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NIDA

Brain Power Weekly: Drugs in the News - What's the Big Deal?

Revised February 2012

News Headlines

Health

  • “Huffing” and Dying to Get High
  • White-Collar Addiction
  • ERs See Drugs Leading to More Violent Outbursts
  • Meth Lab Explodes Area Contaminated
  • Decongestant Sales Curbed to Halt Meth Trade

Sports

  • Human Run or Drugged Run?
  • Juiced Athletes as Role Models? Fans say “No!”
  • Baseball Faces Steroid Scandal

Science in the Spotlight

Beyond Addiction: The Larger Problem of Methamphetamine Use
Methamphetamine is only dangerous to the people that abuse it, right? Wrong!

  • Methamphetamine labs can contaminate local water supplies, causing health problems for local residents.
  • In 2004, more than 9,000 meth labs were seized by drug enforcement agents.
  • Injuries to first responders, such as emergency medical technicians and police officers, can occur during cleanups from explosions and dangerous exposure to chemicals through spills, fires, and air contamination.
  • Because of the high risk of injury and contamination, it takes a large team of emergency medical technicians, policemen, firemen, drug enforcement agents, and hazardous waste officials to clean up seized meth labs.
  • Depending on the size and location of the lab, it can cost between $3,000-$100,000 to clean up a meth lab!
  • Methamphetamine is often produced in secret home-based labs. Because of the chemicals used to make meth, these labs are very dangerous to those who live and work in the area—not to mention the toxic effects these chemicals have on the environment!
  • Methamphetamine use is very high in the western parts of the country—third only to alcohol and marijuana use.

Steroids Background

  • Anabolic steroids are artificial versions of the hormone testosterone.
  • Testosterone is found in both males and females.
  • Steroids change the messages sent by the hypothalamus, the place where testosterone is made.
  • Steroids are very dangerous—they can weaken the immune system, damage the liver and reproductive system, stop bone growth, and lead to cancer.
  • Steroids can also cause scalp hair loss, acne, growth of body and face hair, and a deepening of the voice.

Slang: Gym Candy, Arnolds, Pumpers, Weight Trainers, Juice, Stackers

Side Effects:

  • Deepened voice in girls and woman
  • Narrowing of the arteries and heart attack or stroke
  • Development of breasts in boys and men
  • Rage Mood Swings
  • Acne
  • Liver Cysts
  • Baldness

Steroids Timeline

1889—French physiologist Charles Brown-Sequard markets a “rejuvenating elixir.” This is the first product known to contain testosterone.

1935—Testosterone is first synthesized by Johann Butenandt and Leopold Ruzicka, who earn a Nobel Prize in chemistry for their accomplishment.

1940s­—Testosterone starts to be used by athletes in the sporting arena.

1950s–1970s—Steroid use spreads as more athletes begin using them.

1975—The International Olympic Committee bans steroid use.

1990—The U.S. Congress passes the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, making it illegal to sell or possess steroids without a prescription.

2005—The U.S. Congress invites star baseball players such as Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire to testify about steroid use in Major League Baseball.

2006—Baseball superstar Barry Bonds is accused of using steroids, jeopardizing his career, and calling into question the merit of his athletic accomplishments.

Club Drugs

Another group of drugs that make the news often is known as “club drugs,” so called because these drugs are often associated with party situations. (Methamphetamine is also known as a club drug.) Club drugs usually act within half an hour. They cause symptoms of drowsiness and memory loss that can last up to 12 hours.

GHB (gamma hydroxybutric acid) comes in the form of a colorless and odorless liquid, a white powder, or a pill. It can cause memory loss, drowsiness, dizziness, tremors, and nausea or vomiting. Serious effects of GHB include difficulty seeing, loss of consciousness, seizures, breathing problems, decreased heart rate, and death. Slang names for GHB include Georgia home boy and liquid ecstasy.

Rohypnol is a pill that easily dissolves in liquids. After ingestion, Rohypnol causes sleepiness, lowered blood pressure, and loss of muscle control. Users almost always experience memory loss while under the influence of this drug. Slang names for rohypnol include roofies and rope.

MDMA is a pill that can cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. In high doses, MDMA can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia) that results in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure. Slang names for MDMA include ecstasy, E, X, XTC, and adam.

Ketamine is an anesthetic that is legal only for use in veterinary surgery. It comes in liquid and powder forms. While under the influence of ketamine, users can experience hallucinations, numbness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Other effects include breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting, and aggressive or violent behavior. Slang names for ketamine include K, special K, vitamin K, and ket.

Stats and Facts:

  • One dose of MDMA (ecstasy) has the ability to decrease the levels of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, for up to 2 weeks
  • A dose of rohypnol as small as 1 milligram can impair a person for 8 to 12 hours
  • A legal form of ketamine is used as anesthesia for animals during veterinary surgeries

Methamphetamine Background

  • Methamphetamine is an illegal stimulant used to speed up the brain’s functioning.
  • It is produced as pills, powders, or chunky crystals called “ice”.
  • Other street names for methamphetamine include meth, chalk, speed, uppers, crystal glass, copilots, Christmas tree, and crank.
  • Methamphetamine creates a false sense of energy; it increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and risk of stroke.
  • An overdose of methamphetamine can result in heart failure; long-term physical effects, such as liver, kidney, and lung damage, can also be fatal.
  • High doses of methamphetamine can severely damage neurons. Use of the drug over long periods produces symptoms like those seen in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Methamphetamine causes damage to the body, including skin sores, tooth decay, poor hygiene, insomnia, and appetite loss.
  • As many as 5.2 percent of Americans age 12 and older have tried methamphetamine at least once in their life.
  • Every pound of methamphetamine produced leaves behind 5 to 7 pounds of toxic waste.
  • Methamphetamine can be produced through a variety of chemicals and processes in home-based “labs”.

This page was last updated February 2012