Medicines Are Legal Drugs
If you've ever been sick and had to take medicine, you already know about one kind of drugs. Medicines are legal drugs, meaning doctors are allowed to prescribe them for patients, stores can sell them, and people are allowed to buy them. But it's not legal, or safe, for people to use these medicines any way they want or to buy them from people who are selling them illegally.
Cigarettes and alcohol are two other kinds of legal drugs. (In the United States, adults 18 and older can buy cigarettes and those 21 and older can buy alcohol.) But smoking and excessive drinking are not healthy for adults and are off limits for kids.
When people talk about a "drug problem," they usually mean abusing legal drugs or using illegal drugs, such as marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, crystal meth, and heroin. (Marijuana is generally an illegal drug, but some states allow doctors to prescribe it to adults for certain illnesses.)
Why Are Illegal Drugs Dangerous?
Illegal drugs aren't good for anyone, but they are particularly bad for a kid or teen whose body is still growing. Illegal drugs can damage the brain, heart, and other important organs. Cocaine, for instance, can cause a heart attack — even in a kid or teen.
While using drugs, people are also less able to do well in school, sports, and other activities. It's often harder to think clearly and make good decisions. People can do dumb or dangerous things that could hurt them — or other people — when they use drugs
Words to Know
Addiction — Someone has an addiction when he or she becomes dependent on or craves a drug all of the time.
A depressant is a drug that slows a person down. Doctors prescribe depressants to help people be less angry, anxious, or tense. Depressants relax muscles and make people feel sleepy, less stressed out, or like their head is stuffed. Some people may use these drugs illegally to slow themselves down and help bring on sleep — especially after using various kinds of stimulants.
Hallucinogen — A hallucinogen is a drug, such as LSD, that changes a person's mood and makes him or her see or hear things that aren't really there or think strange thoughts.
High — A high is the feeling that drug users want to get when they take drugs. There are many types of highs, including a very happy or spacey feeling or a feeling that someone has special powers, such as the ability to fly or to see into the future.
Inhalant — An inhalant, such as glue or gasoline, is sniffed or "huffed" to give the user an immediate rush. Inhalants produce a quick feeling of being drunk — followed by sleepiness, staggering, dizziness, and confusion.
Narcotic — A narcotic dulls the body's senses (leaving a person less aware and alert and feeling carefree) and relieves pain. Narcotics can cause someone to sleep, fall into a stupor, have convulsions, and even slip into a coma. Certain narcotics — such as codeine — are legal if given by doctors to treat pain. Heroin is an illegal narcotic because it is has dangerous side effects and is very addictive.
Stimulant — A stimulant speeds up the body and brain. Stimulants, such as methamphetamines and cocaine, have the opposite effect of depressants. Usually, stimulants make someone feel high and energized. When the effects of a stimulant wear off, the person will feel tired or sick.
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