Drugs and their effects
Ecstasy and other Illicit Drugs
The increased use of illicit drugs, popular amongst teens and young adults in night clubs and raves, is of great concern.
The popular drug of choice at such venues/events can include MDMA/Ecstasy (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), and ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride).
MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.
GHB, is either an odourless, colourless liquid or it can be produced as a white powder material. This is taken orally and is frequently combined with alcohol. It is often associated with ‘date rape’, (the injestion of this chemical reduces motor functions and potential memory loss).
The abuse of ketamine induces hallucinations. Both liquid and powder forms of ketamine are injected, consumed in drinks or added to smokable materials.
This substance interferes with the body's ability to regulate temperature, sometimes leading to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure which could lead to death. MDMA users also risk increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Psychological effects of MDMA use can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. Additionally, these problems can occur during consumption and sometimes days or weeks after having used the drug.
GHB and ketamine are central nervous system depressants. GHB has been shown to produce drowsiness, nausea, unconsciousness, seizures, severe respiratory depression, and coma. Additionally, GHB has increasingly become involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and fatalities.
The use of ketamine produces effects similar to PCP and LSD, causing distorted perceptions of sight, sound whilst making the user feel disconnected and out of control. The overt hallucinatory effects of ketamine are relatively short-acting, lasting approximately one hour or less. However, the user's senses, judgment and coordination may be affected for up to 24 hours after the initial use of the drug. Consumption of this drug can also bring about respiratory depression, heart rate abnormalities and withdrawal symptoms .
Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Marijuana is a green, brown, or grey mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa). Other forms of cannabis include sinsemilla, hashish, and hash oil. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs.
The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Short-term effects of marijuana use include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate and anxiety.
Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (called a joint/reefer) or in a pipe or bong.
Marijuana abuse is associated with detrimental health effects. These effects can include frequent respiratory infections, impaired memory and retention of learning, increased heart rate, anxiety, panic attacks and tolerance. Marijuana meets the criteria for an addictive drug and animal studies suggest marijuana causes physical dependence with reported withdrawal symptoms in some people.
Someone who smokes marijuana regularly may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers do, such as daily cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, a heightened risk of lung infections and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways. Cancer of the respiratory tract and lungs may also be promoted by smoking marijuana. Marijuana has the potential to promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract because it contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco.
The damage to short-term memory as a result of the consumption of marijuana seems to occur because THC alters the way in which information is processed by the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation.
According to official information available at the moment, cannabis is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs in Gibraltar.
What is cocaine?
Cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride) is a powdered stimulant that is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. In the late 19th century cocaine was used as an anesthetic, but the availability of safer drugs rendered many of its medical applications obsolete. Today cocaine is abused for the intense euphoric effects it produces.
What does it look like?
Cocaine typically is sold to users as a fine, white, crystalline powder which in many cases will be adulterated with other dangerous substances e.g. rat poison etc.
How is cocaine abused?
Cocaine is typically snorted (inhaled through the nose), although it may be dissolved in water and injected. When snorted, the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal membranes. The drug reaches the brain and produces its euphoric effect within 3 to 5 minutes. When injected, the drug is released directly into the bloodstream and reaches the brain within 15 to 30 seconds.
What are the risks?
Cocaine is a powerful central nervous system stimulant. Individuals who use the drug may become restless, irritable and anxious. The use of this drug can also result in constricted blood vessels, increased temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Heart attack, respiratory failure, stroke, and seizure may also result from cocaine use. Consuming cocaine and alcohol simultaneously is particularly dangerous because it heightens its euphoric effects and potentially increases the risk of sudden death.
Cocaine is a very addictive drug. Chronic users risk developing tolerance to its effects. Many addicts report that as tolerance develops they fail to achieve the positive effects they experienced when they first began consuming the drug thus they begin to use cocaine with greater frequency and in larger doses.
Cocaine users who inject the drug expose themselves to additional risks, including contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses.
What is it called?
The most common local names for cocaine are "Coca" ,"Charlie", "Snow" (Please see the Street Terms text box below for additional names).
Is cocaine illegal?
Yes, cocaine is illegal. It is a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs, which include PCP and methamphetamine have a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
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What is crack cocaine?
Crack cocaine is a highly addictive and powerful stimulant that is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. Crack emerged as a drug of abuse in the mid-1980s. It is abused because it provokes an immediate high and because it is easy and inexpensive to produce, rendering it readily available and affordable.
How is it produced?
Crack is produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The mixture is boiled until a solid substance forms. The solid is removed from the liquid, dried, and then broken into chunks (rocks) that are sold as crack cocaine.
What does it look like?
Crack is typically sold in the form of rocks. Crack rocks are white (or off-white) and vary in size and shape.
How is crack abused?
Crack is usually smoked. Smoking crack cocaine delivers large quantities of the drug to the lungs, producing an immediate and intense euphoric effect.
What are the risks?
Cocaine in any form, is a powerfully addictive drug and addiction seems to develop more quickly when the drug is inhaled than when it is snorted.
In addition to the usual risks associated with cocaine, crack users may experience acute respiratory problems, including coughing, shortness of breath, lung trauma and bleeding. The inhalation of crack cocaine causes aggressive and paranoid behaviour.
Is crack cocaine illegal?
Yes, crack cocaine is illegal. It is a Class A drug under the Crimes Act which includes Heroin and Morphine. All these substances have have a high potential for abuse. Abuse of these drugs may lead to severe psychological and/or physical dependence.
What does it look like?
As it is cut with different substances, the colour of street heroin ranges from brownish white to brown.
Heroin is a drug made from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy.
Drugs made from opium are called opiates, and are often used as painkillers.
Heroin can have a vinegary smell but can also be odourless. It normally has a bitter taste.
It is common to mix it with other substances such as starch, quinine, paracetamol etc…., as this will increase the weight and the drug dealer’s profits.
A powerful opiate that’s usually sold as a white or brown powder.
How do people take it?
Heroin can be smoked, injected or snorted.
Smoked - Heroin is heated on a tin foil surface and the smoke is inhaled. This is sometimes called 'chasing the dragon'.
Injected - Can be dissolved in water and then injected. This can be dangerous and lead to an overdose.
Snorted - Heroin is a powder so it can be snorted.
How it makes you feel
Heroin is a very strong drug and the first dose can cause dizziness and vomiting.
It can also make you feel:
Nevertheless, the consequences to health are very high and can be fatal.
When smoked the effects (sensation) of Heroin usually kick in within a few minutes and can last for around an hour however, the side effects can remain in the system for hours so it is important to be careful if you are using any other drug or alcohol during this time.
As a general guide, Herion will typically show up in a urine sample for 2 to 3 days.
It is very easy to overdose from Heroin. An overdose will make you feel very sleepy, slow down your breathing and eventually you can fall into a coma.
If your breathing slows down too much you could die.
Injecting Heroin into the veins is highly dangerous and you also risk damaging veins and developing infections and blood clots. Damaging your veins and arteries has also been known to lead to gangrene.
Sharing needles also hightens your risk of catching or spreading viruses such as HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.
There is also the risk of death due to injesting vomit. Heroin sedates you and stops you from properly coughing. If you vomit you will not be able to clear your throat. Vomit will then, block your breathing.
The appearance of Ecstasy varies considerably. There is a wide range of coloured pills and capsules often marked with designs and logos. This is why these Ecstasy tablets are known by names such as, Mitsubishi’s, Teddy Bears, Superman pills etc…
Ecstasy in its pure form is a white powder. It is known as MDMA which is short for METHYLENEDIOXMETHAMPHETAMINE. It can also be found as a crystal however, both the crystal and the powder are not as popular as the tablets.
The Ecstasy pills can be taken orally or crushed into a powder and snorted. Powder can also be wrapped in a cigarette paper and swallowed.
Ecstasy is not as pure as you may think it is. This drug is very often adulterated with other toxic substances. It has been described like a mix of amphetamine and a weak form of LSD. The effects of taking a moderate dose start after 20-60 minutes (longer if on a full stomach) and can last for up to several hours.
Physical effects include pupil dilation, jaw tightening and an increase in body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. As with amphetamine there is often a loss of appetite. Users may also experience a period of nausea. Many users experience an initial rush of adrenalin, followed by a combination of feeling energetic and yet calm. Loss of anger, empathy with other people and an enhanced sense of communication are commonly reported. Some users also report a heightened sense of their surroundings, greater appreciation of music and increased sexual and sensual experience.
Some users have bad experiences. This may include feeling anxious and panicky, confusion and unpleasant distortion of the senses that may, in some manner or other, last for days, even weeks. This is more likely if users take high doses or are already feeling anxious.
The disorientating effects of ecstasy may make accidents more likely. A number of ecstasy-related deaths have been connected with non-stop dancing in hot, crowded clubs leading to overheating and dehydration. Taking a break from dancing, cooling down and sipping water regularly and slowly (one pint over an hour) can help prevent this from happening.
After taking ecstasy, users may feel very tired and low and need a long period of sleep to recover. This may last up to three or four days and is known as a comedown.
Regular ecstasy use may lead to sleep problems, lack of energy, dietary problems and feeling depressed or anxious. Increased susceptibility to colds, flu, sore throat etc…. may follow. While physical dependence is not a problem, psychological dependence on the feelings of euphoria and calmness and the whole scene around ecstasy use can develop. It can impair short term memory function. There have also been indications of liver damage with some Ecstasy users.
The exact function that this drug plays on the neurotoxicity, cognitive behaviour and the individual’s emotions has still not been determined.
There are around ten ecstasy related deaths in UK every year.
WHAT ARE AMPHETAMINES?
Amphetamines are synthetic stimulants. Stimulants are drugs that speed up the body’s processes including heart and breathing rate.
Amphetamines increase energy levels and alertness. Users may feel more confident, happy and powerful or creative.
As a street drug, amphetamine usually comes as a white, pink, grey or yellowish powder. It may also come as pills or a grey putty-like substance known as paste. It is usually sold wrapped in small pieces of paper (wraps).
The purity of street powders is usually less than 15%, with most deals having only 10% amphetamine. The rest of the product is comprised of other powders like glucose, vitamin C, laxative, dried baby milk, caffeine, or other drugs such as paracetamol or aspirin.
Powders are snorted up the nose, mixed in a drink or by some heavy users, prepared for injection.
‘Base’ is a stronger form of amphetamine but its use has been declining for some time. Base is usually swallowed (often wrapped in cigarette paper first due to its bad taste). It can be snorted if dried out properly.
Regular use of (meth)amphetamine can lead to psychological dependence. Tolerance may develop so that more is needed to get the same effect. Heavy, regular use often leads to lack of sleep and food intake and lowers resistance to disease. Normal work and domestic routines may be disturbed.
Many heavy users become run down and alternate between periods of feeling good and energetic then feeling depressed and low. Delusions, panic attacks, paranoia, a feeling of being ‘wired’ and hallucinations may also follow and some users experience violent mood swings.
- Regular amphetamine use can lead to problems eating and sleeping, as well as feelings of anxiety and paranoia and a lowered resistance to infection. Therefore it is important to eat well and keep hydrated.
- Stimulants can put a strain on your circulatory system by increasing heart rate so avoid mixing with other stimulant drugs.
- Start low, go slow. Always start with one quarter or half a pill and wait an hour or two to judge the effects.
- Injecting amphetamine is particularly dangerous as a high dose may be taken in one go. The drug is often very impure and should be filtered prior to injecting. If injecting equipment is shared there is a risk of infection such HIV or hepatitis.
- Heavy amphetamine use is associated with teeth grinding and resultant dental problems. Chewing gum may help with this.
- As with all drugs, it is better to be with people you can trust if you plan to use amphetamine.
Speed, sulphate, uppers, wake ups, Billy Whizz, whizz, whites, base…Methylphenidate, Ritalin, Dexamphetamine, Dexedrine, methamphetamine, crystal meth, meth, yaba, crank, glass, Tina, Christine, ice.
Barbiturates are primarily hypnotic drugs, they are tranquillisers that work by depressing the nervous system.
Barbiturates are also known as Barbs, Barbies, Red Devils and Sleepers.
What do barbiturates look like?
Barbiturates are usually sold as capsules with powder inside them.
How are barbiturates taken?
Barbiturates are usually swallowed in pill form or injected. They are often abused as a substitute for alcohol and people use them to get a sense of euphoria and relaxation. On the street they are often taken with cocaine, amphetamines, and crystal meth.
Barbiturates can be abused because they can counter the effect of illegal drugs. They act as a relaxant on the brain and have a similar effect to painkillers, sleeping pills and antihistamines.
Barbiturates are also used in induction of general anaesthetic, used in some cases of epilepsy, sedation and hypnosis to calm the patient and induce sleep.
Signs of Barbiturate Abuse
Some of the signs that can be observed when someone is addicted to this class of drug are: constant falling, bruised legs, excessive nervousness, shaking, sensitivity to noise, restlessness, sweating, hallucinations and insomnia.
The effects of barbiturates can last from 4 to 16 hours or even longer in some cases.
Short term effects of barbiturates include: slurred speech, shallow breathing, sluggishness, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, dilated pupils, impaired judgment, irritability, mild euphoria, lack of inhibition and drowsiness.
Long-term effects of barbiturates include: chronic tiredness, lack of coordination, vision problems, dizziness, slowed reflexes, sexual dysfunction and breathing disorders.
Local Popular Names for Certain Drugs:
- Cannabis Resin - "Hashisha" "Hash" "Chocolate" "Pollen" "Supa"
- Herbal Cannabis - " Hierba" "Kiffi" "Weed" "Skunk"
- Cocaine - "Coca" "Charlie" "Snow"
- Freebase (crack) Cocaine - "Bazuko" "Chalk" "Crak"
- Barbiturates - "Valium" "Trankis" "Pink Panthers" "Purple Hearts" "Azules"
- Amphetamine - "Fanta" "Speed"
- MDMA - "M"
- Extasy- "X" "Smarties" "Mitsubishi"