What We Need to Know About Drugs

Most of us are really ignorant about what goes on in the illegal drug culture. We get most of our information from the news media. The news media are woefully ignorant about the drugs that wrecking our society. The same can be said of theologians, congressmen and senators, college and university professors, and above all, the user of illegal drugs . The United States has allegedly declared war against illegal drug traffic. A few of those who are waging this war know something about the drugs they are trying to eliminate, but they are few. The war is against illegal use of drugs and those who trade in death and misery.

As citizens, parents, and people (white collar and blue collar) professor and students, we must know something about this hideous enemy.  Much more, as Christians we must be informed regarding such a nefarious foe.  It is essential for church leaders, ministers, teachers, and parents who are Christians to be able to speak intelligently about drugs.  The drug war lords capitalize on the ignorance of those who refuse any kind of drug abuse.  So, allow me to present some vital information designed to educate those who study it.

1. We must know what drugs are. How do you define drugs? How do you define drug abuse? Drugs include any and all substances that enter the body that can change either the function or structure of the human organism.  Whether the substance is designed to alter the physical or mental state of a person, it is a drug.  Drugs are administered either directly into the blood system, the digestive system, or the breathing mechanisms and alter the conduct and condition of a person.

2. We must know that drugs have a proper use.  Drugs that are used properly fall into two categories: medicinal and therapeutic.  Medicines are used by licensed persons such as doctors, physicians, psychiatrists, and others to diagnose or treat physical and mental disorders.  Medicines are used in the both the treatment and prevention of disease.  Some are designed to relieve pain.  Therapeutic drugs are used generally as preventives.  Such things as vaccines and toxins are effective in preventing a number of major diseases including polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus and measles.  There are some drugs that are designed to control disorders such as epilepsy and diabetes.  Those who treat mental disorders effectively use some drugs to overcome some mental illnesses.

3. We must know the improper use of drugs.  This is called drug abuse, chemical or substance abuse.  Charles R. Carroll, lists the following:

• Taking prescribed or non-prescribed medicines at the improper time.

• Discontinuing the use of a prescribed medicine without consulting one’s family physician.

• Failing to recognize and then not taking appropriate action regarding a “side effect” related to a particular drug or medicine.

• Taking at the same time duplicate medications prescribed by different physicians.

• Combining alcoholic beverages with depressant-like drugs, such as antihistamines, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills.

• Stretching the dose of a particular medicine to make it last longer than the originally prescribed period of use.

• Failing to inform your present physician of medicines still being taken but prescribed by your former physician.

• Continuing to take medication long after the original need for such a drug no longer exists.

• Saving old medicines for self-treatment at some future time.”

4. We must know the type of drugs being misused.  Psychoactive drugs such as narcotics, depressants, stimulants, psychedelics, inhalants are drugs that alter the mind.  Drugs that are ingested to alter one’s thinking, feelings, and perception directly affect the human brain.  Some of the mind-altering drugs being abused are in the following categories.

Narcotics – strong pain relief medicines, narcotic analgesics not only relieve pain, they also give the person a very agreeable and euphoric sensation.  Such narcotics also induce sleep.

Depressants – These drugs slow down the central nervous system considerably causing relaxation, reduction of reaction time, and also produce sleepiness.

Stimulants – These chemical drugs act in reverse to depressants.  They speed up the central nervous system and result in the senses being exited.  They often produce alertness, nervousness, and excitability.

Psychedelics – These drugs are also known as “mind expanders.”  They produce an hallucinogenic effect and affect a person’s perception, alertness, and alter the emotional status.  They produce actual illusions in a person’s mind.

Inhalants – These are not chemical drugs but have the same effect when inhaled through the lungs.  The fumes penetrate the cell linings of the respiratory tract.  Such gases as anesthetic gases (nitrous oxide or ether) pass easily through the membranes of the lungs very quickly.  They almost instantly get into the blood stream and affect the brain.  Along with the non-drug chemicals are the chemical inhalants such as marijuana and nicotine.  Tobacco and marijuana users experience the effects of both drugs almost instantly.

5. We need to know the specific drugs being misused.  Here is a list of them.

Cocaine (Crack)

This is a limited list.

6. We must know the dangers of drug abuse.  One who becomes even slightly involved in the wrong use of nonprescription drugs never knows anything of the quality of the drugs used.  They may have been adulterated, “laced” with even stronger substances, or even fake.  Drugs purchased from some illegal drug dealer may be what are called “look alikes.” (This is mentioned in another article in this series) There is no such thing as quality control in the illegal drug market around the world.  Carroll observes, “When individuals buy so-called ‘street drugs,’ they do  not always get what is bargained for.  Drugs may be mixed or ‘cut’ with cheaper, inferior, or even more hazardous substances.  Such drug tampering or altering is called adulteration.  For instance, drugs capable of producing a physical dependency may be added to marijuana.  Such a subtle, underhanded practice tends to create a steady customer who will eventually need the ‘hidden drug’ in order to function.” (Carroll, page 17).

Drug users seldom care that street drugs are often “cut” with such things as insecticides, animal tranquilizers, oregano, catnip, milk sugar, and even quinine.  A user may experience a very violent reaction to the toxins used to dilute the drugs.  With neither the knowledge of the effects of drugs laced with any of the above items, the drug user voluntarily places his health and welfare in the hands of the drug pusher.

The “look alike” drugs are sometimes called turkeys or peashooters.  Most of them are fully legal, uncontrolled substances.  They are the over-the-counter drugs that anyone can legally purchase.  Cold remedies are purchased and then sold in an altered form as the real thing to unsuspecting drug users seeking a thrill.  In 1982 the Food and Drug Administration had to outlaw the combination of caffeine, phenypropanolamine, and ephedrine which were the most common ingredients in look alike drugs.  With the unregulated use of such drugs the user is very likely to be taking something that in injurious to health.

7. What We Must Know About Specific Drugs Alcohol: Ethyl alcohol is the number one drug being abused.  More people abuse themselves and others by ingesting alcohol than by any other means.  Someone has estimated that in our country alone that deaths due directly to alcohol equal a 747 Jumbo Jet crashing with no survivors each week.  Only about a third of the whole American population are abstainers, teetotalers.  It is tragic but about 92 percent of college students in this country use alcohol on a yearly basis, 80 percent monthly, and 5 percent drink daily.  Carroll reported that a little more than 92 percent of all high school seniors have tried alcohol once, and 86 percent used it in the last year.  About 1 out of every 20 seniors claim they drink daily.

Alcohol is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.  As a liquid it does not have to dissolve as pills and tablets.  The small molecular structure of ethyl alcohol accommodates its easy penetration into the membranes of the body.  Some people have died by inhaling the fumes of alcohol which illustrates how rapidly it absorbs into the brain.  It can cause a sudden depression of the respiratory control centers in the brainstem. (Julien, Robert M. A Primer of Drug Action, Third Edition, W.H. Freeman and Company, 1981, page 60.)

When combined with other drugs it is the second most frequent cause of drug-related medical problems and can and does cause death.  When combined with tranquilizers, alcohol produces what is called the “supra-additive effects.”  The heart and lungs are depressed.  Alcohol dilates the blood vessels in the skin and produce a warm feeling.  This has led to the myth that to stay warm in cold weather one should drink some alcoholic beverage.  The converse is true.  Alcohol taken to stay warm causes deterioration of the heart muscle.  Alcohol may produce a temporary warm feeling but cannot conserve body heat.

Alcohol has a detrimental effect on the liver.  The “pickled liver” deaths are simply the result of alcohol’s effect on that vital organ.  Fat accumulates in the liver and alcohol increases the rate of synthesis of fat by the liver.  Scientists think that this is somehow related to cirrhosis of the liver which has been observed in chronic alcoholics.

Alcohol has been understood as an aphrodisiac, a drug that is designed to excite sexual passions and improve sexual performance.  In fact it may lower ones resistance to otherwise objectionable behavior, it actually lowers the body functions and interferes with sexual performance.  Shakespeare had it right a thousand years ago: “it provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.” ~ Macbeth