Drug Information

Please use this page for educational purposes.

Visit the drug pages below to learn more about the various drugs and their effects on the body and external symptoms and signs about the use of these drugs. Often the effects of the use of more than one of these drugs in combination with another can prove to be life-threatening and/or fatal to the user.

Much of the following information is borrowed from the Narconon Website.

Alcohol

Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is the most widely-used drug in the world. According to the World Health Organization, more than three million people a year lose their lives due to their alcohol abuse. Learn how to help loved ones who might struggle with alcoholism so they never become part of this statistic.

Drunks may be represented as “funny” in movies and television shows, but just ask the family of an alcoholic. There is nothing funny about alcoholism.

Even when a person manages to function at work, it’s normally at home where things come unraveled. No one should have to struggle with addiction.

The Narconon program not only addresses the debilitating effects of alcoholism abuse on the mind and body, but also helps a person to resolve why they turned to alcohol as a solution in the first place. As a result, a person can graduate from the program into a new life free from the harmful effects of alcohol.

Know where the line is drawn.

Very specific advice for a person who is trying to help.

Most people know what a drunk person looks like but showing a young drinker the real effects of alcohol might help him learn to steer clear of this drug.

Many drinkers know that their livers are damaged by drinking. Get the specifics so you can help an alcoholic quit.

The liver is not the only organ that takes a beating. Get the whole story.

While most people don’t know it, even one’s lungs and brain are damaged by all that alcohol.


Cigarettes/Vapes - John Hopkins Medicine

5 Vaping Facts You Need To Know

If you have thought about trying to kick a smoking habit, you’re not alone. Nearly 7 of 10 smokers say they want to stop. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health — smoking harms nearly every organ in your body, including your heart. Nearly one-third of deaths from heart disease are the result of smoking and secondhand smoke.

You might be tempted to turn to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other vaping devices) as a way to ease the transition from traditional cigarettes to not smoking at all. But is smoking e-cigarettes (also called vaping) better for you than using tobacco products? Can e-cigarettes help you to stop smoking once and for all? Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, shares health information about vaping.

1: Vaping Is Less Harmful Than Smoking, but It’s Still Not Safe

E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. While we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, Blaha says “there’s almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”

However, there has also been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping. As of Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 60 deaths in patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).

“These cases appear to predominantly affect people who modify their vaping devices or use black market modified e-liquids. This is especially true for vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” explains Blaha.

The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with EVALI. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in THC vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of EVALI patients examined by the CDC.

The CDC recommends that people:

  • Do not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products

  • Avoid using informal sources, such as friends, family or online dealers to obtain a vaping device.

  • Do not modify or add any substances to a vaping device that are not intended by the manufacturer.

2: Research Suggests Vaping Is Bad for Your Heart and Lungs

Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

Is vaping bad for you? There are many unknowns about vaping, including what chemicals make up the vapor and how they affect physical health over the long term. “People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” says Blaha. “Emerging data suggests links to chronic lung disease and asthma, and associations between dual use of e-cigarettes and smoking with cardiovascular disease. You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”

3: Electronic Cigarettes Are Just As Addictive As Traditional Ones

Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. What’s worse, says Blaha, many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product — you can buy extra-strength cartridges, which have a higher concentration of nicotine, or you can increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater hit of the substance.


LSD

Signs and Symptoms of LSD Abuse

While LSD can be a dangerous drug, and one that is mostly abused by young people, it may be an advantage that the signs are LSD abuse are so distinctive, as this makes them easier for parents or loved ones to detect this type of drug abuse.

LSD is sold in pills, capsules or in liquid form. The liquid is soaked into specially prepared blotting paper that is often imprinted with cartoon characters and perforated. Each tiny square is one dose of LSD. The blotting paper is held in the user’s mouth until all the drug has been absorbed.

Within an hour or so of consuming this drug, a person’s perceptions and sense of reality begin to change. This may frighten a person who is going through it for the first time or someone who is emotionally unstable. But to a person who knows what is coming, this is considered a desirable change.

LSD creates a sensory perception that is interpreted as an expansion of consciousness or a religious experience that transcends the normal boundaries of awareness and existence.

A person using LSD may feel relaxed and more sociable. Going through the experience of using LSD is called a “trip.”

On the other hand, “bad trips” are quite possible, meaning that the person becomes frightened and panicky. But if the person panics, there is no escape from the altered universe he finds himself in.

Shifted perceptions can include:

  • Distortions of time, depth, space, size and shape

  • Hallucinations of things that are not there or that stationary items are moving—in most cases, the person is aware of the unreality of these effects but in those situations where this is not true, injury or death can occur

  • Altered perceptions of speed

  • A blended sensory experience, in other words, “hearing” colors or “seeing” music

  • Intensified senses of sound, touch or sight—visual hallucinations may range from color intensification or flashes of light to moving geometric or other patterns that can be seen with eyes open or shut

  • The sensation that a person has left his or her body or that their body has changed shape

A person going through an LSD trip usually feels that he or she is gaining some special understanding or insight that was not available while sober. An effort to understand life better or continue these insights may drive a person to repeat the experience.

Physical signs of LSD use can be:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Salivation or dry mouth

  • Tingling fingers or toes

  • Weakness

  • Negative effects including emotional distress, anxiety, depression, disorientation or paranoia

  • Dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate and convulsions

  • Sweating or chills

  • Blurred vision

  • Inability to perform complex tasks like driving or operating machinery

An LSD trip may last as long as twelve hours. The person on an LSD trip may experience increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. They may not feel tired and may not want to eat.

Because of the emotional responses evoked by LSD, a person who is tripping may not be particularly concerned about concealing the artificial mellowness and relaxation that often occurs. If a child or young adult is home when they are using LSD, it may be possible for parents to observe some of these signs as there may be no effective attempt to hide them.

Emergency and Addiction Treatment

Most of the people abusing LSD are young, under 21 years of age. In the US, nearly 2,000 went to treatment in 2009 as they could not control their LSD consumption. LSD is not known to have physically addictive properties but it can become psychologically addictive so that some people feel compelled to take hundreds of LSD trips.

Each LSD trip is highly unpredictable, as a trip can turn bad at any time, even if the person has successfully survived many trips before. Then again, a batch of LSD can be contaminated with some other drug and have a different effect than usual. A person can suffer severe panic attacks, fear that death is imminent, or fear they are going insane. These signs of LSD use can and do often wind a person up in an emergency room.

When a trip goes bad, the person can suffer from delusions, paranoia, rapid mood swings and a fear that he or she is disintegrating into nothing and that there is no reality. This severe disorientation has led to violence, accidents leading to death or homicides or suicide.

A person who has used LSD may also experience “flashbacks” where they suddenly re-experience the signs of LSD use for no reason and without warning.

Narconon Provides Help for Those Who Have Taken LSD

The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program offers the person who has taken LSD a unique route to recovery. One of the early steps of recovery is the Narconon New Life Detoxification, one phase in the overall drug rehab program at a Narconon center. This detox uses a low-heat sauna, generous nutritional supplementation and moderate daily exercise to flush out old, stored drug toxins that may be lodged in the fatty tissues of people’s bodies. It is not unusual at all to experience the feelings one had when taking drugs years before, as the drug residues are flushed out. This includes LSD, for those who have used this drug. Flushing out these residues helps improve the chances that one’s thinking will be clearer and that there may be fewer or no flashbacks in the future.

Find out how the Narconon program helps addicted people find lasting sobriety.


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Marijuana

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Use

Worldwide, cannabis–also known as weed and marijuana–throws an enormous net that traps more than a hundred million people every year. In the US, it’s about 4.5 million people, and more than 860,000 of these Americans are students in middle school or high school. It is essential to be able to tell when you might lose a family member to addiction to weed.

Weed either can be a long-term habit, or it can lead to the abuse of stronger drugs, depending on the societal pattern in the location it’s being abused. One thing is certain: Despite all the media and articles and proponents for legalization, weed is addictive and creates an impaired condition that can be dangerous. Since weed is abused by so many young people, millions of parents struggle to clearly identify drug problems or addiction in their children. It’s important to be able to detect signs of weed use when they are present.

Marijuana Health Risks:

Identifying Marijuana or Weed Consumption

Marijuana or weed can be consumed as a shredded, dry leafy product or as marijuana oil and resin. These last two are sold under the names “hash” or “hashish.” Hash may be found in flat cakes. Hash oil will be amber or brown and may be sold in small glass bottles. When you’re looking for signs of weed use, you would be looking for small bags of brownish-green leaves that look like herbs, small chunks of a powdery brown substance or very small bottles of brown liquid.

Signs of Marijuana Use

Physical Change:

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Fast heart rate

  • Sleepy, lethargic

  • Lack of coordination

  • Increase cravings for snacks

Change in Actions:

  • Confusion and lack of focus

  • Unusually talkative

  • Dropping studies or usual activities

  • Misjudging time

  • Secretiveness

Paraphernalia

  • Pipes

  • Shredded leafy debris

  • Cigarette rolling papers

  • Very small bottles of oil

  • Small metal clips

  • Eyedroppers

Other signs of weed use are paraphernalia left in a person’s room or vehicle. Small pipes, larger complicated water pipes referred to as “bongs,” and cigarette rolling papers or small ends of smoked hand-rolled cigarettes constitute signs of weed use. In states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use (or nearby states), there may be “edibles” in the form of:

  • Cookies,

  • Brownies,

  • Drinks,

  • Candy bars,

  • Hard candies

If the item is still in the original packaging, it must identify the dosage of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary intoxicating ingredient) expected to exist in that edible item.

Immediate Signs of Weed Use

The most immediate signs of smoking weed are dilation of the blood vessels in the eyes (making them bloodshot), increased heart rate, increased appetite and memory impairment, along with difficulty paying attention or solving problems. But the real reason people abuse the drug is for the euphoria that may last three to six hours.

When monitoring for symptoms of weed use, there may be reactions of anxiety, fear or panic, especially if they are new to the drug or taking it in an unsettling location. Hallucinations, paranoia and delusional behavior can be symptoms of weed use that is very potent, or consumption of a large amount.

More Risks & Effects of Cannabis Abuse

Helping Someone Overcome Addiction to Weed

Feeling that one’s life is just passing one by is a typical symptom of weed use. One person who spent a decade smoking dope said that it was like ten years of his life was just missing. At Narconon recovery centers, the brightness and joy of really living can be recovered after symptoms of weed use have demonstrated abuse or addiction to the drug.

For students in particular, being addicted to weed can be destructive. Weed impairs one’s ability to think, learn and solve problems. To accomplish a good education, one must be bright and perceptive. With a thorough sauna-based detoxification action that restores the brightness and quickness of thinking, plus boosted communication skills and life skills, a person can again create a productive, enjoyable life.

Find out how the holistic, alternative Narconon drug recovery program can help someone you care about who is addicted to weed or any other drug. Call

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Prescription Drugs

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Use

Prescription drug abuse is becoming endemic across the United States and several European countries, as the proportion of people seeking treatment for prescription drug addiction continue to grow. In the US, opioids, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants are the leading drugs that are abused. The number of people seeking treatment help for opioid addiction grew more than 400% in the decade ending in 2008. But still, only one in a hundred people abusing prescription opioids get treatment.

Canada also reports problems with the same types of drugs, although at a much lower rate. Mexico has slightly more abuse of opioid drugs than heroin, and amphetamine-type stimulants are popular in South America. In Europe, it’s mostly the Northern European Countries that are having problems, like Norway, Sweden, and Finland that are fighting problems with benzodiazepines.

Self-Medication With Diverted Prescription Drugs

In the US, national surveys show that people are misusing drugs intended to treat severe pain, difficulty maintaining focus, sleeplessness, and anxiety. As a group, these drugs are second only to marijuana in their rate of abuse.

Many people may start by using one of these drugs legitimately then progress to abuse after addiction occurs. Many more people try out someone else’s prescription in school, at work or at a party and like the effect. Whatever way it occurs, the rate of abuse and overdose both are on the rise.

Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

Naturally, the signs of abuse of these drugs will vary by the type of prescription drug being abused. A person abusing prescription opiates (pain relievers), in addition to not feeling pain at normal levels, may be drowsy and confused. They may complain of nausea or look for remedies for constipation. Pupils will be constricted.

If they nod off, their breathing may be unnaturally slow. If they try to stop using this drug, they are likely to manifest muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting and chills for several days.

A person abusing benzodiazepines is using a drug intended to treat anxiety and sleeplessness. Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Halcyon (triazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) fall into this category. These drugs are addictive and can be very dangerous to withdraw from without medical assistance.

Other drugs used for these purposes are similar in function but different in chemistry like Ambien and Lunesta. A person abusing any of these drugs may appear unnaturally relaxed and drowsy.

Further, a person abusing sedatives or tranquilizers may show these signs:

  • Memory may be poor

  • Speech may be slurred

  • Coordination may be off

  • Pupils will be dilated

  • The person may be depressed, tired, aggressive, agitated, paranoid or suicidal

  • There may be headaches and dizziness

A person abusing stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall and Desoxyn may manifest anxiety, delusions, flushed skin and chest pain with heart palpitations. Their sleep may be irregular, with long hours spent awake before they catch up.

When Young People Abuse Prescription Drugs

There may be distinct changes in a young person who has started abusing prescription. Parents may chalk up these changes to just being a teenager. But if too many of these signs show up, it is time for a closer look.

  • Young person withdraws from family and friends and wants to spend a lot of time alone

  • They have given up on their interests and hobbies

  • They are hostile, angry and aggressive toward anyone who tries to control their actions

  • They cry for little or no reason and are routinely irritable

  • They no longer take care of their appearance and cleanliness

  • Quality of schoolwork and grades take a dive

  • Their sleep patterns are all off, sleeping during the day and staying up all night or for days at a time

  • They no longer care about family rules or curfew

Rescuing a Person from Prescription Drug Addiction

The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program has been helping people find sobriety even after years or decades of being addicted, for nearly five decades. There are some 45 Narconon centers around the world, dedicated to helping people recover from addiction.

Of particular interest to the recovering addict or the family is the Narconon New Life Detoxification. This single phase of the overall addiction recovery program guides each person through this action that consists of time in a low-heat sauna, a strictly controlled nutritional program, and moderate daily exercise. This combination activates the body’s ability to flush out old stored toxins that remain in the fatty tissues after drug use. When these residues are gone, those completing this step say they feel brighter, have more energy and that their cravings are either greatly reduced or gone.


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Bath Salts

Signs and Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse

“Bath salts” is one of the newest drugs to hit the streets. These drugs have nothing to do with bathing. They are called bath salts because they are usually packaged as a product “for a soothing bath, not for human consumption.” Before the drugs making up bath salts were illegal, this kept sellers from having the drugs confiscated. Sellers were usually convenience stores, head shops and similar businesses.

These drugs have now been made illegal in the United States, so their sale is carried out more covertly.

Bath salts may be ingested, snorted or injected. Small foil packages are often left behind, evidence of bath salts consumption.

They may be labeled:

  • Blue silk

  • Zoom

  • Ivory Wave

  • Purple Wave

  • Red Dove

  • White Lightning

  • Cloud Nine

  • Or many other names

A variety of chemicals make up bath salts. These include mephedrone (a popular and problematic drug in the UK), pyrovalerone and methylenedioxyprovalerone (MPDV). The most serious results come from snorting or injecting. While these are three of the most common chemicals sold as bath salts, there are dozens of others that may be used. This makes treatment in the case of overdose or adverse effects very difficult.

They act as strong stimulants and may be sought by a person who normally uses cocaine or methamphetamine. They are strongly addictive and trigger intense cravings. Even a person who sees that they are experiencing harm from abuse of these drugs may not be able to stop himself.

Symptoms of Bath Salts Abuse

There have been serious and even fatal results from using bath salts.

Signs of bath salts use include:

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Chest pains

  • Increased heart rate

  • Agitation

  • Hallucinations

  • Kidney pain

  • Increased body temperature or chills

  • Muscle tension

  • Nausea

  • Confusion

  • Reduced need for food or sleep

  • Paranoia

  • Suicidal ideas

  • Delusions

A person using bath salts may overheat and tear of their clothing trying to cool off. Paranoia may drive an individual to aggressive, uncontrolled attacks on others, or self-destruction. They are often unresponsive to any commands to stop their actions, and pepper spray or stun guns may have no effect.

In many cases in the United States and the United Kingdom, the signs of bath salts abuse included acts of violence that ended in the death of multiple people or suicide attempts.

A 35-year-old UK woman who thought it could help her lose weight—and who had no knowledge of its dangers—took the drug over a period of months. She lost weight but also turned into a “paranoid, aggressive, agoraphobic insomniac,” according to her family. She finally went into a coma, suffered irreversible brain damage and was then taken off life support.

Arizona law enforcement personnel reported that a man high on bath salts tried to break into an operating room armed with a fire extinguisher. He sprayed the hospital security staff who tried to stop him. Another Arizona man high on bath salts walked down a sidewalk throwing himself at walls. He then stripped naked and ran through the neighborhood.

And in one of the most tragic incidents involving bath salts, a young mother and father died after a high-speed chase in Washington. After they crashed, the father shot his wife and then himself and their young child was later found dead in the home.

The paranoia and delusions associated with this type of drug can trigger a wide range of violent or suicidal behaviors because the drug user is completely disassociated from reality.

Dealing with These Signs

If a family sees any of these signs of bath salts use, it is vital to get the person professional help as soon as possible. The drug user and those around him are at risk as long as the drug is being abused. If the drug user can’t stop using the drug on his own, then he must be gotten into an addiction treatment program at the first possible moment.

This is not a drug to take any kind of chances with. Serious physical damage is also possible, as in the case of the New Orleans woman who lost her arm, shoulder, breast and other tissue after an injection of bath salts into her forearm set up a chain reaction of tissue death.

Around the world, Narconon drug rehabilitation centers helping individuals avoid these dangers by enabling them to leave drug abuse far behind. In some 45 locations, Narconon enables people to achieve drug-free lives.


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Methamphetamine

Signs and Symptoms of Methamphetamine Use

Methamphetamine is not the number one drug that is abused in most countries, but it is one of the most addictive and one of the most destructive. It’s important that parents and other family members are able to tell when someone they care about is abusing methamphetamine.

The appearance of Meth, and Methods of Use

Meth is most often a white to light brown crystalline powder. It may also be found in clear chunky crystals that resemble broken pieces of ice or shards of glass. Methamphetamine can be found in liquid form as well.

Methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted, injected or smoked. If you are looking for traces of meth use, therefore, you may find small bags of white powder or crystals or syringes. Other items that could be left behind after meth abuse are small pieces of crumpled aluminum foil, soda cans with a hole in the side or the shafts of inexpensive ball-point pens that might be used to snort the drug.

Some meth users abuse the drug over and over, a form of binging known as a “run.” They may inject the drug every few hours until they run out of supplies or become too incapacitated to continue.

  • Do not sleep for long periods

  • Lose his or her appetite

  • Lose large amounts of weight

  • May appear unusually active

  • Can seem nervous and anxious

What Happens When People Abuse the Drug?

Methamphetamine is a very strong stimulant. With some methods of administration, there is a fast “rush” of euphoria followed by a long period of less intense euphoria. When meth is ingested, there is no rush but the high may last for as long as ten hours.

The user feels more energetic, does not sleep for long periods, usually several days, and loses his or her appetite. It is common for meth addicts to lose large amounts of weight and look gaunt, thin and undernourished. He or she will probably appear unusually active but may also act nervous and anxious.

The user is likely to get overheated and may appear sweaty without it being hot or his being involved in physical exertion. His pupils will be dilated. His blood pressure will also increase. He or she may become sexually excited.

Adverse Effects of Meth Use

In its manufacture, methamphetamine is processed using harsh, caustic chemicals. As a result, heavy use of this drug is very hard on the user. Additionally, the lifestyle of a methamphetamine user usually creates further damage. All in all, it is one of the most damaging drugs on the illicit market.

Repeated use can show up in an irregular heartbeat, rapid heartbeat, mood disturbances, violent, aggressive, paranoid behavior, confusion and insomnia. There may be a rapid deterioration of the person’s behavior or appearance if he or she is a heavy user.

Serious Results of Heavy Methamphetamine Use

Heavy users tend to experience hallucinations and delusions. Some users develop sores on their face or body when they have been picking at their skin, thinking that there are bugs crawling under their skin that they can’t see.

Because of the caustic nature of the chemicals and the fact that the drug dries up the flow of saliva, a meth addict’s teeth may get rotten and brown. This is referred to as “meth mouth.”

Meth users suffer from poor judgment and may engage in risky lifestyles and risky sex. When a person becomes a meth addict, getting the drug becomes far more important than taking care of the home, children or work. The children may go unfed. Animal feces around the home may not be cleaned up. Used diapers may be found all over the home. Drug paraphernalia and drugs may be within reach of children. If there are children in the home of confirmed meth users, families should take effective action as the children of meth users may come to harm due to neglect, abuse or worse.

An overdose of methamphetamine can cause overheating to the point of convulsions, cardiovascular collapse or death.

A period of heavy meth use is usually followed by a crash in which the person can’t control his sleepiness. He or she may sleep long hours or keep falling into a sleep. There will be heavy drug cravings during this time period that can lead to another binge.

Addicts Very Commonly Reject Help

If you see any of this pattern in someone you care about, you may be looking at the external signs of methamphetamine use. Meth is so addictive that some people may become addicted after just a few uses. You may have to intervene in this person’s life to get them to a Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that can help.

One of the most significant ways that the Narconon program can help a methamphetamine addict is by offering the Narconon New Life Detoxification, one phase of the overall treatment program. This phase combines time in a dry heat sauna with moderate daily exercise and a strict nutritional regimen. According to a recent peer-reviewed study, this combination helps alleviate post-acute withdrawal symptoms as well as clarify thinking and reduce cravings.

If you are trying to help someone who is addicted to methamphetamine, call today to find out how the Narconon drug rehab program can help.


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Heroin

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use

No matter what substance a person may be using, there are signs which, if detected early, would alert family members, teachers, dentists and physicians to a problem before it results in death or incarceration. Recreational drug use, or prescriptions for pain can end in a devastating life-threatening condition, and heroin addiction in particular is a very serious situation. The unfortunate reality is that the majority of individuals entering the Narconon Program had used drugs and alcohol for a period before it was discovered.

Drug users are seldom able to honestly talk about their drug use and will go to extreme lengths to deny using in order to continue their drug use. Educating yourself about what to look for is the critical first step to get someone help and to safeguard your friends and family from individuals who are in the middle of an active addiction. One of the tragedies of addiction is the change in behavior that accompanies drug use. Individuals who were once happy and trusted members of their families and communities must now lie, cheat and steal to feed their ever-growing habit.

Noticing the signs of heroin addiction does not require you to be a detective, and you should never put yourself or anyone else at risk in order to investigate a loved one you suspect of using. Simply by being aware and watching the behavior of the individual and those who are around them is usually all it takes to begin to notice the signs and symptoms of drug use.

Heroin Use: Items and Paraphernalia

Some of the first signs that individuals are using heroin are the items that are used to inject, snort or smoke it. These items, known as drug paraphernalia, can provide an insight not only into what drug is being used, but how it is being used. Items to be on the lookout for include:

  • Burnt spoons

  • Tiny baggies (may have white or tan powdery residue in them)

  • Small white paper wrappers (may have an image or words stamped on them)

  • Tan or whitish powdery residue

  • Dark, sticky residue (black, dark brown or dark grey)

  • Small glass pipes

  • Syringes

  • Rubber tubing

  • Aluminum foil with burn marks

  • Cut aluminum cans

  • Straws or empty pens

Burnt spoons, syringes and rubber tubing all indicate that an individual is injecting heroin. Other items can include cut-apart coke cans, small tea candles or other small metal containers that can be heated. In order to inject heroin it must first be dissolved with heat in water. So any small makeshift metal container can be used to cook heroin prior to injection. The other things to look for if you suspect someone is injecting heroin are of course syringes and syringe tops. Less obvious items are cotton balls, cotton swabs, tampons or cigarette filters which can be used as a filter when the dissolved heroin is drawn into a syringe.

Aluminum foil and small glass pipes indicate that someone is smoking heroin. Heroin is smoked by vaporizing the drug and inhaling the fumes created by the drug. Heroin is not actually burned in this process, but rather creates a gummy substance similar to burnt oil. One difference between smoking methamphetamine and smoking heroin is the large about of residue left in the pipe or on the foil when heroin is smoked.

Cut straws, empty or hollow pens, or rolled-up Post-it notes or bills can be used for snorting heroin.

Immediate Signs of Current Heroin Use

Heroin is a fast-acting opiate. When it’s injected, there is a surge of euphoria that arrives within seconds. Those using the drug other ways may not feel this surge as sharply. This rush of euphoria is accompanied by a dry mouth and flushed skin. Dilated or smaller-than-normal pupils are also an indication of current heroin intoxication. Other than the rush of euphoria, the symptoms of heroin use are the same for all methods of use. The difference is in the degree a user will feel the effects.

Users will often appear drowsy and move slowly. With heroin injection in particular, users will often exhibit a particular behavior. The individual will momentarily pass out, only waking up when their chin hits the chest. Since this looks a lot like someone nodding, heroin users are sometimes known as “being on the nod” and the behavior is known as “nodding out.” This in particular is an almost certain sign that heroin is being used. This effect is what depresses breathing and results in death if no intervention is made.

When the user is awake, the person’s thinking will be unclear. They will tend to lose some of their memory. Their decision-making and self-control are likely to deteriorate. As heroin is a powerful opiate, the user’s pain response will be limited.

Other signs of heroin use are itching, nausea and vomiting. Another sign of heroin use is the constipation often suffered by opiate abusers. The regular user of this drug may look for laxatives. They may experience skin infections, or other kinds of infections, and a lowered immunity to illness.

Physical Signs of Heroin Use and Addiction

Carefully noticing the physical appearance of someone you suspect of heroin use is as effective as identifying behaviors, smells, and sounds. There are a number of physical symptoms caused by the drug itself which include:

  • Tiny, pinpoint pupils

  • Sleepiness, a tendency to nod off

  • Slow breathing

  • Flushed skin

  • Runny nose or itchy nose

  • Vomiting

  • Scratching

  • Slurred speech

  • Sweating

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss

Indications of changes in behavior are also associated with heroin use. These may occur only when the individual is under the influence, or they may result from longer-term issues with self care or even from self harm.

  • Track marks on arms or top of hands or wrists

  • Scabs and sores from picking at skin

  • Covering arms with long sleeves

  • Not bathing

  • Rotting teeth

  • Eating large amounts of sweets

Behavioral Signs of Heroin Use and Addiction

In addition to physical signs of use, a number of behavioral and mood changes are associated with heroin use. These changes are most noticeable when living with the individual, but they can be noticed in other users. Unfortunately, many of the signs are usually written off or explained away by the addict. Individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol have become very good at lying to themselves and manipulation becomes a way of life. If something on this list occurs once or twice or then it might not be drug use or addiction. However, if multiple changes are present, drug use is the likely cause:

  • Mood swings, sudden and dramatic shifts in mood, up or down

  • Unexplained periods of euphoria and activity followed suddenly by severe fatigue

  • Changes in friends, falling out of touch with long-time friends

  • Lying

  • Theft, criminal activity, missing money

  • Spending longer than usual periods in the bathroom

As the addiction worsens, the behavioral changes will grow more and more extreme. It is a common myth that there is such a thing as a “functional” addict. The reality is that the functional addict is actually just an addict who has managed to avoid the consequences and has not seen the same effects—YET. The term “yet” is key because, given enough time, any substance use will eventually turn into an addiction. Some examples of issues which grow worse over time include:

  • Financial troubles

  • Missing school or work

  • Disappearing for unexplained periods of time

  • Letting personal hygiene go

  • Confusion, disorientation

  • Declining responsibility and declining work or study performance

The defining feature of any addiction is that it grows worse over time. If you know someone who has been gradually displaying more severe symptoms, heroin use is likely.

Heroin Tolerance, Addiction and Withdrawal

With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.

Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold sweats with goose bumps, kicking movements (“kicking”), and other symptoms. The cold, clammy skin, and goose bumps is where the term “cold turkey” is derived. This denotes someone who tried to stop using without any assistance. While the assistance needed does not likely include medication, individuals who receive support and further treatment for their heroin use are less likely to relapse. The term “kicking the habit” is also derived from the motion of a heroin user’s legs.

Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal, although heroin withdrawal is considered much less dangerous than alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal.

What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Regardless of dosage or means of consumption, these physical symptoms or reactions may appear during heroin withdrawal:

  • Fever and Chills

  • Muscle spasms and convulsions, especially in the legs

  • Deep bone pain, aches and cramps

  • Vomiting, diarrhea

  • Uncontrollable shaking, cold sweats or excessive sweating

  • Goosebumps, hot flashes

  • Increased or abnormal heart rate

In some cases heroin withdrawal may result in more serious symptoms. While this is nearly always the result of underlying medical issues, please seek medical advice for you or your loved one if you believe you are experiencing heroin withdrawal:

  • Heart attack

  • Sudden, sharp blood pressure increase

  • Stroke

In addition to these physical symptoms, behavioral changes occur with withdrawal as well as with use. These changes can at times be quite profound:

  • Insomnia

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

As withdrawal progresses, elevations in blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate and temperature occur. One heroin user trying to dissuade a person from starting heroin use described his withdrawal this way: “Diarrhea, vomiting, uncontrollable shakes, cold sweats, goosebumps, hot flashes, aches and pains that will not go away, semi-permanent insomnia, anxiety, muscle spasms and suicidal thoughts.”

The severe symptoms that hit during a cold-turkey withdrawal are awful enough that, once a person goes through them, he (or she) may feel he can’t ever face them again. Sometimes a person must face a completely unassisted withdrawal in jail. While withdrawals vary from person to person, some people describe the muscle and bone pain as excruciating. Others may vomit repeatedly and experience continuous bouts of diarrhea as their bodies try to get rid of the drug toxins. Dehydration is a danger during withdrawal from heroin.

However, despite the discomfort that is typical during withdrawal, it is possible to give a person the support and help that makes withdrawal tolerable, and then to assist the person through the rest of the steps they need to take to live a truly drug-free life.

Heroin Overdose Symptoms

Heroin overdose occurs when too much of the drug is taken, or if the heroin has been mixed with strong substances, such as fentanyl. Overdoses can also occur when an individual has stopped using for some time, and then uses again. They use the same amount that they were used to taking before they stopped, but since they have not been using for some time, their tolerance has decreased and it is too much for their body to deal with.

Signs and symptoms of heroin overdose include:

  • Confusion

  • Slow and shallow breathing

  • Blue skin or lips

  • Small pupils

  • Decreased alertness

  • Unresponsiveness

  • Loss of consciousness

If you suspect someone is suffering from a heroin overdose, it is crucial to get medical help immediately. How fast the person is treated is a life-or=death matter. Contact emergency medical services (such as by calling 911) right away. If you or someone in the vicinity has naloxone this should be administered immediately. Ensure the person is breathing and their air passages are not obstructed. If there were other drugs used, ensure that the emergency medical personnel are aware as this could create other problems.


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Cocaine

Signs and Symptoms of Cocaine Use

Do you think you see signs of drug use but you are not sure what drug is being used or how bad it is? If you suspect cocaine abuse by someone you care about, here are the signs of cocaine use you should watch for.

If a person is abusing powdered cocaine and they don’t want you to know, they may disappear to use the drug and then return in a very different mood. They may seem excited and act more confident and exhibit a greater sense of well-being. They may be more excited sexually and talkative. Their energy will be pumped up and they probably will not have very much appetite for food and will not have a normal sleep pattern.

Traces of white powder around a person’s nose are also a sign of cocaine use. While many people snort the drug (thus leaving the powder), some will dissolve and inject it. A few will ingest it, which can lead to severe intestinal damage.

Dilated pupils and eyes that are overly sensitive to light are symptoms of cocaine use that you can watch for. Other symptoms of cocaine use include runny noses and after long use, nosebleeds and damage to the inside of the nose. A cocaine user may also dissolve and inject the drug, in which case you might find needle marks on arms, legs, hands, feet or neck and discarded syringes left around the place cocaine is consumed.

As powder cocaine’s effects only last an hour or less, the user may leave periodically so he or she can use more of the drug.

Signs of Cocaine Use

Appearance:

  • Dilated pupils

  • Runny nose (snorting)

  • Nosebleeds (snorting)

  • Track marks (injecting)

  • Burned lips or fingers (smoking)

Heart:

  • Fast heart rate

  • Constricted blood vessels

  • Enlarged Heart

  • Heart attacks

  • Cardiac arrest

Mental state:

  • Euphoria

  • Overconfidence

  • Unusual excitement

  • Aggressiveness

  • Paranoia

  • Poor judgment

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations

After long use or a binge:

  • Depression

  • Agitation

  • Intense cravings

  • Need for higher doses

  • Apathy

  • Exhaustion

  • Long periods of sleep

Crack Cocaine Causes Many of Same Signs and Symptoms

Crack cocaine is smoked. You may find small glass pipes and tiny plastic bags left behind after a person smokes crack. A crack high is similar to a powder cocaine high but it does not last as long. A crack user may go off to use more of the drug after just 10 or 15 minutes. A crack user may have burns on lips and fingers as a sign of cocaine use, because of burns from the crack pipes.

When high doses are used or the drug is used in binges, symptoms of cocaine use often include disorientation, delusions, paranoia, antisocial behavior and aggressiveness. A person who has become addicted will be driven to use more of the drug and this will become his or her priority in life over family, career, work or health.

Long-Term Signs of Cocaine Use

When a person has been using cocaine over a long time period, they are likely to suffer physical and mental deterioration. Symptoms of long-term cocaine abuse can include depression, agitation, nervousness, tiredness but unable to sleep. The person may feel seriously distressed about life without good reason. They will have strong cravings for the drug. When use has continued for a long time, tolerance for the drug increases and more of the drug is required to create an effect similar to earlier use.

If they try to discontinue use, they will experience intense cravings for the drug. They may experience a “crash” consisting of depressed moods, anxiety, irritability, apathy and long periods of sleep.

Recovery from Cocaine Addiction

The sooner a cocaine addict can be helped to leave this drug behind, the better. He or she will suffer less mental and physical damage and will no longer be at risk of being arrested or injured due to overdose or accident.

Conventional rehab programs do not have a way to reduce the sharp cravings for this drug that may plague a recovering addict. They may prescribe other drugs like benzodiazepines—addictive anti-anxiety drugs—if they make a clinical diagnosis of anxiety. In most cases, finding true recovery from addiction would relieve much of a recovering cocaine addict’s stress and anxiety.

A Thorough Detoxification at Narconon Drug Rehabilitation Centers

The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program does have an effective way, that has been found and validated by medical doctors and scientific research, to address these cravings for cocaine at any one of over 35 Narconon centers around the world.

This program (10 to 12 weeks for most individuals) utilizes a healthy, drugless detoxification program called Narconon New Life Detoxification. Using a low-heat sauna, moderate daily exercise and a strict regimen of nutritional supplements, the body is able to eliminate stored drug residues. These toxic residues, lodged in fatty tissues, have been shown to be involved in triggering cravings, even years after drug use stops. This is a great relief to the recovering cocaine addict and enables him or her to overcome many of the cravings and focus on learning how to build a drug-free life from the ground up.

Cocaine in Any Form Is Very Hard on the Heart and Blood Vessels

As a strong stimulant, cocaine places severe stresses on a person’s heart and vascular system. When cocaine is used, the heart speeds up and the blood vessels constrict. This combination of effects can trigger a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.

Those who consume cocaine over a period of time risk an enlarged or damaged heart that no longer pumps blood efficiently. This is a very good reason to help a person recover from cocaine at a Narconon center as soon as possible.


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Crack

Signs and Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Use

The results of abusing crack cocaine are so severe that only the most powerful addiction would keep a person using this drug. Crack cocaine is a strong stimulant that energizes the entire central nervous system and places damaging stresses on the heart, lungs and brain. It is also very often associated with a dramatic deterioration of the quality of life.

When crack cocaine is smoked, the muscles tense and the heart beats faster. The person experiences exhilaration as a result of the release of specific mood hormones.

At the same time that the heart beats faster, the blood vessels constrict, resulting in elevated blood pressure. At any time, this change can result in a heart attack, stroke or cardiac arrest.

Telltale Indications of Crack Use

A person abusing crack cocaine may leave behind tiny plastic bags with small off-white rocks of crack, or just a little residue of the drugs that were stored in the bag. There may be crack pipes around made of metal or glass. A person who has been smoking crack often has burned fingers or lips from holding onto the pipe while it heats up.

Crack cocaine effects do not last as long as powder cocaine, meaning that the user will need to disappear for another dose in as short a time as 10 to 15 minutes. A crack user is therefore always in need of more of the drug. This is one of the reasons that many crack users resort to crime. They have no other way to keep up with this constant need for crack. Women may turn to prostitution and men may turn to theft.

Immediate Physical Signs

The person will have dilated pupils and a dry mouth. They may sweat and there will be little appetite. They will probably be restless and talkative. There will be too much energy for the person to sleep. They will be physically active.

Some definite negative phenomena appear either coincident with drug use, or after use has been continued for some time. These phenomena include depression, isolation, defensiveness and paranoia. The person’s moods may swing wildly and they may manifest a false sense of confidence and power. There may be hallucinations and confusion. The person may think there are bugs crawling on his skin. They may pick and scratch at their skin. They will probably have trouble concentrating.

If the drug is used over a period of time, the user is likely to show premature aging. Some people have developed Parkinson’s disease after a long period of crack cocaine use.

Of course, one of the major effects of crack cocaine is rapid development of addiction. Cocaine causes the strongest mental dependency of any drug. This dependency can occur within just days of starting to use crack cocaine.

Binge use of crack cocaine can result in a psychotic, over-stimulated state accompanied by paranoia and compulsive behavior. At the end of the binge, the person will normally crash, suffering exhaustion, agitation, depression and intense cravings.

Crack Cocaine Health Risks:

Drivers and Workers on Cocaine

While a driver who has used crack cocaine may feel invincible, he is likely to lose his concentration while driving, increasing his risk for accidents. He may also suffer attacks of paranoia, hallucinations or mood swings while driving. Lack of concentration may result in a loss of control of the vehicle. Of 253 fatally injured drivers in Michigan in a two-year period, ten percent were found to have cocaine or residues of cocaine use in their blood.

Cocaine users in the workplace often begin to deal drugs in the workplace or commit theft. Work performance normally suffers greatly because nothing is as interesting or exciting as using the drug. Employees who use crack cocaine normally miss work and deadlines.

Cocaine Overdoses Can Be Fatal

If a person consumes too much crack, they can get into an over-stimulated condition in which their body temperature soars, and they can suffer hallucinations and convulsions. They may be in a confused and delirious state that requires hospitalization. Death can result if treatment is not prompt.

A person may experience an overdose after swallowing their supply of crack cocaine to avoid arrest. The ingestion of crack cocaine can result in serious intoxication and may require hospitalization. It may be fatal.

Recovering Sobriety

Even a person addicted to crack cocaine has the opportunity to get free of it through the Narconon drug rehabilitation program. A key phase of the rehabilitation is the Narconon New Life Detoxification, a sauna-based program that also utilizes moderate daily exercise and a precise regimen of nutritional supplements to flush out old drug toxins. All drug or alcohol abuse leaves residues behind that lodge in fatty tissues and can trigger cravings. But after this phase of recovery, those finishing talk about a brighter viewpoint increased energy and lower cravings.


Ecstasy

Signs and Symptoms of Ecstasy (MDMA) Use

If you are a parent, a family member or a close friend of someone who is going out to clubs, music festivals or similar events frequently, you would be wise to know the signs and symptoms of ecstasy use. Illicit use of ecstasy is very common at these venues. Ecstasy is highly damaging and addictive, and the person who gets into heavy use of this drug may need professional help to escape from the addiction.

Ecstasy, which is also known as MDMA, is a modification of methamphetamine and has some similar effects to that drug. It is immediately a stimulant, but its stimulating effects can increase to dangerous levels. It causes the body to heat up, which, combined with hours of dancing in a warm environment, can cause the bodily temperature to reach lethal levels. Dance clubs where many patrons use ecstasy often provide a “chill room” where a person can buy cold water and cool off. When the temperature gets too high, organ breakdown can occur, especially in the kidneys, and this can kill the drug user.

People take the drug for the euphoric, intoxicating effects. Signs of ecstasy use include heightened sensory perception, and the tactile sense may be exaggerated. A person may want to be touched or want to touch things that feel good. A person going to clubs to dance will have their energy increased so they can dance all night.

But the user may also experience nausea, chills or involuntary teeth clenching. Muscles may cramp and vision may blur or be otherwise disturbed. It could be a sign of ecstasy use if a young person comes home after an all-night party and seems excited and energetic, but perhaps a little confused. They may also be sweating in combination with chills and nausea. They may have a dry mouth and dilated pupils. Muscles may be tense and the person may seem overly alert for the circumstances.

Watching for Signs of Ecstasy Use

If you want to know if your loved one is using ecstasy, watch for small colored pills in the person’s pockets or bags. There may be candy necklaces on stretchy strings. Some of the “candy” may be ecstasy pills. These pills often have imprints of characters or product logos, like the Mercedes auto logo. Occasionally ecstasy is used in liquid form.

Other signs of ecstasy use could include an irregular sleeping schedule and a lack of awareness of pain. For example, if a person got hurt and did not realize it, you might suspect ecstasy use.

Ecstasy use is commonly connected with multiple sexual partners. A symptom of ecstasy use includes a person feeling they are in love with the person they are with, even if they just met.

One of the most dangerous effects of ecstasy (other than the possibility of death from overheating or overdose) is the cravings that can very quickly set in. These cravings drive a person to use ecstasy over and over, even when they know it is harmful.

Symptoms of Ecstasy Use Include Brain Damage

Recent research reveals that changes in the brain take place very quickly after a person starts to abuse ecstasy. These changes can result in anxiety, depression, and confusion. Further symptoms of ecstasy use include poor performance on tests requiring memory or cognitive ability. Tests have shown that even brief exposure to ecstasy can result in damage that lasts years.

When the use of the drug becomes heavy, signs of ecstasy use may include paranoia, depression, confusion, and aggression. Immediate signs of ecstasy use generally last around five hours, but some signs may persist for weeks.

It is not safe for a person to drive after they have taken ecstasy as they may lose judgment and take more risks than usual.

Ecstasy and Club Drugs Health Risks:

Signs of Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy is a strong stimulant that often comes as small white or colored pills stamped with logos or words. Users may have lollipops or baby pacifiers to help with clenched jaw muscles caused by the drug.

Changes in Activities:

  • High levels of stimulation

  • Unusual levels of energy

  • Long hours awake

  • Acting abnormally friendly

  • Dancing for long periods

Changes in reactions:

  • Overly sensitive to music or lights

  • Exaggerated pleasure from touch

  • Pain is dulled

Physical changes:

  • Nausea

  • Chills

  • Sweating

  • Blurred vision

  • Dilated pupils

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tight, clenched jaw

  • Overheating

  • Collapse

Worst Symptom of Ecstasy Abuse May Be Addiction

When a person becomes addicted to ecstasy, they will continue to go to dance parties and use the drug even though when not on the drug they realize the damage they are doing. You can help a loved one who is addicted to ecstasy by contacting the nearest Narconon drug rehabilitation center.

The Narconon recovery program and the sauna detoxification that is one of its steps help conquer the cravings. The sauna detoxification uses moderate exercise, time spent every day in a low-heat sauna and generous nutritional supplements to flush old drug toxins out of the body. The result for most people is lowered or eliminated cravings, making it easier to resume a drug-free life.


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Resources:


This is not a complete list by any means. Find the facts about the drugs above and more at the websites below:

National Institute on Drug Abuse