Increase Your IQ on Alcohol & Other Drugs

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  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, with approximately 22.2 million users each month. 
  • Research shows that about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6. 
  • Marijuana use directly affects the brain — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. Developing brains, like those in babies, children, and teens, are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of marijuana. 
  • Eating foods or drinking beverages that contain marijuana have some different risks than smoking marijuana, including a greater risk of poisoning. 
  • Long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in some users 


Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine comes in two forms: 

  • Powder cocaine is a white powder (which scientists call a hydrochloride salt). Street dealers often mix cocaine with other substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, or sugar. They also mix cocaine with stimulant drugs like amphetamines, or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, which has caused deaths. 
  • Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal that people smoke. 

With repeated use, stimulants like cocaine can disrupt how the brain’s dopamine system works, reducing a person’s ability to feel pleasure from normal, everyday activities.  Some effects include: 

  • mental alertness 
  • sensitivity to light, sound, and touch 
  • irritability 
  • paranoia (feeling that people are out to get you) 
  • constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils 
  • higher body temperature 
  • higher blood pressure and faster heartbeat, leading to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke 
  • feeling sick to the stomach 
  • restlessness 
  • decreased appetite and, over time, a loss of weight 
  • inability to sleep 

Long-Term Effects 

  • snorting: loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, nasal damage, and trouble swallowing 
  • smoking: cough, asthma, and lung damage 
  • consuming by mouth: damage to intestines (between the stomach and anus) caused by reduced blood flow 
  • needle injection: higher risk for HIV and hepatitis (a liver disease) through shared needles  
  • all methods: poor nutrition and weight loss 

Cocaine can be deadly when taken in large doses or when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Cocaine-related deaths often happen because the heart stops (cardiac arrest), then breathing stops. Using cocaine and drinking alcohol or using other drugs increases these dangers, including the risk of overdose. 

After the "high" of the cocaine wears off, many people experience a "crash" and feel tired or sad for days. They also experience a strong craving to take cocaine again to try to feel better. 


Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance is known as black tar heroin. 


People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing. 

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. 

Short-Term Effects 

People who use heroin report feeling a "rush" (a surge of pleasure, or euphoria). However, there are other common effects, including: 

  • dry mouth 
  • warm flushing of the skin 
  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs 
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • severe itching 
  • clouded mental functioning 
  • going "on the nod," a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious 

Long-Term Effects 

People who use heroin over the long term may develop: 

  • insomnia 
  • collapsed veins for people who inject the drug 
  • damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it 
  • infection of the heart lining and valves 
  • abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus) 
  • constipation and stomach cramping 
  • liver and kidney disease 
  • lung complications, including pneumonia 
  • mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder 
  • sexual dysfunction for men 
  • irregular menstrual cycles for women 
  • needle injection: higher risk for HIV and hepatitis (a liver disease) through shared needles 


Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter a person’s awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings.   

  • LSD (Acid) is one of the most powerful mind-altering chemicals. It is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. 
  • PCP (Angel Dust) was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery, but it is no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects. PCP can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets or capsules; however, liquid and white crystal powder are the most common. 
  • Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. Much of the ketamine sold illegally come from veterinary offices. It mostly sells as a powder or as pills, but it also available as an injectable liquid. Ketamine is snorted or sometimes added to drinks as a date-rape drug. 
  • Psilocybin (Mushrooms) comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. 

Classic hallucinogens can cause users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. The effects generally begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 12 hours in some cases (LSD) or as short as 15 minutes in others (synthetic DMT). Hallucinogen users refer to the experiences brought on by these drugs as "trips." If the experience is unpleasant, users sometimes call it a "bad trip." 


  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)—recurrences of certain drug experiences, such as hallucinations or other visual disturbances. These flashbacks often happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use. These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for other disorders, such as stroke or a brain tumor. 
  • increased heart rate 
  • nausea 
  • intensified feelings and sensory experiences (such as seeing brighter colors) 
  • changes in sense of time (for example, the feeling that time is passing by slowly) 

Specific effects of hallucinogens include: 

  • increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature 
  • loss of appetite 
  • dry mouth 
  • sleep problems 
  • spiritual experiences 
  • feelings of relaxation 
  • uncoordinated movements 
  • excessive sweating 
  • panic 
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others 
  • psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality 
  • bizarre behaviors 
  • memory loss 
  • panic and anxiety 
  • seizures 
  • psychotic symptoms 
  • amnesia 
  • inability to move 
  • mood swings 
  • trouble breathing 
  • speech problems 
  • weight loss 
  • anxiety 
  • depression and suicidal thoughts 


MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is most commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly. It is a laboratory-made drug that produces a “high” similar to the stimulants called amphetamines. It also produces psychedelic effects, similar to the hallucinogens mescaline and LSD. 

The changes that take place in the brain with MDMA use affect the user in several ways. These include: 

  • increases in heart rate and blood pressure 
  • muscle tension 
  • teeth clenching 
  • lowered inhibition (doing things and making decisions that you're normally wouldn’t) 
  • nausea (feeling sick) and possible vomiting 
  • blurred vision 
  • dizziness and faintness 
  • chills or sweating 
  • higher body temperature (can lead to serious heart, liver, or kidney problems) 

Withdrawal symptoms after regular (daily or almost daily) use of the drug is reduced or stopped, such as: 

  • fatigue 
  • loss of appetite 
  • depression 
  • trouble concentrating 

Rohypnol (Roofies) 

Rohypnol is a sedative medication in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Rohypnol has been used as a date rape drug, and adolescents frequently use it to get high. Like all benzodiazepines, the use of Rohypnol can result in dramatically slowed brain activity. Rohypnol is extremely addictive, and signs of addiction include using larger amounts than intended, persistent failure to cut down or quit using, and continued use despite negative consequences. 

If combined with alcohol as Rohypnol often is when used as a date rape drug blackouts may occur as well as stupor, respiratory depression, and death. 

  • Slow movements 
  • Slow breathing 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Decreased blood pressure 
  • Amnesia 
  • Headaches 
  • Memory impairment 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nightmares 
  • Confusion 
  • Tremors 
  • Aggression 
  • Violence 
  • Excitability 

Harmful social and health effects may occur due to long-term Rohypnol abuse. Some of the long term effects of Rohypnol include:6 

  • Disinhibited behavior 
  • Accidents 
  • Financial difficulties 
  • Excessive absences from school or work 
  • Poor school or work performance 
  • Suspensions or expulsions 
  • Neglect of children or family7 
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances 
  • Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms 
  • Urinary retention 
  • Visual problems 
  • Decreased blood pressure 
  • Slower pulse 
  • Decreased respiratory rate 
  • Evidence of trauma caused by accidents 
  • Internal bleeding 
  • Deadly head injuries 7 
  • Cognitive impairments 

Prescription Drugs and Stimulants 

Opioids are a class of drugs naturally found in the opium poppy plant.  Opioids are often used as medicines because they contain chemicals that relax the body and can relieve pain. Opioids can also make people feel very relaxed and "high" - which is why they are sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This can be dangerous because opioids can be highly addictive, and overdoses and death are common.  

What are common prescription opioids? 

  • hydrocodone (Vicodin®) oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®) 
  • oxymorphone (Opana®) 
  • morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®) 
  • codeine 
  • fentanyl 

In the short term, opioids can relieve pain and make people feel relaxed and happy. However, opioids can also have harmful effects, including: 

  • drowsiness 
  • confusion 
  • nausea 
  • constipation 
  • euphoria 
  • slowed breathing 
  •  hypoxia, a condition that results when too little oxygen reaches the brain 

People addicted to an opioid medication who stop using the drug can have severe withdrawal symptoms that begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken. These symptoms include: 

  • muscle and bone pain 
  • sleep problems 
  • diarrhea and vomiting 
  • cold flashes with goosebumps 
  • uncontrollable leg movements 
  • severe cravings 


Prescription stimulants are medicines generally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy—uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. They increase alertness, attention, and energy. 

  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®) 
  • dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall®) 
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®) 

People who use prescription stimulants report feeling a "rush" (euphoria) along with the following: 

  • increased blood pressure and heart rate 
  • increased breathing 
  • decreased blood flow 
  • increased blood sugar 
  • opened-up breathing passages 
  • dangerously high body temperature 
  • heart failure 
  • Seizures 
  • Psychosis 
  • anger 
  • Paranoia 

Withdrawal symptoms can include: 

  • fatigue 
  • depression 
  • sleep problems 

Central Nervous System Depressant

Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants are medicines that include sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. These drugs can slow brain activity, making them useful for treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders. 

  • slurred speech 
  • poor concentration 
  • confusion 
  • headache 
  • light-headedness 
  • dizziness 
  • dry mouth 
  • problems with movement and memory 
  • lowered blood pressure 
  • slowed breathing 


  • diazepam (Valium®) 
  • clonazepam (Klonopin®) 
  • alprazolam (Xanax®) 
  • triazolam (Halcion®) 
  • estazolam (Prosom®) 
Non-Benzodiazepine Sedative Hypnotics 
  • zolpidem (Ambien®) 
  • eszopiclone (Lunesta®) 
  • zaleplon (Sonata®) 
  • mephobarbital (Mebaral®) 
  • phenobarbital (Luminal®) 
  • pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®) 



Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. 

People can take methamphetamine by: 

  • smoking 
  • swallowing (pill) 
  • snorting 
  • injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol 

Because the "high" from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a "binge and crash" pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a "run," giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days. 

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include: 

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity 
  • decreased appetite 
  • faster breathing 
  • rapid and/or irregular heartbeat 
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature 

Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences, including: 

  • extreme weight loss 
  • addiction 
  • severe dental problems ("meth mouth") 
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching 
  • anxiety 
  • changes in brain structure and function 
  • confusion 
  • memory loss 
  • sleeping problems 
  • violent behavior 
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others 
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren't 
  • People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids that can remain on drug equipment. 


  • E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or mix of small particles in the air. 
  • E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” 
  • The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults. 
  • Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.1 
  • E-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine. 
  • Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.