Alcohol consumption causes a number of marked changes in behavior. Even low doses significantly impair the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely. Low to moderate doses of alcohol also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts. Moderate to high doses of alcohol cause marked impairment of higher mental functions, severely altering a person's ability to learn and remember information. Very high doses cause respiratory depression and death. If combined with other depressants of the central nervous system, much lower doses of alcohol can lead to dependence. Sudden cessation of regular alcohol use is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations, and convulsions. Alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening. Long-term consumption of large quantities of alcohol can also lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain and the liver.
Females who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. These infants have irreversible physical abnormalities and mental retardation. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other children of becoming alcoholics. Alcohol use is often related to acquaintance rape and failure to protect oneself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Additionally, alcohol-related accidents are the number one cause of death in the 16-24 year age group.
Illegal drugs are defined in terms of their chemical formulas. To circumvent these legal restrictions, "underground" chemists modify the molecular structure of certain illegal drugs to produce analogs known as "designer drugs." These drugs can be several hundred times stronger that the drugs they are designed to imitate. Many of the so-called designer drugs are related to amphetamines (MDMA, X).
Bootleg manufacture creates overdose and contamination risks. These substances can produce severe neurochemical damage to the brain. The narcotic analogs (fetanyl, china white) can cause symptoms such as those seen in Parkinson's disease: uncontrollable tremors, drooling, impaired speech, paralysis, and irreversible brain damage. Analogs of amphetamines and methamphetamines cause nausea, blurred vision, chills or sweating, and faintness. Psychological effects include anxiety, depression, and paranoia. As little as one dose can cause brain damage. The analogs of phencyclidine (PCP) cause delusions, hallucinations, and impaired perception.
Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system. Cocaine use can cause death by cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Its immediate effects include dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature. Occasional use can cause a stuffy or runny nose, while chronic use can ulcerate the mucous membrane of the nose. Sharing contaminated needles and syringes for injecting cocaine can spread the AIDS virus, hepatitis, and other diseases. Cocaine can produce psychological and physical dependency, a feeling that the user cannot function without the drug. In addition, tolerance develops rapidly. "Crack," or "freebase rock," is extremely addictive, and its effects are felt within ten seconds. The physical effects include dilated pupils, increased pulse rate, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, tactile hallucinations, paranoia, and seizures.
Stimulants can cause increased heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, and decreased appetite. In addition, users may experience sweating, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Extremely high doses can cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat, tremors, loss of coordination, and even physical collapse. An amphetamine injection creates a sudden increase in blood pressure that can result in stroke, very high fever, or heart failure. In addition to the physical effects, users report feeling restless, anxious, and moody. Higher doses intensify the effects. Persons who use large amounts of amphetamines over a long period of time can develop an amphetamine psychosis that includes hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
All forms of cannabis can result in negative physical and mental effects. Use of cannabis may impair or reduce short-term memory and comprehension, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Research also shows that students do not retain knowledge when they are "high." Motivation and cognition may be altered, making the acquisition of new information difficult. Marijuana can also produce paranoia and psychosis. Because users often inhale the unfiltered smoke deeply and then hold it in their lungs as long as possible, marijuana is damaging to the lungs and pulmonary system: marijuana smoke contains more cancer-causing agents than tobacco smoke. Long-term users of cannabis may develop psychological dependence and require more of the drug to get the same effect.
Lysergic acid (LSD), mescaline, and psilocybin cause delusions and hallucinations. The physical effects may include dilated pupils, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and tremors. Sensations and feelings may change rapidly. It is common to have bad psychological reactions to LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. The user may experience panic, confusion, suspicion, anxiety, and loss of control. Delayed effects, or "flashbacks" can occur even after use has ceased.
Users of PCP report persistent memory problems and speech difficulties. Some of these effects may last six months to a year following prolonged daily use. Mood disorders--depression, anxiety, and violent behavior also occur. In later stages of chronic use, users often exhibit paranoid and violent behavior. Large doses may produce convulsions and coma, as well as heart and lung failure.
The effects of depressants are in many ways similar to the effects of alcohol (which is itself a depressant). Small amounts can produce calmness and relaxed muscles, but somewhat larger doses can cause slurred speech, staggering gait, and altered perception. Large doses can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death. The combination of depressants and alcohol can multiply the effects of the drugs, thereby multiplying the risks. The use of depressants can cause both physical and psychological dependence. Regular use over time may result in a tolerance to the drug, leading the user to increase the quantity consumed. When regular users suddenly stop taking large doses, they may develop withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety to convulsions and death.