NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
  • Let's Talk: Drugs
    • Psychedelics
    • Prescription Drugs
    • Myth vs. Fact
    • Opinion Column

LET’S TALK: DRUGS

September 25, 2014

Psychedelic drugs

Psychedelic drugs function by distorting the drug user’s sense of reality. This can happen by producing sensations, including images and sounds that do not exist. For some, this experience is pleasurable, though others may find it disturbing, and it is hard to know what type of reaction a person will have on hallucinogens. 

While WSN does not endorse the use of these drugs, if you choose to use a psychedelic drug, you should always take precautions. Make sure that you are in a safe and welcoming environment and are in a good mental place. Hallucinogens can intensify any negative or anxious feelings. Furthermore, be with a friend who is sober. They can calm you down or call for help if necessary.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD/Acid)

What the drug is | The drug is made from ergot, which is a grain fungus that grows on rye. LSD is ingested in a liquid form, either on food or on a blotter piece of paper.

Common dosage | The threshold is 25 micrograms, with a common dosage being 50 to 150 micrograms.

Legality | Schedule I substance meaning it has been deemed to have a high potential for abuse and has no legitimate medical use in treatment. Punishable for five to 40 years in prison for first offense of trafficking less than 10 grams and 10 years to life for second offense.

Health risks | While under the influence, the user is at risk of making poor decisions and hurting himself or others. The drug can also cause panic, as well as long term depression or anxiety as a result of a “bad trip.”

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

What the drug is | Comes from two plants in the Amazon, Anadenanthera or Yopo. It is smoked or ingested orally or, less commonly, it is inhaled or injected. When smoked, the bowl is often padded with marijuana to make the DMT easier to smoke.

Common dosage | 20 to 40 mg when smoked.

Legality | Schedule I substance.

Health risks | Increased blood pressure and pulse rate, sense of overwhelming fear due to loss of sense of “reality,” overly intense experiences, hard on the lungs.

Psilocybin (a compound found in “Shrooms”)

What the drug is | A fungus ingested and converted to psilocin in the stomach, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the brain.

Common dosage | 1 to 2.5 grams.

Legality | Schedule I substance, and distribution without a DEA license can lead to 20 years in prison for a first offense.

Health risks | Vomiting and not being able to stop vomiting. Some people will also experience more severe anxiety, frightening images and paranoia.

Courtesy of Students for Sensible Drug Policy

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 25 print edition. Email Bryna Shuman at [email protected]

Prescription Drugs

Xanax

Prescribed for | Acute anxiety, panic attacks, off-label use for sleep

Drug type | Benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication

Symptoms | Produces a feeling of relaxation, perhaps sleepiness. If used recreationally, it will likely lead to a euphoric feeling.

Signs of overdose | Individuals become lethargic, enter a deep sleep and are difficult to rouse. A serious overdose can occur when combined with alcohol or another respiratory suppressant such as oxycontin.

Difficulties of abusing this medication | An individual can become physically dependent on this medication and others like it. He or she will experience physical withdrawal symptoms if use is abruptly stopped. Individuals may develop a psychological dependence if they regularly use benzodiazepines, and they are gradually ess able to contend with minor stress.

Safety concerns | Key concerns arise if users drive while under the influence, or if they combine the drug with other respiratory and breathing suppressants.

Adderall

Prescribed for | Attention deficit disorder

Drug type | Amphetamine salt, in the general family of stimulants

Symptoms | Euphoria, grandiosity, high level of energy, less need for sleep and feeling ultra-focused

Signs of overdose | Irritability, anxiety, suspiciousness or paranoia and disorganized or racing thoughts

Difficulties of abusing this medication | An individual can develop a physical dependency on amphetamines and, if use is abruptly stopped, may become highly irritable, agitated and exhibit paranoid or psychotic behavior. Regular yet unmonitored use of amphetamines can lead to mood swings and periods of depression.

Safety concerns | Amphetamines are potentially highly addictive, and individuals’ judgment can become severely impaired.

Oxycontin

Prescribed for | Pain relief

Drug type | Synthetic opiate

Symptoms | A mix of worry-free relaxation and euphoria is common. Individuals describe feeling very relaxed and very happy at the same time.

Signs of overdose | Lethargy, decreased heart rate and decreased respiration

Difficulties of abusing this medication | Oxycontin is highly addictive and has a rapid development of tolerance. Withdrawal from this medicine results in severe physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal distress, severe muscle cramping and body temperature dysregulation. There is a high danger of accidental overdose, which increases the risk of death.

Safety concerns | Highly dangerous for its physically addictive properties, especially when combined with other respiratory suppressants. Difficulty procuring oxycontin or other prescription opiates often causes individuals to turn to purchasing street opiates, such as heroin.

Courtesy of Phillip A. Seibel, M.D.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 25 print edition. Email Bryna Shuman at [email protected]

Top drug myths debunked

Despite educational programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education and AlcoholEdu, there is still confusion surrounding drug use. Health flyers sometimes contradict what we hear from our friends or see on television. Here are the top five myths about drug use, and what you actually need to know:

Prescription drugs are bad for you

It would be safe to assume that any drug a doctor can prescribe is safe to take. When a doctor prescribes a drug to someone, however, they are familiar with that person’s medical history. Taking a drug that was not specifically prescribed to you, or taking your own prescription drug in excess, can have negative consequences

Casual drug use will not hurt you 

While occasional drug use is less risky than heavy drug use, it can still cause problems. Drugs alter the signals your brain sends to your body, which can result in difficulty breathing and heart problems. These adverse effects can actually happen the first time you use a drug or any time after, no matter how infrequent your use.

Marijuana is not a dangerous drug

Studies have proven that pot is less harmful than hard drugs such as heroin or crystal meth, and it is also less harmful to the human body than tobacco and alcohol. Heavy use can still hurt, however. Marijuana contains the same carcinogens that are present in tobacco smoke, and heavy pot smokers can be at risk for the same respiratory health concerns that plague cigarette smokers.

Using Adderall is not addictive 

Adderall is a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high risk for potential dependency. While some people take Adderall with no addictive side effects, others can easily get hooked. Even using it on occasion to finish a paper or study for an exam can increase your risk of becoming dependent.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 25 print edition. Email Bryna Shuman at [email protected]

Prescription medication not only solution to mental illness

Felipe DLH

Felipe DLH

According to a recent governmental survey, 18. percent of legal adults battled with a mental illness in 2013. Despite increased discussion about mental health in recent years, individuals struggling with biological predispositions still have to battle society’s scorn. Some doctors exacerbate their patients’ situations by improperly medicating them, thereby perpetuating the overly simplistic conception of mental illness that renders it easily solved with medication.

More than one in 10 Americans currently take some form of an antidepressant medication. While these numbers seemingly indicate that a shockingly large number of Americans battle a mental illness, they actually exemplify the inefficacy of current efforts to promote thoughtful awareness of mental health. Rather than solely indicating that more people feel comfortable seeking treatment, the rising number of Americans taking medication for mental illness serves as an indicator of the fundamental misunderstanding of mental illness. A recent study elucidates this point with data showing 61.6 percent of Americans diagnosed with depression by a clinician fail to meet the criteria for diagnosis listed in the DSM-.. As more individuals have received false diagnoses, the number of medications prescribed has similarly risen. Although it certainly helps many individuals, the approach of mass diagnosis and thus mass prescription simply replaces the societal avoidance of discussing mental health with a reductionist ideology that medications can easily solve mental health issues.

This mentality of solving health problems with medication is even more problematic when combined with use of other drugs, particularly if habits are developed early in life. Although governmental statistics indicate a decrease in the abuse of opiate painkillers by high school seniors in recent years, the 15,000  deaths per year from opiate overdose reveals a culture of drug abuse aided by undiscerning doctors who dole out 136 million  prescriptions for painkillers each year. And because addiction to opioid painkillers can lead to heroin use, opioid habits need preventative action.

Culture in America causes problems for addressing drug abuse in college, because it designates college as a time of experimentation for unexplored activities, drugs included. The concept of college itself is intertwined with drinking and drugs — activities that, along with beginning to think about a career, supposedly help breach the gap between youth and adulthood. Additionally, the lack of emotional support and stress that often accompany the daunting adjustment to college life present mental challenges for many and, combined with new freedom, can lead to serious drug abuse. Denying the inevitability of exposure to drugs in college is unrealistic. But as prescription drug abuse continues, doctors should consider the extent to which they enable the abuse, and society should question the ideology that promotes drug use to solve problems.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 25 print edition. Email Dan Moritz-Rabson at [email protected]

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