The skin is the largest organ in your body. It is also the most visible one and is often referred to as the window into a person’s overall well-being. The skin carries a clue about the health of other organs. Changes in the skin color or texture may sometimes indicate severe health conditions, according to dermatologists.
Drug and alcohol use can have severe consequences on the body organs. Drugs like cocaine, and heroin can significantly stress the heart and damage kidneys. Alcohol, on the other hand, puts tremendous strain on the liver. But since it is impossible to see what’s happening in the body with bare eyes, the damage may go unnoticed for years.
Luckily, you can identify drug or alcohol-related issues by looking at the skin. When drug users abuse substances for a long time, they may experience sores, inflammation, infections, and even skin rotting. This happens for a range of reasons, including:
Substance abuse can cause dehydration through the effects of the drugs themselves. Illegal drugs are known to increase sweating, speed of breathing, urination, and diarrhea, and vomiting. In some cases, the drugs make a person over-active, interfering with the body’s awareness and attention to ignore the need for fluid. Dehydration is characterized by dry eyes, chapped lips, dry mouth, and feeling thirsty. Prolonged use may also cause dry, flaky skin. Dry skin is more prone to wounds, blemishes, and poor healing.
Rashes are common in heavy meth users. They manifest as festering and painful-looking sores. Meth (and cocaine) users develop sores for various reasons, but the most common is that they pick and scratch their skin. They do so because it feels as though bugs are burrowing underneath the skin. Some say they feel a sensation of drug coming out of their skin. So they pick at it to the extent that they tear their flesh open. Meth mites – the feeling that insects or bugs are crawling under or on the skin – is a common side effect of excessive methamphetamine use. It’s also the biggest giveaway of meth addiction.
Heroin use may also lead to intense itching because it triggers the production of histamine. It may cause immense, blistering rash or dark patch on the skin (with velvety feel). Heroin use may also cause red patches to form all over the body.
Another reason meth users develop sores is that the drug isn’t clean. It’s made with battery acid, which causes abscesses. And the byproducts used during its production can irritate the skin and cause itchy red sores that look like burning skin rash. Besides, crystal meth suppresses the immune system, making it hard for the body to fight off infections and bacteria. Couple that with poor hygiene, and you create a perfect storm for meth rash. This can occur in the face, arm, shoulder, back, and between the legs.
Some drug dealers add other substances to cocaine to stretch their product and increase profit margins. One such substance is levamisole, which is linked to necrotizing fasciitis, a skin-eating disease. It manifests in an extreme blackening of the outer ear and reddening of the cheeks. The same effects may happen on the back, chest, buttocks, legs, and abdomen.
Not everyone who uses drugs will experience skin disorders. It’s all up to a person’s genetic markup. Stimulants can cause hypersensitivity, hives, cold sores, and the swelling of the epidermis. In extreme cases, these drugs can cause severe conditions like Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) and Stevens - Johnson syndrome (SJS).
SJS is a rare yet severe skin and mucous membranes. It is characterized by a painful rash that blisters and spreads. The outer layer of the rash dies, peels off and starts to heal after several days. A more severe form of SJS is called TEN. TEN is a rare and potentially life-threatening condition that affects over 30% of the skin and causes immense damage to the mucous membranes. In TEN, the peeling progresses fast, leading to large raw areas that may weep or ooze.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common skin condition that affects more than 1 in 10 Americans. However, the condition, which makes the skin red and itchy, is common among those struggling with drug addiction. AD is a chronic pruritic inflammatory skin condition that mostly affects the neck, arms, cheeks, and legs.
These usually arise because of smoke, weight loss, or other toxins. But drug use can also cause premature aging, lines, wrinkles, and so on. Smoking drugs like heroin, crack, cocaine, meth, or marijuana harms the skin, creating a wrinkled, leather-like texture that makes one look older. Smoking also speeds up and facilitates skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and even skin cancer.
When a drug-dependent person is dehydrated, exhausted and malnourished, they may experience drug-induced hyperpigmentation. This is where they experience color changes in the skin, folds, and spots in different parts of the body. Drugs like heroin, prescription meds, crack cocaine, and cocaine can cause a nutritional problem. Advanced stages of addiction can make one neglect regular foods and meals, leading to exhaustion and malnutrition.
Since the drugs lower the body’s immunity, any infection that shows up in the skin may take a long time to heal. Sometimes, it might worsen. Many cocaine and heroin users who inject drugs develop infections at the injection point, which becomes severe with repeated use.
Treatment programs exist to help those struggling with drug addiction to overcome their using problem, and resulting skin problems. Addiction treatment allows patients to heal their mind, body, and spirit. Most of these centers have experts who can offer medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. In extreme cases, these experts may refer the patient to a specialist.
Individuals who struggle with addiction suffer from psychological, emotional, behavioral, nutritional, and physical issues. They are also prone to a range of severe health conditions like damage to the skin, brain, heart, lungs, liver, and even teeth.
Although many people assume that dental health isn’t as critical as that of heart or other major organs, the link between addiction, dental illness, and life-threatening conditions is undeniable. Oral health issues, especially when left untreated, can lead to other more critical conditions.
A Review of Health Effects and Care by the National Institute of Health indicates that oral health issue is one of the most prevalent addiction-related comorbidities that need more attention by both policymakers and clinicians. Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) have more oral health problems than the general population but are less likely to receive care. This is because they spend most of their time intoxicated or trying to find more drugs. Dental visits or personal hygiene are often the least of their worries.
Drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana can cause teeth and gum problems. In most cases:
Many individuals who abuse drugs have some form of teeth deformity. Even the public health advertisement shows that meth abuse harms the teeth. But like most people, you may not have the slightest idea of how the damage happens, how quickly it occurs, or the type of drugs that affect the teeth. So, here’s a list of common drugs and how each one of them can affect your dental health.
Regular use of opioids and opiates can restrict the production of saliva and dry out oral tissues. Saliva naturally lubricates the mouth and keeps tissues moist. It also clears any leftovers from the gumline and between teeth. Most importantly, it regulates oral acids and bacteria that destroy enamel and cause decay. Again, opioids reduce pain, which makes it hard for users to detect changes in their gums and teeth. Studies reveal that some users apply opioids directly into the gums and teeth to dull dental pain. Unless it gets out of hand, they won’t seek professional help.
Club drugs like MDMA, ecstasy, K2, and molly cause users to grind their teeth, resulting in wear and tear of the enamel. In several studies, 93-99% of club drug users experienced a dry mouth. This dryness can persist for up to 48 hours after use – or even longer after a higher dose. Club drug users turn to soft drinks (which are acidic and sugar-rich) to relieve dry mouth, dehydration, and hyperthermia from vigorous dancing. Add that to reduced saliva secretion and buffering ability, and the rate of tooth enamel erosion will skyrocket. Again, club drug users report vomiting and nausea as a side effect, which could also increase erosion of the teeth.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a survey on 571 meth users revealed 96% had cavities, 58% had untreated tooth decay, and 31% had six or more missing teeth. Meth causes serious oral problems commonly described as “meth mouth,” – which presents as extensive gum disease and tooth decay. Once the harm begins, it is near impossible to reverse the effects and, in many cases, results in multiple tooth extractions. What’s more, meth rots teeth very quickly. Meth dries up the saliva, making the teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities. It also causes users to grind their teeth due to stress. Additionally, meth makes one thirsty and leaves them craving for sweet drinks. Sugar feeds bacteria that harm tooth enamel – a process that’s aggravated when there’s no saliva.
Coke users experience an increased rate of tooth decay for a range of reasons: first, the powder is an acidic salt with a low pH (4.5). When applied to the oral or nasal route, it mixes with saliva and raises its acidity levels. This mixture is harmful to enamel as well as the hard dentin tissue underlying the enamel. Secondly, cocaine may cause transient chorea, a movement disorder that manifests in mouth and jaw-related muscle spasms that mimic a strange smile or grinding the teeth. Teeth grinding causes wear and tear and may result in damage to the jaw, surrounding gums, and the enamel.
Smoking cigarettes or marijuana cuts oxygen supply to the bloodstream causing infected gums not to heal. Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Smoking also leads to dry mouth. Marijuana use is associated with cannabinoid hyperemesis, a condition that causes vomiting. When one vomits regularly, he or she exposes the teeth to stomach acid that causes decay and cavities. Tobacco, on the other hand, can cause bad breath, gum disease, and damage. According to research, smoking may account for about 75% of periodontal disease in adults.
Substance use is detrimental to one’s overall health. If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, it’s best to seek treatment and rehabilitation. Although some dental health concerns like enamel degradation, cancer, and tooth loss cannot be reversed, there’s still plenty that can be done to help restore a healthy mouth and smile. Rehabilitation facilities will also help treat addiction and any co-occurring disorders that contribute to user’s difficulty in maintaining their oral health.
When a convict is sent to prison, he or she is stripped, disinfected and subjected to stringent inspection to ensure nothing illegal, like drugs, or contraband gets inside. His or her possessions are catalogued and boxed up. A convict only gets to keep a few books, eyeglasses and legal papers.
Visitors, too, undergo thorough screenings before seeing their loved ones. This includes car checks by staff (and even canines) and body checks (along with belongings) by a metal detector, pat downs and sometimes, sniffer dogs.
Ideally, nothing illegal is supposed to get inside the prisons – or at least, that's what the law stipulates. But surprisingly, drugs are rife in prisons globally, and illicit drug use like heroin, meth, coke, clone and NPS remains endemic. In fact, a third of prisoners in Wales and England claimed that it was easier to access drugs in prison, than it was on the outside.
You probably are wondering how these drugs make their way into prisons. As it turns out, people are pretty creative and often come up with smarter ways to outdo the current security measures and systems. Some smugglers use babies, coloring books, dead birds or stamps to move the drugs past the systems. Others take it a notch higher and soak undies with meth or decide to shove prescription drugs inside their private parts to pass through security. A while back, a Cincinnati woman was nabbed trying to traffic a Bible-laced with heroin into prison.
Cases of staff being enticed by cash bribes aren't uncommon. Forty-nine correction officers from 31 prisons in Georgia were accused of accepting bribes and trafficking illegal stuff into prison. One prison officer took £1000 for moving an ounce of crack cocaine and heroin. Another one got £500 for a sizeable package with drugs and phones. And the cases go on and on.
More recently, an increasing number of cases have transpired where drones delivered packages. Compared to 2013, when the use of drones to transport drugs was unheard of, there were 2 cases and 33 cases in 2014 and 2015.
Prisons try to keep abreast of the inventive and creative ways individuals develop to smuggle drugs into the jail. And while they are mostly successful, inmates still manage to get hold of drugs in one way or the other. In addition to being illegal, the misuse of drugs in prison is a severe threat to prisoners' health, the security of prison systems and the safety of prison officials and staff.
Using and/or dealing drugs is a criminal offense and may attract up to 15 years (give or take) in jail time. How these drugs find their way into prisons, designed to be secure places of law enforcement, is a big concern.
According to data collected through the 2007-2009 National Inmate Survey, 58% of state prisoners and 63% of sentenced jail inmates met the criteria of drug abuse or dependence. In comparison, only 5% of the general population 18+ years matched the criteria for drug abuse or addiction. This is in line with the data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Between 2012/2013 and 2017/2018, there was a 50% rise in the rate of positive random tests for drugs in prison, from 7% to 10.6%. Data indicate that prisons with the highest positive rates in the random drug tests are those that are the least stable.
The most commonly abused drugs in prisons are:
According to a post published on Independent, there were 58 deaths between 2013 and 2016 where prisoners were known, or strongly suspected, to have used legal highs before their demise. Synthetic marijuana is equally disrupting the normal prison life. Despite being prohibited in UK prisons, this drug led to 19 inmate fatalities between 2012 and 2014.
One inspector of prisons told The Guardian that the effect of these drugs on prisons and individuals is unlike anything they've seen before. Quoting what the prison staff told him, he said, "Legal highs have devastating effects in our prisons, more severe than we've seen with other drugs. They're not only destabilizing some prisons but also propelling the cases of violence, bullying and debt."
A former employee of Tomoka Correctional Institution Work Camp told The Miami Herald that their mealtimes looked like a scene straight from out of the "Walking Dead." "Everywhere you turn, inmates are walking around like zombies." Cases of inmates face planting into their food tray, or falling from the seat twitching, foaming and their muscle seizing were not so uncommon. The main culprit? Synthetic marijuana – or K2 as it's commonly referred to.
Prisons are full of people charged with drug offences. Some may have been thrown behind bars for possession of drugs or DUI and so on. And while not all inmates incarcerated for drug crimes have a drug problem, addiction is common among inmates. The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights revealed that about 50% of people in prisons and jails meet the criteria for substance dependence or abuse. Many inmates with drug addiction also have a mental health disorder like PTSD or depression.
But many prisons don't offer inmates who fight addiction with proper evidence-based treatment. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that put withdrawal symptoms in check during detoxification is not common in US prisons. In-prison addiction treatment can save lives and even reduce the risk of further abuse, relapse and drug-related fatalities.
Drug misuse in both state and federal prisons is a huge challenge facing the criminal justice system today. The abuse of drug is widespread and contributes to crime, violence and vulnerability within prisons. Unless drug misuse levels go down, prison systems won't manage to prevent reoffending, improve security and handle severe and organized crime.
But eliminating prison drug is not as easy as it sounds. It needs a coordinated effort to cut down the drug supply in and out of prisons, educate and empower prisoners and support those needing treatment.
Many prisons support inmates struggling with addiction. Some offer religious ministry meetings, psychotherapy sessions and 12-step programs to inmates with addiction problems. On top of these, federal prisons provide a range of programs meant to help inmates overcome substance use. This includes:
Various studies have shown that blending community- and prison-based addiction treatment for offenders lowers the risk of both relapse to drug use and recidivism to drug-related criminal behavior – which, in turn, saves on societal cost.
Does this sound familiar?
You call up all your friends and loved ones to inform them about your plans to quit using drugs or alcohol.
You are so sure about it and believe that nothing can get in the way.
So you quit cold turkey, with no help. And just as everything seems to be working out perfectly, the unexpected happens – you slip back in and start using again.
If this is familiar, you are not alone. 19.7 million American adults aged 12+ years struggled with substance use disorder in 2017. This is according to the National Survey on Drug Use Health (NSDUH). Of this number, 38% battled an illicit drug use disorder.
The reason you keep going back is that drug addiction is not just a habit. It is a brain disease. When you use drugs for a prolonged period of time, it can change the way nerve receptors work in your brain. Addiction changes the way critical parts of the brain function, so much that you have a hard time quitting drugs – even if you want to. According to brain science research, addiction:
Addictive drugs alter the way the brain regulates moods and processes emotions. Most of these changes flood the brain with serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters that create an artificial feeling of “high,” or pleasure. This is one of the reasons you find it hard to choose to do the right thing. The other reason is the issue of withdrawal symptoms.
Drug withdrawal is a group of symptoms that happen when you discontinue or reduce the intake of recreational or meditational drugs abruptly. To experience withdrawal syndrome, you must have first developed a form of drug dependence.
If you become physically sick after quitting, it may be an indication that you are physically dependent on the drug. This is usually your body’s way of responding to the absence of the substance. You may also become dependent on drugs or alcohol to prevent withdrawal symptoms or pain.
Note that the severity and nature of the withdrawal symptoms that you experience will vary based on the level of substance dependency along with other factors like:
As an example, a person who takes large dosages of opiate for years through injection and has a family history and/or an underlying mental health problem will experience more extended withdrawal periods and more severe symptoms than one who has been using smaller doses for months. Although the effects and severity may differ, one thing is sure; withdrawal symptoms will be present as long as dependence is formed.
Drug withdrawal symptoms differ based on a range of aspects, as discussed above. Some drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription ADHD meds may have far-reaching emotional withdrawal symptoms. Others, like prescription drugs and heroin, cause extremely uncomfortable physical withdrawal symptoms that mirror flu-like symptoms.
We cannot talk about drug withdrawal symptoms without mentioning alcohol. After all, acute alcohol withdrawal is amongst the most dangerous withdrawal periods of all substances and drugs and can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms. For this reason alone, the process must be approached with care or be done under medical supervision.
Benzodiazepines (Ativan and Valium) can also have adverse withdrawal symptoms like alcohol. The only difference is that alcohol symptoms appear hours after the last drink and subside within a week. Benzodiazepines, on the other hand, take up to a month. Like alcohol, benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include hallucination, elevated heart rate, and blood pressure, delirium, and seizures.
Opiate (heroin, OxyContin or hydrocodone) withdrawal symptoms aren’t as severe as those from alcohol and benzodiazepines but can cause muscle cramps, aches, runny nose, sleeplessness, nausea, and vomiting. Opiate withdrawal symptoms are often flu-like.
Don’t attempt to quit “cold turkey” after dependence has formed. Evidence shows that this is not the best way to stop. Only a small percentage of patients succeed this way. Besides, the physical aspect of withdrawal is too much to handle alone. Many people who have an opioid addiction end up resuming use to stop the resulting symptoms. So, you should quit gradually with the help of medical professionals. Your symptoms will be managed through a medical detox program as part of a holistic addiction treatment plan.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal upset and nausea to potentially life-threatening seizures. These symptoms often present opposite reactions than those associated with the drug or substance. They include:
The first symptom can appear within 12-24 hours of use and tend to be worse for the first 48-72 hours. However, the symptoms gradually start to decline as your body adapts to the new normal. The whole process can last up to 14 days.
Although you can detox privately at home, there are numerous reasons why doing so might not be the best choice. For starters, it may not be safe because you are unsupervised. Remember, issues like violence, injury, psychosis, medical illness, and even threat to self can arise a few hours after drug detox. Besides, at-home drug detox is usually ineffective. So, it is best to get care at a reputable treatment center.
Drug and alcohol detox is the first step in a holistic treatment program that provides all the necessary tools needed for recovery. Detoxification can prevent unpleasant or adverse side effects arising from sudden cessation of use and can help you become abstinent from alcohol or drugs.
Drug detox lasts as long as the withdrawal symptoms are present, and for as long as it takes you to stabilize both mentally and physically. Medical detox aims to stop the abuse of substances and also prepare you for the work that lies ahead on counseling and therapy.
Many people saw a meme going around in late January - early February that looked like a reputable news story, with the headline: “Cocaine Kills Coronavirus, scientist is shocked that the drug can fight the virus”. This had many people seeing (and believing) that just maybe, the illegal, illicit drug could help prevent people from getting COVID-19. Of course, to answer the question can cocaine help kill the coronavirus, or COVID-19 is a resounding NO. Absolutely this news “story” was false.
Cocaine cannot kill the coronavirus, nor assist in the treatment of any disease. In fact, the use of cocaine in any form would probably only make any symptoms of COVID19 much, much worse. Coronaviruses are a respiratory infection that weakens your breathing and causes a nasty cough in the most severe cases. Snorting coke as a powder, or smoking crack cocaine both damage your respiratory tract, which could weaken your immune system response. Using cocaine would hinder your ability to fight-off diseases by harming your body’s natural response system.
Oddly enough, in researching this story, I found out the meme originated from a tweet by Anton Newcombe, the front man for the 1990’s psychedelic-revival, American rock band: The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
— anton newcombe (@antonnewcombe) January 30, 2020
This is a band that I am a huge fan of. I actually still listen to BJM (a lot) and that I have followed for years, so it was kind of a funny discovery for me. Even Newcombe himself was shocked at how far the tweet had spread. The French government’s official Health Ministry had to issue a tweet saying: “No, cocaine does not protect against COVID-19.”
— Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé (@MinSoliSante) March 10, 2020
Furthermore, major mainstream media publications, like CBS News and Business Insider have covered the controversial ‘cocaine kills the coronavirus’ tweet. The latter compelled the BJM front man to reply on his own tweet: “a minimum of common sense is needed when you are online” adding, “this tweet was a joke.” Unfortunately for logic, the joke went over the heads of quite a few people. I’m guessing a lot of wishful thinking went into the (no pun intended) viral spread of this tweet as misinformation.
Another post of internet disinformation by none other than QAnon. It claimed that drinking a “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “MMS” would kill the coronavirus. This “MMS” is a type of bleach, and is deadly. Obviously, drinking bleach will kill you before it ever killed any viruses in your body, so please, have some common sense and don’t drink bleach either!
This quarantine has hit all of us pretty hard. All across the world, people are washing their hands and practicing social distancing, but what does that mean for people in active addiction recovery that are reliant upon a social network of peer support groups? For people who use drugs or are in a treatment program for addiction and a substance use disorder, the threat of the coronavirus might seem remote when compared to the very real threat of a drug overdose, painful withdrawal symptoms, or a life-threatening relapse.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently recommended that people stock up on their medications along with food and other necessities as the quarantine began to close stores and force people to stay home. With strict federal control of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) prescriptions like buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, it is impossible for a recovering addict to obtain a larger supply of these life-saving medications.
Many who are struggling with addiction are currently being faced with yet another onerous hurdle to their continued sobriety. Continuity of care is essential in addiction treatment programs. The disruption of quarantine guidelines sent down from federal, state and local governments can cause people to miss doctor appointments and other types of treatment services, like counseling and group therapy sessions.
Absolutely vital 12-step program meetings, like AA and NA are virtually nonexistent. Yet many are trying to adapt to the current state of everything as best as they can. Some peer support groups and drug rehab centers have begun hosting meetings and outpatient group therapy videos online. Through streaming services like Facetime, Skype Google Hangouts or Zoom, they hope to offer continuity of care while we all attempt to socially-distance ourselves from one another.
Many drug rehabilitation facilities are making rapid changes to their services due to the coronavirus pandemic. In my opinion, these changes are urgent given the existential weight of this global threat. Typically stressful situations, (say, a pandemic for instance) can trigger recovering addicts, tempting them to relapse into their old, familiar patterns of substance abuse.
These stressors are especially difficult not only for people who are recovering, but also for people currently in active addiction.
It is hard for many of us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not only do we have to deal with a potentially-deadly, highly-contagious virus spreading, but we will also have to deal with a substantial economic crisis once this quarantine is over. With all the stress, worry and uncertainty of 2020, many in the drug rehab industry are worried that more people will relapse as a result of this crisis.
The good news is that drug rehabilitation facilities are still open all across the United States. They, like other medical services, are considered “essential businesses” and while they are allowed to remain open at this time, many are turning to video services both for group therapy sessions and one-on-one counseling, in an attempt to limit physical, social contact. Sarah Dowling, the program director for 10 Acre Ranch, an addiction treatment facility in Riverside, California had this to say about the pandemic:
"During this desperate time of crisis there is still hope and community. Online meetings are in full effect and people are learning how to stay connected without the ability to leave their homes. It is refreshing to see people making extra efforts to reach out to those who are seeking help. I would hope anyone in need would find the courage to call us or log into an online meeting for support." - Sarah Dowling MSW, CADC-III, CATC IV
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse
“Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted persons self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.”
Even with the stigma surrounding addiction, nearly 21 million Americans suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction today. While the population in the United States is around 327 million people, around 6 percent of people living in our country have a substance use disorder of some kind. Let’s break that number down a little bit further.
Alcohol is perhaps the most widely abused substance in the United States as it is a socially acceptable drug in a variety of social circles and social gatherings. It is also widely available to most members of the population, it is sold in gas stations, grocery markets, liquor stores, concerts, etc across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related deaths, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco and poor-diet. It is estimated that around 15 million people over the age of 18 struggle with an alcohol use disorder, while less than eight percent of those actually received treatment. Furthermore, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 401,000 adolescents aged 12 and older had also struggled with an alcohol addiction in the year 2018.
Methamphetamine, also known as meth, crystal meth, or ice, is another popular illicit drug that is abused in the United States. First synthesized in 1887, meth is usually an off white powder that can be smoked, snorted, or injected. Crystal meth is a very dangerous and highly addictive drug. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 1.6 million people reported having an addiction to methamphetamines in the year 2018. Additionally, nearly 964,000 youth aged 12 and older reported having a problem with methamphetamine use in that same year. However, the average age of new methamphetamine users is roughly around 23 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that meth has the highest rate of overdose in over 19 states, where about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths were related to methamphetamine in the year of 2017.
Heroin is a highly dangerous opioid drug made from morphine and has increasingly risen in popularity among people on the streets. Heroin is usually seen as a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, snorted, and inhaled. It was estimated that around 948,000 Americans reported having a substance abuse problem with heroin in 2016, a number that has unfortunately been on the rise since 2007. However, in the younger age category of people aged 12 and older, heroin use has been on a decline, coming in at less than one percent per grade level, thankfully. Although, according to the CDC, during the year of 2017 over 15,000 people died from drug overdoses involving heroin in the United States alone, a rate of almost 5 deaths for every 100,000 Americans. Heroin overdoses have also increased five-fold between the years of 2010 and 2017.
Cocaine is a very powerful, addictive, and stimulating drug. Powdered cocaine is normally a fine white powder, but it can be chemically altered into crystalline rocks that can appear in varying colors depending on the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, ranging from yellow to rose to off white. Cocaine or crack cocaine can be snorted, ingested, smoked, or injected. Take from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 5 million Americans are regular cocaine users, while an estimated 2.2 million people reported having a substance abuse problem with cocaine or crack cocaine in 2017. In 2017, over one million Americans aged 12 and older had tried cocaine for the first time. In that same year, from data collected by the CDC, cocaine was involved in one out of every five overdose deaths, rising 34 percent from the previous year of 2016.
Another epidemic on the rise in the United States is the misuse of prescription drugs, mainly opioids. Research suggests that teens are at a higher risk of prescription drug dependence because of the misleading idea that prescription drugs are somehow less dangerous than other illicit drugs. However, anyone can be at risk of becoming addicted to prescription drugs. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives. In 2017 alone, more than 2 million people abused opioids for the first time. Sadly, around 130 Americans die every day from opioid-related overdoses, with 47,600 fatal overdoses related to opioid use in 2017. Furthermore, around 10 percent of people who abuse opioids will become addicted to heroin. More people report using prescription drugs rather than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined, making this the second leading abused substance behind marijuana. Luckily, medication-assisted treatment is available to help people who suffer from an opioid use disorder.
All in all, addiction is a problem that is a constant growing concern in the United States, even with all of the information out there. This is partially due to the stigma surrounding addiction, as less than 10 percent of people who suffer seek professional treatment or get help for their substance abuse problem. It is never a bad thing to admit when you have a problem or when you need to get help, and you do not have to go through this alone. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, seek out a professional rehabilitation center near you or try attending a 12 step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Drug usage has risen over the past decade and only seems to be increasing. It seems like we all know, or have known, someone in our lives who has fallen into the addiction of drug usage.
While many people think about the problems, drug addiction brings, not many people think about the long-lasting health effects drugs have on your body.
We scoured the internet looking for the most common reasons people avoid drugs and came up with the following list.
This is a great starter list and summarizes quite a few reasons why it’s a bad idea to abuse drugs.
One thing that generally isn’t spoken about when talking about drugs is the effect drugs have on your blood pressure.
If you’re not familiar with medicine or anatomy, blood pressure is the pressure that your heart pumps blood through your veins. If your blood pressure is too high, your heart has to work extremely hard in order to supply your body with blood.
If your blood pressure is too low, vital organs don’t receive enough blood or oxygen and can be severely damaged.
Drugs affect the body in many different ways. Since there are so many kinds of drugs, it’s impossible to make a blanket statement on how drugs affect blood pressure. We can, however, break down the effects that each drug has on the blood pressure individually.
Some drugs increase blood pressure above normal; this is known as hypertension. Some drugs lower blood pressure below normal; this is known as hypotension.
Both hypertension and hypotension can be severe ailments. If your blood pressure is too high, your risk of heart attack or stroke skyrockets.
If your blood pressure is too low, you risk passing out, suffocating, or permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen being transported through the bloodstream.
Let’s examine some of the most common drugs and their effects on blood pressure. Since each drug has different effects on the body as a whole, it’s essential to take a look at each substance individually.
Cocaine is a powerful drug which is known for its potent “upper” effects. This means that the drug increases heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and metabolism. When this drug is injected, it becomes extremely dangerous, since there is no barrier between the drug and the bloodstream.
Cocaine has been shown to have potent vasoconstrictive effects, meaning that it constricts and tightens blood vessels throughout your body. 
This makes the heart work harder in order to pump enough blood to feed oxygen to vital organs. The result is a rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure. Cocaine is often called the “heart attack” drug because of how powerful these effects are on the body.
Users who already have high blood pressure are extremely prone to life-threatening trauma when taking cocaine, as this drug amplifies their already high blood pressure.
Amphetamines are a class of drug similar to cocaine in the fact that they increase metabolism and bodily functions. They are known to increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and perspiration. A common amphetamine is methamphetamine, also known as meth. Meth is extremely dangerous and a leading cause of new or worsened hypertension.
This means that you could be totally healthy and normal, but by using meth, you develop hypertension. As mentioned previously, hypertension can lead to a vast array of health complications, since it forces the heart and body to work harder to keep your organs fed with blood and oxygen.
It’s important to note that this does not only apply to illegal drugs, but to abuse of prescription drugs as well, such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and other similar amphetamine-based prescriptions.
When used responsibly, these medications can be safe and effective, but their potential for abuse can be high.
Ecstasy is another culprit of hypertension and can be extremely dangerous when taken in high doses.
Ecstasy works by increasing serotonin throughout the brain and body. Serotonin is a potent vasoconstrictor, meaning that it tightens/constricts your veins. Like the previously mentioned drugs, this can lead to hypertension and other blood pressure-related health problems.
Serotonin promoting drugs known as triptans are often used specifically to prevent migraines caused by the over-dilation/expansion of blood vessels. Triptans work by releasing serotonin from the brain, causing vasoconstriction throughout the brain.
As with most drugs, ecstasy is often laced with toxic and unknown compounds. Some of these compounds can be extremely toxic. It isn’t unheard of for people to lace this drug with substances such as rat poison in order to give the user a more potent “high”.
Xanax belongs to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. These types of drugs are often used for anxiety or panic attacks. They are frequently abused due to their addictive sedative effects and can have severe withdrawal symptoms. These drugs often cause hypotension and can even lead to the user being unable to breathe.
Xanax is most often obtained by prescription and can have long-lasting effects on the user when abused. One of the trickiest parts about quitting Xanax is the withdrawal symptoms. In addition to its effects on blood pressure, once you stop taking Xanax, you might feel even more anxiety than when you first started. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with a professional drug treatment service.
Overall, there are hundreds of illegal drugs that can have lasting health effects and affect your blood pressure. It’s important to avoid these substances and get drug addiction treatment help advice as soon as possible.
It’s totally possible to quit, so if you’re struggling with addiction to any type of drug take the first step today and reach out, your body will thank you!
The debate on whether or not drugs should be legal has been going on for over a century. If we look back 150 years ago, we can see that the Opium Wars crippled China for many decades. Some argue that there are still parts of China that haven’t even recovered from the epidemic.
We can also look to the morphine and laudanum epidemic that ravaged the United States post-civil war until those drugs became regulated. Finally, we can look at today, where certain states such as Utah and Ohio have incredibly high rates of opium related deaths, compared to other states in America.
In the early 2000s, Portugal decided to decriminalize drugs of all types after two decades of some of the strongest abuse rates in its nation's history. These days, if you are caught being in possession of any drugs, you are either given a warning, a fine, or are told to appear before a local commission.
This local commission is made up of social workers, lawyers, and doctors, who help drug users understand that there are treatments and support available to them.
Since this change, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in substance abuse rates, as well as addiction rates. There are still some long-term concerns with this policy, though. Since the policy hasn’t been in effect for very long, it's hard to tell what the results will be on the overall health of Portugal’s people.
Diseases such as hepatitis C and liver cancer are prevalent in people who abuse hard drugs, and only time will tell if decriminalizing these drugs was an effective move.
It's important to note that just because decriminalizing all drugs in Portugal has seemingly had a positive effect; it doesn’t mean that this approach will work universally. Every nation’s situation is vastly different, and this isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.
Decriminalizing drugs in the United States is prone to many problems, but the current system we have in place does not seem to be very effective either.
It seems that the key to minimizing the drug epidemic in America is to provide people the help and resources that they need to recover from their addiction.
Addiction is almost always considered a disease by most medical institutions, and to fight it you need to treat the person who is suffering the same way you would treat someone who is suffering from any other ailment.
Throwing a drug addict in jail doesn’t solve any problems. In many ways, it's just putting off the issue until that person gets out of jail, only to repeat the same offenses.
A report done by CASA Colombia found that in 2005, the government spent around 74 billion dollars on incarceration costs for substance-related offenders (which included court proceedings, probation, parole, and actual incarceration).
In contrast, the government only spent only 632 million (which is less than 1% of 74 billion) on prevention and addiction treatment.
On top of that, the report found that only 11% of all inmates received treatment and help for their addiction. Based on this data, it seems that the focus in prison is to use fear and punishment as prevention, rather than providing inmates with the help that they need to recover.
When you look at Portugal’s approach to drug addiction, it does appear as though they are on the right track towards handling drug addiction.
In the United States, if you are caught being in possession of any schedule one drug, (which includes heroin, LSD, cocaine, meth, etc.) it is considered a felony.
If it’s not your first time being charged with possession, it will almost certainly result in spending time in jail and/or a very large fine. On the surface, the reasoning behind this makes sense. If you do something that is against the law, you go to jail.
This is how governments and societies have worked for centuries, but this solution has proven over the past couple of decades to be ineffective.
Since the “war on drugs” started back in the ’80s, the government has spent over 1 trillion dollars in efforts to control the use of these illegal substances; meanwhile, the number of people incarcerated for drug usage has drastically increased.
Clearly, the way that we handle things currently isn’t working, and we need to find another solution. Locking people up in jail doesn’t prevent the problem; it only prolongs the problem.
Although Portugal seems to be on the right track, it doesn’t feel right saying that we should make every illegal drug legal.
In the same report referenced earlier, CASA Colombia found that out of the 2.3 million people who were incarcerated at the time, 85% had a record of substance abuse.
On top of this, drugs were involved in 78% of all violent crimes, and 83% of all property crimes. Based on this data, it seems incorrect to legalize all drugs.
People who are under the influence of drugs can be hazardous and unpredictable, which is why drug-related laws were created in the first place. Long term abuse of these drugs can also be incredibly harmful to your body.
According to the American Addiction Center, prolonged use of cocaine is heavily linked to heart and brain problems, due to the fact that the drug alters the user’s respiratory system. These problems are often not easily detected, and when they are, it is often too late to do anything about it.
Answering the initial question of “should all drugs be legalized?”, is a very complex and delicate matter, and is not as simple as yes or no. We need to find a new way to handle these issues because the drug laws we have in place don’t seem to work. The black market can add dangerous, synthetic drugs that perhaps would have never been created, had other drugs been legal.
Portugal had a great initial idea of helping and treating people who are addicted to drugs, rather than incarcerating them. The real question is whether this type of approach would work in the United States.
Regardless of location or individual beliefs, we need to move away from harsh punishments and instead focus on helping people with addictions recover.
When you think of illegal drugs, the environment may not be the first thought in your mind. Contrary to what most people may believe, illegal drug use does harm the environment in multiple ways.
Cocaine is one of the most serious offenders in the drug world. Before we get into the actual process by which cocaine harms the environment, let’s go over some of the basics about the drug itself.
Cocaine is an illegal drug that is fairly common among those who are addicted to drugs. Its effects are noticed very quickly, but also disappear very quickly as well. Due to its short-term effects, cocaine is often abused multiple times a day and can lead to severe health consequences. 
Due to the short length of time that cocaine affects the user, it can get very pricey very quickly. Many people find themselves becoming so addicted that they dose multiple times a day and run through their savings quickly.
Cocaine also has some serious health effects which can even lead to death. Cocaine is so damaging to the heart that even a first-time user can have a fatal heart attack. Cocaine alters the body in some serious ways, leading to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and increased body temperature.
In addition to the physical effects listed above, cocaine also has some powerful mental effects. Cocaine can cause feelings of anger, irritability, anxiety, and paranoia.
Cocaine is one of the most environmentally destructive drugs on the planet. Cocaine production doesn’t just end up causing pollution, but actually destroys the rainforest itself.
In order to understand how cocaine affects the environment so much, we need to back up and look at how cocaine is created.
Cocaine is extracted from coca leaves, which are found primarily in the Amazon rainforest in South America. The amazon is a massive rainforest and makes up a significant portion of the world’s trees and biome.
Drug cartels and smugglers create cocaine from the leaves of the coca tree. The process by which cocaine is created is extremely inefficient and involves cutting down many trees to make a small amount of powdered cocaine.
This means that the higher the demand for cocaine becomes, the more coca trees are needed. Cartel members and other cocaine producers are constantly being met with a huge demand that they seek to fill.
This demand leads to them chop down the rainforest in order to clear room for more coca trees. Cocaine producers don’t care about the environment, plant life, or animal life in the area, and often cut or burn down large portions of the Amazon rainforest in order to make room for more coca trees.
This leads to out of control fires and the loss of many different species of plant and animal life. There are many species of animals that live in the Amazon rainforest that are now endangered due to these practices. Some endangered species in the amazon include golden lion tamarin monkeys, poison dart frogs, harpy eagles, and jaguars.
Besides harming the environment, cocaine harms billions of lives every year. There are obvious cases such as those who use cocaine personally, but there are other cases you might not have thought about yet either.
Gangs in Columbia and other parts of the amazon rainforest are always doing what they can to produce as much cocaine as possible. They generally don’t care about human life, the environment, or anything else besides money.
There is so much gang violence and competition for cocaine production that many people are killed by gangs in the area. These gangs are fighting for control of portions of the Amazon so that they can produce even more cocaine. In addition, gangs will often place land mines and other incendiary devices throughout the rainforest so that people won’t steal their crop of coca trees.
These landmines claim hundreds of innocent victims' lives every day, and also cause the death of many animals in the rainforest.
Native tribes and other people who live near or in the amazon are often uprooted and have their possessions stolen or burned by gangs who are creating more space for their cocaine production efforts.
Children are often used as manual labor for harvesting coca leaves and treated inhumanely. They are even sometimes told to use cocaine, and subsequently, become addicted. These inhumane labor forces are used to destroy the rainforest and harvest coca leaves, which are then turned into the drug cocaine.
In addition to harming animals, plant life, and the environment, cocaine usage has some seriously damaging effects on individual communities. Cocaine sales put more and more money in the pockets of gang members, which trickles back into the pockets of those cartels who destroy the environment to produce more and more of the drug.
This also leads to violence in the community, as many gangs and individuals fight over rights to sell cocaine, and even fight over usage of the drug itself.
In the USA, law enforcement spends over $25 billion every year on drug treatment, prevention, and enforcement actions. A good portion of this drug-related spending is from cocaine itself, which means cocaine is harming people, animals, the environment, and even indirectly increasing the amount we pay for taxes.
Cocaine may seem like any other illegal drug, but it has some serious lasting effects that go beyond just the user’s life. Cocaine production is responsible for major environmental destruction.
This environmental destruction has led to the endangerment of multiple species, the destruction of native tribes, and the destruction of the rainforest itself.
In addition to the environmental issues noted above, cocaine is responsible for billions of dollars of government spending, and only amplifies gang-related crimes in countries around the world.