Teen Guides to Health & Wellness Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disorders Diets, Cleanses, and Fitness Drugs and Alcohol School and Your Health Sexuality and Gender Identity Sleep and Hygiene Smoking and Vaping Social Media and the Internet Suicide and Self-Harm Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modifications

Teen Guides to Health & Wellness

H.W. Poole

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Introduction. ...................................................................6 Chapter 1: T his is Your Brain (and the Rest of You) on Drugs......................................9 Chapter 2: Drugs A to Z..................................................29 Chapter 3: The Truth about Consequences. ................... 57 Chapter 4: What Do I Do Now?. ...................................... 75 Organizations and Hotlines............................................88 Series Glossary of Key Terms..........................................90 Further Reading and Online Resources........................... 92 Index. ............................................................................94 About the Author / Credits. ............................................96 K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.

As you go through adolescence, various people will line up to advise you about what to do and what not to do. Parents, teachers, and counselors will constantly offer the wisdom of their experience (whether you like it or not). Your pediatrician will want to weigh in on how much exercise you get, how often you eat vegetables, and the amount of time you spend on your phone. At school, friends and enemies alike will be full of opinions about what you should or shouldn’t be saying, doing, or wearing at any given moment. All the while, total strangers in faraway boardrooms will painstakingly design advertisements to try and convince you to send some of your hard-earned money their way. But, ultimately, the only person who can make decisions about what you do is you. When it comes to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, those decisions are serious and can come with life-altering consequences. So, before you make any decisions about drugs and alcohol, it’s important to understand the science, the risks involved, and the potential consequences. Because some of those potential consequences are as serious as consequences can get. This book will present the facts, without scare tactics or moralizing. Since different drugs have different types of impacts, chapter 1 is organized into sections based on the type of drug and its effect on the brain, as well as on the rest of the body. The next chapter, “Drugs A to Z,” is mini-encyclopedia of the drugs


you may encounter or hear about: What are they? How do they work? What are the risks? The third chapter explains a variety of consequences that can result from drug and alcohol use—some you already know about, but some you may never have considered. The fourth chapter offers concrete advice about dealing with addiction (whether your own or someone else’s). And last, but definitely not least, the final pages in the book list organizations, hotlines, books, and websites that can assist you in finding out more about drugs and alcohol. It’s your body—know the facts before you put things in it.

This book presents facts you can trust on drugs and alcohol.


Headache medications will reduce pain without causing any change in consciousness.


dissociative: describes something that causes a feeling of separateness endorphins: a type of hormone made by the brain and nervous system neurotransmitters: chemical substances in the brain placebo: a medication that has no physical effect but that the user believes has an effect psychedelic: here, a category of drug that causes hallucinations psychoactive: describes something that has an effect on the brain and thought psychosis: a mental disorder in which the person loses touch with reality


This Is Your Brain (and the Rest of You) on Drugs

If you have a headache, you might take medication—perhaps aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil). These drugs are called analgesics (from the ancient Greek for “without pain”), and their main feature is that they reduce pain without causing any change in consciousness. But they can still have side effects. For example, some people don’t like taking ibuprofen because it upsets their stomachs. All drugs, whether legal or illegal, are going to have a variety of impacts on the body. Sometimes those impacts are subtle, and you might barely notice them. Caffeine is a drug, for instance, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a huge personality change any time you drink a soda with caffeine in it. Other impacts are extreme and hard to miss. For instance, chemotherapy treatments destroy cancer cells, but they can hurt healthy cells, too—that’s why people on chemotherapy regimens sometimes lose their hair.

9 9

Drugs are substances that have an effect on the body—either positive or negative.

Drugs that people use and abuse for recreational purposes also impact the entire body. Doctors group drugs into categories that are based on the way those particular drugs affect us. This chapter will introduce you to the most important categories. For more details on specific drugs, consult chapter 2. Stimulants Examples: ADHD medication, caffeine, cocaine/crack, diet pills, nicotine, MDMA/Ecstasy/Molly, methamphetamine As their name suggests, stimulant drugs are used to speed up (or stimulate) the functions of the brain and central nervous system. The heart beats faster, blood pressure

Teen Guides to Health & Wellness: Drugs and Alcohol


increases, and the person breathes faster. Stimulants also increase the presence of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in the brain’s “reward center,” which gives humans the ability to feel pleasure. Users experience a rush of euphoria and a boost of energy. People using stimulants are more active, and they feel less tired and less hungry. In low doses—like, say, a can of regular soda—there’s usually no harm done, and there may even be some benefits, as anybody who needs a little coffee to wake up can attest. Prescription stimulants are a lot stronger than the caffeine in a can of soda, but if used correctly they can be life-changing for people who struggle with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But the effects of stimulants are dose-dependent, meaning the more of the drug you

Find out more about how prescription stimulant drugs affect the brain.

This Is Your Brain (and the Rest of You) on Drugs


take, the more intense the effects become. This is why it’s extremely important that all prescription medications be taken as the instructions are written—skipping or adding doses can make you sick. Illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are extremely strong stimulants, and their effects aren’t so benign. Do users experience euphoria? Yes, but they also experience paranoia, hallucinations, hostility, heart palpitations, chest pain, and vomiting.

People don’t always realize that coffee is a stimulant.

Teen Guides to Health & Wellness: Drugs and Alcohol


Stress can sometimes lead people to abuse stimulants.

Another problem is that the “rush” that makes the drugs pleasurable also makes them wildly addictive. The body quickly develops a tolerance to stimulants, which means it takes more of the drug to get the same effect. It’s not long before users find themselves chasing (but failing to achieve) that initial rush that was so attractive. As the dosage goes up, so does the potential for danger. Depressants Examples: alcohol, benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Xanax), GHB, sleep medications (e.g., Ambien) Depressants have the opposite effect from stimulants: they slow the body down. Blood pressure drops and breathing slows. In medical settings, depressants are used to reduce anxiety, aid sleep, and control seizures. With the right dosage, depressants

This Is Your Brain (and the Rest of You) on Drugs


Although you might feel hyper when drinking alcohol, it is still a depressant.

have a lot of medical value, but when they are abused the results can be extremely dangerous. Amnesia is a common side effect of depressants, because the chemicals interfere with the part of the brain that creates memories. Other side effects include muscle weakness, slurred speech, blurred vision, and nausea and vomiting. Another problem with depressants is the role they play in sexual assault—both Rohypnol and GHB have been implicated as “date rape drugs.” It’s sometimes confusing to hear that alcohol is a depressant, since people tend to associate drinking alcohol with socializing and having fun. And it’s true, the effect of alcohol on the brain can cause a short-term “loosening up” of the personality that feels sort of euphoric. But at the same time, the chemicals in alcohol are doing their work on the central nervous system, gradually slowing down thought and reaction times.

Teen Guides to Health & Wellness: Drugs and Alcohol


The body can easily become dependent on depressant drugs, requiring more and more to achieve the same effect. Recovering from an addiction to depressants is quite tricky and should not be attempted without medical help—going “cold turkey” can be dangerous or even fatal.

Heroin used to be sold as a cough medicine.

This Is Your Brain (and the Rest of You) on Drugs


Opiates and Opioids Examples: codeine, fentanyl, heroin, methadone, morphine, oxycodone (OxyContin) You’ve probably heard discussions about an ongoing “crisis” of opiate and opioid misuse. This is due to an alarming and tragic increase in deaths from particular formulations of some of these drugs. But in a way, this crisis is nothing new. Humanity’s relationship with opiate drugs goes back more than 5,000 years, when ancient Sumerians began cultivating what they called “the joy plant,” better known to us as the poppy. The Victorian-era “miracle” drug called laudanum was an opiate-alcohol mix that was used for everything from depression and menstrual pain to tuberculosis and crying babies. Today’s drugs like heroin and OxyContin are just different versions of the same thing. How and why they are administered has changed, but in terms of their chemistry and impact, all drugs in this category are fundamentally the same. Opioids are chemically the same as opiates, but they are made in laboratories. Morphine is an opiate, made directly from the poppy, while oxycodone is an opioid, made artificially. Researchers didn’t precisely understand what made opiates and opioids so attractive to humans until the 1970s. Essentially, chemicals in opiates are similar to endorphins , the naturally occurring chemicals in the body that cause feelings of pleasure. The drugs essentially “flood the zone” in the brain, leading to a very fast reduction in pain and increase in pleasure. Breathing slows down, and the user becomes drowsy. Nausea and vomiting are very common side effects, as is constipation. And it’s not only breathing that slows; the digestive system slows down, too.

Teen Guides to Health & Wellness: Drugs and Alcohol


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