Boost your Drug IQ

National Drug IQ week starts tomorrow. The focus is to shatter myths about drugs and drug use. The audience is teens. It doesn’t matter your age, there are so many helpful resources on the website. You can brush up on your scientific knowledge. You can find the latest statistics, trends, and infographics on drug abuse in the United States. You can also order free materials. I was refreshingly surprised with the games and video page. This section lets you explore what happens to the brain and body when drugs are used.

I spent the most time on the “Increase your drug IQ” section. There, you will find two interactive quizzes. I took the quizzes, and condensed the information in the following “Cliff Notes” version. Read below to up your Drug IQ:

Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin do not make you smarter.

Despite popular belief, if you don’t have Attention Deficit Disorder, these drugs do not help you focus. They are stimulants just like all illegal amphetamines. They do not boost the mental ability of people who don’t have ADHD – but they will keep you awake. However, in the long run, missing sleep will be bad for your thinking and physical health.

Using painkillers can lead to using Heroin.

When taking drugs like Oxycontin, people often become addicted. First they start taking larger doses, or crushing the pills (which takes away the time release). As the addiction gets worse, and obtaining pills from doctors gets harder, users commonly switch to heroin. If you are taking pills correctly, you should not feel “high” at all. You should feel pain relief. Here are three easy ways to get addicted to medicines like Vicodin or OxyContin.

  • Take more than is prescribed
  • Take some pills that are not prescribed for you
  • Try getting some pills without a prescription
Alcohol and Marijuana win the popularity contest as the most abused drugs in the United States.

It might surprise you that prescription drugs and cough medicine rank very high in use. Prescription and drugstore cough and cold medicines, are enjoyed at nightclubs. When taken in large doses, these medications produce mind-altering (psychoactive) properties.

Mixing drugs is always dangerous, but combining painkillers and alcohol is the most deadly combination.

The number is people who died from mixing opioids and alcohol increases more than 300%from 1999 to 2000.

Bath salts are a (relatively new) popular synthetic drug.

Despite the harmless sounding name, this drug causes bad effects in the brain similar to amphetamines and ecstasy, but potentially more powerful. These are not to be confused with epsom salt or fragrant crystals used for bathing. Manufacturers are constantly designing new chemicals to get around legal restriction, so the effects of a particular product may be very unpredictable. This product is commonly sold at smoke shops. Side note: I met a guy who was addicted to this drug and his brain was so damaged, he should be institutionalized. I recently saw him wearing a pirate hat, living in an alley.

Another product sold in smoke shops is K2 or (Spice).

It is an herbal combination that contains some really bad chemicals. Some people have had heart attacks after smoking Spice. “Fun” flavors are often added to encourage you to buy this product. This is sometimes (erroneously) called synthetic (or designer) marijuana. This drug is powerful and unpredictable.

Drugs are hard to quite because they change the brain’s reward center.

Normally, the brain responds to pleasurable things by releasing dopamine, which creates feelings of pleasure. This tells the brain that this is something special, pay attention and remember it. Drugs hijack this system using fake dopamine to flood the system. This makes it hard to have pleasurable feelings from everyday things.

Marijuana can be addictive.

It is true that only 9 percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. The number increases to about 1 in 6 among those who start using it as a teen, and 25 to 50 percent among daily users. It also lowers your IQ and decreases your motivation.

People inhale household products like computer duster and cooking spray, to get high.

Over time, this habit causes some serious brain damage. People who are “huffing” or “sniffing” might have a chemical odor on their clothes. It is also common to lose your appetite or feel like throwing up. Another side effect is muscle weakness and strange movements. Over time users become very irritable or depressed. Side note: if you are a fan of the show “Intervention” these was an amazing episode about a girl who huffed computer duster.  This is worth seeking out.

Bottom Line

Quitting drugs is hard because addiction is a brain disease. Your brain is like a control tower that sends out signals to direct your actions and choices. Addiction changes the signals in your brain and makes it hard to feel OK without the drug. This video from NIDA explains addiction in simple terms.

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