A - Z of drugs

In the Youth12 survey nearly three-quarters (72%) of NZ secondary school students didn’t think it was ok for people their age to regularly use any of cigarettes and tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, party pills, herbal highs, or other illegal drugs. This series of surveys, first done in 2001, has shown a steady drop in the number of students saying they had used substances. The best decision is an informed one so we have pulled together information for you on some common substances you might see or hear about.

C2H5OH

Alcohol

Formula
Primary

Booze, brew, ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, grog, hooch, juice, liquor, rotgut, and spirits

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Overview

Overview

The alcohol we sometimes drink for pleasure and cook with is called ethanol. It's usually made by fermenting parts of plants. The "stronger" (more alcoholic) the drink, the longer it takes our body to deal with it safely. A simple measure of strength is the "standard drink". One standard drink contains 12.7 mL alcohol. That's only a 300-mL can of beer, a 100-mL glass of wine, half a 335-mL RTD, or one 30-mL shot of vodka or other spirits.

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Pure ethanol is a colourless liquid, but alcoholic drinks containing it may be all sorts of colours because of the other substances in them. You'll also find a tiny bit of ethanol in some mouthwashes, scents, and hand sanitisers.

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Classification

Classification

Alcohol is a depressant. It's legal. But it is illegal to sell alcohol to someone younger than 18 years in NZ, or even to give it to them without permission from their parent or legal guardian. It's also illegal to drive while drunk ('under the influence").

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Ethanol is related to other types of alcohol (like methanol, propanol, and isopropyl alcohol). Most are poisonous and only used in things like solvents, lotions, antiseptics, and rubbing alcohol.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • drowsiness (feeling sleepy or slow)
  • increased urination (need to wee)
  • loss of co-ordination (being clumsy)
  • slurred speech
  • feeling or being sick
  • feeling dizzy
  • dehydration (being dried out)
  • altered breathing
  • trouble breathing
  • trouble controlling temperature
  • blackouts or passing out
  • seizures (fits)
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • headache ('hangover') the next day


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling happy
  • feeling more emotional
  • poor decision making
  • muddled or missing memories


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So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Alcohol is absorbed quickly from someone's gut into their bloodstream and travels to the brain where it interferes with the release and action of a number of neurotransmitters in different parts of the brain.

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Step 2

It reduces how much ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) the pituitary gland releases, so users urinate (wee) more and can become dehydrated (have too little water in their bodies) if they don't drink lots of water.

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Step 3

Alcohol increases dopamine levels in the brain's reward centre, creating happy feelings. But it also interferes with how some other neurotransmitters like GABA and glutamate work. This causes a number of its depressant effects including a general body slow down, slurred speech, and loss of co-ordination.

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Long term effects

  • memory loss
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased stroke risk
  • liver damage
  • putting on weight
  • stomach troubles
  • increased cancer risk
  • fertility problems
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)

Addiction

An average adult can get rid of 10 g or 12.7 mL alcohol an hour from their bloodstream-- or one standard drink. The rest keeps circulating. Many harmful effects of alcohol are due to it building up faster than our livers can get rid of it. It's also why testing someone's blood alcohol level can tell the Police how much they have been drinking. Over time, drinkers' bodies become better at breaking down alcohol. This produces a tolerance to it. People can also come to rely on alcohol to make them feel relaxed or happy and need more to feel the same way. This can lead to dependence or addiction.

Ethanol, like all alcohols, has some antiseptic (germ-killing) properties. In the past alcohol was sometimes used medically as an antiseptic and to make people drowsy or reduce pain. Drinking alcohol is not used for medical purposes these days.

Did you know?

“Percentage alcohol” or “Alcohol by volume” (ABV) values on cans or bottles tell us how "strong" a drink is: the higher the value, the stronger the drink. Some average ABVs are: beer—4.5%; wine—12%; spirits and hard liquor—37%.




References and links

ABC Science, 28 February 2012. “Why Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Dehydration?” Retrieved 24 January 2017.
Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), 2012. “Alcohol—the Body and Health Effects.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
How stuff works.com, 8 June 2005. “How Alcoholism Works”: author Stephanie Watson. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
Ministry of Health, 2017. “Alcohol.” Retrieved 24 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse Blog team, January 2017. “Alcohol.” Retrieved 24 January 2017.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Alcohol.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
TeensHealth.org, 1995–2017. “Alcohol”. Retrieved 24 January 2017.

C9H13N

Amphetamine

Formula
Primary

Bennies, black beauties, black mollies, co-pilots, eye-openers, fast, goey, louee, pep pills, speed, up, uppers, wake-ups, white crosses, and whiz

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Overview

Overview

Amphetamine and related drugs (called amphetamines) cause a temporary rise in mood and some physical effects (e.g. a fast-beating heart) that make someone feel alert and "up". Some amphetamines may be legally prescribed by doctors to treat physical and psychological (mental & emotional) disorders—but they're also used illegally.

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Amphetamine powder may look white, brown, grey or pink and can be licked off a fingertip (“dabbed”), snorted up the nose, dissolved in water and injected, or smoked and inhaled. Amphetamine pills take many forms and colours.

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Classification

Classification

Amphetamine is a stimulant. In NZ it is a Class B controlled substance (drug).

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“P” (Methamphetamine) and MDMA (“Ecstasy”) are two amphetamines that are closely related to amphetamine. Each has a slightly different chemical makeup and effects

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased temperature (causing sweating)
  • decreased appetite
  • talking more
  • feeling energetic and wide awake
  • grinding teeth
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • dry mouth


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling alert
  • feeling happy
  • feeling confident


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So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Amphetamines stimulate (increase) release of the neurotransmitters (dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) from nerve endings in the brain and inhibit (reduce) their reuptake.

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Step 2

This causes a build-up of neurotransmitters in the gaps between the neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control feelings of alertness, mood, pleasure, and reward, producing the “high” felt by users.

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Step 3

When amphetamines are swallowed these effects occur within 15 to 20 minutes, but if they are injected they are almost immediate, creating a pleasurable “rush”.

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Long term effects

  • appetite loss
  • disturbed sleep
  • tiredness
  • headaches and blurred vision
  • tooth problems
  • heart and breathing problems
  • likelier to get flu and colds
  • liklier to get needle-related diseases (like hepatitis)
  • kidney and liver damage
  • anxiety and depression
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)

Addiction

Amphetamine's effects can last several hours. Over time, the brain gets used to the increased levels of dopamine it makes and people have to use more to feel the same high or even to feel normal. When this happens, users develop a tolerance to the drug. That can lead long-term users to have strong cravings for the drug (become addicted).

Doctors use some amphetamines to help people with hyperactivity disorders like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or narcolepsy (suddenly falling asleep). Amphetamines may also be used to a lesser extent to treat some forms of depression and obesity. This is why some of them are legally available as prescription drugs.

Did you know?

In the 1930s people began using amphetamine to treat asthma and congestion under the name "Benzedrine". Their nickname "bennies" comes from this.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, n.d. “Amphetamines.” Retrieved & February 2017.
Amphetamines.com, n.d. “Amphetamines.” Retrieved 1 February 2017.
Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland (CESAR), n.d. “Amphetamines.” Retrieved 1 February 2017.
Munoz, Gabriella, 17 July 2014. “Spiders on drugs.” Retrieved 7 February 2017.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate.” Retrieved 1 February 2017.
TeensHealth.org, February 2014. “Amphetamines.” Retrieved 1 February 2017.
The Brain from Top to Bottom, McGill University, n.d. “How Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters” and “The Pleasure Centres Affected by Drugs.” Retrieved 1 February 2017.

Based on C4H4N2O3 (bars) and C9H8N2 (benzos)

Barbiturates and Benzodiazepines

Formula
Primary

A-minus, alprazolam (xanax), bars, beans, benzos, blue devils, blue velvet, diazepam (valium), downers, goofballs, gorilla pills, minor tranquillizers, moggies, mother's little helpers, phenobarbital, pink ladies, purple hearts, rainbows, red birds, sedatives, sleepers, xannies, tranx, yellow jackets, and and many more.

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Overview

Overview

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are completely unrelated but work similarly to slow down someone's brain and CNS. Doctors often prescibe benzodiazepines rather than barbiturates to treat stress and anxiety as they think they're safer to use.

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They usually come as pills or tablets or capsules that may be white or coloured. Some come as a liquid, or can be injected. Illegal users sometimes take a dangerous combination (mix) of tranquillizers with alcohol and opiates (depressants), or stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

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Classification

Classification

Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are depressants. In NZ, most are Class C controlled drugs. Many can be legally prescribed by a doctor. Barbiturates tend to have chemical names ending in “-al”, like phenobarbital. Benzodiazepine names often end in “-am”, like diazepam.

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Barbiturates are made from and related to barbituric acid. Benzodiazepine and its relatives are based on a different and more complex molecule (collection of atoms).

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • feeling sleepy and tired
  • feeling or being sick
  • falling asleep (losing consciousness)
  • trouble remembering things
  • loss of balance
  • loss of co-ordination (being clumsy)
  • feeling or being sick
  • changes in appetite (how hungry you are)
  • headaches
  • stomach aches
  • dry mouth
  • diarrhoea or constipation (runny or hard poo)
  • slurred speech
  • talking a lot and very truthfully
  • blurry eyesight
  • low blood pressure (just barbiturates)
  • slower breathing


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling calm
  • feeling very happy (euphoria)
  • feeling less anxious
  • feeling less stressed
  • feeling light-headed
  • confused thinking
  • feeling depressed


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So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Tranquillizers increase the levels and effects of of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that slows down messages in our brain and spinal cord.

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This slows down brain and muscle activity. In the short-term it calms people down, relaxes them, and can sedate them (make them feel sleepy or put them to sleep).

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Benzodiazepines may also trigger a series of events that cause more dopamine to be released in the brain. This makes people feel happier for while.

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Step 4

Some barbiturates target the thalamus, interfering with signals to the brain's cortex. This can help knock someone out (anaesthetic), stop their muscles moving during fits (anti-convulsant), or make them talk freely.

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Long term effects

  • memory loss
  • trouble thinking clearly
  • being more irritable or agressive
  • loss of motivation (stopping caring)
  • anxiety and depression
  • trouble sleeping
  • having disturbing dreams
  • feeling tired and weak
  • feeling sick
  • putting on weight
  • rashes or yellowing of skin
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)

Addiction

Effects can start within 30 min and last from hours to days depending on the particular tranquillizer and how it is taken. If people use these drugs for just a few weeks, their bodies adapt to producing too much GABA by developing a tolerance to their drug. They then need more of it to produce the same effects. They can become dependent, or even addicted to to their drug.Tolerance to barbiturates usually develops faster than tolerance to benzodiazepines. A regular user (legal or illegal) who cuts down on using tranqillizers can have strong withdrawal symptoms—especially from barbiturates. Symptoms may last from a few days to a year and include: headaches, sickness, dizziness, tremors, cramps, anxiety, poor concentration, risk of fits, and hallucinations. Doctors can help someone to cut down slowly and safely and stop them getting rebound symptoms (return of the original problem).

These drugs, especially benzodiazepines, are mostly used to help with anxiety, stress, and sleeping problems. Benzodiazepines can also be used to treat convulsions (fits), epilepsy, to relax muscles, and help with alcohol or opiate withdrawal symptoms. Barbiturates can treat all these conditions but are incredibly powerful at slowing down our breathing. That's why they're mainly used to knock people out before surgery (anaesthesia).

Did you know?

The barbiturate sodium thiopental (also known as Pentothal) is sometimes called "truth serum", especially in spy stories. It can make it harder for someone to lie and cause them to talk more freely than normal.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 5 May 2016. “Benzodiazepines”. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
BBC News Magazine, 3 October 2013. "Can a Drug Make You Tell the Truth?". Retrieved 18 March 2019.
KidsHealth.org, January 2014. “What You Need to Know About Drugs: Depressants”. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, 19 April 2012. “Well-known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties”. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse Blog Team, 7 February 2017. “Prescription Depressant Medications”. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Benzodiazepines”. Retrieved 14 February 2017.

C8H10N4O2

Caffeine

Formula
Primary

Found in:, coffee, cuppa, tea, energy drink, guarana, cacao, cocoa, cola, fizzy drinks, soft drinks, chocolate, pain relievers, no-doze tablets, and energy tablets

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Overview

Overview

Caffeine and a related group of drugs are found naturally in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants, including coffee, tea, guarana, kola (or cola), and cacao (or cocoa). Caffeine can also be made in a lab or factory.

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Pure caffeine is a white powder or needle-like crystals that dissolves in boiling water and some other liquids. Food and drinks containing it may be coloured by other substances. We sip caffeine in drinks like coffee, tea, colas, caffeinated sodas, energy drinks, and chocolate drinks. We eat it in chocolate, energy sweets, and bars, and consume it in some medicines.

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Classification

Classification

Caffeine is a stimulant. There are some rules around how much caffeine can be in energy drinks and sodas in NZ, but otherwise it's entirely legal.

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Related to

Related to

Caffeine belongs to a group of substances called methylxanthines. One of these, called theobromine, is the main methylxanthine in cocoa (chocolate). A slight difference in chemical structure is why drinking coffee keeps us awake and alert but cocoa sends us off to sleep.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased alertness
  • increased activity
  • increased urination (need to wee)
  • feeling dizzy
  • increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • increased temperature
  • head or stomach pain
  • trouble sleeping


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling alert
  • feeling restless
  • feeling excitable
  • feeling irritable (grumpy)


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So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Caffeine blocks the receptors for the CNS neurotransmitter adenosine. This stops adenosine doing its normal job of slowing down nerve activity. That's why users feel more alert (awake).

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It increases the release of other neurotransmitters like serotonin and adrenaline which increase heart rate and blood pressure.

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Step 3

Caffeine increases levels of dopamine, making users feel good. It also increases the levels of glucose and insulin in our bloodstream, giving them a rapid energy boost or "kick".

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Long term effects

  • stomach troubles
  • poor appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • feeling tired
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • increased or irregular heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • twitching muscles
  • effects on bone density

Addiction

Caffeine's effects kick in after about 30 min and can last 6-12 hours. It can be mildly addictive. Our bodies can also get used to working with a certain level of it (we develop a mild "tolerance" to it). Not everyone gets withdrawal symptoms if they cut out caffeine, but if they do these can include headaches or stomach aches; or feeling sick, grumpy, or tired.

Caffeine can help with the pain and treatment of some types of headaches, including migraines. Hospitals use it to help premature babies keep breathing while they are asleep. It may be an ingredient in anti-inflammatories and cold remedies. Some diet aids contain caffeine.

Did you know?

Children and teenagers shouldn't have more than 2.5 mg caffeine a day for every kg they weigh (up to a maximum of 100 mg /day). A 250-mL can of a caffeinated energy drink can contain 80 mg caffeine.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 5 May 2016. “Caffeine.” Retrieved 22 February 2017.
ESR/New Zealand Food Safety Authority, 2010 “Risk Profile: Caffeine in Energy Drinks and Energy Shots”: authors Barbara Thomson and Sonja Scheiss. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
Heckman, Melanie A; Weil, Jorge; Gonzalez de Meija, Elvira, 2010. “Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthin) in Foods: A Comprehensive Review on Consumption, Functionality, Safety, and Regulatory Matters.” Journal of Food Science 75(3):R77-R87. Doi: 10.111/j/1750-3841.2010.01561.x Retrieved 27 February 2017.
KidsHealth.org, September 2013. “Caffeine Confusion”. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate”. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
PubChem, n.d. “Caffeine”. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
Seifert et al. 2011. “Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults”. Paediatrics 127(3): 511-528. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
TeensHealth.org, September 2014. “Caffeine”. Retrieved 23 February 2017.

C17H21NO4

Cocaine

Formula
Primary

Basa, base, blow, bump, coke, c, charlie, crack, dust, flake, freebase, nose candy, rock, smack, snow, toot, and white lady.

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Overview

Overview

Cocaine is made from the dried leaves of the South American coca plant. For thousands of years, people have chewed coca leaves or used cocaine to feel alert, get 'high", and reduce hunger and pain.

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Powdered cocaine is a white powder that people may inhale (“snort”) up the nose, or mix with water and inject into their veins with a needle. Freebase or crack cocaine comes as white or tan crystals. They are made by cooking cocaine powder with ammonia (a chemical often used as a household cleaner) or baking soda. These crystals are often broken into small pieces (called “rocks”), which can be smoked in a pipe. The crackling sound they make when they are heated gives 'crack" its nickname.

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Classification

Classification

Cocaine is a stimulant. In NZ, it is a Class A controlled drug.

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Related to

Related to

Black cocaine or coca negra is cocaine that's been mixed with charcoal and other chemicals, which are later removed.It can be disguised as ink toner, metal parts, or even fake rubber. It's used by drug smugglers because it's harder for drug dogs to find and fools standard cocaine tests.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased alertness
  • increased energy
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased temperature
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • constricted (narrowed) blood vessels
  • no pain (feel numb) in part of the body
  • loss of balance
  • twitchy muscles
  • decreased appetite
  • feeling sick
  • irregular heart rhythm
  • trouble breathing
  • seizures (fits)
  • strokes


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling wide awake
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling very happy (euphoria)
  • more intense (strong) mood


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Cocaine stops the neurotransmitter dopamine being removed from the gaps between neurons in the brain, causing dopamine levels to rise.

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Step 2

Dopamine makes us feel good. Cocaine users get a “rush” or “high” from their big build-up of dopamine .

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Step 3

Cocaine interferes in a like way with other neurotransmitters like serotonin, noradrenaline and glutamate. This causes most of its other effects on heart rate, blood vessels, and muscles.

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Cocaine also stops the electrical impulses some nerves use to carry messages about pain to the brain. This blocks pain in that area for a while (local anaesthesia).

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Long term effects

  • feeling sick and tired
  • bowel trouble (trouble pooing)
  • poor appetite
  • losing weight
  • damage or hole in nose
  • runny nose
  • nosebleeds
  • sore throats
  • feeling irritable
  • unpredictable behaviour
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • increased risk of heart trouble
  • increased risk of seizures (fits)
  • increased likelihood of needle-related diseases (like hepatitis and tetanus)

Addiction

Cocaine is highly addictive. The high from snorting it lasts from 15 to 30 min but the one from smoking may last only 5 to 10 min. The happy feeling users get from increased dopamine levels wears off quickly so people often want ('crave') more of it to keep feeling good. If someone uses cocaine regularly, this interferes with how their neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, work. They may need more cocaine to get their desired high (they develop a “tolerance” to it) and then they become dependent on it just to feel "normal", and, finally, addicted. If a regular user decides to stop or cut down on cocaine they may have a very bad reaction ('crash") immediately and then less bad withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months while their body readjusts.These symptoms include feeling sick, tired, anxious, angry, suspicious, and depressed—and desperately wanting (“craving”) cocaine.

Cocaine isn't used much in medicine today. It's sometimes used as a local anaesthetic, mainly for nose and throat operations. (A local anaesthetic numbs just a small bit of the body--like your gum, eye, or nose.) Doctors and dentists now prefer safer man-made local anaesthetics that numb without giving an addictive 'high" like cocaine. However, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries cocaine was widely used by doctors to give people general and local pain relief, pep them up, and as a miracle cure for many conditions.

Did you know?

In the early 1900s not only was cocaine a key ingredient in many popular medicinal liquids (called "tonics"), it was even an ingredient in early versions of Coca-Cola® between about 1886 and 1903 (hence the 'coca' in the name!).




References and links

Kidshealth.org, January 2014. “What You Need to Know About Drugs: Cocaine and Crack". Retrieved 30 January 2017.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate". Retrieved 31 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, May 2016. “Cocaine”. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2017. “Easy to Read Drug Facts—Cocaine”. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, Februry 2019. “Cocaine”. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Cocaine”. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
Redman, M, 2011. “Cocaine: What is Crack? A Brief History of the Use of Cocaine as an Anesthetic”. Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Autumn 2011 1(2): 95–97. Retrieved 18 March 2019.

C11H15NO2

Ecstasy

Formula
Primary

A, adam, beans, bikkies, clarity, e, eckies, eve (mostly mdea), flippers, hug, the love drug, lover’s speed, md, mda, mdea, mollies/molly (short for “molecular”), pills, pingers, roll, round ones, vitamin e, x, xtc, and 007

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Overview

Overview

Ecstasy is the popular/street name given to any synthetic drug said to contain MDMA (short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or very closely related compounds. Drugs sold as Ecstasy often contain other substances. People may take it to feel more happy and confident.

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Ecstasy is generally sold as tablets of different colours that are often imprinted with a picture or symbol. It may also come as capsules, powder, crystals, or even a liquid. It can be swallowed, snorted, or even smoked.

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Classification

Classification

Ecstasy is a stimulant and hallucinogen. In NZ, MDMA is a Class B controlled drug.

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Related to

Related to

MDMA, MDA and MDEA are so closely related that they're sometimes all called "Ecstasy" by users and sellers. These substances are also related to amphetamine and methamphetamine, but have an extra chemical group (called a methylenedioxy group). This extra group puts the "MD" in their short name and makes their structure a bit like the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. It's why MDMA acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased energy
  • increased alertness
  • feeling sexy
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased temperature
  • dehydation (being dried out)
  • chills or sweating
  • decreased appetite
  • blurry eyesight
  • feeling faint or sick
  • headaches
  • muscle aches and cramps
  • grinding teeth


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling happy
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling confident and sexy
  • more intense (strong) mood
  • warm feelings towards others
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • altered consciousness (way of thinking)
  • feeling detached
  • a floating feeling


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

MDMA stimulates (increases) release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin from nerve endings in the brain and inhibits (reduces) their reuptake.

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Step 2

Changed serotonin levels affect someone's appetite, mood, how they feel about people, and how sleepy they are. Extra effects on serotonin receptors in the prefontal cortex of the brain may cause hallucinations.

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Step 3

Increased dopamine makes users feel happy. Increased noradrenaline makes us feel energetic, narrows blood vessels and raises our heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.

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Long term effects

  • being more irritable or aggressive
  • being impulsive (acting without thinking)
  • trouble sleeping
  • problems with memory
  • trouble concentrating
  • feeling depressed
  • feeling anxious
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)

Addiction

MDMA's effects start within about 30 min, last for 3 to 6 hours, and tend to come in rolling waves of highs and lows. MDMA targets the same neurotransmitters as other addictive drugs but also resembles hallucinogens which are less addictive. Some regular users seem to build up a tolerance to it (their body get's used to working with a certain level of it). If they stop taking it they can have withdrawal symptoms including tiredness, appetite loss, depression, and loss of concentration. These usually last about week to a month.

MDMA was developed by the Merck drug company in 1912 but it was never licensed as a prescription medicine. There's still no regularly recognised medical use for MDMA. Some people think it might help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some forms of autism, and with extreme anxiety in terminally ill (dying) patients. There are trials underway around the world to see if MDMA can help with these conditions.

Did you know?

Pills and tablets sold as "Ecstasy" may not contain much MDMA, or even any at all. Instead they can be dangerous mixtures of other synthetic drugs and harmful substances including caffeine, ephedrine, cough medicines, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and cleaning products.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Federation, Australia. “Ecstasy”. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
Australian Government, Department of Health, April 2004. “Pharmacology of MDMA (Ecstasy)”. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
Kalant, Harold, 2 October 2001. “The Pharmacology and Toxicology of “Ecstasy” (MDMA) and Related Drugs". Canadian Medical Association Journal 165(7): 917-928. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
KidsHealth.org, January 2014. “What You Need to Know About Drugs: Ecstasy.” Retrieved 26 April 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, 14 April 2017. “MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly).” Retrieved 27 April 2017.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “MDMA”. Retrieved 26 April 2017.

Hallucinogens


Primary

Acid, angel dust, ayahuasca, blue meanies, blotter, buttons, cactus, caps, dimitri (dmt), dots, dxm (dextromethorphan), e, ecstasy, ketamine, k, lsd (d-lysergic acid diethylamide), magic mint, mellow yellows, mescaline, magic mushrooms, pcp (phencyclidine), peace pills, peyote, psilocybin, robo, rocket fuel, salvia, shrooms, special k, tabs, xtc, and and many more names and substances

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Overview

Overview

Hallucinogens are substances that change the way people see, feel, hear, taste,smell or think about the world. Some are found in nature, like psilocybin in some mushrooms. Others are man-made, like LSD. People have used them for centuries in spiritual rituals and to get high ('trip").

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Hallucinogens come in many forms.They might be colourless or milky liquids, white or coloured powders, capsules, crystals, tablets, dried or fresh plants or mushrooms, or look like buttons (bits of dried peyote root). Squares of gelatine or blotting paper soaked in LSD with pictures printed on them are sold as “tabs”. Hallucinogens can be swallowed, brewed in teas, smoked and inhaled, snorted, or injected.

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Classification

Classification

Hallucinogens sometimes cross classes, with more than one effect. In NZ, hallucinogens range from Class A controlled drugs like DMT, LSD, and mescaline to Class C ones like ketamine. If they're not controlled drugs (for example, salvia), their use is likely to be illegal or controlled under NZ's Psychoactive Substances Act.

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Related to

Related to

Some hallucinogens are related to one another, others are not.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • It depends on what's been taken but can include:
  • hallucinations (seeing things)
  • reduced appetite
  • being sick
  • increased or irregular heart beat
  • increased or irregular breathing
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased temperature
  • sweating and chills
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • feeeling wide awake
  • blurry eyesight
  • feeling dizzy
  • being clumsy
  • seizures (fits)


Brain

Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • It depends on what's been taken but can include:
  • good hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • bad hallucinations
  • mood swings
  • a floating feeling
  • altered consciousness (way of thinking)
  • feeling out of this world
  • feeling happy
  • feeling relaxed


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So, why does it have these effects?


How the effects are caused depends on what's been taken and how. Here are some examples.

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Step 1

Hallucinogens like LSD activate ("switch on") selected serotonin receptors and block others in someone's cerebral cortex and brain stem.

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Step 2

This affects their mood, perceptions (way they see, hear and feel things), and basic bodily functions such as reacting to stress, sleeping and eating.

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Step 3

Some other hallucinogens interfere with the neurotransmitter glutamate. This affects people's emotions, learning, memory and how they feel pain.

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Long term effects

  • Effects depend on what's been taken but can include:
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • flashbacks (getting hallucinations years after taking the drug)
  • depression
  • psychosis (acting crazy)

Addiction

Effects depend on the person, substance, and amount. They can start within 20 to 90 minutes and last for 4 to 12 hours. Some hallucinogens like psilocybin and PCP can be addictive because users build up a tolerance to the drug (their body gets used to working with a certain level of it). This can develop into a dependence on it (needing it to feel normal) or an addiction. Users can get cravings and withdrawal symptoms including headaches and sweating if they stop regular use. Scientists think that LSD may produce tolerance to other hallucinogens, but is not itself addictive.

Hallucinogens are not generally used in medicine today. There's ongoing research into possible medical uses for a few of them. Ketamine is still used as an anaesthetic to knock out humans and animals. LSD was used to treat some behavioural and mental conditions in the 1950s and 60s. PCP was also used in the past as an anaesthetic. Doctors stopped using them because of risks and bad side-effects.

Did you know?

People might lick the skin of Australian cane toads because there are hallucinogens (including one called bufotenin) in the milky liquid toads give off when frightened. But think twice before kissing a toad: bufotenin is illegal in most Australian states and it is also a Class A drug in NZ.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 12 May 2016. “Hallucinogens”. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
How Stuff Works.com, 12 August 2008 “Are There Really Hallucinogenic Frogs?”: author Cristen Conger. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
KidsHealth.org, January 2014. “What You Need to Know About Drugs: Ecstasy”. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate”. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2016. “What Are Hallucinogens?”. Retrieved 13February 2017.
Scholastic.com, 2003. “Drug Facts: How Hallucinogens Work”: Cate Bailey. Retrieved 13 February 2017.

Inhalants


Primary

Aerosols, air fresheners, bang, benzene, bolt, bullet, chromes, ether, fuel, g, gas, glue, huff, kick, laughing gas, nitrite, popper, rush, sniff, solvents, and whippets

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Overview

Overview

All inhalants produce fumes which someone can inhale (breathe in) to get an immediate “high” or "rush". We find them in many places including homes, shops, offices, hospitals, medical centres, schools, garages, and factories.

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Inhalants may be gases, sprays, or liquids. They include cleaning products, deodorants, glue, paint, thinners, solvents, petrol, home and BBQ gas, lighter fuel, hairspray, nail polish remover, marker pens, and even pressurised cooking oil and whipped cream dispensers. Inhalants can be sprayed into the nose and mouth, inhaled straight from containers (sniffing or snorting), or inhaled from a plastic bag or a balloon (bagging). Someone might also hold an inhalant-soaked rag over their mouth and inhale from that (huffing).

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Classification

Classification

Most inhalants are depressants. In NZ, it's legal to own or buy most of the substances that people inhale. However, it's illegal to sell spraycans of paint or pigment that could be inhaled to anyone the shop thinks might misuse them or who is younger than 18 years.

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Related to

Related to

Some inhalants are related to one another, others are not.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • It depend on what's been taken but can include:
  • feeling dizzy
  • feeling drowsy (sleepy)
  • slurred or confused speech
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • feeling or being sick
  • loss of co-ordination (being clumsy)
  • falling over
  • loss of feeling
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • swollen throat
  • frozen throat muscles
  • trouble breathing
  • irregular heart rate
  • heart attacks
  • seizures (fits)


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • It depends on what's been taken but can include:
  • feeling happy
  • feeling drunk
  • not being worried about what you do (feeling uninhibited)
  • feeling confused
  • taking risks
  • poor decision making
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • delusions (believing in things that aren't real)


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So, why does it have these effects?


Exactly how the effects are caused depends on what's been taken and how. However in general:

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Step1

Most inhalants pass quickly into someone's bloodstream and then on into their Central Nervous System (CNS). There they interfere with many of the same neurotransmitters as alcohol, this is why they make users happy but also cause a general body slow down, slurred speech, and loss of co-ordination.

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Nitrites like amyl nitrite (poppers) act differently: they dilate (widen) the muscles in blood vessels and muscles outside the brain, increasing someone's heart rate but lowering their blood pressure. This creates an intense, warm “head rush” lasting 2 to 3 minutes.

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Step 3

The cold gases used to force liquids out of some spraycans can freeze someone's throat muscles if sprayed right onto them. This causes choking and may stop them breathing.

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Long term effects

  • Effects depend on what's been taken but can include:
  • sniffing and sneezing
  • nosebleeds
  • headaches
  • red or watery eyes
  • spots, rashes or burns around the nose, mouth and eyes
  • feeling tired all the time
  • likelier to get colds and flu
  • poor memory
  • poor concentration
  • changes in behaviour
  • unpredictable behaviour
  • chest pains and breathing problems
  • heart attack
  • brain damage
  • liver and kidney damage
  • muscle damage

Addiction

The pleasant effects of inhalant highs usually last just 5 to 45 minutes. Long-term use increases the chances of someone developing a tolerance to an inhalant (when their body adapts to the effect and needs more inhalant to achieve it). This can lead to dependence (relying on the substance to manage day-to-day life). If a regular user stops using inhalants their withdrawal symptoms will usually be quite mild but could include headaches, feeling sick, cramps, shaking, and seeing things. These usually last 2 to 5 days.

Inhalants like nitrous oxide (N2O or laughing gas) or ether may be safely used in hospitals or at the dentist for relaxation and mild pain relief. Ether is also used as a medical antiseptic. Some nitrites are medically prescribed to treat heart problems (like angina) or cyanide poisoning.

Did you know?

People using inhalants often hurt themselves or others in a range of indirect (second-hand) ways. These include suffocating because there's too little oxygen to breathe in the bags or closed areas they're using, injuries or burns if what they're using explodes, and injuries from trying to do something crazy in a hallucination (like fly or fight monsters).




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 18 May 2016. “Inhalants”. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Did you Know: Volatile Substances”. Retrieved 21 March 2019
New Zealand National Poisons Centre, 20 Nov 2007. “Solvent Abuse: Information for Parents/Caregivers”. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
Parliament of Victoria, Drug and Crime Prevention Committee, January 2002. “Inquiry into the Inhalation of Volatile Substances”. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
TeensHealth.org, September 2016. “Inhalants”. Retrieved 20 February 2017.

Marijuana (Cannabis)


Primary

Boom, buds, cabbage, chronic, dak or dakka, dope, ganja, grass, hash or hashish, herb, mary jane, mary warner, mull, pot, reefer, smoke, skunk, and weed

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Overview

Overview

Marijuana (mare-uh-WAH-nuh) or cannabis is the dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis plant. It contains many cannabinoid compounds, but THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is what causes its main mind-altering effects.

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Marijuana is green, brown, or grey and looks like dried moss or parsley. It is usually rolled and smoked in a cigarette (“joint”), pipe (“bowl”) or water pipe (“bong”). Some people bake with it or make it into tea. A resin (“hash” or “hashish”) can be made from compressing dried marijuana leaves, and an oil can be made from hash. Both can be added to marijuana or tobacco and smoked.

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Classification

Classification

Cannabis is a depressant and hallucinogen. In NZ, cannabis plants, leaves, fruit, and seeds are Class C controlled substances (drugs). Cannabis products containing THC, (like hash oil and resin are illegal Class B drugs; but some can be legally prescribed by a doctor. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a prescription medicine (it's legal with a prescription and not classed as a controlled substance).

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Synthetic cannabis might sound like it is related to cannabis, but it is just plant material sprayed with synthetic chemicals made to imitate the THC-based effects of cannabis. Synthetic cannabis can have very unpredictable or dangerous effects, which is why it is an illegal drug.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • dry eyes, mouth, and throat
  • red or bloodshot eyes
  • loss of co-ordination
  • slower reflexes
  • altered perception (way of seeing things)


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling happy
  • feeling sleepy
  • feeling hungry ("getting the munchies")
  • confused thinking
  • slow learning
  • depression
  • poor memory and concentration
  • mild hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • mild paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Within minutes of being smoked, the THC in marijuana gets into someone’s brain. There it activates the cannabinoid receptors of their body's own natural endocannabinoid (EC) system that slows down communication between neurons in many different parts of the brain.

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Step 2

As the receptors of the EC system become flooded by THC, users slow down mentally and physically, and much more than normal.

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Step 3

THC also affects how other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin are released and work. That's why it has so many different effects from giving people the munchies to changing their mood (so they feel 'high", relaxed, or depressed), and even making them see things that aren't there (hallucinating).

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Long term effects

  • memory problems
  • trouble learning and concentrating
  • likelier to get colds and flu
  • problems breathing
  • coughing more
  • loss of motivation (stopping caring)
  • fertility problems
  • strong hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • strong paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • psychosis (acting crazy)
  • schizophrenia (disturbed behaviour)

Addiction

The EC system helps develop and repair neural connections in the brain’s mood, motivation, learning and memory circuits. Children or teenagers can interrupt this vital work if they use marijuana frequently or heavily while these circuits are still developing. This may mean their adult brain develops without the strong and healthy connections it needs. People can get addicted to marijuana because the happy effects of a dopamine 'high" don't last long. Giving up can be hard for regular users because their bodies have to get used to working without marijuana and they may get unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

There's a lot of talk and research about using some substances in cannabis including THC and cannabidiol (CBD) for treating conditions like pain, inflammation, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, appetite loss, feeling sick, epilepsy, and seizures (fits). Some places (including certain states of the USA and Australia) have medical cannabis programmes. NZ doesn't, but it's legal for our doctors to prescribe certain approved medicinal cannabis products. People can also import CBD products if they have a prescription and the product meets certain conditions (very low THC levels).

Did you know?

In 1995 scientists at NASA studied how marijuana and other drugs affected the way house spiders spun their webs. You can see the results in this NASA Tech Brief




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, n.d. “Cannabis.” Retrieved 13 June 2017.
Ministry of Health, 19 December 2018. "Prescribing Medicinal Cannabis Products." Retrieved 7 March 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2017. “Easy to Read Drug Facts—Marijuana.” Retrieved 31 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2017. “How Does Cannabis Produce its Effects?” Retrieved 2 February 2017.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Marijuana.” Retrieved 31 January 2017.
Scholastic.com and National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011. “The Science of Marijuana: How THC Affects the Brain.” Retrieved 01 February 2017.
TeensHealth.org, April 2014. “Marijuana.” Retrieved 31 January 2017.

C10H15N

Methamphetamine

Formula
Primary

Base, chalk, crack, crank, crystal, fire, glass, go-fast, ice, meth, p, pure, rock, shabu, speed, tina, ya ba, and whiz

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Overview

Overview

Methamphetamine is a man-made drug. It causes a strong but temporary rise in energy and mood as well as some physical effects (e.g. a fast-beating heart) that makes users feel full of energy, and "up". A combination of effects makes methamphetamine more dangerous and addictive than amphetamines, cocaine and many other substances.

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Methamphetamine comes as pills, powders, or chunky crystals (“crystal meth”). These powders can be white to brown, orange or purple, especially if mixed with other substances. The crystals are usually white or colourless. Methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted up the nose (“bumped”), dissolved and injected, or smoked in a small glass pipe and inhaled (crystal meth).

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Classification

Classification

Methamphetamine is a stimulant. In NZ, methamphetamine is a Class A controlled drug.

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Related to

Related to

Methamphetamine is closely related to amphetamine, but a tiny difference in chemical makeup (an extra methyl group) puts the "Meth" in its name and causes its different effects. It's also related to MDMA ("Ecstasy").

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased temperature (causing heavy sweating)
  • decreased appetite
  • talking more
  • feeling energetic and wide awake
  • grinding teeth
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • dry mouth
  • itchy skin


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling very alert (wide awake)
  • feeling happy
  • feeling full of energy
  • feeling confident
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • psychosis ("acting crazy")


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Methamphetamine increases the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin from nerve endings in the brain and also reduces their reuptake.

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This causes a build-up of neurotransmitters in the gaps between the neurons in the brain and spinal cord that control feelings of alertness, mood, pleasure, and reward. This produces an immediate “rush” and then the longer “high” felt by users.

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Step 3

Methamphetamine crosses from the bloodstream into the brain faster than amphetamine and also causes more dopamine to be released. That's why it has a faster, more powerful, and longer-lasting effect.

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Long term effects

  • appetite loss
  • losing a lot of weight
  • trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • rotting teeth and gums ("meth mouth")
  • bad skin and sores
  • heart and breathing problems
  • likelier to get sick with flu and colds
  • kidney and liver damage
  • mood swings
  • feeling anxious
  • feeling confused
  • memory problems
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • psychosis ("acting crazy")
  • increased likelihood of needle-related diseases (like hepatitis and tetanus)

Addiction

The pleasant, strong “rush” from methamphetamine happens almost immediately if it's injected, or within 15 to 20 minutes of swallowing it. Its effects can last 24 hours. Methamphetamine is highly addictive. It acts fast to change how our dopamine system (which makes us feel happy) works. Users quickly develop a tolerance to meths and need more and more to get the same high. They can end up wanting ("craving") another dose before the physical effects of their earlier one have worn off, which increases the risk of overdosing (taking too much). If someone uses meths regularly, it destroys some of their neurons that produce dopamine and serotonin; it can take years to recover from this. If a regular user decides to stop or cut down on methamphetamine they may have a very bad reaction ('crash") immediately and then less bad withdrawal symptoms for up to three months while their body readjusts.These symptoms include feeling sick, tired, anxious, angry, suspicious, and depressed—and desperately wanting (“craving”) methamphetamine.

Doctors don't prescribe methamphetamine much these days because it has much stronger effects than amphetamine and is more likely to cause addiction. It was used in medicine in the past (and may sometimes be used in the USA today) to treat many of the same conditions for which medical amphetamines are prescribed.

Did you know?

A Japanese chemist called Nagai Nagayoshi was the first to make methamphetamine in 1893. His countryman Akira Ogata managed to make crystal meth in 1919. During World War II, soldiers and fighter pilots sometimes chewed methamphetamine tablets to help themselves stay alert.




References and links

KidsHealth.org, May 2018. “: "Methamphetamines: What Parents need to Know”. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate”. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, January 2017. “Easy to Read Drug Facts—Meths”. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, March 2019. “Methampetamine (Meth)”. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Methamphetamine". Retrieved 25 March 2019.

Psychoactive Substances


Primary

Aphrodisiac tea, bath salts, designer drugs, drug analogues, herbal ecstasy, herbal highs, herbal incense, herbals, k2, nbomes (with brand names like n-bomb, 25i, solaris), new and emerging drugs (neds), research chemicals, party pills, pellets, synthetics, synthetic cocaine, synthetic cannabis (under brand names like black widow, chocolate haze, kronic, spice, mojo), plant fertiliser, room deodorisers, smiley paper, social tonics, research chemicals, wizard, and and many more...

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Overview

Overview

New psychoactive substances or NPSs are commonly called “legal highs”, “party pills”, or “synthetics”. They're new drugs that people make to mimic (act like) controlled drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and cannabis. But they've also been made different enough in makeup from any known controlled drugs so that they aren't covered by the strict laws that apply to them.

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NPSs come in many forms. They can look like white or coloured powders, capsules, pills, or pellets. They might be sold as small bottles of liquid, or packets of dried herbs. They may even come as squares of blotting paper that have been soaked in a NPS. Synthetic cannabinoids are often sold in colourful packets with a catchy brand name on the outside (like "Kronic"). NPSs can be smoked, vaped, swallowed, snorted, injected, dissolved under the tongue, taken anally ("shelved"), or made into tea.

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Classification

Classification

NPSs can be stimulants, depressants or hallucinogens depending on their makeup. In NZ, they're mostly covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act (2013) and illegal unless they've been approved by government. Since none have been approved, there's currently no such thing as a "legal high" in NZ. Even if an NPS was appproved, it would be illegal for anyone under 18 years to be sold it, buy it or have it. Sometimes NPSs get reclassified as controlled drugs because they are so dangerous, but lawyers must first pin down their formulae to do this.

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Related to

Related to

NPSs can be related to drugs they are trying to mimic but different enough to escape legal classification as a controlled drug. Some NPSs are related, others are not. There are three main groups of NPSs; Party pills, herbal highs and pellets which lift someone's mood and mimic the effects of drugs like caffeine, ecstasy and amphetamines. Synthetic cannabis and cannabinoids which mimic the mind-altering effects of THC in cannabis. Research chemicals and drug analogues which may mimic the effects of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine or the hallucinogenic effects of ones like ecstasy, LSD, and psilocybin.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • The effects of NPSs depend on what's in them and what they're designed to mimic. They could include:
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • increased alertness
  • increased energy
  • feeling sleepy
  • feeling dizzy
  • slower reflexes
  • feeling or being sick
  • changes in blood pressure
  • trouble breathing
  • increased temperature
  • dehydration (being dried out)
  • dilated (wide open) pupils
  • constricted (tiny) pupils
  • decreased appetite
  • losing consciousness (passing out)
  • trouble breathing
  • seizures (fits)
  • unexpected effects


Brain

Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • The effects of NPSs depend on what's in them and what they're designed to mimic. They could include:
  • feeling happy
  • feeling alert
  • feeling confident
  • feeling calm
  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling sexy
  • feeling confused
  • poor memory
  • poor concentration
  • taking risks
  • hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there)
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • psychosis ('acting crazy")
  • unexpected effects


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Exacty how the effects are caused depends on what's been taken and how. We don't know exactly how some of them work.

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Some NPSs are mixtures of compounds, including up to 10 different chemicals from different NPS groups, so their overall effects—like mixing any drugs—can be highly unpredictable.

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The makeup of NPSs is constantly being changed by their makers. Even tiny differences can have a huge difference to their effects. It's like how the tiny differences in makeup between opioids make some much stronger than others.

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There's not much quality control or consistency with NPSs. Differences in makeup between batches, even of the same brand, could mean that something is relatively safe one day but very dangerous the next.

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Long term effects

  • Effects depend on what's been taken and how but can include:
  • feeing sick
  • feeling tired
  • weight loss
  • changes in behaviour
  • trouble sleeping
  • problems with memory
  • trouble concentrating
  • feeling confused
  • feeling anxious
  • paranoia (thinking people are out to get you)
  • psychosis ("acting crazy")
  • likelier to get needle-related diseases (like hepatitis and tetanus)
  • unexpected effects from new substances and mixtures

Addiction

Effects depend on the person, substance, mixture of substances, and amount taken. Some can be as addictive as the drug they're made to mimic, some may be even more addictive.

NPSs have no recognised medical use because they're made illegally and no-one knows exactly what's in them. Drug companies develop new medical drugs all the time but they know exactly what's in their drugs and can only sell them once they’ve passed strict safety tests.

Did you know?

In 2016, a worldwide study reported that 644 new psychoactive substances were being used in 102 different countries. NPSs are a BIG problem!




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 25 July 2016. “New Psychoactive Substances”. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, 14 February 2017. “New Psychoactive Substances (Synthetics) Event Toolkit”. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
Psychoactive Substances Act 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2016). World Drug Report 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2017.

C10H14N2

Nicotine

Formula
Primary

Found in:, cigarette, cig, ciggy, butt, fag, dart, tab, stog, smoke, durrie, cancer stick, coffin nail, tobacco, chew, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, vaping, vape, e-liquid, and e-juice

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Overview

Overview

Nicotine is found naturally in the leaves of the tobacco plant. It can also be made in a lab or factory. People usually inhale nicotine when they smoke tobacco cigarettes but it can be get into our bodies in a number of ways.

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Pure nicotine is an oily, clear to yellow liquid that turns brown in air. You can't see it when it is naturally present in tobacco. People inhale it when they smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars or vape e-cigarettes. It can also be absorbed through the skin (nicotine patches) or the lining of the mouth (nicotine gum, lozenges, spray), or inhaled directly up the nose (snuff).

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Classification

Classification

Nicotine is a stimulant. It's legal, But in NZ it's illegal to sell cigarettes and herbal smoking products (which likely contain nicotine), as well as nicotine e-cigarettes to someone younger than 18 years.

Chemical bond

Related to

Related to

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • increased alertness
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling dizzy


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • feeling happy
  • feeling relaxed
  • feeling alert


Question mark

So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Nicotine imitates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and binds to receptors in the brain which tell the muscles and neurons in our Central Nervous System (CNS) to get to work. This floods the acetylcholine system and super-excites it so users feel alert (awake) and maybe even restless.

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Step 2

Nicotine also affects the release of other neurotransmitters and hormones like beta-endorphin, dopamine, glutamate, adrenaline, serotonin, GABA, and ACTH.

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Step 3

Altered levels of these transmitters affect someone's breathing, heart rate, memory, and alertness. Increased dopamine levels activate the reward (pleasure) pathways in their brain, so they feel happy.

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Long term effects

  • increased cancer risk
  • increased risk of stroke
  • increased risk of hear disease
  • stained teeth and bad breath
  • tooth and gum disease
  • problems from other chemicals released while smoking

Addiction

The happy feeling users get from increased dopamine levels wears off quickly, so people may also want ("crave") a supply of nicotine to maintain it (they become addicted). Nicotine is highly addictive. If someone gives their body a constant supply of nicotine (by smoking or vaping regularly), their brain adjusts by cutting down the number of acetylcholine receptors and releasing less acetylcholine into the gaps between nerves. Over time, they can come to depend on the extra nicotine to work normally. That's why people who can't get their regular "fix" of nicotine may have withdrawal symptoms like feeling anxious, angry, and restlessness, or not being able to sleep.

Nicotine patches, gum, spray, inhalers, or lozenges can help lessen withdrawal effects while someone is cutting down ("quitting") tobacco use. These products may be prescribed by a doctor, but some can be bought over the counter in a chemist or supermarket without a prescription.

Did you know?

For centuries, gardeners have used home-made mixtures of tobacco and water to kill insect pests. Today, scientists are weighing up the risks and benefits of nicotine-based pesticides.




References and links

KidsHealth.org, February 2015. “Nicotine: What Parents Need to Know.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
TeensHealth.org, June 2016. “Smoking.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2010. “The Brain, Lesson 3—Drugs Change the Way Neurons Communicate.” Retrieved 31 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, June 2007. “Brain Power: Grades 6 to 9.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. 9 January 2017. “Tobacco, Nicotine, & E-cigarettes.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.
Quitline, 2017. “Nicotine Patches, Gum and Lozenges.” Retrieved 25 January 2017.

Opioids and Opiates


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Black tar, caballo, china white, dope, fentanyl, gear, h, harry, homebake, horse, hydrocodone, junk, krokodil, misties, morph, narcotics, opiates, oxy, oxycodone, pethidine, skag, smack, tnt, and white dynamite

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Overview

Overview

Opiates are a group of substances found naturally in seed pods of the oriental opium poppy and include opium, morphine, and codeine. They can be mixed with other substances to make semi-synthetic opioids like heroin, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Completely man-made opioids include drugs like fentanyl, pethidine and methadone, as well as synthetic versions of opiates. People use these substances (legally and illegally) to help with pain, to relax, and to get high.

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Looks like

Opioids and opiates come in many forms. Prescription (medical) opioids can look like pills, patches, syrups, injectable liquids, or sprays. The common opiate opium may come as a black or brown block of tar-like powder. It may also come as a liquid or solid. Heroin—one of the best-known opioids—can take many forms, from white to dark powders, to tiny pieces of light brown rock, or dark sticky tar. It can be injected, smoked and inhaled, or snorted up the nose.

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Classification

Classification

Opioids and opiates are depressants. In NZ, they range from Class A controlled drugs like heroin, to class B ones like opium, morphine, fentanyl, and hydrocodone, and Class C ones like codeine. Many are used in hospitals or can be legally prescribed by doctors.

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Related to

Related to

Opioids and opiates are related to each other. There are many different kinds of each, and all have a slightly different chemical makeup. This makes some of them stronger than others. Fentanyl is about 50 times more powerful than heroin, which is a bit more powerful than morphine, which is about 100 times more powerful than codeine. Homebake is also related: it's an illegal opioid version of morphine that's been made from prescription opioids like codeine.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • It depends on what's been taken but can include:
  • mild to strong pain relief
  • decreased heart rate
  • decreased breathing
  • feeling sleepy
  • slurred speech
  • confused thinking
  • constricted (tiny) pupils
  • droopy eyelids
  • dry mouth
  • itching
  • feeling or being sick
  • constipation (trouble pooing)
  • losing consciousness (passing out)


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • It depends on what's been taken but can include:
  • feeling very happy (euphoria)
  • feelng relaxed
  • feeling calm
  • feeling confused
  • feeling light-headed


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So, why does it have these effects?


The strength and range of effects depends on what's been taken and how. This is a general description of how most opioids and opiates work.

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Step 1

Our bodies already make their own opioids (including substances called endorphins). These natural neurotransmitters help us to feel good and slow down our bodies when needed. Opioid and opiate drugs work the same way, but are stronger than our natural opioids and add to their effects.

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Step 2

When someone takes opioids/opiates, the natural opioid receptors in their brain, spinal cord and intestine get flooded. This slows the person down mentally and physically--but much more than usual. It can stop someone feeling pain, make them pass out or even stop them breathing.

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Step 3

Opioids and opiates also reduce levels of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain's reward centre, which causes a brief rise in dopamine levels. The rise in dopamine makes users feel happy for a short time.

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Long term effects

  • Effects depend on what's been taken but can include:
  • feeling or being sick
  • feeling very sad (depression)
  • trouble sleeping
  • stomach cramps
  • constipation (hard poo)
  • trouble urinating (peeing)
  • feeling confused
  • mood changes
  • no sex drive
  • damage or hole in the nose
  • damage to heart
  • damage to lungs
  • damage to liver and kidneys
  • scars and abscesses (from dirty needles)
  • likelier to get needle-related diseases (like hepatitis and tetanus)

Addiction

Effects depend on what's been taken but may be immediate (if injected) or can start after 10-15 min (if snorted). They can last 3 to 5 hours. Opioids and opiates are highly addictive because people quickly develop a tolerance to them and need more to get the same effects. They can become dependent on these drugs to just to feel normal. This may lead to an addiction, when someone "craves" (wants) the feelings they believe that only regular doses of their drug can give them. Some people think that heroin is the most addictive of all drugs. If a regular user decides tp stop or cut down on what they've been using they may get withdrawal symptoms while their body readjusts. These usually last days to weeks, but can last longer. They can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, being sick, feeling irritable, sleeplessness, chills, and sweating. Doctors sometimes prescribe other milder opioids in set doses to help with these symptoms.

Opioids are regularly prescribed to treat severe pain from surgery and injury, or pain from chronic health conditions like cancer. Some opioids are prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms for people trying to quit. Methadone or buprenorphine are most commonly used this way, given as syrup or tablets.

Did you know?

If someone overdoses on an opioid (has too much of it), a drug called naloxone (Narcan) can save them by reversing the effects--but only if it's given in time.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 12 May 2016. “Heroin”. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
KidsHealth.org, May 2018. “ Heroin: What Parents Need to Know”. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, 25 March 2019. “Heroin”. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, 25 March 2019. “Prescription Pain Medications (Opioids)”. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
New Zealand Drug Foundation, n.d. “Heroin”. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
Periodic Table of Videos, University of Nottingham, 20 September 2010.”Morphine and Heroin”: presenter Rob Stockman. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
Scholastic.com/National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institutes of Health 2016. “Prescription Pain Medications: What You Need to Know”. Retrieved15 February 2017.

Steroids


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Andro, arnolds, gear, gym candy, juice, nandrolone, pumpers, roids, stackers, stanozol, tetrahydrogestrinone, the clear, thg, weight trainers, and .

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Overview

Overview

Steroids include many substances our bodies produce naturally to help us deal with stress and growing. They also include synthetic (man-made) steroids which doctors might give us to help with fertility, hormonal, and inflammatory problems. We'll be concentrating on synthetic anabolic androgenic steroids often called "anabolic steroids" or just "steroids"), which are a group of steroids based on the male sex hormones. They're most commonly used illegally to make someone perform better at sports or look more toned, buffed and muscly.

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Looks like

Anabolic steroids take many forms. They can come as clear or coloured liquids that are injected (into muscles), pills and tablets to be swallowed, or sprays, creams and patches for the skin. Some supplements (like sport protein shakes, body building powders and vitamin pill mixes) may also contain them.

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Classification

Classification

Steroids are in a class of their own. In NZ, anabolic steroids are illegal. They're also banned in all competitive sports by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Some might be available on prescription to treat certain medical conditions. Most steroidal supplements are now illegal in NZ and people are likely to need a prescription to bring them into the country, use them, or even just have (possess) them.

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Related to

Related to

Steroids are related to one another and share a common four-ring makeup--but there are many variations on the basic theme. Anabolic steroids are more closely based on male sex hormones ("androgens") like testosterone. Steroidal supplements often use weaker forms of man-made androgens (like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and/or androstenedione (also known as “andro”). But in large doses their effects are thought to be similar to anabolic steroids.

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Physical effects

Physical effects

  • Users generally take anabolic steroids over short periods of 6 to 12 weeks (“cycling”) with breaks in between. Sometimes two or more different types may be combined (“stacking”). It can take a while for their effects to show, The effects of anabolic steroids include:
  • bigger muscles (bulking up)
  • stronger muscles
  • improved performance (running faster, jumping higher, lifting more weight)
  • improved stamina (can exercise for longer, push harder)
  • less body fat
  • weight gain
  • faster recovery from injuries


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Psychological effects

Psychological effects

  • It's not clear whether there are any.


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So, why does it have these effects?


Step 1

Anabolic steroids travel in someone's bloodstream. They mimic their natural androgens and attach to steroid receptors on the outside of certain cells, like muscle cells.

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Step 2

The receptors help move the steroids into these cells. Once there, they prompt (make) their genes produce new proteins like muscle tissue or hair.

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Step 3

Anabolic steroids can also reduce the effects of hormones like cortisol, which breaks down body tissues during and after exercise or injury. This is why anabolic steroids can speed up recovery times.

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Step 4

The side-effects on testicles and other reproductive organs are part of a complicated feedback response to the changes in testosterone levels caused by taking anabolic steroids.These effects are generally reversible once people stop using but it can take several months.

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Long term effects

  • growing more body hair
  • more acne (spots and pimples)
  • smaller breasts (in women)
  • deeper voice
  • irregular periods
  • smaller testicles
  • making fewer sperm
  • growing breasts (in men)
  • fertility problems (trouble making babies)
  • stunted growth (stopping growing)
  • going bald
  • old-looking skin
  • mood swings
  • likelier to feel annoyed
  • likelier to feel angry ("roid rage")
  • delusions (seeing or thinking things that aren't real)
  • mania ("acting crazy" or hyper)
  • damage to heart
  • damage to liver and kidneys
  • likelier to get needle-related diseases (like hepatitis and tetanus)

Addiction

Anabolic steroids don't cause immediate increases in dopamine levels like many addictive drugs. However, it's thought that long-term use can affect parts of someone's dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems. This may cause mood swings, irritability, and aggression (so-called “roid rage”)—but it is not clear if this always happens nor exactly why. Anabolic steroids aren't generally considered addictive, but someone could come to rely on them psychologically to build self-esteem and confidence.

Some steroids, including anabolic steroids, are used in medicine to treat hormone problems, trouble with inflammation (like helping soothe itches, swelling, pain and stiffness), and some fertility problems (trouble making babies). A doctor might prescribe the synthetic androgen dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to treat infertility, or depo-testosterone for boys and men who aren't making enough natural testosterone.

Did you know?

In 1935 Adolf Butendant and Leopold Ružička published papers just a week apart showing how to make synthetic (man-made) testosterone for the first time. They were given a joint 1939 Noble Prize in Chemistry for their work on these and other steroids.




References and links

Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Australia, 26 April 2016. “Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs” and “Steroids”. Retrieved 20 and 28 February 2017.
Australian Academy of Science, 24 June 2015. “Drugs in Sport.” Retrieved 29 March 2019.
DrugFree Sport New Zealand, 2014 and 2017. “Supplements” and “2017 Clean Sport Handbook”. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, 19 April 1998. “Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids: Mechanism of Action and Effects on Performance”: author Thomas D Fahey. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
KidsHealth.org, January 2017. “Steroids”. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2016. “Drug Facts—Anabolic Steroids”. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
TeensHealth.org, February 2017. “Are Steroids Worth the Risk?”. Retrieved 29 March 2019.