Educators influence kids the most. That is why our resource library is also open for educators. We will provide you with the latest science-based information about the effects and consequences of drug abuse.

medical marijuana

The marijuana plant has chemicals that can help with some health problems. More states are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain illnesses. But there isn’t enough research to show that the whole plant works to treat or cure these conditions. Also, the U.S. government still doesn’t think of marijuana as medicine, so it’s still illegal at the national level.

A few medicines have been made as pills and oils. These medicines have chemicals that are like the ones in the marijuana plant, but are not the same type that people usually smoke. They can:

  • treat nausea if you have cancer
  • make you hungry if you have AIDS and don’t feel like eating

Smoking medical marijuana can also hurt your lungs. These and other effects on the brain and body could make marijuana medicine more harmful than helpful.

Another problem with marijuana as a medicine is that the ingredients aren’t exactly the same from plant to plant. There’s no way to know what you’re getting.

Scientists are trying to find ways to make safe medicines from marijuana.

The NIDA Blog Team

A lot of things can increase the risk that a teen will have a problem with drugs. These risk factors include difficulties in school, problems making friends, even the person’s biology.

Another risk factor is living with a parent who uses drugs. A recent study offers a reminder that avoiding drug use is an important choice for the entire family.

A connection…
The study (co-authored by Dr. Wilson Compton here at NIDA) found that if a parent uses marijuana (weed), that can increase the risk that their kids living in the same household will use drugs.

Specifically, teens and young adults who lived with a parent who used marijuana were more likely to use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, and to misuse opioids, than were those living in households where a parent did not use marijuana.

The connection existed even if the parent(s) didn’t use marijuana often, and even if they had only used it in the past.

…not a cause
When thinking about scientific studies, it’s important to understand what their findings don’t mean. In this case, the findings don’t mean that if a parent uses marijuana, their teen or young adult will definitely use marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, or will definitely misuse opioids.

Think of all those risk factors. Parents’ drug use is another one of them, and none of the factors causes teens to use drugs—they just increase the risk that they will.

The study does note that screening family members for substance use and counseling parents on the risks of using drugs may be helpful in preventing the cycle of drug use in families.

We also shouldn’t interpret the study findings as blaming parents if their kids use drugs. Parents can set an example, and while the study suggests that the example is important, choosing to use drugs the first time is just that: a choice.

Your call
For teens, it’s worth thinking about that choice, because, for some people, choosing to use drugs can lead to addiction, where they can’t stop using drugs even though it’s damaging their life.

As we said, this study is a reminder that everybody has a role in reducing the risk that someone in their household will use drugs. But it’s also a reminder that you have the power to make your own decisions about your health. As you become an adult, you’ll have to choose your own path.

prescription depressants

What are prescription depressants?

Depressants, sometimes referred to as central nervous system (CNS) depressants or tranquilizers, slow down (or “depress”) the normal activity that goes on in the brain and spinal cord. Doctors often prescribe them for people who are anxious or can’t sleep.

When prescription depressants are taken as prescribed by a doctor, they can be relatively safe and helpful. However, it is considered misuse when they are taken not as prescribed, to get “high,” or when you take some prescribed for someone else. This can lead to dependence and addiction are still potential risks. Addiction means you continue to seek out and take the drug despite negative consequences.

Depressants can be divided into three primary groups: barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleep medications.

TypeConditions They Treat
Barbiturates

  • mephobarbital (Mebaral®)
  • phenobarbital (Luminal®)
  • sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal®)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Anxiety and tension
Benzodiazepines

  • alprazolam (Xanax®)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin®)
  • diazepam (Valium®)
  • estazolam (ProSom®)
  • lorazepam (Ativan®)
  • Acute stress reactions
  • Panic attacks
  • Convulsions
  • Sleep disorders
Sleep Medications

  • eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
  • zolpidem (Ambien®)
  • zaleplon (Sonata®)
  • Sleep disorders

How Prescription Depressants Are Misused

Depressants usually come in pill or capsule form. People misuse depressants by taking them in a way that is not intended, such as:

  • Taking someone else’s prescription depressant medication, even if it is for a medical reason like sleep problems.
  • Taking a depressant medication in a way other than prescribed—for instance, taking more than the prescribed dose or taking it more often, or crushing pills into powder or opening capsules to snort or inject the drug.
  • Taking a depressant to get “high.”
  • Taking a depressant with other drugs or to counteract the effects of other drugs, such as stimulants.
  • Mixing them with other substances, like alcohol or prescription opioids.

Read more about prescription drugs and what happens to the brain and body when someone misuses them.

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prevent the spread of COVID-19

What to Do If You Are Sick

If you have a fever, cough or other symptoms, you might have COVID-19. Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

  • Keep track of your symptoms.
  • If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), get medical attention right away.

Self-Checker

A guide to help you make decisions and seek appropriate medical care

Steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick

Follow the steps below:  If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, follow the steps below to care for yourself and to help protect other people in your home and community.

Stay home except to get medical care

  • Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
  • Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency.
  • Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

Separate yourself from other people

Social distancingAs much as possible, stay in a specific room and away from other people and pets in your home. If possible, you should use a separate bathroom. If you need to be around other people or animals in or outside of the home, wear a cloth face covering.

Monitor your symptoms

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath but other symptoms may be present as well. Trouble breathing is a more serious symptom that means you should get medical attention.
  • Follow care instructions from your healthcare provider and local health department. Your local health authorities may give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

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What is heroin?

heroin powder

Also known as: Black tar, Brown sugar, China white, H, Horse, Junk, Ska, Skunk, Smack, and White Horse.

Heroin is a very addictive drug made from morphine, a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance taken from the resin of the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin’s color and look depend on how it is made and what else it may be mixed with. It can be white or brown powder, or a black, sticky substance called “black tar heroin.”

Heroin is part of a class of drugs called opioids. Other opioids include some prescription pain relievers, such as codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), and hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin).

Heroin use and overdose deaths have dramatically increased over the last decade. This increase is related to the growing number of people misusing prescription opioid pain relievers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Some people who become addicted to those drugs switch to heroin because it produces similar effects but is cheaper and easier to get.

In fact, most people who use heroin report they first misused prescription opioids, but it is a small percentage of people who switch to heroin. The numbers of people misusing prescription drugs is so high, that even a small percentage translates to hundreds of thousands of heroin users.1 Even so, some research suggests about one-third of heroin users in treatment simply started with heroin. Maybe they were mistakenly told that only one use cannot lead to addiction. Both heroin and opioid pill use can lead to addiction and overdose.

How Heroin is Used

Heroin is mixed with water and injected with a needle. It can also be sniffed, smoked, or snorted. People who use heroin sometimes combine it with other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine (a “speedball”), which can be particularly dangerous and raise the risk of overdose.

To learn more about the different types of opioids, visit our Prescription Opioids Drug Facts page.

1 Compton WM, Jones CM, Baldwin GT. Relationship between nonmedical prescription-opioid use and heroin use. The New England Journal of Medicine 2016;374:154-163.

 

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