Information About Other Drugs:

Marijuana (Cannabis, Pot, Weed, Ganja, Reefer)

What It Is:

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal substance in the world today, and one of the most controversial. The flowers/buds and leaves of the Cannabis plant are dried and consumed by smoking or eating, as well as vaping. THC and other chemical compounds in the plant, known as cannabinoids, produce a psychoactive effect for the user. Depending on state legislature, marijuana can be prescribed medically for the treatment of various conditions or sold for recreational use. That being said, universities abide by federal law, meaning that marijuana is illegal on college campuses despite individual state laws.

Perceived Benefits and Researched Risks:

Individual experiences with marijuana vary widely based on numerous factors, including the user's mental state, tolerance, and the environment. The "high" may only last a few hours, but THC stays in the body for days and the metabolites are eliminated from the body within 2-4 weeks, depending on frequency of consumption. Marijuana can also be consumed in an edible form, producing a delayed, more intense "high" that can last 3-8 hours. Though this method minimizes the impact on the lungs due to the reduction of carcinogens, it can be difficult to control the intensity of the effects when made outside of laboratory settings, as dosage can vary significantly. Possible benefits of marijuana use include:

  • Physical and mental relaxation
  • Elevated mood
  • Drowsiness or sedation
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Increased appetite
  • Pain relief
  • Decreased nausea
  • Reduced inflammation

Most research on the effects of marijuana focuses on THC; however there are hundreds other compounds produced when consuming the drug. The effects and long-term impact of these compounds on various body systems is largely unknown. Researched risks include:

  • Impaired memory, learning ability, and other cognitive functions. This may last for up to 72 hours after use, because of the slow elimination of THC from the body.
  • Increased danger with heart conditions due to increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased paranoia and/or anxiety
  • Panic attack
  • Increased anxiety, depression, or insomnia over time with continued use
  • Impaired lung function or chronic bronchitis with heavy long-term use
  • Irregular menstrual cycles or decreased sperm count due to suppression of hormone production
  • Long-term use beginning at a young age may lead to permanent cognitive deficits
  • Reduction in academic effort and motivation
  • Legal or disciplinary consequences

Effects of Combining Marijuana with Other Drugs:

  • Marijuana and Alcohol: Alcohol can increase blood THC levels when consumed alongside marijuana because alcohol opens up the blood vessels in your digestive tract, which accelerates THC absorption. Inversely, marijuana can also affect how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. When used together, there is a high possibility of "greening out," a nauseous sensation that can cause pale skin, sweatiness, dizziness, and vomiting. Additionally, impairments in short- and long-term memory formation are heightened.
  • Marijuana and Opioids: Research is showing that marijuana can be used to help stem the overuse of prescription and illicit opioids. Marijuana is less addictive and can be used in tandem with lower opioid doses to reduce risk of dependency and minimize side effects, or to help treat opioid addiction itself.
  • Marijuana and Sedatives: Marijuana can have a sedative effect on the user, which can produce an additive effect when combined with sedatives, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and some antidepressants. Combination of the two can be cause severe sleepiness and users should be cautious of operating heavy machinery.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    How exactly is memory impaired by marijuana?
    Memory is formed in the hippocampus, and areas of the hippocampus are impacted by smoking marijuana. While experiencing a high, the ability to store new information as memory is significantly decreased compared with when learning while sober.


    Can you get addicted to marijuana?
    About 9% of long-term users experience some typical symptoms associated with dependence. With chronic use, you may develop a tolerance to marijuana and may experience cravings for it. Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, or nausea may be experienced after cessation, especially following chronic use.


    Opiates (Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Heroin)

    What They Are:

    Opioid analgesics include illegal street drugs such as heroin, as well as medically-used or illegally-abused painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), or morphine. Opioids are taken either intravenously, by snorting, or by swallowing pills. Depending on the dosage and several other biological factors, the effects of opioids vary greatly in duration.

    Heroin can be found as a white powder, coarse granules, or small, light brown rocks and is usually injected, but can be smoked or added to cigarettes or marijuana. Effects last from 3-5 hours.

    What They Do:

    Opioids work by binding to opioid receptors in the body to slow down pain signals. Opioid painkillers are most commonly prescribed by doctors to help patients alleviate moderate to severe pain, particularly pain that may not respond well to other medications. Opioids affect everyone differently, but effects may include:

    • Cause a rush of intense pleasure and pain relief, followed by a dreamy state
    • Decrease sensitivity to pain
    • Relaxation and drowsiness
    • Slow down breathing
    • Pupils contract
    • Slowed/slurred speech

    Researched Risks:

    There is increasing concern about the risks of using opioid painkillers due to their highly addictive nature. When a patient stays on these medications for extended periods of time they can develop a tolerance to the drug, needing more of it to achieve the same effects. If unable to continue their increased use, they can experience withdrawal, which heightens the risk of using illicit alternatives like heroin, a cheaper, more potent substitute, to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

    • Highly addictive
    • Withdrawal symptoms, particularly after abruptly ceasing use, including runny nose, difficulty sleeping, hot and cold flushes, muscle pains, spasms, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, and increased heart rate
    • Overdose, especially if misusing painkillers without medical supervision
    • Depressed mood after effects have worn off
    • Mood swings
    • Sexual dysfunction and reduced libido
    • Constipation
    • Drowsiness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Vein damage, as well as skin, heart, and lung infections from injections

    Effects of Combining Opioids with Other Drugs:

    • Opioids and Depressants (Alcohol, marijuana, benzodiazepines): Danger of overdose is increased when used with other depressant drugs that may slow breathing
    • Opioids and MAOIs (antidepressants): Convulsions, respiratory failure, coma, and death
    • Opioids and Stimulants (Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, MDMA, etc.): Immense strain on body, particularly the heart and kidneys, with an increased risk of overdose

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    If I don't take them very often, it's unlikely I'll get addicted, right?
    No one gets addicted on purpose. Physical dependency to painkillers can happen in a surprisingly short amount of time. Stressful or painful situations can lead to an increased desire to use painkillers recreationally, and even a short period of frequent use can lead to dependency and very unpleasant withdrawal. The best way to avoid becoming addicted is to never use painkillers recreationally. If you have been prescribed a painkiller by a doctor, safely dispose of the leftover pills. If you are concerned that you may be addicted, schedule a First Step appointment by calling (215) 573-3525.


    Hallucinogens (Psychedelics, LSD, Shrooms, PCP)

    What They Are:

    Illegal psychoactive drugs that change the user's perceptions, thoughts, and mood. Some common examples include:

    • LSD - typically appears as a small piece of blotter paper containing a few drops of the substance, but can also appear in pill or liquid form, typically lasting about 9-12 hours.
    • Psilocybin Mushroom - appears as a dried mushroom or powder in capsules. Effects are similar to LSD, typically lasting about 6 hours.
    • Peyote Cactus - contains mescaline. Effects are comparable to LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.
    • PCP and Ketamine - dissociative anesthetics appearing as an injectable solution, powder, capsules/tablets, or liquid.

    What They Do:

    Individual experiences with hallucinogens vary widely from person to person and from use to use. Some of the features of hallucinogen use include:

    • Altered sense of time and space
    • Perceived detachment from surroundings
    • Mood swings
    • Hallucinations (false sensory experiences)
    • Pseudohallucinations (false sensory experiences that are understood to be unreal)
    • Illusions (sensory distortions of reality)
    • Physical symptoms, such as dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite, and sleeplessness

    Researched Risks:

    • PCP can be lethal at doses used recreationally
    • Physical symptoms such as nausea, numbness, jitteriness, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing
    • Psychologically distressing or frightening perceptions (aka "a bad trip") that can result in PTSD symptoms
    • Injury or death sustained from actions taken within a perceived but false reality (i.e. jumping from a high surface because you believe you can fly), or overdose
    • Psychosis
    • Flashbacks (sensory recollections of the drug experience, well after the drug has left the system) are common in heavy users, and may be psychologically distressing
    • Tolerance to hallucinogens develops rapidly
    • Any drug purchased on the street may be impure or something else entirely

    Effects of Combining Hallucinogens with Other Drugs:

    • PCP and Alcohol/Other Sedatives: Combination can be lethal due to the conflicting stimulant effects of PCP and sedatives
    • LSD and Marijuana: Greater risk of a "bad trip"
    • PCP-coated Tobacco or Marijuana: Can lead to a dissociative psychotic state

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    If I only shroom once a year nothing bad will happen, right?
    You are at risk any time you shroom or use any other hallucinogen. Even the same person using the same drug on several occasions can have wildly variant experiences each time. Each individual use comes with its own risk of a "bad trip," during which anxiety and fear can cause a person to take actions that cause injury or death. Also, the bizarre behavior that often accompanies hallucinogen use makes it easier to get caught and be subject to legal consequences. As with other drugs, you can never actually know whether the substance you purchased is what the seller says it is.


    MDMA/Ecstasy (Molly)

    What It Is:

    MDMA (N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine), also known as Ecstasy, is an illegal, recreational, psychoactive and stimulant drug. While Ecstasy refers to the pill form, it can also be found as a powder or crystal form, known as "Molly." Standard doses range from 60-120mg; higher doses carry increased risk of overdose or death. Effects are felt 30-45 minutes after dose, peak 60-90 minutes after dose and hold for approximately 2 hours, then taper and disappear 4-6 hours after dose.

    What It Does:

    Individual experiences with MDMA vary widely from person to person and from use to use. What is called ecstasy today may actually contain little to none of the active ingredient, MDMA; it can be combined or laced with amphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, caffeine, PMA (another hallucinogenic similar to MDMA), and/or many other substances, making it hard to predict how someone may react. Some of the common effects of MDMA include:

    • Warm feelings of empathy and euphoria due to the brain being flooded with serotonin
    • Enhanced or distorted sensory perception
    • Increased alertness and energy
    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
    • Increase in pleasure and libido, with decrease in sexual performance, which can last long after use
    • Decreased appetite

    Researched Risks:

    • Jitteriness, teeth-clenching, dry mouth, muscle cramping, nausea
    • Decreased sexual performance during use, which can last long after coming down
    • Increased body temperature can lead to dehydration, muscle breakdown, or kidney failure that can be fatal. This is exacerbated by hot environments with physical activity, such as raves or concerts.
    • Over-hydrating in response to high body temperature can lead to headache, nausea, vomiting, seizure, and brain-swelling, and can be fatal
    • Interference with metabolism, meaning repeated use within a session can be harder for your body to process, making it more toxic with each use
    • Exhaustion or confusion post-"high"
    • Heart attack, stroke, or seizure
    • Psychological consequences after use may include depression, irritability, aggression, panic attacks, paranoia, and impaired memory
    • Possible permanent damage to dopamine or serotonin receptors in the brain

    Effects of Combining MDMA with Other Drugs:

    • MDMA and Alcohol: Stimulant effects may mask sedative symptoms of alcohol intoxication, blocking the body's signals that too much alcohol has been consumed. This increases likelihood of alcohol overdose. Alcohol also exacerbates the dehydrating effects of MDMA.
    • MDMA and Opiates (OxyContin, Vicodin, heroin, etc.): Similarly to alcohol, the sedative effects of opiates can be masked by the stimulant effects of MDMA, making it more difficult to recognize symptoms of overdose.
    • MDMA and Stimulants: Increased risk of anxiety and reduced brain functioning as a result of dopamine depletion. Highly increased risk of stroke or overdose due to the immense strain on the heart and body.
    • MDMA and Marijuana: May lead to cognitive decline, specifically memory impairment.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    I heard that MDMA is pure and therefore less risky than Ecstasy. Is that true?MDMA, Ecstasy, and Molly are one and the same. Nothing you buy on the street can be assumed to be what you hoped you were buying, and it most definitely is not "pure." In fact, what is called Ecstasy today may actually contain little to none of the active ingredient, MDMA, and can be a mixture of amphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, caffeine, PMA (another hallucinogenic similar to MDMA), and/or many other substances, making it difficult to predict how someone may react.


    Stimulants (Cocaine, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine):

    Cocaine

    What It Is:

    Cocaine hydrochloride is a central nervous system stimulant derived from the coca plant. Cocaine is usually inhaled or rubbed on gums as a white powder, or dissolved for injection. The drug can also be heated and inhaled as crack, a cheaper version of cocaine often diluted with baking soda or ammonia and cooked down into smokeable rocks. Effects last between 15 minutes and 2 hours depending on how it is consumed.

    What It Does:

    Individual experiences with cocaine vary widely from person to person and from use to use. Some of the features of cocaine use include:

    • Creates a feeling of euphoria, or good well-being, and confidence due to the interference of the reabsorption of dopamine, the "happy hormone."
    • Creates an energetic, alert "rush"
    • Greater motivation
    • Increased libido
    • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch

    Researched Risks:

    There are many short- and long-term risks of cocaine use, including:

    • Physical symptoms, including raised blood pressure, heart rate, rapid breathing, tense muscles, and "jitters"
    • "Crashing" after use (experience of exhaustion, depression, and increased appetite), which may lead to emotional instability and strong cravings for continued use
    • Depression, especially shortly after the substance wears off due to the dip in dopamine
    • Possible increase in agitation, irritability, mood swings, or aggression
    • Delayed sleep or insomnia
    • Decreased appetite
    • Nosebleeds and chronic nasal irritation
    • With frequent use, one may experience paranoia, anxiety, confusion, and even hallucinations
    • Regular consumption can cause lasting physical effects such as constricted blood vessels, tremors and muscle twitches, dilated pupils, nausea, and degeneration of nasal passages if snorted.
    • Highly addictive due to the immediate and intense effects, as well as the low incidence of unpleasant side effects during use
    • Withdrawal symptoms include increased appetite, anxiety, depression, nightmares, insomnia, and restlessness

    Effects of Combining Cocaine with Other Drugs:

    • Cocaine and Opiates (OxyContin, Vicodin, heroin, etc.): Commonly known as "speedballing." The arousal caused by cocaine is counteracted by the sedation of the opiate. This can mask the cocaine high, leading to a desire for an increased cocaine dose and therefore increased risk of overdose.
    • Cocaine and Alcohol: Cocaine can mask the depressive effects of alcohol, so the body's natural warnings to stop or slow drinking are inhibited. This can lead to increased drinking and alcohol poisoning. Heart rate is increased 3-5 times more than when cocaine is taken alone, which increases risk of cardiac arrest when alcohol is introduced. The liver combines alcohol and cocaine to form cocaethylene, which intensifies the effect of cocaine and increases chances of sudden death.


    Amphetamines (Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, etc.)

    What They Are:

    Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that can appear in several forms, including Adderall, Ritalin, or Concerta, and can be consumed in their pill form, snorted, injected, or smoked. These can be medically prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as ADHD or narcolepsy, or even be used as diet pills. Depending on the dosage, version (immediate or extended release), and several other biological factors, amphetamines vary greatly in duration, from 4 to 12 hours on average.

    What They Do:

    Amphetamines can be prescribed to people struggling with ADHD, narcolepsy, or other sleep disorders to increase alertness and focus. Though there are many substances that fall under this category, the general effects of amphetamines include:

    • Happiness and confidence
    • Increased energy
    • Increased concentration, attention, and memory retention for individuals with ADHD
    • Reduction of symptoms for sufferers of sleep disorders
    • Reduced appetite, as well as increased metabolism
    • Increased libido
    • Physical symptoms, like excessive sweating, teeth grinding, and increased heart rate and breathing

      Researched Risks:

      Illicit amphetamine use can be seen in many places, particularly as "study drugs" for students hoping to increase concentration, memory, or attention. Unfortunately, research shows that study drugs have little to no impact on academic performance for those not suffering from ADHD, and recent studies even suggest that misuse can negatively impact academics. Without frequent oversight of a licensed doctor, the user can develop tolerance, physical dependence, and other researched risks including:

      • Delayed sleep
      • Heart complications
      • Irritability, mood swings, or depression
      • Ulcers
      • Damage to central nervous system
      • Prolonged exposure can cause psychosis
      • High potential for addiction due to the immediate and intense effects, as well as the low incidence of unpleasant side effects during use
      • Withdrawal
      • High doses can result in seizure, stroke, breathing failure, sudden cardiac death, or overdose
      • Self-medication can lead to an overreliance on study drugs to perform academically

      Effects of Combining Amphetamines with Other Drugs:

      • Amphetamines and Alcohol, Marijuana, or Benzodiazepines: Puts the body under immense stress because of the conflicting effects of stimulants and depressants, which can lead to overdose. Amphetamines can mask effects of alcohol, which can lead to higher rates of drinking and alcohol poisoning.
      • Amphetamines and Some Antidepressants: Can cause elevated blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, or stroke.

       Frequently Asked Questions:

      If I take Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription and it helps me study, what's the problem?There are a few potential problems with this habit. First, relying on a pill rather than developing stronger work habits and stress-management skills can inhibit personal growth. Second, popping a pill to study isn't actually associated with getting higher grades. Third, stimulants are addictive. Fourth, it is illegal for you to take someone else's prescription and for them to give or sell it to you. And finally, these drugs can have serious consequences for people with heart conditions, many of which are undetected. If you are struggling with your work habits and it is causing stress, consider making an appointment at Weingarten Learning Resources Center to learn to learn more effective study habits.


      Methamphetamine

      What It Is:

      Methamphetamine is another stimulant drug that is used recreationally, often appearing as a white crystalline powder. Crystal methamphetamine is one form of the drug, manufactured into small, glass-like fragments or shiny, blue/white/yellow/pink rocks. Meth can be consumed orally, snorted, smoked, or injected. Effects of a single use can last about 6 to 12 hours.

      What It Does:

      Individual experiences with methamphetamine vary widely from person to person and from use to use. Some common effects include:

      • Create a feeling of euphoria, or good well-being, and confidence
      • Create an energetic, alert feeling
      • Possible increase in agitation, irritability, mood swings, aggression, or paranoia
      • Delay sleep
      • Decrease appetite
      • Dilate the bronchioles of the lungs
      • Physical symptoms include dry mouth, dehydration, sweaty hands, and increased heart rate and blood pressure

      Researched Risks:

      • Highly addictive. The drive to continue use of cocaine or amphetamine is higher than most other addictive drugs because of the immediate and intense effects, as well as the low incidence of unpleasant side effects during use.
      • Psychiatric effects such as hostility, paranoia, belligerence, or psychosis with repeated high-dose use
      • High doses can result in seizure, stroke, breathing failure, sudden cardiac death, or overdose
      • Sexual dysfunction
      • Damage to nasal septum from snorting, or teeth/gums when rubbing it on gums.
      • Mouth sores and tooth decay
      • Scabs due to "meth mites," a common crawling sensation that causes users to respond with scratching or picking at skin
      • Suppressed immune system and slower recovery of the sores and scabs, as well as  other illnesses
      • Long-term meth use can cause cardiac hypertrophy or fibrosis, increasing the chance of a heart attack, verbal learning impairment, and even impaired motor functioning

      Effects of Combining Methamphetamine with Other Drugs:

      • Methamphetamine and MDMA/Ecstasy: Enormous strain on the heart and other parts of the body, which can lead to stroke.
      • Methamphetamine and Alcohol, Marijuana, or Benzodiazepines: Puts the body under immense stress because of the conflicting effects of stimulants and depressants, which can lead to overdose. Methamphetamine can mask effects of alcohol, which can lead to higher rates of drinking and alcohol poisoning.