As students make choices concerning the use and misuse of drugs and controlled substances, it is important to consider the health risks associated with consumption.
Cocaine/Crack are powerful central nervous system stimulants that constrict blood vessels, dilate pupils, increase blood pressure, and elevate heart rate. Cocaine use may induce restlessness, irritability, anxiety, paranoia, seizures, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and death. Cocaine is extremely addictive, both psychologically and physically. Great risk exists whether cocaine is ingested in inhalation (snorting), injection, or smoking. Compulsive cocaine use may develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked, and smoking crack cocaine can produce particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users.
Date Rape Drugs (Rohypnol, rophies, roofies, GHB, Ketamine, etc.) may incapacitate a person, particularly when used with alcohol. Rohypnol and GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate) are characterized as “date rape” drugs because they incapacitate users, thereby increasing vulnerability to sexual assault and other crime. Sedation, relaxation, and amnesia are associated with Rohypnol use. Rohypnol may be psychologically and physically addictive and can cause death if mixed with alcohol or other depressants. GHB usage may result in coma and seizures and when combined with methamphetamine appears to cause an increased risk of seizure. Combining use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty in breathing. GHB may also produce withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating. Ketamine may induce feelings of near-death experiences.
Ecstasy (X, Adam, MDMA, XTC, etc.) has amphetamine - like and hallucinogenic properties. Its chemical structure is similar to other synthetic drugs known to cause brain damage. Ecstasy use may cause psychological difficulties including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, paranoia, and even psychotic episodes. Similar difficulties may occur weeks after taking MDMA. Physical symptoms such as increases in heart rate and blood pressure may result from use of such substances. Other physical symptoms include muscle tension, blurred vision, nausea, rapid eye movement, and involuntary teeth clenching.
Hallucinogens (acid, PCP, LSD, psilocybin[mushrooms], dextrometorphan[dxin]) are among the most potent mood-changing chemicals and may produce unpredictable effects that may impair coordination, perception, and cognition. Some LSD users experience flashbacks, often without warning, without the user having taken the drug again. Violence, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, convulsions, coma, cardiac arrest, and respiratory failure may result from hallucinogen use.
Marijuana (pot, grass, hash, cannabis sativa, etc.) may impair memory, attention, coordination, and learning. Short-term effects of smoking marijuana may include problems with memory, learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, anxiety, and panic attacks. Persons who smoke marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, including daily cough and phlegm, chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. Because users of marijuana deeply inhale and hold marijuana smoke in their lungs, they incur a higher risk of getting lung cancer.
Narcotics (heroin, opium, morphine, codeine, pain medication [Demerol, Percodan, Lortab, etc.]) may produce temporary euphoria followed by depression, drowsiness, cognitive impairment, and vomiting. Narcotic use may cause convulsions, coma, and death. Tolerance and dependence tend to develop rapidly. Using contaminated syringes to inject drugs may result in contracting HIV and other infectious diseases such as hepatitis.
Nicotine (tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, nicotine chewing gum and patches) is highly addictive and according to the Surgeon General is a major cause of stroke and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over time, higher levels of nicotine must be consumed to achieve the same effect. Nicotine consumption results in central nervous system sedation and after initial activation may cause drowsiness and depression. If women smoke cigarettes and also take oral contraceptives, they are more prone to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases than are other smokers. Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes run an increased risk of having stillborn or premature infants or infants with low birth weight.
Sedative-hypnotics (depressants, Quaaludes, Valium, Xanax, etc.) depress central nervous, cardiovascular, and respiratory functions. Sedative-hypnotic use may lower blood pressure, slow reactions, and distort reality. Convulsions, coma, and death are outcomes associated with sedative-hypnotic use. Consuming sedative-hypnotics with alcohol or 3.2 beer is especially dangerous.
Steroids (anabolic-androgenic) may permanently damage liver, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. Possible side effects include liver tumors, cancer, jaundice, fluid retention, and hypertension. In men, steroids may cause shrinking of testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, breast development, and increased risk for prostate cancer. In women, steroid use may cause growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, menstrual changes, enlarged clitoris, and deepened voice.
Stimulants (amphetamine, methamphetamine, speed, crystal, crank, Ritalin, ephedra, caffeine, various over-the-counter stimulants and diet aids) are powerful central nervous system stimulants that may increase agitation, physical activity, and anxiety. Stimulants may decrease appetite, dilate pupils, and cause sleeplessness. Dizziness, higher blood pressure, paranoia, mood disturbance, hallucination, dependence, convulsions, and death due to stroke or heart failure may also result from use.
(Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, NationalInstitutes of Health, www.nida.nih.gov)
Educational Resources and Treatment Options
It is recommended that any organization considering an event involving alcohol formulate and implement a program to increase alcohol awareness and prevent alcohol misuse for its members and guests. There are a number of resources available on and off campus to provide alcohol education or assistance with alcohol concerns:
- The Office of Residence Life, including Resident Assistants, Residence Life Coordinators, and the Assistant Director, are a valuable resource and provide much of the alcohol education programming on campus.
- Counseling services are available to address individual concerns, provide assessments and referrals for treatment off campus, and to provide information and education about alcohol use.
- Student Health Services is available to assist individuals with situations involving alcohol that affect the physical well-being of a student.
- W&J Drug-Free Work Environment
- Alcoholics Anonymous, 724-225-4188
- Narcotics Anonymous, 24 hour crisis line- 888-251-2426
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
- The National Clearing House for Alcohol and Drug Information
- Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
- The Washington CARE Center, 724-222-7150
- Washington Hospital Emergency Room, 724-223-3085