Drug Awareness

Know the Basics About Drugs

Learning some basic facts about drugs can help you stay safe.

The most common consequence of drug use for college students is increased risk of sexual assault and car accidents.

Key terms:

Tolerance: When drugs are used repeatedly over time it may take higher and higher doses to experience the same effect as when the drug was taken the first time.

Substance Use Disorder: A Substance Use Disorder develops when a person’s continued use of alcohol and/or drugs causes significant issues, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. This can range from mild to severe.  Drug addiction is the most severe form of a substance use disorder.

Withdrawal: Withdrawal refers to the physical and emotional problems you experience if you drastically reduce or suddenly stop long-term use of a drug. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug.

Addiction: A brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.

Overdose: An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

Polysubstance use: The use of more than one drug, either at the same time or at different times. Polysubstance use is common and is associated with increased risk of psychiatric and physical health problems. Combining substances can create deadly interactions and is a large contributor to cases of overdose.

*Connor, J. P., Gullo, M. J., White, A., & Kelly, A. B. (2014). Polysubstance use: diagnostic challenges, patterns of use and health. Current opinion in psychiatry, 27(4), 269-275.


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    Marijuana (weed, pot) is a green, brown, or gray mix of dried, shredded leaves and flowers from the marijuana plant.

    Marijuana can make you feel silly, relaxed, sleepy, and happy—or nervous and scared. It may change your senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Marijuana can make it hard to think clearly.

    Marijuana makes it hard to remember things that just happened a few minutes ago. That makes it hard to learn in school or to pay attention to your job.

    Mental and physical abilities are impaired for up to 24 hours. It is not safe to drive during this time and completing tasks will be more difficult. A single marijuana cigarette can impair your driving skills.

    Some people get addicted to marijuana after using it often. They might need to smoke more and more of it to get the same high. People who are trying to quit using marijuana can be in a bad mood, feel nervous, and have trouble sleeping. They will feel a strong need to take the drug.

    Spice (K2) is an illegal drug usually made by spraying chemicals onto shredded dried plant materials or put in liquid form. The chemicals are similar to the ones in the marijuana plant that get people high. This is why people call it "fake weed," but it is not the same as marijuana. Spice may affect your brain more strongly than marijuana. You can't predict what will happen when you take it. The effects can be very serious and can even cause death.

    How can Marijuana affect me?


    • Altered senses and mood
    • Slowed reaction time
    • Problems with balance and coordination
    • Increased heart rate and risk of heart attack
    • Increased appetite
    • Problems with learning and memory
    • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
    • Anxiety
    • Hallucinations and delusions (when taken in high doses)


    • Mental health issues
    • Chronic cough, difficulty breathing, lung damage
    • Impairs brain development (You can lose IQ points with chronic use beginning in adolescence)

    When used with alcohol

    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
    • Mental processing and reaction time is severely impaired

     Cold Blooded Squad Mary

Prescription Medications

  • Overview

    The non-medical use of prescription drugs—most notably stimulants, sedatives and pain relievers—is a growing problem.

    Taking medication that was not prescribed to you is drug abuse and it is illegal.

    Many people believe that prescription medications are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor, but they are only safe for the person they were prescribed to. Doctors take many factors into account (e.g. age, weight, gender, medical history, mental health history) to make sure the medication is safe for the person they are prescribing it to.

    Some people think that prescription pain medicines are safer to use than "street" drugs because they are medicines. Prescription pain medicine use can be as dangerous as heroin or cocaine use.

    Abusing prescription medications can lead to: increased blood pressure or heart rate, organ damage, addiction, overdose, coma, difficulty breathing, seizures, heart attack, stroke, and death. These risks are multiplied if used with alcohol. For example, prescription pain relievers and alcohol both slow breathing, so taking them together can potentially stop someone from breathing.

    While some students abuse prescription medications to feel good or get high, plenty of others turn to these medications to help manage their daily lives—to reduce the stress and anxiety of college life, boost their mood, stay up all night writing a term paper or increase their stamina on the field. Even the best and brightest can feel the pressure to fit in socially and excel academically.

    A person can overdose on prescription medication. An overdose occurs when the person uses enough of the drug to produce a life-threatening reaction or death.

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  • Stimulants

    Stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin, “Speed/Uppers”)


    What are these medications for?

    Prescription stimulants are medicines used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Prescription stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy.

    Why do people abuse these drugs?

    Some people use stimulants to help them stay awake, study or improve work or school performance. College students misuse prescription stimulants to “get in the zone” or pull all night study sessions.

    How can these drugs affect me?

    People who use prescription stimulants report feeling a "rush" (euphoria) along with the following:

    • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
    • Increased breathing
    • Decreased blood flow
    • Increased blood sugar

    At high doses, prescription stimulants can lead to a dangerously high body temperature, an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and seizures.

    Repeated use even within a short period can lead to:

    • Addiction
    • Heart problems
    • Psychosis
    • Anger
    • Paranoia

    Withdrawal symptoms:

    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Sleep problems
  • Sedatives


    Examples: Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Sleeping medications (Ambient, Lunesta)

    What are these medications for?

    These drugs can slow brain activity, making them useful for treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders.

    Why do people abuse these drugs?

    Some people use these drugs to feel relaxed or “high”.

    How can these drugs affect me?

    Taking sedatives with alcohol can:

    • Stop your breathing
    • Slurred speech
    • Poor concentration
    • Confusion
    • Headache
    • Light-headedness
    • Dizziness
    • Dry mouth
    • Problems with movement and memory
    • Lowered blood pressure
    • Slowed breathing

    Withdrawal symptoms:

    • Seizures
    • Shakiness
    • Anxiety
    • Agitation
    • Insomnia
    • Overactive reflexes
    • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature with sweating
    • Hallucinations
    • Severe cravings
  • Painkillers


    Examples: Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Morphine, Codeine, Fentanyl

    What are these medications for?

    Prescription opioids are used mostly to treat moderate to severe pain, though some opioids can be used to treat coughing and diarrhea.

    Why do people abuse these drugs?

    Opioids can make people feel relaxed and "high" - which is why they are sometimes used for non-medical reasons. This can be dangerous because opioids can be highly addictive, and overdoses and death are common.

    How can these drugs affect me?

    • Drowsiness
    • Confusion
    • Nausea
    • Constipation
    • Euphoria
    • Slowed breathing

    Opioid misuse can cause slowed breathing, which can cause hypoxia, a condition that results when too little oxygen reaches the brain. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma, permanent brain damage, or death.

    Withdrawal symptoms:

    • Muscle and bone pain
    • Sleep problems
    • Diarrhea and vomiting
    • Cold flashes with goose bumps
    • Uncontrollable leg movements
    • Severe cravings

Club Drugs

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    MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

    MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) is a drug that people often use at parties and clubs. It affects your mood and how you feel about your surroundings. 

    How can this drug affect me?

    MDMA makes people feel very friendly and affectionate, but it has negative effects too. You can become irritable or have sleep problems. It can cause dizziness, muscle cramps, or uncontrollable teeth clenching. It also raises body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure which can cause organ failure or death. This can be dangerous in crowds or on the dance floor where it's already too hot. Once the effects wear off, you could feel sad or nervous for days.

    Heavy use of MDMA can give you problems that last a long time. You may feel confused or depressed a lot, or have problems with concentration or your memory.


    Withdrawal symptoms: Fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, trouble concentrating




    GHB is a liquid or powder that can make you pass out. It's called a "date rape" drug because someone can secretly put it in your drink. This means that you can't fight back or defend yourself against someone who wants to have sex with you without permission.

    How can this drug affect me?

    • Euphoria
    • Drowsiness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Confusion
    • Memory loss
    • Unconsciousness
    • Slowed heart rate and breathing
    • Lower body temperature
    • Seizure
    • Coma
    • Death

    Withdrawal symptoms:

    • Sleep difficulties
    • Anxiety
    • Tremors
    • Sweating
    • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
    • Psychotic thoughts



    Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine chemically similar to prescription sedatives such as Valium and Xanax. Teens and young adults tend to abuse this drug at bars, nightclubs, concerts, and parties. It is often used to commit sexual assault due to its ability to sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting victims. This drug can slow your breathing and heart rate. When combined with alcohol it can cause death.

    How can this drug affect me?

    • Drowsiness
    • Sedation
    • Sleep
    • Amnesia
    • Blackout
    • Decreased anxiety
    • Muscle relaxation
    • Impaired reaction time and motor coordination
    • Impaired mental functioning and judgment
    • Confusion
    • Aggression
    • Excitability
    • Slurred speech
    • Headache
    • Slowed breathing and heart rate (combined with alcohol can cause death)

    Withdrawal symptoms:

    • Headache
    • Muscle pain
    • Extreme anxiety
    • Tension
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
    • Irritability
    • Numbness and tingling of hands or feet
    • Hallucinations
    • Delirium
    • Convulsions
    • Seizures
    • Shock



    Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive stimulant amphetamine drug. It can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and make your heartbeat irregular. Long-term effects include: anxiety, psychosis, violent behavior, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and intense itching leading to skin sores from scratching.

    How can this drug affect me?

    Short-term effects:

    • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
    • Decreased appetite
    • Increased breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature
    • Irregular heartbeat

    Long-term effects:

    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    • Insomnia
    • Mood problems
    • Violent behavior
    • Paranoia
    • Hallucinations
    • Delusions
    • Weight loss
    • Severe dental problems (“meth mouth”)
    • Intense itching leading to skin sores from scratching

    Withdrawal symptoms: Depression, anxiety, tiredness



    Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be human-made. Hallucinogens can lead to physical and psychological problems and can be addictive. When used with alcohol some hallucinogens can lead to coma or death.

    Common hallucinogens:


    Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. It makes you feel far away from what's going on around you and can feel scary and unpleasant. It is used as a date rape drug.


    LSD (Acid) comes in pills or on small pieces of paper that have been soaked in liquid. It makes you see, hear, and feel things that aren't there. You might see bright colors, pretty pictures, or things that scare you. You can also develop faster a heart rate, sleep problems, panic, sweating, and paranoia.


    Psilocybin (Shrooms) comes from certain types of mushrooms. Users risk poisoning and possibly death from using a poisonous mushroom by mistake.


    PCP (Angel Dust) is a pill or powder that can be eaten, smoked, or snorted up the nose. It makes people feel far away from the world around them. PCP often makes people feel angry and violent, not happy and dreamy. It was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery. It is no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects.


    How can these drugs affect me?

    The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours. Hallucinogen users refer to the experiences brought on by these drugs as "trips," calling the unpleasant experiences "bad trips."


    Specific short-term effects of some hallucinogens include:

    • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, or body temperature
    • Loss of appetite
    • Dry mouth
    • Sleep problems
    • Mixed senses (such as "seeing" sounds or "hearing" colors)
    • Feelings of relaxation or detachment from self/environment
    • Uncoordinated movements
    • Excessive sweating
    • Panic
    • Paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
    • Psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality


    Long-term effects:

    • Ketamine users may develop symptoms that include ulcers in the bladder, kidney problems, and poor memory.
    • High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and death, though death more often results from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication. Interactions between PCP and depressants such as alcohol can also lead to coma.
    • Repeated use of PCP can result in long-term effects that may continue for a year or more after use stops, such as:
                -Speech problems
                -Memory loss
                -Weight loss
                -Depression and suicidal thoughts

    Cold Blooded Squad Party


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    Heroin is a white or brown powder or a black, sticky goo. It can be mixed with water and injected with a needle. Heroin can also be smoked or snorted up the nose.

    Heroin can cause a rush of good feelings just after it's taken, but some people throw up or itch after taking it. For the next several hours you may want to sleep, and your heart rate and breathing can slow down. Then the drug wears off and you may feel a strong urge to take more. 

    It is easy to become addicted to heroin no matter if it's injected, smoked, or snorted. People who get addicted to heroin need to keep taking it to feel normal and may take more and more of it to get the same high.

    People who inject (shoot up) heroin may have marks on the skin where the needle went in.

    Sharing used needles to inject heroin can give you HIV/AIDS or hepatitis (a liver disease). People can also get these diseases by having unsafe sex. They may forget to use condoms because they're high on the drug.

    How can this drug affect me?

    • Pain in muscles and bones
    • Chills
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sleep problems
    • Nervousness
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Coma
    • Death

    Cold Blooded Squad Mamba


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    Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called Crack. It's called Crack because when the rocks are heated, they make a cracking sound. Crack is smoked in a small glass pipe.

    Cocaine can make a person feel full of energy, but also restless, scared, or angry.

    Cocaine speeds up your whole body. Your heart beats fast. You talk, move, and think fast. Your body feels too hot. You might shake and twitch. You don't sleep or eat much.

    Cocaine can make you feel happy and excited, but then your mood can change. You can become angry, nervous, and afraid that someone's out to get you. You might do things that make no sense.

    After the "high" of the cocaine wears off, you can "crash" and feel tired and sad for days. You also get a strong craving to take the drug again to try to feel better.

    People who snort cocaine through the nose can get nosebleeds. They can even lose their sense of smell. Their nose may be runny all the time, like they always have a cold.

    People who inject cocaine will have marks where the needle went in, usually on their arms.

    People addicted to cocaine might take bigger doses or take it more often to get high. A cocaine high usually doesn't last very long so people take it again and again to try to keep feeling good.

    How can this drug affect me?

    • Nervousness
    • Sadness and fatigue
    • Nightmares
    • Paranoia
    • Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting
    • Headaches
    • Loss of appetite
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Death

    Cold Blooded Squad Crack

Drug use and Mental Health

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    Drug use and mental illness have a strong relationship. Although drug use disorders commonly occur with other mental illnesses, this does not mean that one caused the other. Sometimes people use drugs to cope with mental health issues, which can worsen existing problems.

    Is drug addiction a mental illness?

    Yes. Addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, changing a person’s normal priorities to getting and using the drug. The resulting compulsive behaviors that weaken the ability to control impulses, despite the negative consequences, are similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses.

    How commonly do drug addiction and other mental illnesses happen together?

    Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. For example, compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true.

    Why Do These Disorders Often Co-occur?

    Research suggests the following possibilities for this common co-occurrence:

    • Drug abuse may bring about symptoms of another mental illness. Increased risk of psychosis in vulnerable marijuana users suggests this possibility.
    • Mental disorders can lead to drug abuse, possibly as a means of “self-medication.” Patients suffering from anxiety or depression may rely on alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs to temporarily alleviate their symptoms.

    These disorders could also be caused by shared risk factors, such as—

    • Overlapping genetic vulnerabilities. Predisposing genetic factors may make a person susceptible to both addiction and other mental disorders or to having a greater risk of a second disorder once the first appears.
    • Overlapping environmental triggers. Stress, trauma (such as physical or sexual abuse), and early exposure to drugs are common environmental factors that can lead to addiction and other mental illnesses.
    • Involvement of similar brain regions. Brain systems that respond to reward and stress, for example, are affected by drugs of abuse and may show abnormalities in patients with certain mental disorders.

Signs of a Drug Problem & What Can Help

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    How do I know if someone may have a problem with drugs?

    The signs of drug use and addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug, but some common signs are:

    • Impaired speech and motor coordination
    • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual
    • Changes in physical appearance or personal hygiene
    • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
    • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
    • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
    • Changes in mood or disinterest in engaging in relationships or activities


    Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

    Drug addiction can be effectively treated with behavioral therapies and—for addiction to some drugs such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol—with medications. Treatment will vary for each person depending on the type of drug(s) being used.

    Some treatment happens in hospitals or in clinics where the person stays for days, weeks, or months. Other treatment happens during the day at clinics and doctor's offices, and the person does not stay overnight. Medicines and counseling are both used to treat drug addiction. Medicines can help people stop using alcohol, tobacco, heroin, and some prescription pain relievers.

    • Some medicines can help people feel less bad when they first quit.
    • Other medicines can help people stay off these drugs.
    • Some medicines help people choose not to drink. If you drink alcohol, there’s a medicine that makes you throw up and feel sick.
    • Other medicines make people want the drug less.
    • Some medicines block the high that people get when they take the drug. That can also make it easier to quit.

    Counseling is also an important part of treatment. It can be just between you and a counselor, or you might talk with other people in treatment, in a group led by a counselor. People taking medicines benefit the most when they combine the medicine with counseling.

    Talking helps people with addictions:

    • Understand why they got addicted
    • See how drugs changed their behavior
    • Learn how to deal with problems so that they don't choose to escape by getting high
    • Learn to avoid places, people, and situations where they might be tempted to use drugs

Resources & Treatment

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    Where can I take an online screening to learn more about my drug use?

    Mental Health Screening

    Who can I talk to on-campus about drug use and mental health?

    Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

    MMC SHC 270 & BBC WUC320


    Who can I talk to off-campus about drug use and mental health?

    Near MMC: Dade Family Counseling, Inc.

    Near BBC: Here’s Help, Inc.

    Online: Startyourrecovery.org


    Where can I find additional information about drug treatment programs?


    You can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) at any time to find drug treatment centers near you.

    Or click here: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration online.

    Where can I find additional information about drugs?

    For more information on drugs:

    easyread druga buse

    Drugs: Shatter the Myths

    Resources for family or friends of substance users/abusers

Do you know the basics about drugs?

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.





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