Illegal drugs

Parents have always feared illegal drugs, and that fear is well founded. Having good, honest conversations with your son can help make all the difference in the world. Knowing the basics about the drugs that are popular in your area is important to helping prevent drug use in your child.


Marijuana is a drug that can be smoked or ingested. It is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. What gives marijuana (also known as cannabis, MJ, Mary Jane, and weed) its power is the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


Some states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The difference is that medicinal marijuana use is overseen by doctors and is not potentially tainted the way street drugs can be.

Marijuana makes users feel euphoric yet laid-back. Marijuana is also known to heighten sensory experiences. Physically, a person's heart rate and appetite increase. Short-term memory, motivation, and thinking can also be adversely affected. There is also the potential for lung damage, including lung cancer. Long-term users are more likely to drop out of school, have low sperm count, and feel like marijuana is their sole purpose for existing.


Cocaine is a truly frightening drug. It is derived from the coca bush in South America and acts as a stimulant. It comes in two forms, cocaine and crack cocaine. Cocaine is a white powder that is mixed or cut with other powdered substances including talcum powder, infant formula (artificial baby milk), corn starch, or even other drugs. The concentration of cocaine in a given batch can vary widely. In this form, cocaine can be snorted, freebased (smoked), and mainlined (injected). Crack cocaine, a potent form of cocaine, in soft rock form, is more readily available and less expensive, making it a favorite among teens. This highly addictive form of cocaine is ready to smoke.


Cocaine has the potential to be tainted with other drugs that the user doesn't know about. Other drugs are used to increase the volume of the drug or its effects. This can have deadly consequences.

Users feel wildly euphoric and high. They get a rush. The problem is that the rush doesn't last very long — about five to thirty minutes. After that, the user feels a sense of deep depression. Cocaine is highly addictive, and a single use can cause a person to become physically addicted. Cocaine can cause:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Increase blood pressure

  • Rise in body temperature

  • Increased rate of breathing

  • Racing heart

  • Runny nose (short-term use) or sores in the nasal passages (long-term use)

Someone on cocaine can become violent and aggressive. Users can also suffer from convulsions, heart attack, stroke, changes in the heartbeat, respiratory depression, and lack of oxygen to vital organs. Mainlining or injecting cocaine can also expose your son to the risks for hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and other diseases.


This class of stimulants is more readily available and less expensive than cocaine. Because the amphetamines work on the central nervous system, the user will feel wide awake and alert. Students take these drugs to help them prepare for tests or to stay awake for long projects. Amphetamines can be ingested, injected, snorted, or smoked.


A 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 6.2 percent of high school students responded they had used methamphetamines during their lifetime. This number was down from 2003 and 2001.

Teens who use methamphetamines may exhibit aggressive behavior and many of the same side effects as with cocaine, including headache, anxiety, and dizziness. Amphetamines can leave the user feeling high for hours, compared to cocaine's short-lived high.


Sedatives work much like alcohol on the central nervous system. They can make the user feel less anxious, and calm. They can also impair muscular control and make the user slur his speech or feel drowsy. Many of these drugs are legal but misused, as when taken by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.

Designer or Club Drugs

This class of drugs includes:

  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)

  • PCP (phencyclidine)

  • Ketamine

  • Mescaline

  • MDMA/Ecstacy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

These drugs are ingested or smoked to produce euphoric feelings. They are hallucinogens. One place your teen may find these is at an all-night party or rave where music and lights are combined with drugs and dancing to produce a psychedelic experience.


Your son may try to take something known as Herbal Ecstasy. It creates a heightened sense of alertness that causes stress. It is found in music shops and on the counters at many convenience stores. Your son needs to understand why this is dangerous, despite being legal.

Date Rape Drugs

While Rohypnol (roofies) is the most heard of in this category, there are other drugs that can be used as well, including GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid). These drugs are used to relax the user, who typically is unaware that he or she has been drugged. Date rape drugs also prevent the person who was drugged from remembering what happened.

These drugs can easily be slipped into drinks. Since they are colorless and odorless, they can't be detected. Hoffmann-LaRoche Inc., the manufacturer of Rohypnol, is developing their drug to change colors and become clumpy in liquids to help combat this problem. Teens can order this drug over the Internet from other countries using only a credit card.

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