves behind a sense of guilt or shame. Eventually, the person may have to perform more intense or prolonged self-injury to achieve the same release. This may go on and on that the individual feels unable to stop. Addiction to self-harm mimics addiction to drugs and alcohol in many ways. For instance, people who cause themselves harm aren't in full control of their actions just like those with SUD. Besides, most underlying pieces (conditions, triggers, causes, etc.), are the same in both cases.
Self-harm is more common than many people realize. About two million cases of self-harm cases are reported in the United States every year. The condition – clinically referred to as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) – is characterized by an intentional self-induced injury that's not meant to be fatal. Estimates show that 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-harm behaviors. 90% of those who self-harm start during their pre-adolescent years, and that 50% of them have been sexually abused. Reports also show that 70% of young adults who engage in self-harm have made at least one suicide attempt. But note that NSSI and a suicide attempt are two different things.
Intentionally hurting yourself isn't a mental disorder in or of itself. But it is a behavior that's often associated with anxiety, stress, depression, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and substance abuse disorder. The cutting and banging and burning tend to worsen over time, especially when the co-occurring problem remains unaddressed.
Since self-harm is a coping mechanism, the frequency of harm increases as the person's mental health degrades. This escalates the overall risk and danger. Besides, when substances are involved, there's an increase in harming behavior with more chance of severe injury. Most ER visits from self-harm happen when the individual has been abusing drugs or alcohol and harms themselves more severely than intended.
If a loved one has co-occurring disorders, he or she should seek professional help. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, anyone seeking help for comorbid conditions should be evaluated for both disorders and treated accordingly. That’s why you have to find a reputable addiction treatment center that offers effective behavioral therapies like:
As mentioned above, self-harm can happen when an individual has an addiction problem. However, the opposite is also true. And individual can turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their feelings or alleviate stress. But since drugs and alcohol impair motor skills, slow reaction times, and interfere with nerve ending connections, they may make it hard for an individual to control their self-harm behaviors.
In addition to substance use disorders and mental health issues, other self-harm risk factors include:
Many people who engage in these acts don't want others to find out. So they do so in secrecy and cut places that are hard to spot, like on the stomach, higher up on the thighs, or arms. Most of them seem normal or even happier on the outside, with no sign tell-tale sign of the habit. This makes it hard to know if your loved one is self-harming or cutting. However, some signs of self-harm include:
Strange scars: if a loved one is cutting or scratching, chances are they will have strange scars on their body. Look out for scar tissue or multiple cuts in one location. Cutting addiction may also include thin lines like those from a sharp object.
Unexplained abrasions or cuts: Your loved one could be cutting if they always blame accidents or clumsiness for their injuries or bandages.
Bloodstains on clothes: Nothing is alarming about spotting blood on your loved one's belongings. However, if you notice blood on the sink, toilet paper, hand towels, or clothes, it could be a sign they are self-harming.
Covering the skin: Your loved one may insist on wearing pants and long-sleeved clothes even when it’s hot outside. That's because they don't want you to see the scars.
Isolation: People who cut tend to isolate themselves because of depression or the need to hide their behavior. They may also feel irritable or uncomfortable in public.
Keep in mind that these warning signs vary among individuals. So, it is worth looking into any strange behaviors your loved one is showing. They could be crying out for help, but you don't even notice. And even if self-harm is not the issue, your loved one could be struggling with another serious issue, like substance abuse or depression.
Self-harm like burning or cutting may offer temporary relief to physical and emotional pain. However, in the end, it may cause feelings of shame and guilt along with physical side effects like anemia and infections. A cutting addiction is hazardous because one may cut a vein and bleed to death or cause long-term nerve or tendon damage.
Growing evidence suggests that behavioral addictions like cutting and self-harm mimic substance addictions in many ways. They have similar phenomenology, natural history, overlapping genetic contribution, comorbidity, tolerance, neurobiological mechanism, and response to treatment. So, self-harm patients may benefit from various therapies that we mentioned above and treatments offered in addiction centers.
People use drugs for a range of reasons. Some to fit in, rebel, or even just to escape their reality. Others use drugs to experiment, relax, or release boredom. Drugs excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good – but they also do so much more harm, as you'll notice in this article. Some very real dangers come into play when mixing drugs with other substances.
Drugs are anything but equal. Sedatives like heroin, alcohol, and benzodiazepines have a numbing effect and tend to slow down body and brain functions. Stimulants like cocaine, ecstasy, crack, and amphetamines can give users a rush of energy and make them more alert. Hallucinogens, like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, tend to alter the way users see, feel, smell, taste, or hear.
When taken in large quantities, sedatives can be fatal; stimulants can trigger panic attacks or anxiety; and hallucinogens can cause erratic or dangerous behaviors. But the question is what would happen when these drugs are mixed together?
Polydrug use is when users mix drugs or take one drug while still under another drug's influence. It can include the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs. People mix drugs for a range of reasons, with the most common ones being:
The problem with using more than one drug at any given time is that the effects become even more unpredictable. It is not always possible to tell the exact impact of a single drug or drug dose. Drug use affects each person differently. Sometimes, a person can use the same amount of a specific drug on separate occasions and have different effects each time. The difference happens due to reasons like:
It is hard to predict the effects of a single drug. But it is even harder to predict the effects of multiple drugs. In addition to the factors above, the effect of multiple drug use may vary based on the mixture's contents. Blending drugs with the same physical effects – like two or more sedatives or two or more hallucinogens) can be particularly dangerous. The blend is riskier because it amplifies pleasurable and adverse effects. Combining drugs like cocaine and ecstasy will elevate the ‘high’ and also increase the risk of a heart attack.
One of the most significant risks of mixing drugs is "combined drug intoxication (CDI)." CDI happens when two or more substances are taken simultaneously and can lead to life-threatening conditions like seizures, heart problems, coma, brain damage, liver damage and failure, stomach bleeding, and even death. There were 67,367 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention report.
Although we like to think about these drugs in isolation, for example, "fentanyl overdose deaths," a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that most drug overdose deaths involve a mix of two or more drugs.
Many different types of lethal drug combinations exist and contribute to the raging drug overdose epidemic in the US. According to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention analysis, many opioid deaths also include other drugs.
A drug overdose doesn't necessarily happen because of taking too much of a single drug or alcohol. In fact, it mostly occurs when users overdose from a drug combination. Here are some examples of how mixing drugs can kill:
1. People mix two or more drugs – often the same class of depressants or stimulants – assuming that taking half of the usual dose of each of these drugs at a time will produce a similar effect, but it's not the case. Even a small amount of another depressant or stimulant can increase the impact - way beyond what would have been taken individually.
The effect is particularly fatal with depressants like synthetic opioids, alcohol, and tranquilizers like barbiturates and benzodiazepines. These drugs depress the central nervous system, which controls the respiratory system and heartbeat. Depressants slow down breathing and reduce heart rate. This, in turn lowers the blood pressure and the amount of oxygen that flows to the brain, leading to hypoxia. As a result, rapid cell death occurs in the brain and consequently causes brain damage or death.
2 Mixing stimulants and depressants – this sends contradicting messages to the body, impairing its function. The respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system are put into a frenzy with simultaneous conflicting messages to slow down and speed up. This causes severe consequences and can lead to coma, fatal overdose, cardiac arrest, slowed breathing and in some cases, death.
3. A single drug – like a prescription drug or a glass of wine – may not impair a person's ability to drive. However, a combination of a glass of wine and the prescription drug may exponentially increase the effects of both so that the user may show signs of severe impairment. Driving while under the influence of mixed drugs can lead to severe injury or death of self and/or others.
4. Mixing alcohol and cocaine can be dangerous, especially when both these drugs are broken down in the liver simultaneously. When both drugs are present, the liver produces cocaethylene, a harmful chemical that stays in the body for extended periods and may increase the chance of heart attack, seizures, and even sudden death. Cocaethylene can also cause cardiac arrhythmia, brain damage and aneurysm.
5. Benzodiazepines mixed with alcohol, severely increases the deadly risk. Both of these drugs affect the same neurotransmitters. Their combination amplifies the intoxicating effects of alcohol and benzos and causes memory loss, hallucinations, impaired coordination, intense dizziness, severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts. The combination also depresses breathing, slows down the heart rate, causes seizures, and results in loss of consciousness, coma and death.
Anyone willing to risk their lives for recreational or social reasons has a serious drug use problem. The same applies to those who use drugs to try to overcome their mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or stress. People with polydrug addictions need intense addiction treatment and therapies because of the augmented damage their brains have sustained from the use.