If you or someone you know is having problems with drugs, help is available at:
Alcohol and Drug 24-Hour Helpline
Crisis Clinic Resource Hotline
True North-Student Assistance Services
Providence St. Peter Chemical Dependency Center
If you want to learn more about drug abuse or find information on particular drugs, the following links can be useful:
Drug dependence/abuse information by WebMD
Drug information and parenting advice
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s family guide to underage drinking
The Partnership at DrugFree.org has information for parents in English and in Spanish, along with a drug guide
See the opioids page for more information on opioid pain relievers
Prescription pain relievers can be abused illegally for their opioid effects by those without prescriptions or a medical need. Abuse can bring tolerance, addiction and dependence. Additionally, because many of the opioids are mixed with acetaminophen, there is an added risk of liver toxicity. They are fast becoming the drug of choice in the United States and can be dangerous when taken improperly. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has a comprehensive list of facts about prescription drug abuse here.
Some commonly abused or illegally resold pain relievers include:
Hydrocodone (Vicodin). Hydrocodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. It is prescribed by doctors as a pain reliever and cough suppressant under several brand names and a generic form. Vicodin is one of the most common brand name. Hydrocodone tablets come in varying strengths, always mixed with acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). Pure hydrocodone is not available in the United States. Long-term abuse can lead to liver problems and even liver failure because of the acetaminophen. Drinking alcohol while taking hydrocodone can be very dangerous. Hydrocodone is available as a cough syrup under a few brand names, including Tussionex. Common side effects of taking hydrocodone include dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, sweating, drowsiness, constipation, vomiting and euphoria. Symptoms of hydrocodone overdose include respiratory depression, extreme sleepiness, clammy or cold skin, narrowed or widened pupils, a slowed heartbeat, coma, seizures, cardiac arrest, and death.
Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan). Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid. It is the main ingredient in several prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Percocet. It is noted for its strong potential for addiction and dependence. Some brands, such as OxyContin, are fully oxycodone, which makes the drug much stronger. Other variations are mixed with acetaminophen (Percocet) or aspirin (Percodan). The straight oxycodone tablets are dangerous because of the addictive and harmful qualities of the drug, and mixed versions such as Percocet can be dangerous if abused or overused for similar reasons to Vicodin (damage to liver because of the acetaminophen). Oxycodone has similar side effects and overdose effects to Vicodin, although circulatory collapse and respiratory arrest can be overdose effects. It also has severe withdrawal symptoms, especially for those who are abusing it rather than using it as prescribed.
Morphine: Morphine, a natural opiate, is available as tablets or syrup, or as an injection. It may be injected, swallowed or even smoked. It is commonly prescribed to manage pain, for example after surgery, for severe chronic pain or for palliative care. Morphine acts directly on the central nervous system to relieve pain. It has a high potential for addiction; tolerance and dependence develop quickly. It has side effects similar to other opoids, and taking a large single dose could cause severe respiratory depression, coma or death. Heroin is derived from morphine.
Codeine: Codeine is a natural opiate, though it can also be synthesized from morphine. It is less potent than morphine, and like all opioids has the potential for physical and psychological addiction, though milder than morphine or heroin. It is prescribed to treat cough, diarrhea and pain. It is available as a single-ingredient drug or mixed with others like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Tylenol 3 and Tylenol 4 are acetaminophen-codeine combination pills). In some countries, cough syrups and tablets containing codeine are available without a prescription. Codeine can be fatal to a breast-fed infant if the mother is taking it.
Methadone: Methadone is used for the treatment of pain and also for detoxification treatment of opioid addiction. However, it in itself has become abused and can be as harmful as any other opioid. Other drugs used for treating addiction and dependence that also can be abused are naltrexone and buprenorphine.
Other: Any prescription painkiller with an opioid base (derived from opium, morphine, codeine, etc.) has the potential to be abused and cause dependence.
Opioids first produce a feeling of euphoria, a high, that is often followed by drowsiness; nausea and vomiting; and constricted pupils, watery eyes and itching. Symptoms of an overdose include slow, shallow breathing; clammy skin; convulsions; and coma. Tolerance to opioids develops rapidly and dependence is likely. The use of contaminated syringes may result in diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. Addiction in pregnant women can lead to premature, stillborn or addicted infants who experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Teen Drug Evolution: A Parent's Resource Guide, provided by Lakeview Health Systems
Depressants can be prescribed by doctors to relieve sleeplessness, depression or anxiety. They slow down the central nervous system and are abused to produce a calm state. They are available as pills, powders or liquids and can be swallowed, injected, smoked or snorted. Depressants are commonly used to reduce anxiety, induce sleep and lower inhibitions.
Barbiturates are depressants commonly prescribed for insomnia or anxiety. Valium and Xanax are prescribed as tranquilizers. See the depressants page for information on other non-prescription and illegal depressants.
Using depressants can result in a slowed pulse and breathing, slurred speech, drowsiness, lowered blood pressure, poor concentration, fatigue, confusion, and impaired coordination, memory and judgment. Prolonged or heavy abuse can result in addiction, impaired sexual function, chronic sleep problems, respiratory depression and respiratory arrest, and death.
Medicinal marijuana is legal with a prescription in several states, though it is still federally illegal. It is used to prevent nausea and vomiting and stimulate hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients. It also is used in the treatment of glaucoma because it lowers pressure in the eyes. It also can be prescribed as a general pain reliever.
See the marijuana page for more information on its effects and illicit uses.
The term "steroid" refers to a certain type of natural or synthetic lipid (fat-soluble compounds). Many hormones in the body are steroids. Many steroids are used to treat medical conditions and disorders (such as asthma, allergies, eczema, arthritis, and more) and play a vital role in the normal functioning of the body.
Anabolic steroids are a synthetic compound derived from testosterone and can be abused for their bone- and muscle-building properties. It is abused most often by athletes and body-builders. Anabolic steroids are illegal without a prescription.
See the anabolic steroids page for more information on its effects and illicit uses.
Prescription stimulants – such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) and Adderall – are used in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, but these addictive substances are often illicitly used or abused. See the stimulants page for more information on their effects.
DXM (cough syrup)