One special problem with any drug you buy on the street is that you can never be sure exactly what you are getting. At best, you get what you asked for — probably cut with a sugar or starch compound. Often — unfortunately — you get something other than what you expect: A different drug altogether or a drug cut with harmful substances or contaminated with impurities. Drug dealers are in business to make money. They need to make lots of it to make their risks worthwhile. Keeping drugs pure costs money, so it is not a very important consideration to dealers. Remember, the FDA isn't protecting the purity of street drugs.
Cigarettes, coffee, tea and cola drinks contain legal stimulants (nicotine and caffeine). Amphetamines, cocaine and crack are also stimulants. Side effects include jittery feelings, irritability and palpitations. More serious side effects include sleep problems and decline in appetites for food and sex. The most serious problem is that these drugs are very addictive. Stimulants produce exaggerated feelings of energy, alertness and well-being. Unfortunately, when the drug effect wears off, a corresponding period of exhaustion and depression sets in. These effects reinforce a desire for more drugs to combat the low feelings.
Beverages with alcohol are depressants. Barbiturates ("downers") and narcotics (such as heroin) are also depressants. Side effects include slowing of reflexes and reactions, slurred speech, impaired judgment and blurred perceptions. These effects make it especially dangerous to drive. People feel that they are performing well when in fact their abilities are impaired. Other serious effects include dependence and addiction. Depressants produce relaxed, calm feelings. Over time, depression and anxiety increase, and more and more drugs are required to suppress these feelings. Alcohol-related accidents and diseases cause more deaths than all other drugs combined.
Marijuana ("smoke" or "pot") and hashish ("hash") both contain the chemical THC. Side effects include impairment of judgment, memory and concentration; some inexperienced users experience anxiety attacks. These drugs, like alcohol, are often used in social situations because of the enhancement of sensory perception and lowered inhibitions some users experience. The main danger is psychological dependence where getting high is used to avoid personal problems or uncomfortable feelings. These drugs may also be contaminated with other chemicals in order to "enhance" their effect or where pesticides or other agricultural chemicals have been used on the plants.
LSD ("acid"), mescaline and psilocybin are hallucinogens that cause powerful, extreme and unpredictable changes in mood and perception during a 10- to 12-hour "trip" period. The trip can be unpleasant and disorienting with unpredictable reoccurrences ("flashbacks") for months afterward. A "bad trip" can cause considerable anxiety.
Phencyclidine (PCP or "angel dust") produces a masking of inhibitions and pain perception and disrupts the intellect. While some people enjoy the disorientation, others experience confusion, agitation, unrealistic fears, speech disturbances, memory and mood problems.
A serious problem with many drugs is the potential for overdose. Because these drugs are not distributed under controlled conditions, it is impossible to know their strength (or exact composition). Many users do not understand the dangers of mixing drugs that multiply each others' effects. Combining alcohol, depressants, cocaine and/or narcotics can drastically lower the overdose threshold. High doses shut down vital brain control centers, leading to death from lack of oxygen.
Try to stop using drugs (including legal ones) for one month. If you have trouble doing so, you have a problem and need professional help.
AIDS is a serious, specific risk for people who share needles in order to inject any drug. If you share a needle, you stand a very good chance of being dead within five years from AIDS. Unfortunately, most drugs interfere with judgment, so those most at risk are least likely to take the risk seriously. Since drugs lower inhibitions, people using drugs are more likely to be exposed to AIDS through unsafe sex (more than one partner and/or not using condoms).
If You Need Help
If you or someone you care about needs free, confidential help with a drug or other personal problem, speak with a professional counselor in 0203 James Hall, 718.951.5363.