What You Need to Know About Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol and other drug abuse have the potential to seriously compromise an individual's ability to perform in the college environment. Research has shown a correlation between low GPAs and high alcohol and/or drug use. Students who choose to abuse alcohol or other drugs increase their risk for immediate negative consequences (e.g., accidents resulting from impaired driving, sexual assault, violence, University or legal sanctions, alcohol poisoning, or other drug overdose) as well as increasing their risk for longer-term consequences (e.g., psychological dependence, physical addiction, and associated health complications).

Gallaudet University is committed to providing information about alcohol and other drugs, supporting those students who make positive choices, and encouraging a dialogue with all students so that we can move the community further toward our goal of eliminating the abuse of alcohol and use of illicit drugs. If students have any questions concerning the health or psychological risks associated with the use of illicit drugs and the abuse of alcohol, students can contact the Health and Wellness Programs or seek help from the other resources listed below. The following is a brief description of several drugs and their associated health risks.

Alcohol

Although moderate alcohol use can be a healthy life-style choice for many, alcohol is America's most abused drug. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can cause a person to do things one would not normally do if sober, which decreases motor coordination and control. This impairment can occur even at low levels of blood alcohol. When alcohol is abused, there is a significantly increased incidence of physical injury, motor vehicle accidents (nearly half of all fatal accidents) and injuries from assaults. Chronic heavy alcohol use is associated with increased risk of cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver and heart and is the most common cause of liver failure. Particularly among college students, high-risk drinking (loosely defined as getting "drunk" or binge use) is associated with an increased risk of sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, and poor academic performance. Someone who has passed out after drinking requires immediate medical attention. Students who are with someone who cannot be woken up after drinking should put the person on his or her side and alert DPS (on-campus) or call 911 (off-campus) immediately.

Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids include marijuana and hashish. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States and tends to be the first illegal drug young people use. Marijuana blocks the messages going to your brain and alters perceptions and emotions, vision, and coordination. The short-term effects of using marijuana include sleepiness, difficulty keeping track of time, impaired or reduced short-term memory, reduced ability to perform tasks requiring concentration and coordination, such as driving a car, increased heart rate, potential cardiac dangers for those with preexisting heart disease, bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and throat, decreased social inhibitions, and sometimes paranoia and hallucinations.

Long-term effects of chronic heavy marijuana use include enhanced lung cancer risk, decreased testosterone levels for men and lower sperm counts and difficulty having children, increased testosterone levels for women and increased risk of infertility, diminished or extinguished sexual pleasure, and psychological dependence requiring more of the drug to get the same effect. Hashish is a more concentrated form of marijuana and has similar short- and long-term effects.

Opioids

Opioids include heroin and opium and are highly addictive drugs. Users find that they have a need for persistent, repeated use of the drug (known as craving) and that their attempts to stop using the drug lead to significant and painful physical withdrawal symptoms. Use of heroin and opium causes physical and psychological problems such as shallow breathing, nausea, panic, insomnia, and a need for increasingly higher doses of the drug to get the same effect. Uncertain dosage levels (due to differences in purity), the use of unsterile equipment, contamination of heroin/opium with dotting agents, or the use of heroin/opium in combination with such other drugs as alcohol or cocaine can cause serious health problems such as serum hepatitis, skin abscesses, inflammation of the veins, and cardiac disease. Of great importance, however, is that the user never knows whether the next dose will be unusually potent, leading to overdose, coma, and possible death. In addition, needle sharing by injection drug users is one of the leading cause of new HIV cases.

Stimulants

Stimulants include cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine.

Cocaine - Cocaine tends to give a temporary illusion of limitless power and energy that leave the user feeling depressed, edgy, and craving more. Crack is a smokable form of cocaine that has been chemically altered. Cocaine and crack are highly addictive. This addiction can erode physical and mental health and can become so strong that these drugs dominate all aspects of an addict's life.

Physical risks associated with using any amount of cocaine and crack include increases in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and body temperature, nasal damage from snorting, heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory failure, hepatitis or HIV through shared needles, brain seizures, and reduction of the body's ability to resist and combat infection. Psychological risks include violent, erratic, or paranoid behavior, hallucinations and "coke bugs" - a sensation of imaginary insects crawling over the skin, confusion, anxiety and depression, loss of interest in food or sex, and "cocaine psychosis" - losing touch with reality, loss of interest in friends, family, sports, hobbies, and other activities. Cocaine and crack use has also been a contributing factor in a number of drowning, car crashes, falls, burns, and suicides. Cocaine and crack addicts often become unable to function sexually. Even first time users may experience seizures or heart attacks, which can be fatal.

Methamphetamine - Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug chemically related to amphetamine but with stronger effects on the central nervous system. Street names for the drug includes "speed," "meth," and "crank." Methamphetamine is used in pill form or in powdered form by snorting or injecting. Crystallized methamphetamine known as "ice," "crystal," or "glass," is a smokable and more powerful form of the drug.

The effects of methamphetamine use include increased heart rate and blood pressure, severe dental problems, increased wakefulness, insomnia, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, respiratory problems, extreme anorexia, hyperthermia, convulsions, and cardiovascular problems, which can lead to death, euphoria, irritability, confusion, tremors, anxiety, paranoia, or violent behavior, and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Methamphetamine users who inject the drug and share needles are also at risk for acquiring HIV.

Club Drugs

Club drugs include MDMA (Ecstasy), Rohypnol, and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate).

MDMA/Ecstasy - MDMA is most commonly known as ecstasy or ‘X', and also known as mollies, yellow jackets, and other street names. MDMA causes mild hallucinogens, increases touch sensitivity, enhances feelings, lowers inhibitions, and also causes anxiety, chills, sweating, teeth clenching, muscle cramping, sleep disturbances, depression, impaired memory, hyperthermia (body overheating), and addiction. MDMA may contain a variety of substances that can cause an unpredictable impact and the side effects to be more serious. When used in combination with marijuana and/or alcohol, there is a higher rise for negative effects. It is often associated with raves and thus is considered a "club drug."

Rohypnol - Rohypnol is commonly known as the "date rape" drug. It is also known as roofies, roach, and rope. People may unknowingly be given the drug which, when mixed with alcohol, can incapacitate a victim and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. Also, Rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants. Rohypnol produces sedative-hypnotic effects including muscle relaxation, confusion, memory loss, dizziness, impaired coordination, and in some cases, withdrawal seizures; it can also produce physical and psychological dependence.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) - GHB is also known as liquid ecstasy, somatomax, scoop, or grievous bodily harm. It has been abused in the U.S. for euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (bodybuilding) effects. It also causes drowsiness, nausea, headaches, disorientation, loss of coordination, memory loss, and unconsciousness. Combining use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. Coma and seizures can occur following abuse of GHB and, when combined with methamphetamine, there appears to be an increased risk of seizure. GHB may also produce withdrawal effects, inclusing insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating. As with Rohypnol and Clonazepam, GHB has been associated with sexual assault nationwide.

Dissociative Drugs

Dissociative drugs include ketamine, PCP, salvia divinorum, and dextromethorphan (DXM). These drugs can cause feelings of being separate from the body, impaired body function, anxiety, tremors, numbness, memory loss, and nausea.

Ketamine - Ketamine is also known as ketalar, cat valium, special K, and vitamin K. It can numb pain, cause memory loss, confusion, difficulty breathing, and death.

PCP - PCP is also known as angel dust, boat, hog, love boat, and peace pill. It can also cause the numbing of pain, psychosis, aggression, violence, slurred speech, loss of coordination, and hallucinations.

Salvia divinorum - Salvia divinorum, also known as salvia, diviner's sage, ska maria pastora, and seer's sage, causes hallucinogens and psychedelic changes. It is thought to possibly cause depression and negatively affect learning and memory. Long-term effects of salvia have not been researched systemically.

Dextromethorphan (DXM) - DXM is found in some cough and cold medications. It can cause euphoria, slurred speech, confusion, dizziness, and distorted visual images.

Hallucinogens

Hallucinogenic drugs are substances that distort the perception of objective reality. The most well-known hallucinogens include lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD or acid; mescaline and peyote; and psilocybin, or "magic" mushrooms. These drugs can produce unpredictable, erratic, and violent behavior in users that sometimes leads to serious injuries and death. The effect of hallucinogens can last for 12 hours.

LSD produces tolerance, so that users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher and higher doses in order to achieve the same state of intoxication. This is extremely dangerous, given the unpredictability of the drug, and can result in increased risk of convulsions, coma, heart and lung failure, and even death.

Physical risks associated with using hallucinogens include increased heart rate and blood pressure, sleeplessness and tremors, lack of muscular coordination, sparse, mangled, and incoherent speech, decreased awareness of touch and pain that can result in self-inflicted injuries, convulsions, coma, and heart and lung failure. Psychological risks associated with using hallucinogens include a sense of distance and estrangement, depression, anxiety, and paranoia, violent behavior, confusion, suspicion, and loss of control, flashbacks, behavior similar to schizophrenic psychosis, and catatonic syndrome whereby the user becomes mute, lethargic, disoriented, and makes meaningless repetitive movements.

A lesser known hallucinogen is "bath salts" which contains methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone, and pyrovalerone, but the exact chemical compounds are unknown, making it more dangerous. Bath salts can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure and heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, paranoia, aggression, violence, and delusions. Side effects can also include intense cravings, which increase abuse and addicition.

Other Compounds

Other compounds include, but are not limited to, anabolic steroids, inhalants, prescription drugs, and tobacco.

Anabolic Steroids - Anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds available legally and illegally and which are closely related to the male sex hormone, testosterone. Possible effects of steroid use include increase in body weight, increase in muscle strength, enhanced athletic performance, and increased physical endurance. Abuse of steroids may cause severe acne, rashes, stunted growth, sexual function problems; women take on masculine traits and develop hairiness, behavioral changes, and aggressiveness ("roid rage"). Long-term effects may include elevated cholesterol, heart disease, liver tumors, cancer, cataracts, and death. Sharing needles to inject steroids are also at risk for acquiring HIV.

Inhalants - Inhalant use refers to the intentional breathing of gas or vapors with the purpose of reaching a high. Nearly all abused products produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body's function. Varying upon level of dosage, the user can experience slight stimulation, feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness. The user can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. This means the user can die the first, 10th, or 100th time he or she uses an inhalant. Other effects include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Results similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may also occur when inhalants are used during pregnancy. Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting and users suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription Drugs - These drugs are not illicit if they are used in accordance with the prescription. However, sharing prescription medication with someone else or using the prescription in a way other than prescribed is illegal and could be very harmful. The dosage for each prescription medicine is based on a number of personal factors (gender, age, weight, other medications, etc.) that a doctor needs to assess and supervise. Some prescriptions can be addictive.

Tobacco - Nicotine is found in cigarettes, cigars, bidis, and smokeless tobacco. All forms of nicotine are highly addictive - for some people, it is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, contributing to lung and other cancers, heart disease, stroke, and a variety of other diseases. Individuals consistently exposed to second-hand smoke (those who work or live around smokers) are also at an increased risk for cancer and other heart and lung disorders. Smokeless tobacco (snuff or chew) is associated with a greatly increased risk for cancer. Using smokeless tobacco can be as harmful as smoking. Like smoking, dipping and chewing tobacco have serious health effects, including oral cancer, gum problems, loss of teeth, and heart problems.

Quitting smoking or smokeless tobacco is difficult. Usually people make two to three tries, or more, before finally being able to quit. Studies have shown that each time you try to quit, you will be stronger and will have learned more about what helps and what hurts. Those interested in quitting smoking or stopping use of smokeless tobacco can be treated by counseling and behavior modification sessions, help in handling difficult situations, and/or using the nicotine patch or nicotine gum. Smoking cessation classes are also offered through the Health and Wellness Programs.


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