There’ve been lots of headlines lately about the dangers of prescription drug abuse—like taking a friend’s.
BUT—for people who do not have ADHD, stimulants flood the brain with dopamine, causing a dopamine overload. So instead of having a calming effect as they would on people with ADHD, stimulants taken without a medical reason can disrupt brain communication and cause euphoria. It might feel good at first, but repeated abuse of stimulants can:
- Increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
- Decrease appetite and sleep.
- Cause feelings of hostility and paranoia.
- Increase a person’s risk for addiction.
Doctors take many factors into account when prescribing a drug for a person who needs it: dose size, the person’s weight and height, how long the drug should be taken, and much more. The bottom line is that drugs affect everyone differently. Want to see how abusing Adderall could affect you physically and academically? Choose Your Path.
Imagine you are a teen with ADHD. It’s hard for you to focus in class, your mind wanders everywhere, and even though you want to do well in class you’d much rather be outside shooting hoops. Although you take notes, it’s hard for you to remember the teacher’s instructions. So after a medical evaluation, your doctor prescribes stimulants to help you focus. That’s what happened to NIDA’s second place Addiction Science Award winner, Kevin Knight, a 17-year-old junior at Collegiate High School in Niceville, Florida. Based on his own experience, Kevin wanted to know if there were other ways besides medication to train his brain to focus.
So he decided to take a scientific look at computer programs designed to improve focus and memory with his project, "Improving ADHD Treatment: A Comparison of Stimulant Medication Treatment for Children with ADHD."
Computerized Cognitive Training of Attention and Working Memory, and the Combination of the Two," took a lot of work (even more than coming up with that title!) He worked with doctors to find teenage volunteers with ADHD to see if they could improve their focus and memory by playing computer “brain games.”
Kevin was surprised by what he learned. The best outcomes came with kids who took their medication AND used the computer programs. They had better focus and better memory. Kevin even tested himself, and improved his own ability to focus. This suggests that computer games used with medications could be part of an effective approach for treating ADHD.
Why was this given an “Addiction Science” award? Because the medications prescribed for ADHD, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are stimulants, and stimulants can be abused. Some kids even give or sell the pills to their friends, which can be dangerous. For more information on stimulants taken for ADHD, check out http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/ADHD.html.
NIDA’s Addiction Science award is given at the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which was in San Jose this year. For more information on NIDA’s 3 winners, see NIDA’s news release at http://www.nida.nih.gov/newsroom/10/NR5-14.html
What is part of your personal experience that might be the basis of a cool science fair project?
Bath salts—the drug, not the perfumed crystals you put in bath water—showed up just a few years ago. The synthetic powder is sold online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of names, such as "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Cloud Nine," and "Hurricane Charlie." But don’t let the fun names fool you: Bath salts are extremely dangerous.
What Are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are a new family of drugs that contain synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant. Bath salts typically appear as white or brown powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled “not for human consumption.” People who abuse bath salts swallow, inhale, or inject them.
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
Much is still unknown about the chemicals in bath salts, but they are similar to amphetamines (such as methamphetamine) as well as to MDMA (Ecstasy). So far, research has shown that the most common chemical found in bath salts, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), works like cocaine by increasing the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, causing a feeling of euphoria and hyperactivity. However, MDPV is 10 times more potent than cocaine.
Bath salts may also raise the levels of serotonin, causing hallucinations. Mephedrone and methylone, two other chemicals often sold as bath salts, were found to raise serotonin in a way similar to MDMA.
What Are the Other Health Effects of Bath Salts?
The synthetic chemicals in bath salts are very toxic and have been linked to increases in visits to emergency rooms and poison control centers across the country.
Bath salt abuse can cause the following physical and psychological symptoms:
|Racing Heart||Panic Attack||High blood pressure||Dehydration|
|Chest pains||Kidney failure||Paranoia||Breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue|
|Hallucinations||Insomnia||Psychotic and violent behavior||Death|
What Are We Doing To Prevent Abuse of Bath Salts?
Bath salts users have reported that the drugs trigger intense cravings (or a compulsive urge to use the drug again) and that they are highly addictive.
In response to rising abuse rates of bath salts, President Obama signed into law the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which bans MDPV, mephedrone, and other bath salts ingredients. However, drug manufacturers have responded by developing new versions of bath salts that use ingredients that, while just as toxic, are not yet banned.
If you know someone who is abusing bath salts, tell an adult or contact 1-800-662-HELP to find out how to get help for the person.
Find out more about bath salts.
Alcohol companies have tapped into a growing market to introduce underage drinkers to their products, on the basis that kids who acquire a taste for alcoholic drinks early are more likely to get hooked. While it is still illegal for teens to purchase them, “alcopops,” are flavored beer and vodka drinks that contain caffeine, juices, and other flavors. These drinks often sport names like Moonshot, JungleJoose, and Bacardi Breezer Watermelon, to fool you into believing they are harmless flavored drinks.
But Drinker Beware…
Alcopops may contain 4-7% alcohol or more, higher than the average can of beer containing a little over 3% alcohol content. Alcohol is a depressant, and so can make you tired and slow your brain and reaction time. That affects your ability to make decisions and to act or think properly—it also makes you thirsty, so you keep drinking. Now throw in a strong jolt of caffeine, such as you find in typical energy drinks. While the alcohol in alcopops tends to make you sleepy, the caffeine in them keeps you feeling “up.” Sugar, the major ingredient in many juice drinks and flavorings, also stimulates your brain to give you a short-term energy surge. Now confused from the caffeine, alcohol, and sugar mix, your brain gets tricked in sometimes lethal ways because these drinks don’t taste like alcohol and make you feel less intoxicated than alcohol alone. This leaves you even less aware of how much you’ve consumed and more likely to binge drink.
What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal here is that combining a depressant (alcohol) with stimulants (caffeine and sugar) sends mixed signals to your brain, which can have long-term consequences. So digest the facts before you pop a top: drinking alcohol—including alcopops—can be quite dangerous.
This past Drug Facts Chat Day, teens from across the country submitted questions about drug abuse to NIDA scientists.
A teen from Kingswood Regional Middle School in New Hampshire asked, “Can you tell me what speedballs are and why they are so dangerous?”
People use cocaine and heroin at the same time to get an intense rush with a high that is supposed to combine the effects of both drugs, while hoping to reduce the negative effects. However, the combination of cocaine and heroin can have fatal consequences. Negative effects of stimulants include anxiety, high blood pressure, and strong or irregular heartbeat, while the negative effects of depressants include drowsiness and suppression of breathing.
Taking stimulants with depressants can cause negative side effects typically associated with the abuse of either one individually, such as a state of general confusion, incoherence, blurred vision, stupor, drowsiness, paranoia, and mental impairment because of lack of sleep. The combination can also result in uncontrolled and uncoordinated motor skills, and also the risk of death from stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, or respiratory failure.
Respiratory failure is particularly likely with speedballs because the effects of cocaine wear off far more quickly than the effects of heroin. Fatal slowing of the breathing can occur when the stimulating cocaine wears off and the full effects of the heroin are felt on their own.
What other questions about drugs do you have?
In a recent Drug Facts Chat Day, freeman-jones of Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School, Maryland asked:
Can taking Ritalin help you if you have not been prescribed Ritalin?
Ritalin is a drug used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is classified as a stimulant. The term stimulants can be used to refer to any number of drugs, including prescription drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin’s scientific name) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall).
People diagnosed (by a doctor) with ADHD can benefit from these drug when they’re used as prescribed. However, teens with an ADHD prescription are sometimes pressured by friends to share some of their pills because they think the pills will help them focus or stay alert or ace an exam.Trouble is, when you take a pill that’s been prescribed for someone else’s weight, symptoms and body chemistry, or take more than the right dose for your own body, it can bring on more harm than good. Like changing your mood in ways that you can’t control, or raising your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. And when the effects wear off, you might feel extreme fatigue and maybe even depression.
Better than borrowing someone’s prescription pills is GETTING SLEEP. It’s safe and easy and will help you learn and stay mentally and physically alert. Maybe that’s why sleep is such a major part of our lives. Get it for free now (ok, wait ‘til bedtime).
When working out or playing sports, you may feel like you want to up your game. There are lots of sports products out there that claim to help you run faster, be stronger, or play longer—but be careful.
It’s important to make sure any sports supplement or “vitamin” you want to take is safe. The ingredients in sports products are not required to meet the same high standards as medications. This means it’s up to you to find out what’s in any pills, drinks, or powders before you take them.
Know What You Put in Your Body
In July, USPlabs, a maker of several sports products, destroyed $8 million worth of its sports supplements Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, after the Government said the two products might be dangerous. These two products had the stimulant dimethylamylamine (DMAA), which the Government warns can cause heart problems like shortness of breath and heart attacks. Stimulants are drugs that increase your energy and speed up your body.
In 2011, two U.S. soldiers may have died after using Jack3d. The Government is still trying to find out if that is true. The military has removed all products with DMAA from military bases to be safe.
But that’s not all.
- Companies claim DMAA is a natural ingredient, but researchers believe it is made in chemistry labs and added to supplements.
- In 2010, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned DMAA.
- As of April 2013, the Government had 86 reports of illness and death related to DMAA.
Do Your Research
If you are thinking about taking a sports product, do more than just read the label. Look into the ingredients and all the effects they may have on your body. Ask your coach if he or she knows anything about the product. A healthy body is the best body, so make sure you know what you are taking and that it is right for you.
There’s no magic pill that will make you a better athlete—only hard work can do that. Tell us, how do you improve your performance without using pills, drinks, or powders? Share by commenting on this post.
Have you ever heard the term ”psychoactive drugs?” Drugs in this category act on the central nervous system and and alter its normal, everyday activity, causing changes in mood, awareness, and behavior. Psychoactive drugs disrupt the communication between neurons (brain cells), so abusing them can have serious short- and long-term effects on the brain.
Psychoactive drugs include four groups of drugs: depressants like alcohol and sleeping pills; stimulants like nicotine and ecstasy; opioids like heroin and pain medications; and hallucinogens like LSD.
The term psychoactive drug might make you think of drugs, like LSD, that change your brain and behavior in really extreme ways. LSD is a hallucinogen, or “psychedelic” that significantly alters the brain and the user’s perception of reality. It is also an illicit, or illegal, drug.
But not all psychoactive drugs are illegal. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee and energy drinks, and opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, or morphine are often prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. Abusing prescribed psychoactive drugs is illegal though, and can be as dangerous as abusing cocaine or heroin. That is one reason why they come with warning labels telling people not to drive or operate heavy machinery. Drinking too much caffeine is not good for you either (see chart)!
So legal or illegal, psychoactive drugs demand caution.
NIDA provides lots of information about the different types of psychoactive drugs:
November 30 to December 7, 2013 is the first national Meth Awareness Week. Sponsored by our friends at The Partnership at DrugFree.org and coordinated by the Meth Project, this event aims to increase awareness of the devastating effects of using methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine, or meth, is a manmade stimulant that is sometimes made in basement labs from the cold medicine pseudoephedrine and various toxic chemicals like drain cleaner, battery acid, and antifreeze. Meth makes a person more awake and physically active, causes rapid heart rate, and increases blood pressure and body temperature. Repeated use causes your teeth to fall out and makes you pick at your skin until you have open sores.
Meth is nasty stuff, and teens get that. Only 1% of teens (8th, 10th, and 12th graders) used meth in 2012—reflecting a steady decline since 1999. The number of adults using meth dropped too: About 133,000 people tried meth in 2012, down more than 50% from 2002 to 2004.
This is all good news, but we still have work to do to prevent meth use. Meth is becoming more available, more pure (making it more dangerous), and less expensive to buy. The U.S. Department of Justice considers meth use a threat to this country because of how destructive it is.
To see just how destructive meth is, check out the Meth Project’s Facebook page for disturbing stories from people addicted to meth, as well as from their friends and family members. While some might consider such stories scare tactics (something SBB tries to avoid), they definitely show how awful meth can be.
Recent research shows that American teen girls have caught up with boys in their rates of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, which hasn’t always been the case. Here’s something else: teenage girls are now more likely than boys to abuse prescription drugs like pain pills and ADHD medications. The thing is—they have different reasons for doing so.
NIDA researchers surveyed hundreds of teens and asked them about their motivations for using particular prescription drugs. For stimulants like ADHD medications, for example, the young men were more likely to abuse them to get high or experiment, while for young women, it was to help them concentrate or stay alert. In other words, the young women were more likely “self-treat” for a specific purpose.
For one thing, when you borrow someone else’s medication or even take your own in a way that wasn’t prescribed, you put yourself at risk for scary side effects that can change your heart rhythm and breathing. And although prescription drugs may seem safer than street drugs, they still can lead to addiction and even death, especially when they’re mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
Do you have a friend who abuses prescription drugs? Do your own survey—ask them why, and let us know what you find out.
Prescription stimulants—like Adderall and Ritalin—have been in the news a lot recently because some high school and college students say they take these drugs to help them study better or party longer. Prescription stimulants are usually prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and misusing them can lead to serious health problems.
Let’s look at 5 myths about prescription stimulants.
Myth #1: Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall can make you smarter.
Fact: While these drugs may help you focus, they don’t help you learn better, and they won’t improve your grades.
Being “smart” is about improving your ability to master new skills, concepts, and ideas. Like a muscle, the brain gets stronger through exercise. Learning strengthens brain connections through repetition and practice to enhance cognition—“smartness”—over a lifetime. Shortcuts, like abusing prescription stimulants, do not “exercise” the brain.
Research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t.
Myth #2: Prescription stimulants are just “brain vitamins.”
Fact: Unlike vitamins, these drugs contain ingredients that can change brain chemistry and may have serious side effects.
Also, unlike vitamins, they require a doctor’s prescription. If you take these drugs more often than directed, in too high a dose, or in some way other than by mouth, you are abusing the drug, which can lead to addiction.
Myth #3: These drugs can’t hurt you.
Fact: Prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin are safe and effective when prescribed for people with ADHD and used properly. But the same drugs, when used by someone without ADHD, can be dangerous.
Stimulants taken without a medical reason can disrupt brain communication. When used improperly or in excess, they can cause mood swings and loss of sleep, and can increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
Myth #4: Taking someone else’s prescription—just once in a while—is okay.
Fact: Doctors prescribe medicine based on your weight, symptoms, and body chemistry. Doctors may adjust how much you take or change to a different medication to better treat symptoms or respond to side effects.
When you take a stimulant prescribed for a friend or family member, you haven’t been looked at by a doctor. The possible side effects can make you sick. Side effects include elevated heart rate, dizziness, and fainting—or, even worse, heart attacks and stroke. Side effects may also include depression and exhaustion.
Myth #5: If your doctor prescribed the drug, it doesn’t matter how you take it.
Fact: If you are diagnosed with ADHD, stimulants the doctor prescribes for you can help. But always be sure to take the medication exactly as directed—no more, no less.
Also, be sure to tell your doctor everything that’s going on at home and at school. Combining prescription stimulants with other drugs or alcohol can be dangerous.
And don’t help your friends or family members abuse prescription drugs by sharing your pills with them.
Bath salts. The name sounds innocent enough, like an old-fashioned cure for tired feet. But these days, “bath salts” are far from what you would find in your local soap aisle at the grocery store or day spa. Bath salts are a new type of drug laced with synthetic stimulants, which people use to get high by swallowing, snorting or injecting them. And…they have just been made illegal.
What Are Bath Salts?
Because these drugs are relatively new and for now unregulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), scientists are not exactly sure of the ingredients in each brand. We do know that the chemicals in these bath salts mimic the effects of amphetamines—stimulants like cocaine or meth—such as racing heart, increased blood pressure and body temperature, and even seizures, which have brought many people to emergency rooms across the country.
According to the head of the Louisiana Poison Center, at least 84 people in that state have been hospitalized after getting high from bath salts. Nationwide, more than 4,000 calls about bath salts have come in to poison centers during the first 7 months of 2011—up from 303 calls in all of 2010.
It is too early to tell what the exact short- and long-term effects from abusing bath salts is, but what little we do know so far is alarming enough. Effects can include extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts, as well as chest pains, soaring blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. A number of deaths were reported in people who took the drug, including at least one possible suicide.
Several states, including Hawaii, Louisiana, and Michigan, have introduced laws to ban bath salts. The DEA just announced it will make selling or possessing these chemicals illegal for a year while they study them further. SBB will keep you posted on what they learn. If anyone offers you bath salts as a way to get high, let them know not only are they taking big risks, they are also doing something illegal.
- Sleep. This may sound obvious, but getting enough sleep is important. Teens need 9 hours of sleep a night.
- Eat regularly. When you don’t eat, your glucose (sugar) levels drop, making you feel drained. Some people find it helpful to eat four or five smaller meals throughout the day instead of fewer big meals.
- Drink enough water. Since we are more than two-thirds H20, our bodies need at least 64 ounces of water a day.
- Take a walk. If you’re feeling drained in the middle of the day, it helps to move around. Do sit-ups or jumping jacks. Go outside for a brisk walk, ride your bike.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it is, and it may not be too good for you, either.
AeroShot is a dry caffeine “shot.” Each AeroShot has a powder blend of candy-flavored caffeine and B vitamins that you suck into your mouth and then swallow. Each canister has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but only takes six “inhales” to consume.
Questionable Marketing Claims
Breathable Foods started out marketing AeroShot as “breathable energy” in a “caffeine inhaler,” despite its being a powder. In response, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated AeroShot and issued a warning letter for false and mislabeled packaging, since it’s a powder that you swallow.
Although AeroShot has corrected its labeling, its false advertising only shows how important it is to know the facts about products before you consume them. AeroShot’s claims that its caffeine “shots” were breathable were simply untrue—and potentially dangerous.
Unknown Health Effects
The health effects of AeroShot are still unclear.
One worry is that AeroShot makes it too easy for users, especially youth, to over-do caffeine. Drinking a cup of coffee takes many sips over time, but “puffing” multiple AeroShots can give you an alarming amount of caffeine in a couple of minutes. Caffeine is a chemical stimulant that affects the brain and body—and too much can result in overdose.
FDA was also concerned that the original advertisements of AeroShot showed young people using the product with alcohol. Having already heard about Four LOKO and mixing energy drinks with alcohol, you know by now that it’s dangerous to mix caffeine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant), because they confuse the body by sending opposite chemical signals to the brain. Caffeine can reduce people’s ability to feel how drunk they really are and therefore cause them to drink more than they normally would.
What do you think? How can AeroShot market itself in a way that does not encourage dangerous behavior?
Check out our post, The Buzz on Caffeine, for alternative ways to boost your energy.