Drugwise: Growing Up Straight in a Chemical Culture
 Author:   Jim Parker
Publisher:   Do It Now Foundation

 Publication Date:

  September 2003

 Catalog No:



As we mentioned earlier, narcotics are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain that won't respond to everyday painkillers, like aspirin.

What we didn't mention, but which you probably already know, is that they're also self-prescribed by people who take them to get high.

There are two main groups of narcotics: opiates and synthetics. Opiates are derived from the opium poppy and include such drugs as morphine, codeine, and heroin. Synthetic narcotics are similar, but are created from other chemicals in drugs laboratories.

The undisputed world heavyweight champion of all the narcotics is heroin. It's sold as a brown or white powder or as a tar that can be injected, sniffed, or smoked. Heroin causes intense physical and psychological dependence.

Tolerance to heroin develops so quickly, in fact, that addicts have to constantly up their dosage to produce desired effects. And as tolerance goes up, so does the risk of overdose--and overdose-related problems.

One reason heroin use is so risky stems from the fact that the drug is illegal--and its potency is unpredictable. Users can never be sure of the purity of the drug they're using--and sometimes, they only find out the hard (and final) way.

Another problem that's linked to heroin is AIDS. That's because users often have to share needles and sharing needles is one of the best ways of spreading the AIDS virus. That's why heroin addicts are one of the highest-risk groups for AIDS infection.

Synthetic narcotics are like heroin in their effects, producing the same kind of high--and the same kind of addiction.

Common synthetic narcotics include Demerol®, Dilaudid®, and Percodan®. Methadone, another synthetic narcotic, is distributed to addicts in clinics as a substitute for heroin.

"Designer" drugs are chemicals made by changing the molecular structure of other drugs, which is kind of like switching pieces around in a jigsaw puzzle.

Designer drugs are dangerous because their effects are usually unknown and unpredictable. In fact, a few years ago, a heroin-like designer substitute permanently paralyzed several people who were unlucky enough to try it.

And that brings up one of the most important dangers of all drugs sold on the street: Users never know for sure what they're getting.

The only way they can find out dosage strength and purity is to experiment on themselves.

And sometimes when they do find out, it's already too late.

Want to jump ahead (or go back) to a particular drug or drug category? Click in the table below to go there, or use the links, below right, to continue with the main text.

Alcohol Downers Speed
Cocaine Marijuana Hallucinogens
Inhalants Narcotics Other Do It Now Info

Continue with Chapter 3: Speed
Continue with Chapter 4: Locks & Keys
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This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org.