How Drugs Can Harm Your Personality And Social Life

Negative Effects of Drugs on Personality and Social Life

Most people use substances for the perceived benefit of experiencing a change in their state of consciousness. While intoxicated, negative experiences such as self-consciousness, stress, over-thinking, anxiety, and fear are reduced. The very same brain mechanisms which permit these negative experiences, however, are at work in making sure that you stay true to who you are. When you shut down your tendency to be hindered, you are also shutting down the parts of yourself that make you genuine.


Substance-Induced Ugliness

Over the centuries, the power of drugs and alcohol have been regularly referenced as evil forces. Alcohol has been called devil’s water, and those under the influence of psychoactive drugs have been called demon possessed. While our progress in scientific study has largely done away with the notion that the effects of substances are related to supernatural influence, it is still observable that people can act very ugly while under the influence. A normally kind, patient, and thoughtful person can begin to act like someone else, entirely. A major flip in personality while intoxicated is a red flag for having a substance abuse problem.

The negative behavior of someone who is intoxicated can be observed both while the person is under the influence, and during the in-between times of withdrawal. There are many hypotheses as to why some people have this tendency to become a more angry, violent, hopeless, or sad version of themselves during this time. One of the explanations for this change in behavior has roots in studies of the unconscious.  While intoxicated, a major control center of the brain – known as the executive function – shuts down. This results in a situation where there is no process remaining by which to consciously make decisions. Traces of information, emotions, and impulses which lurk behind that doorkeeper of the mind are set loose with no filter, with no rationale, and with no long-term goals of survival in mind.

This lack of ability to think ahead and make decisions using all available information while intoxicated can contribute to making some very bad decisions. People in this state can say incredibly hurtful things to those they genuinely care about. They can end up telling off people who hold influence over ongoing livelihood, such as a boss. They can pick a fight with a tough opponent or a law enforcement official, and end up in the hospital or jail. None of these terrible consequences would have occurred if such person was in a sober, thoughtful, mindset.


The Deception of Better Performance

There are some who are certain that their excessive drug or alcohol consumption is not a problem. These folks are usually standing on the argument that they actually become better people while under the influence. A shy person might say that he is only able to be social in a group once the alcohol has hit his bloodstream. A highly anxious person might say that she is only able to calm down enough to think after taking a couple of hits. A person may use the substances to put in the extra hours at work, and rise to the top of a corporate ladder.

One only need to look at this problem from the angle of professional sports to get a clear picture of the problem. Athletes are regularly caught risking their professional lives and their overall health by ingesting – or injecting – performance enhancing drugs. In the sports world, this behavior is considered to be cheating. Using substances to gain an edge on the competition through artificially enhancing traits which otherwise wouldn’t be as prevalent is not fair play. In the game of life, using substances to turn yourself into someone that you aren’t otherwise is similarly unfair. It isn’t fair to you, and it isn’t fair to the people whom you are deceiving with your substance-induced persona. They are attracted to you for a lie.

Even though being friendly and focused are normally personality traits that someone might treasure, the problem in these scenarios is that the traits really don’t belong to you. They are borrowed attributes, only existing in the presence of whatever substance you are using. Without developing the ability to be more social and more attentive without the use of drugs or alcohol, you run the risk of becoming reliant on using the substance as a perpetual crutch. The more you rely on it to get you through, the more likely it is that you will become addicted. Once addicted, the tool which you thought you were using to improve yourself can end up controlling you.

For the person who is using substances to become a better person, the same process of executive function impediment is occurring as with the person who turns ugly. Those traits which are able to emerge while under the influence are some which already exist in you, floating around behind the control centers of your brain. Learning to access those desirable behaviors while sober is a task of retraining the conscious mind to let some of those attributes through on a daily basis. Keeping yourself intoxicated only hampers your natural development in these areas.


Changing Yourself Through Sober Tactics

If you are using substances to escape things about yourself which you don’t like, or to enhance things about yourself that you don’t usually notice, it may be helpful to know that there are ways to produce these benefits without using drugs or alcohol. The field of cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, is devoted to teaching people how to retrain the mind to work in desirable directions. Through applying right methods in your thinking with sobriety and consistency, you can eventually see yourself emerging as a person who is more positive, more focused, and more at peace with the world. You can also live in a sober living community where you would be surrounded by like minded individuals to help bolster recovery.

The best part about using sober approaches toward becoming the person that you want to be is that the changes are permanent. There will be no more need to score that next high, and no more risk of exhibiting personality traits which don’t represent the real you. You will be able to attract people into your life who know who really you are, and appreciate it.

Why Are Designer Drugs So Dangerous?

Why Are Designer Drugs So Dangerous

Designer drugs were identified as a problem during the 1980’s. The benefits of using designer drugs were promoted by college students and trend followers, much in the way that a wearing a brand of clothing or the holding the latest technology would be considered a mark of coolness. Because the particular arrangement of the designer drug molecules weren’t technically illegal, party goers and high seekers developed a false sense of security about using them. As time went on, and as more and more people fell victim to the poison contained within them, warnings about the dangers of using designer drugs grew louder.


Questionable Origins

Designer drugs are named such due to the fact that they are custom designed by individuals operating secretly within underground labs. A majority of the designer drugs which are eventually passed around by users in the United States originate outside of the country. It is impossible to know the conditions under which the drugs are created, and one can only imagine that the intent of the manufacturer is to make as much money as possible. These drug makers are not around to see the devastating consequences of these concoctions on the population of our country, and nor do they seem to care about it. While deaths from overdosing on local drugs are decreasing, deaths resulting from the use of these foreign-made substances are increasing.


Scary Ingredients

When we take a prescription drug, we have assurance from the government and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) that they are aware of what goes into them. This assurance is never the case with designer drugs, as the main focus of the manufacturers is to ensure that they get around any regulations which would outright ban the substance.  Designer drug makers are very clever about combining legal ingredients into something that will get a user high. Often, these otherwise legal ingredients were never intended for human consumption.

In addition to mixing up existing prescription ingredients in unique ways – as well as throwing in certain compounds of currently illegal drugs –  makers of designer drugs will often incorporate products that can be bought over the counter. Some of the products used are extremely dangerous. Store-bought ingredients found in designer drugs have ranged from herbs and cough medicine to battery acid and rat poison.


Not Technically Illegal, But Definitely Not Safe

The production of these drugs is a perpetual cat-and-mouse game between authorities and the manufacturers. Once a particular blend of chemicals is identified and outlawed, manufacturers will simply change part of the ingredients list. What this evasion from the law means for the user is that he or she is not ever able to be sure what, exactly, it is that is being injected, smoked, or swallowed. Something that begins as the intention to enjoy a good trip can leave the party person with long-lasting, negative, consequences.


Negative Effects of Spice

Spice first arrived on the scene as an alternative to marijuana. It was viewed as a way to get around the restrictions on legal marijuana use that predominated our culture at the time. Spice was able to be sold from the counter of local tobacco shops, and it took awhile for the government to catch onto what was going on with it. This version of synthetic marijuana has sent an alarming amount of young people to the emergency room.

The negative effects of using spice can include high blood pressure, vomiting, seizures, and even coma. In addition to the risk of death, there have been instances of users experiencing a severe psychosis. This can result in a need to be restrained within a psychiatric hospital. The long-lasting psychological effects can mean that a user can end up with a permanent diagnosis of severe mental disorder, prompting the application of psychiatric drugs to become a permanent part of his or her existence.


Negative Effects of Bath Salts

This drug got its name due to resembling the crystals which are poured into a relaxing spa bath. It is often packaged with a label indicating that it is not meant for human consumption, but this is just a clever way for the drug smugglers to get around the law. Those who purchase the product tend to be fully aware of what they are buying, and are fully intending to smoke or eat it. By 2012, this type of designer drug had become enough of a problem for the federal government to outlaw it.

As is commonly the case, the outlawing of bath salts just made drug manufacturers switch up their game. The substances evolved into other forms, including into a drug known as Flakka. People who take this drug have suffered severe mental disability and psychosis, and can end up resembling a raging zombie in an apocalyptic movie. Delusions of those using Flakka can include believing that he or she has superhuman strength, believing that he or she is talking to invisible beings, and believing that he or she is under attack. Those under the influence of Flakka have ended up naked, crawling on the ground, and violently assaulting people.


Negative Effects of MDMA

The designer drug known as MDMA started out as an experimental substance for use by psychiatrists on their patients. It was thought to stimulate parts of the brain necessary for uncovering and unlocking roots of psychological healing. By 1985, the government recognized that the substance was becoming a problem. The positive effects of using MDMA had resulted in people using it with no medical oversight. People were seeking the stimulation and perceptual enhancements of the drug at parties and raves. It began to be known under terms such as Ecstasy and Molly.

The negative effects of MDMA involve disregulation of normal brain functioning. After the drug has worn off, a user can become more irritable, impulsive, and anxious. A chemically-based depression can result, and the user can develop sleep problems and loss of energy. In some cases, the MDMA drug will have been secretly mixed with other substances – such as bath salts – resulting in even more severe mental and physical consequences for the user.

Prescription Drugs Can Be Just As Bad As Illegal Ones

Prescription Drugs Are Just As bad As Illegal Ones

Prescription medication and manufactured street drugs have quite a bit in common. Both involve humans concocting mixtures from chemicals which can be fatal in large doses. Both involve a myriad of ingredients, many of which users have no idea about. Most people who take either type of drug are not highly educated about why the drug does what it does. They are just wanting the positive effects of it.

Even more in common is the fact that many illegal drugs were once legal. Cocaine was invented by doctors, and was prescribed for everything from fatigue to anesthesia. When its addictive properties became apparent, cocaine was replaced by amphetamine prescriptions. According to the latest survey, at least 16 million people in the United States are abusing these modern stimulant prescriptions during any given year.

Heroin, too, was an invention of doctors. Heroin was introduced as a remedy for morphine addiction, which had arisen after scientists had created morphine through separating out the chemical products of the poppy plant. Prescribing the opiates from the poppy plant had resulted in an addiction crisis, and morphine was introduced as an alternative. The fact that we are currently in the grips of a prescription opioid addiction crisis seems quite ironic, in light of 300 years of the medical community’s efforts to get away from it.


Side Effects

Beginning in the 1980’s, pharmaceutical companies were set loose on the media marketing world. Long commercials depicting happy people living fulfilling lives became the gimmick to sell the drug. If you have ever watched all the way through, you will notice a person with the skills of an auctioneer speaking at the end of the commercial. This voice is listing all of the discovered, potential, side effects associated with the particular medication. Some of the side effects even sound very much like the condition which the drugs are supposed to be fixing.

Prescription drugs are removed from the market – or more tightly regulated – following enough complaints from consumers about experiencing these side effects. In spite of this, they often come back after being repackaged, or after lying low for awhile. The drugs are also often prescribed off-label, meaning that their original – and FDA approved – purposes are being exploited. This sounds quite a bit like how street drugs operate.

Unless you are one of the lucky few who have a quality relationship with your health team, chances are good that you spend no more than 15 minutes at an appointment with your prescribing doctor.  The internet has become a very valuable resource for people who are wanting to become more involved in their treatments. Formerly, the lists of side effects for a particular drug had to come from the mouths of the nurses or doctors, or had be be read off of the long list of fine print handed to us by  our pharmacist.  Now, simply typing the name of the drug you are taking into a browser can bring up the risks that come with taking a particular pharmaceutical.




It is very important that your prescribing doctor be made aware of any other medications or substances that you are putting into your body over the course of taking the prescribed medication. Some mixtures of chemicals can be extremely harmful, or even deadly. At best, the influence of another chemical can render the effects of the currently prescribed medication useless.

Many warning labels on prescribed medications specify that you are not to drink alcohol while taking them, as the result can be an increased level of intoxication. Taking multiple depressant-type drugs can result in being overly sedated, and taking multiple stimulant drugs can result in developing a psychosis. Mixing uppers and downers can confuse the body, and can result in an emergency room visit, or worse.


Allergic Reactions

Prescription medications are often filled with inactive ingredients that are notorious for causing allergic reactions. Peanut oil, gluten, and chemical dyes are all associated with allergies ranging from rash to anaphylactic shock, and all are found with pharmaceuticals. These types of ingredients are meant to improve shelf life, aid in digestion, or disguise a bad taste, and are not intended to have any overtly medical effects. As those who have gone to the hospital over allergic reactions to prescription medications can attest, intentions don’t pay the medical bills.


Dependence and Addiction

As noted at the outset of this article, prescription drugs contain many of the chemicals which are also present in illicit drugs. Illicit drugs are notorious for their capacity to cause both physical, and mental, addiction for the user. It is becoming apparent that prescribed drugs need to be approached with a similar amount of caution.

During physical dependence, the body begins to rely upon whatever function the drug is performing. In the case of stimulants, the brain learns that it can wait for the dosage to come and activate the chemicals needed for inspiration and focus. With depressants, the brain learns to rely on the medication for releasing the chemicals needed to relax. The pharmaceuticals allow the brain to become lazy, and it eventually stops striving, on its own, to produce the chemicals that are needed for optimal functioning. When the drug is removed, the brain doesn’t know what to do.

Addiction is often associated with dependence. The negative experience of having a brain which doesn’t produce enough of its own chemicals can encourage a person to obtain more of the drug, and even at the expense of spending energy on other activities and obligations. Regaining the feelings which the drugs produce becomes the sole quest, and the addict begins to suffer consequences from neglecting other areas of life development. Drug addiction – whether the drugs are from illegal or legal sources – destroys lives.



As horrible as the experience of side effects, drug interactions, allergic reactions – and even addiction – can be, overdosing on prescription drugs is the consequence most feared. Statistics show that over 60 people die, daily, from an overdose of prescription medication. This number accounts for over half of all drug related deaths, meaning that illegal drugs are not the main culprit in drug-related deaths.




Drugs Are Becoming More Dangerous Than Ever Before

Drugs Are Becoming More Dangerous Than Before

Illicit drugs and substances are nothing new, but there is a rising danger present especially in prescription drugs, designer drugs, and heroin, that hasn’t been as prevalent or widespread in the past. As the opioid epidemic continues in the US and Canada, and tens of thousands continue to die, more and more evidence is showing that a sizeable portion of overdose deaths are due to cut and mixed drugs, often sold as pure drugs or unused prescription medication, yet pressed illegally with a dangerous cocktail of various substances in an effort to reduce costs and drive up profits.

It’s not enough to recognize what Xanax, Oxycontin, and Ecstasy look like. Often sold as such but mixed with several other dangerous substances, many illicit drugs sold today are contributing to a rising death toll throughout the country. Even for experienced drug users, or those who have just begun using illegal drugs recreationally, the chances of an accidental overdose increase with every pill.

Particularly dangerous are the synthetic opioid fentanyl and the veterinary tranquilized carfentanil, both of which are so highly potent that mere milligrams are enough to kill a grown adult human. These substances are often improperly mixed into batches of other drugs in order to increase their potency at a low financial cost, but at a high cost of life. While there has never been a good reason to use illegal and/or harmful substances recreationally, drugs have indeed become more dangerous than ever before.


The Opioid Epidemic is Ongoing

While news coverage has dipped in recent months outside of high-profile examples of lawsuits and bankruptcies filed by major companies implicated in the origins of the opioid crisis, the reality remains that the opioid epidemic is alive and well in the United States and Canada.

North America remains the world’s largest consumer of opioids by far, both medically and recreationally, in no small part due to the vast success of numerous efforts made by companies in the 1990s to sell more painkillers and diagnose pain as a treatable condition, especially through pharmacology.

While numerous regulations have helped cut down on the number of pain prescriptions currently being written, the problem has continued to swell in the form of growing amounts of heroin use, especially on the eastern side of the country, while the west coast continues to struggle with recreational prescription drug use. Although opioids are not the only illicit drugs causing overdoses and deaths in the United States, they are responsible for the majority of deaths caused by illegal substances.

An estimated 11.4 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2017 and 2018, with 2.1 million cases opioid use disorder, and roughly 47,000 deaths caused by opioid overdose, over half of which (28,466) were caused by synthetic opioids other than methadone (which include drugs like fentanyl, usually reserved only for terminal cancer pain).


Fentanyl: How Heroin is Made Even Deadlier

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid analogous to morphine, yet about 50 to 100 times more potent. Synthetic opioids are drugs that interact with opioid receptors in the body yet are not derived from our usual source of opioids, the poppy plant.

While drugs like morphine and heroin were first derived from opium and created to serve as analgesics and anesthetics, often ingested in liquid form, fentanyl was developed into a medical product by way of slow-release skin patches.

Like heroin, codeine, hydrocodone, and other opioids, fentanyl enters the bloodstream and latches onto opioid receptors in cells, triggering an analgesic and euphoric effect. However, its potency means that very little is needed to trigger an overdose, which can cause unconsciousness, slowed breathing, and death.

Legally, fentanyl is used in cases of extreme and debilitating chronic pain, as well as terminal care. Illegally, however, it has been used to reduce the cost and increase the potency of other drugs, including other opioids like heroin, and other illicit substances. Outside of legal substances like alcohol and nicotine, fentanyl is counted as one of, if not the most lethal illicit substance in American history. Like other components used in the production of heroin and designer drugs, fentanyl is imported illegally into the US or Mexico, where it’s used in the production of drugs.


Fake Prescription Drugs and Accidental Overdoses

Not limited to heroin and cocaine, fentanyl is also mixed into fake prescription drugs, which are pressed from the real thing and a number of other substances designed to drive down the cost of production and improve profits. However, this can lead to even more disastrous effects.

While only a small amount of fentanyl is needed to kill the average person, the amount mixed into a single batch is often very low. However, poor mixing practices and no real standards can cause a single pill or hit to be fatal, and the slightest miscalculation on the user’s part (who often doesn’t know they’re consuming fentanyl) can lead to death.

This is further complicated in cases where the drug is mixed into benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, or other depressants. These drugs cause a compound effect with opioids, more often leading to an accidental overdose due to how the brain reacts to the combination of a depressant with an opioid.

When users survive a brush with death and realize that it’s the fentanyl that gave them such a powerful high, some of them actually turn to it as their drug of choice. This, of course, is very dangerous.


Ecstasy and MDMA, and How They Are Different

MDMA is a psychoactive substance colloquially known as ecstasy, yet the two are often very different.

While MDMA is currently being researched under limited capacity as a drug with potential to help treat anxiety and post-traumatic stress, many examples of ecstasy out on the streets today include only a small amount of MDMA, along with a larger cocktail of other substances. Recently, these pills have even included substances like fentanyl.

Regardless of what therapeutic potential pure MDMA may have, ecstasy has become more dangerous than ever. Like other illegal drugs, there are no standards for safety or quality.

Enjoying Music Festivals Sober

Going to Music Festivals Sober

Music festivals seem synonymous with drugs and debauchery. If you’re not going to let loose in what is essentially a weekend-long party with no real break, then when are you going to let loose?

But as plenty of people have found, you really don’t need to be high or drunk to enjoy a music festival. You just need an open mind, a love for music, and a few sober friends.

While the urge to drop any and all inhibitions during a music festival might be at an all-time high – not to speak of the peer pressure of seeing thousands of strangers imbibing in what’s sure to look like a good time, at first – there’s a lot of magic hidden in a music festival for those willing to hold out and stick to their sobriety.


Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll. Right?

The drug use at music festivals isn’t random. There’s a history and a culture to drugs and music. In a way, not joining can feel alienating at first – be it marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or ecstasy, every period in contemporary American music has had its fair share of illicit substances associated to it.

But there’s much more to music than drugs, to be sure. And music festivals are about much more than carnal indulgence – they’re about music, and the way you feel when engulfed and surrounded by the music you enjoy, played live, in a crowd of thousands who share your enthusiasm. It’s infectious in its own way and helps speak towards the real strongest reason for attending a music festival – for the unforgettable memories you’ll make on that magical trip.


The Memories, or Lack Thereof

There’s plenty to experience in a music festival. Plenty to see, and do, and of course, hear. While the music is one thing, there’s something amazing about the way people react to it. While we might not admit it, most of us love being in an ecstatic crowd – it pulls you in, and you feel united in your enjoyment, hundreds and thousands of perfect strangers (and, hopefully, a lot of friends) experiencing the same amazing vibes.

It’s common to see people having a few drinks while they’re dancing, or other substances. But people often go overboard. And that’s when the fun can quickly end, both for the person who overindulged and the friends who have to keep their friend safe. What could have been an incredible experience turns into a cautionary tale, often with no real recollection of the magic left.

Struggling to remember what happened – if there’s much left worth remembering – isn’t the only danger. There’s also the danger of just feeling sick, not agreeing with the substances taken, or getting plain ill. In the worst cases, your problems turn to death. For some, it’s hard to stop once they start – and there’s a considerable risk in trying to maintain a high for an entire festival.


There Will Be Temptation

There is a good chance you’ll have to spend some time convincing strangers (and, under certain circumstances, even friends) that you’re definitely better off sober, and don’t want what they’re offering. Caffeine and genuine enthusiasm are all you’re really going to need, and chances are people are going to suspect you’re on something anyway.

The good news is that, as you ignore the temptations, you start to feel more accomplished about your choice, and your ability to withstand these impulses.


Tips for Staying Sober 

Sobriety at a music festival is far from impossible, and it can be a lot of fun. But you’re going to need to arm yourself with a few tips and tricks, particularly if you’re a newcomer to sobriety and need help staying sober.

If it’s your first time being completely clean at a music festival, get ready for a unique and new experience. Bring your friends, bring plenty of snacks and drinks, and bring a lot of patience – as fun as music festivals can be, there are plenty of things to get annoyed about, and it’s a bit harder to ignore them when you’re not tipsy or high.


#1.: Keep Your Friends Close By

Music festivals are much more fun with the right company – but it’s important to keep the right company. You don’t need to walk around with a sober-only posse, but make sure your friends understand your choice to stay sober and support it wholeheartedly.

But if they’re going to mock your sobriety, or make you feel bad for your choices, or even try to make you use something or drink, ditch them. Don’t go to music festivals with friends that don’t understand why you want to stay clean.


#2.: Enjoy the Music

Music festivals are about the music, and at the end of the day, the most fun you’ll be having revolves around being able to experience absolutely everything around you – from the bass in the floor, to the crowd, the visuals, the dancing, and more.

Note that, when you’re sober, some things can seem much more annoying. Bathroom lines can be long, people can be loud, and while some of your friends are probably funny when tipsy, there will be a large share of annoying drunks. Knowing to focus on the fun parts of the festival is important.


#3.: Stay Hydrated and Take Breaks

Music festivals are often physically daunting, and because you’re having such fun, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice just how much you’re going through. However, it’s much easier to tell how you’re feeling physically while sober. Always keep some water on you and know to take breaks when you need to.

From just tiring yourself out, to suffering from signs of hidden dehydration, there’s plenty that can happen in the hours spent dancing and having fun at a music festival.

While it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience, it’s important to stay safe. Music festivals have their fair share of health and security issues, and personal safety is everyone’s responsibility.


Complications from Having Both a Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Complications from Drugs and Alcohol

While alcohol is a drug, its ubiquity, legality, and nature as a ‘social lubricant’ often sets it apart from other substances, yet we often forget how dangerous alcohol is – especially in conjunction with other drugs.

While alcohol is one of the more commonly abused drugs in the country, many who abuse it also use a second, third, or even fourth substance – and while they might not be addicted to all the substances they use, there is a considerable and unique challenge in polysubstance drug use, and subsequent dependence.

For one, using more than one drug makes it difficult for health professionals to determine a cause for the many potential physical and mental effects of drug use, in no small part due to the way illicit drugs and alcohol often interact in dangerous and volatile ways. Another issue is the matter of addiction treatment, and the dangers that can arise during withdrawal as a result of polysubstance use.


Polysubstance Dependence – How Common Is It? 

An estimated 9.4 percent of Americans struggle with substance use disorder. A study among 10th graders found that marijuana abuse and alcohol use was most prevalent, with the second-most common illicit drug being prescription medication, followed by other illicit drugs. 14 percent identified as polysubstance users, using three substances. In other age groups and studies, higher numbers were found.

Among adults aged 18 and older, an estimated 2.3 million use both alcohol and an illicit drug. That accounts for about one in nine persons with substance use disorder (addiction).

Reasons for polysubstance use may vary. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug because it is typically the most commonly used drug, and heavy use increases the risk for substance use disorder.

Alcohol is readily available for purchase in many different forms, and alcohol use is not heavily stigmatized, and has even come to the accepted or expected under certain circumstances. The history behind alcohol use is ancient, tracing back to the precivilization era. Alcohol’s abundance in nature is such that it is one of few drugs that other mammals indulge in.

In part due to its legalization, lasting subculture, and the popularity of the drug for its potential medicinal use, marijuana is the most used illicit drug among Americans. The combination of alcohol and marijuana is the most common.

Behind marijuana is prescription medication, particularly opioids and stimulants. Opioid abuse began to explode in the 1990s, especially after aggressive lobbying and marketing from the pharmaceutical industry led to an increased demand for pain medication, and a steep increase in prescriptions. At the time, it was not commonly known that opioid medication could be as dangerous as heroin.

One particular scandal with repercussions to this day is Purdue’s push for OxyContin, which led to the greatest abuse of prescription medication in the world. As a result, America consumes the majority of the world’s opioid supply.

While the opioid crisis continues to rage on, more stringent policies have led to prescription medication use to decline. Instead, a new concern is fentanyl-laced heroin, which is cheaper to produce and leads to far more overdose deaths. Many who began using prescription opioids have since moved on to using heroin, because it has become more expensive and more difficult to find prescription painkillers.


Polysubstance Use Is More Dangerous Than Single Substance Use

While single substance use has a substantial list of risks and potential long-term side effects, including dependence, the use of more than one drug heavily compounds potential issues.

The most obvious risk is the increased risk of dependence. The more a drug is used, the more likely a person is to trigger or develop an addiction. Addiction is a physical disease of the brain, a condition caused by a series of internal (genetic) and external (environmental) factors. Unlike heavy use or binge use, addiction is determined not by the extent or amount of a person’s drug use, but their dependence on a drug, and their ability (or lack thereof) to function without the drug.

Another risk is the fact that alcohol interacts with other substances. The most dangerous of these are anti-anxiety drugs, which include uncommonly prescribed as well as outlawed tranquilizers and barbiturates, and more recent anti-anxiety medication such as benzodiazepine (Xanax, Valium). Because these drugs are depressants, just like alcohol, their combined use can lead to deadly consequences including overdose and death. Opioids from heroin to codeine elicit a similar effect in combination with alcohol.

Alcohol’s combined use with other drugs also leads to an increased amount of stress on the body and organs, potentially accelerating damage dealt to the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain. Side effects can include strokes, heart attacks, liver cirrhosis, and a variety of cancers from the throat to the pancreas.


Drugs and Alcohol Are Equally Dangerous

Because alcohol is ubiquitous and more widely consumed, there is potentially the thought that it is not as dangerous as other drugs. But as mentioned previously, it can be deadly in combination with other drugs, particularly prescription medication and heroin.


Polysubstance Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms kick in when the brain and body begin to develop a tolerance to a drug, leading to decreased effectiveness per dose. The body effectively metabolized the drug faster, and its effects become less obvious.

Once this process begins, abruptly quitting can potentially cause the body to exhibit withdrawal symptoms as the drug has become ‘expected’.

Withdrawal symptoms are often more severe when the body begins to form a physical dependence to more than one substance. Typical withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug used and range from nausea and vomiting to flu-like symptoms, mood swings, psychosis, and pain. When alcohol is combined with other drugs, withdrawal symptoms can be potentially more severe. Alcohol and other depressants are also unique among most drugs in that they can produce fatal withdrawal symptoms in very serious cases of long-term substance use.

Treating a withdrawal should ideally always include medical supervision. While these symptoms can be weathered at home in most cases, they often drive one to use again and relapse due to intense cravings, and when multiple drugs are used, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of the withdrawal.


Bottom Line

Drug use is never safe. But polysubstance use is particularly dangerous and presents a unique set of challenges due to a variety of factors, including the increase physical and mental risk associated with the combining of substances.


Understanding the Addictive Nature of Prescription Drugs

Understanding the Addictive Nature of Prescription Drugs

Given the widespread news and information on the opioid crisis, it is no longer a surprise that prescription drugs can be dangerous, particularly if misused or used for non-medical purposes. But it’s all too easy to write all prescription drugs off as ‘too dangerous to be used’, especially in this climate.

We tend to heavily lean towards one or the other extreme on many issues, and opioid overdoses is one of them. Rather than vilify all opioids, for example, most experts on the crisis would rather than increased public literacy on the matter of prescription drugs will help people and doctors make better choices when faced with a disorder or disease that may warrant prescription medication.

This has become a form of stigma in some cases. While most are aware of the existing stigma against those struggling with mental health issues, a new form of stigma has been slowly rising against the use of medication for the treatment of mental health problem. The misuse of ADHD medication is serious. But treatment is still important. Both children in need of help and adults who feel that ADHD is only a childhood disorder don’t get the help they need to thrive.

Proper discourse surrounding prescription drugs needs to consider how they can be dangerous, addictive, and even lethal, without forgetting that they do play a role in helping millions of Americans lead better lives. Nuance and context are important, particularly in such complex topics.


How Medicine Can Be Addictive

For most people, addiction is very poorly understood. It’s not so much that there are Bad Drugs and Good Drugs. Rather, there are addictive drugs and non-addictive drugs. Some addictive drugs serve no real medical purpose, but most do. Many that are still illegal continue to be researched for their potential medical benefits. Some drugs are wrongfully vilified as addictive, but are illegal for other reasons, and may be made legal in certain cases (for example, hallucinogens may prove helpful in treating trauma and anxiety).

Drugs are chemicals and have no moral compass. As such, it’s important not to mistake all good drugs (medication) as being wholly beneficial and much less dangerous to the human body. In the same way, it’s important to recognize that two of the arguably most dangerous drugs in the world (alcohol and tobacco) are completely legal and readily available to most people in the world.

As dangerous as addiction is, there’s more to addiction than the drug itself. While widespread availability is one of the reasons why drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are commonly used, there are countless other much more complex reasons that often feed and further fuel addiction that need to be taken account, such as a lack of education, constant academic or professional pressure, lack of employment, economic woes, family stress, and more. No one case can be blamed entirely on ‘the drink’, as these countless factors all contribute to addiction and make it so much more difficult to treat.

In the case of prescription medication, more must be done to ensure that teens and adults alike understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse, and that just because it comes in an orange vial doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous than a bag of cocaine or tar heroin. In many cases, parents and communities should focus heavily on catching warning signs of addictive behavior and stopping someone before their habit goes out of control. If a teen or adult is in danger of turning to drugs as a way to cope, they must understand that it’s okay to get professional help instead of self-medicating, with disastrous results.


The Effects of Prescription Drugs on the Brain

Addictive prescription drugs are addictive because of the way they manipulate the availability and effectiveness of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Most psychoactive chemicals affect neurotransmission – even coffee, to a degree – but addictive drugs are deemed such because the effect they have on the brain is so strong, and so specific to certain neurotransmitters, that the brain begins to form an attachment to the drug after a certain number of times.

Prescription drugs are less addictive to those who need them, partially because of the strictly regulated dosage, and partially because their brains respond very differently to the drug versus people who don’t need them.

Over time, what starts as a powerful high can lead to drug dependence, wherein both the body and the mind begin to struggle with staying sober. Withdrawal symptoms kick in, causing cravings and headaches when not high. As time passes, tolerance calls for stronger doses, further feeding the addiction and increasing the risk of overdose. The mechanics differ from drug to drug, and different drugs are addictive for different reasons.


Treating Prescription Drug Addiction While in Treatment

In the cases that an individual gets addicted to a drug that is specifically prescribed to them for their condition, alternatives must be thoroughly explored. Prescription medication is often considered a first line treatment for a variety of conditions: opioids for extreme pain, stimulants for ADHD, depressants for severe anxiety disorders, and anti-psychotics for schizophrenia and other disorders. While other treatments may be more effective in certain cases, prescription medication boasts a widespread level of effectiveness, and is often easier to prescribe than a treatment that requires scheduling, complex financing options, or other speedbumps.

However, in some cases, patients misuse or overuse their medication. It’s then that other treatments must be seriously considered. In cases where patients are struggling with a dual diagnosis, a multimodal approach is necessary. That means treating the addiction and the illness/disorder concurrently. Examples include going through rehab while undergoing therapy or visiting an outpatient treatment center and a mental health clinic at the same time.

Prescription drug use is a complex matter, and it’s made much more complex when a patient is abusing their own medication. But through early intervention, the right treatment plan, and proper support from friends and family, both the addiction and the underlying condition can often be treated.


Understanding How Drugs Impact Your Health

How Drugs Impact Your Health

To most people, it’s clear that drug use is a bad thing both for society and for individuals. But while many people draw clear connections between drug use and criminality, there’s a lack of knowledge on the physical and psychological effects of drug use, the higher risk for addiction among the mentally ill, and the success of modern-day addiction treatments.

After a person becomes addicted to a drug, breaking the addiction can be a serious challenge. Drugs impact the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the liver, and the mind. It’s the first and last in that list that are hit the hardest, with long-term repercussions and consequences on mental health and cognition.

Depending on how a drug is consumed, long-term drug use can lead to deterioration in other parts of the body as well. It’s clear that drug use, both in the short-term and in the long-term, will impact your health. But while some of these effects will be permanent, many are reversible. The sooner an addict seeks help, the more likely they are to save themselves from the long-term implications of a failing body.


Your Brain on Drugs

Decades ago, a TV spot showed a teenager frying an egg, explaining that ‘this is your brain on drugs’. It was meant to be a quick way to catch the attention of millions of young adults in the audience, quite simply showing that drug use fries your brain.

The ad was subject to about as much parody and scrutiny as any other poorly explained analogy. It ended with a rhetorical statement: “any questions?” Yet the truth is that there were many questions, and many felt they weren’t being answered.

Drug don’t cause your brain to cook in a pan, but they do change the way you perceive the world and react to your own natural instincts and thoughts. All drugs are similar in shape and function to many of the chemicals we already produce in our own brain, the chemicals we use to trigger certain reactions, from being hungry to getting excited. When these foreign chemicals bind with our neurons, a reaction occurs wherein the brain is overstimulated with what can be described as a ‘supernormal stimuli’.

We’ve evolved to react to things in certain ways, and an overstimulation of any given natural trigger is going to invoke an exaggerated reaction. This is more apparent in junk food than anything else – we crave sugar and fat because they’re so rare, and that is why foods that consist almost entirely out of these two ingredients are so incredibly delicious to us, despite the fact that they would never exist in the wild.

Drugs elicit something similar in the brain, causing a ‘high’ and prompting a major shift in the way the brain processes other neurochemicals. Over time, the brain begins to get used to the stimulus it receives from drugs, and other pleasures take a backseat. This triggers a process known as ‘drug dependence’, wherein we rely on the drugs we take to feel normal, and simply quitting leads to withdrawal symptoms.

It’s this simple mechanism of ‘training your brain’ to get used to the extreme effects of drug use that kickstarts a long series of serious consequences to a person’s physical and psychological health.


Drug Use Side-Effects

Drug toxicity differs from drug to drug, with some being far more toxic than others. Nearly all substances can cause an overdose, with minute exceptions and some unlikely candidates. For example, it is difficult to overdose on benzodiazepines alone, and many individuals simply fall asleep after accidental ingestion of one too many. But in conjunction with other drugs, or taken in extreme quantities, the likelihood of an overdose skyrockets. Meanwhile, drugs like alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous to the human body, not only due to their acute toxicity, but due to their carcinogenic nature.

Different drugs come with different side effects, owing to their toxicity, the way the brain processes them, as well as how they are consumed. Drugs that are injected are more likely to cause complications with injection sites, ranging from wounds and infections to more dangerous issues, such as necrosis (decaying tissue). Insufflation can cause damage to the nasal cavity as well as a person’s sense of smell and can cause infrequent nose bleeding.

Excess drug use prior to overdose can still cause harm to the organs, particularly the heart, brain, and liver, increasing a person’s likelihood of a stroke, heart attack, or liver cirrhosis. Kidney damage is also frequent among long-term drug users, due the kidneys’ roles in the endocrine system. Because drug use frequently pushes the body to produce dopamine and drive certain hormones and neurotransmitters through the roof, drug users may be more prone to problems with the adrenal gland, as well as being more prone to illnesses related to high levels of stress (due to elevated cortisol levels, both in stimulant users as well as depressant users).


Drug Use and Mental Illness

Aside from the damage dealt to the organs, brain, and overall body, drug use can also severely affect a person’s mind. The research tells us that individuals who already struggle with mental health issues are more prone to developing an addiction in the future, for a number of reasons including diminished reasoning, self-medication, lowered inhibition, and more. Individuals struggling with depression and/or anxiety may be more open to suggestion and manipulation or may start using as a way to numb emotional pain. However, there is also an inverse effect wherein drug use exacerbates or even triggers the development of certain mental health problems.

Some drugs are associated with the development of psychosis, or the false perception. This can include visual hallucinations as well as believing certain things to be true despite clear contradictions in thinking (paranoia, and more). Long-term drug use can also lead to extreme fluctuations in mood and motivation, mimicking symptoms of mania and depression, as well as anxiety.

Changes in sleep and diet can further exacerbate existing issues by leaving the body tired and malnourished. This is also expressed through other physical changes, such as sudden weight loss or weight gain, tremors, poor hygiene, and poor skin health, all of which can have a detrimental effect on an addict’s sense of self. The added pressure due to legal problems, loss of friends, and societal stigma can further drive someone into a dark corner, making them less likely to seek help, and more likely to develop more severe depressive symptoms.


Inhibition, Addiction, and Risk-Taking

Aside from the direct effects of drug use on the brain and body, there are certain consequences that are related to the side-effects of long-term drug use, most notably the decrease in inhibition and the diminished cognition that follows the long-term use of many popular drugs, including ecstasy, alcohol, and various stimulants.

These drugs often increase sexual desire, decrease critical thinking, and can lead to dangerous situations such as unprotected sex with strangers (massively increasing the likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy), reckless driving, violent behavior, and more.

Some drugs are more likely to lead to certain scenarios than others. For example, alcohol popularly decreases inhibition, but it also increases sexual dysfunction in men. A study of drug use and sexual desire in nightclubs showed that alcohol and cocaine were common, among women and men respectively, with ecstasy being used for general enjoyment rather than sexual activity, and cannabis being avoided due to its relaxing effects.

Drugs are complex, and each drug affects an individual in different ways. Yet nearly all addictive drugs come with their own set of negative consequences, from diminished intelligence among long-term cannabis users to serious cancer risks in alcoholics and heart damage in cocaine users.

Opioids Pose Considerable Risk for Addiction

How Opioids Affect You

To put it simply, an addiction is a condition wherein a pleasant-feeling habit turns into an unavoidable obsession, one you cannot cut ties with or live without. This isn’t like developing a love for a dish and “not getting enough of it”. It is like developing the sense of a need for opioids like you have a need for water and food.

But why do these addictions occur, and why is it that one of the country’s most prescribed drugs also happens to be one of the most potent and addictive? And finally, why is it that opioids have become so ubiquitous, and how did the opioid crisis come to be nearly 30 years ago?


Why Opioids Are Addictive

Opioid medication is any medication that is either directly or synthetically derived from opium, an extract of the poppy plant. Historically used as an anesthetic and recreational drug, opium has a long history tracing back to some of the first civilizations in all of human history. Today, most of the opium in the world (both medical and illegal) is produced in Afghanistan, by synthetic opioids are often produced in other countries such as Mexico and China.

However, we don’t use opium in its raw form. Instead, certain chemicals are isolated within opium to produce a variety of compounds, including morphine and codeine. Thebaine extracted from opium is used in the production of synthetic opioids, including hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone, and the infamous oxycodone (OxyContin). On the illegal side of things, morphine is extracted from opium, then turned into diamorphine (heroin).

While opioids have been known for their addictive potency, opium’s early history is largely medicinal, particularly for pain relief and anesthetics. It wasn’t until the 19th century that morphine and heroin were developed from opium, and since then, other opioids have been designed for pharmaceutical use, ranging from the less potent codeine to the far more potent fentanyl.

But just as opium has a legacy of addiction and debauchery tracing back thousands of years, opioids are still very addictive drugs. Despite this, the production and consumption of prescription opioids soared in the 1990s, making the US the largest consumer of opioids in the world bar none. To this day, the sudden and explosive rise in opioid use late in the last century continues to bear a terrible fruit in the form of thousands of opioid-related overdoses per year, many through a growing heroin market capitalizing on the demands of a large number of American prescription opioid addicts.

When you take an opioid, it binds to opioid receptors in the brain and does a number of things, including relieve and numb pain. But it also releases a large amount of dopamine and produces a powerful euphoric effect. Over periods of time, opioid use confuses the brain, and it begins to form a habit of using the drug as a way to feel good. Pushed so far off its equilibrium with each use of an opioid, the brain slowly changes, making regular opioid use the new “normal”. On the other hand, quitting opioids after developing this dependence leads to a series of emotional as well as physical symptoms, and an intense craving for your newfound habit. This kicks other habits and cravings to the curb, as the addiction for opioids overpowers nearly any other form of pleasure.

Opium was a powerful drug, contributing heavily to the temporary downfall of the most dominant economic force on the planet in the mid-19th century. Opioids can be just as dangerous, dealing a massive blow to the US both financially and through loss of life.


How the Opioid Crisis Began

Opioid-related deaths rose sharply in 1991 and coincided with the increase in prescription opioids on the market, particularly through pharmaceutical companies like Perdue. A combination of mass marketing for painkillers, the development and sale of OxyContin, campaigns such as “Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign”, and the sheer power and influence of drug lobbying led to an astonishing number of painkillers flooding onto the streets through pressured doctors, far more than were every needed.

While the FDA began cracking down on some of this behavior, it went on for decades. In one particularly astonishing example, a single town of 392 people received a ludicrous 9 million hydrocodone pills over two years. Meanwhile, two pharmacies in Williamson, West Virginia received 21 million opioid painkillers between 2006 and 2016. Opioid deaths rose from over 1 per 100,000 in the late 1990s, to nearly 9 in 100,000 today. That’s an average of about 130 opioid-related overdoses per day.


Treating an Opioid Addiction

Opioids are incredibly damaging, but their effects can be mitigated through proper treatment. Sadly, this treatment is not available to all Americans, and even fewer take advantage of it. Opioid addiction is incredibly undertreated in this country and is one of the major reasons why the epidemic continues to be such an issue.

Treatment begins with separation. By separating a patient from the drug, they begin undergoing the process of withdrawal. The withdrawal process takes at most about one month and can be over in as little time as one week. Withdrawal begins anywhere from a few hours to half a day after the last dose. While withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, they are not lethal. Despite this, it is recommended to undergo withdrawal with the help of a medical professional, within a rehab or detox facility. Certain discomforts can be mitigated through proper management. Furthermore, unlike many other addictions, there are certain medications that can potentially help recovering addicts manage cravings. Opioid antagonists completely block the euphoric and painkilling effects of opioids, rendering them nearly useless. Certain opioid antagonists are used to save an addict’s life during an overdose, by breaking the connection between the opioid and the brain’s cells, and kickstarting respiration.

After withdrawal, the priority is to prepare for a drug-free life. While opioid addiction is potent, long-term management can do a lot to tremendously mitigate the potential of a relapse. Group meetings, support systems, strict schedules, a healthier coping mechanism, and a series of other tools and techniques, such as sober living communities, can be utilized over the course of a recovering addict’s lifetime to continue to commit to sobriety and avoid opioid use.


The Dangers of Mixing Drugs

Why Mixing Drugs Is Dangerous

Most people have seen the presentations in school or heard the lectures: your brain on drugs lights up and changes, first producing a high, but with serious long-term consequences. However, do you know what happens when you take more than one drug at a time?

The fact is that anywhere from one-third to over a half of all drug users use more than one drug regularly, depending on area and sample size. Heroin and cocaine users reportedly abused more than one drug more often than other types of drug users, the most commonly concurrent addictions being an addiction to alcohol and heavy use of marijuana.

Studies also show that polydrug use complicates treatment, increases health risk behaviors, leads to greater psychological issues, and makes it harder to treat the addiction, because of the differences between the various drugs the users commonly ingest.

Mixing drugs can lead to volatile effects. The worst-case scenario is death by accidental overdose. Drugs interact with one another, and most have contraindications – reasons and symptoms that tell doctors they should refrain from prescribing a certain treatment. Contraindications can also be syndromes or symptoms suggesting that patients are better off not taking a specific drug. Drug interactions are also something medical professionals watch out for, to prevent unintended side effects. For example, if someone suffers an allergic reaction to baker’s yeast, they shouldn’t take the hepatitis B vaccine. Warfarin is used to treat unwanted blood clotting by preventing coagulation. This interacts negatively with common acetaminophen-containing products and Tylenol. If you’re already taking a drug that acts as an antidepressant, you shouldn’t double up with an antidepressant herbal supplement. The lists go on and on.

Most drug users aren’t trained to know the counterindications for every drug they end up trying. Often, they can’t be sure the drug they’re trying is pure anyway. This makes polydrug use so dangerous, as a person could potentially be ingesting three, four, or five different drugs, all of which interact with the brain and body in very different ways, making the possibility of a severe reaction that much more likely.


Drugs and the Body

When a drug enters the bloodstream, it makes its way to the brain, passes the blood-brain barrier, and attaches to receptors in your brain cells. This process causes your central nervous system to send out signals, either reducing pain, or reducing inhibition, or increasing your heartrate, or blocking the decrease of serotonin – and so on and so forth.

One drug alone can prime the brain and body for more drug use, causing a flood of dopamine to slowly but effectively build a dependence on the substance.

But when two different drugs interact with the brain, the effects can be deadly. Here are a few different ways in which polydrug use can damage the brain.

Cocaine and alcohol are commonly combined, especially at parties, either with or without MDMA in the mix in the form of ecstasy. However, while cocaine is sometimes used to maintain the euphoric feeling of alcohol without the drunkenness, cocaine and alcohol combine in the body to produce cocaethylene, a chemical compound of cocaine and ethanol, more dangerous than either drug on its own. Cocaethylene can cause sudden death once enough of it builds up inside the system. It can stay in the body much longer than either drug, and it takes longer for the body to metabolize it.

Heroin and cocaine are also commonly combined, usually referred to as a speed ball. Cocaine is used to limit the withdrawal effects of heroin, but at an increased risk of:

  • Renal disease
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Depressed breathing/respiratory failure
  • Dizziness
  • Coma

While MDMA in its purest form is not a strong stimulant, MDMA is usually cut and mixed with cocaine and other stimulants when sold as a party drug, and can have serious neurological consequences, including neurotoxicity and other long-term mental consequences.

Any given drug combination can heavily affect your organs, especially the kidneys, liver, and brain. Drugs combine in the liver and create different compounds, with a higher likelihood of long-term damage, including an increased risk of several different cancers.


Mixing Like and Like

With two very different drugs can elicit a mixed response in the brain and body, two similar drugs will combine to boost shared effects, massively increasing the risk of an overdose. An influx of illegal fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, has led to a growing number of opioid overdoses in the US through fentanyl-laced heroin. Similarly, taking a mild opioid like codeine and mixing it with alcohol can cause the depressant effects of both drugs to ramp up violently, leading to unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and death through lack of oxygen.

Mixing several different types of stimulants can increase the risk of heart failure, as well as lead to greater long-term risks in the brain, including anhedonia (killing the ability to feel pleasure) and permanent damage to cognitive abilities.


Alcohol in the Mix

Alcohol is the most dangerous concurrent drug because it is common, cost-effective, and usually available wherever other drugs exist. Even among drug users used to stronger ‘uppers’ and ‘downers’, alcohol is still a common staple due to its effectiveness and ubiquitous nature. However, it’s also one of the more dangerous drugs to mix other drugs with.

Cocaine and alcohol create a toxic compound that leads to sudden death over time, and an increased risk of liver damage and stroke. Alcohol and depressants (including opioids) can cause an overdose death through respiratory failure. When mixed with hallucinogens, alcohol can cause increased risk taking, fatal accidents, and generally place the user in extremely unsafe situations.


Always Consult Your Doctor

Drug use is dangerous one way or another, and most drug users may not feel comfortable openly discussing their drug use with a medical professional unless they’re already seeking treatment.

However, regardless of whether you’re addicted or thinking of using drugs recreationally, don’t take medication without talking to a doctor about it, even if it’s over-the-counter, or simply a herbal alternative. Even the pills you get from a naturopath can negatively interact with regular medication, given the right combination of chemicals. A professional can let you know whether it’s a good idea to take something if you’re presenting certain symptoms, have certain allergies, or are already on a certain drug.