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Appendix II: Medical Aspects of Substance Abuse in Young Adults

Chemical Abuse
The medical effects of chemical abuse do not discriminate based on any category, especially age. The following outline represents the common stages of young adult drug use:

A. Initial Use: The primary entry drug for adolescence is tobacco while alcohol is second and cannabis is third.

B. Experimentation/Sampling: Usually seen as trying a little more.

C. Regular Use: Often considered social or recreational; usually goes beyond, especially if highly addictive substance

D. Abuse: Chemical use that harms or endangers the user or other people. It can be a single episode or a regular pattern.

E. Dependency/Addiction: Chemical use at these stages over a period of time is what causes a breakdown of bodily organs.

The primary substance classes that are being referred to are: sedatives, alcohol, opiates, hallucinogens, cannabis, stimulants, cocaine, amphetamines, "designer drugs" and steroids.

There are three very important concepts in considering the psychoactive effects of drug use in young adults:

A. Several vital organs within adolescents are still developing. These developing organs are at a higher risk of exposure to noxious substances than are mature organs.

B. Organs involved in metamorphosis (change) are at a greater risk of malformation and disease from exposure to noxious substances than are stable organs.

C. Combinations of noxious substances taken at critical stages of development probably have an even greater risk effect on developing and changing organs.

It is important to recognize that beyond the physiological problems outlined, there is likely to be general psychosocial development retardation. If organs are not developing properly or a chemical substance is leaving a young adult at risk for disease, the healthy development of personal and social functions is also at risk.

Specific Health Complications of Alcohol Use
Alcohol is toxic to all organ systems. Every drink does damage. Excessive alcohol use (including heavy social drinking) may cause permanent damage to the nervous system and other organs of the body.

The more visible health risks of chronic heavy drinking may involve: heart and brain damage; cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver and/or kidney, pancreas damage, ulcers and gastritis, birth defects, poor overall health, and malnutrition during pregnancy.

DTs (Delirium Tremens) result from alcohol withdrawal and may include disorientation, memory impairment and sometimes hallucinations.

Health Risks Involved in the Use of Amphetamines Amphetamine use stimulates the entire nervous system by increasing: heart rate, blood pressure and respiration. It is characterized by an individual: being hyperactive, having delusional thinking, experiencing a catatonic state, death, hallucinations, being impulsive, having impaired reasoning and judgment, or paranoia.

Specific health complications can involve: cardiac arrhythmia, brain-call damage, suicide, liver damage, cerebral hemorrhage (stroke), and dyskinesias (involuntary movement).

Anabolic Steroids
Complications of steroids include: changes in libido, alterations in spermatogenesis, peliosis hepatitis, mood disorders, increased aggressiveness, and muscle spasms.

It is also important to point out that these drugs can be psychologically addictive.

Steroids do not increase aerobic ability or athletic performance unless the individual is already well conditioned and is taking the drug in combination with protein.

Health Risks Involved in the Use of Cannabis (Marijuana) In general terms, the use of cannabis affects the flow of sensory information passed between the cortex and different areas of the limbic system.

Initial use can lead to: impaired psychomotor performance, Schizophrenia, acute anxiety/panic attacks, confusional state reactions, such as total loss of reality or paranoia.

Immediate or chronic use can lead to: immunological abnormalities; hormonal changes; chromosome changes, tracheobronchitis (smoker's cough), decrease sperm count or cause abnormal sperm, low motivation, and dependency.

Health Risks Involved in the Use of Cocaine Cocaine is a highly addictive amphetamine that causes nasal problems including: frequent nosebleeds, perforation of nasal septum, ulcerations of the nose, chronic nasal congestion and cold symptoms.

A Cocaine overdose can cause: cerebral hemorrhage, respiratory failure, seizures, death, heat stroke, and rapid, irregular heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation).

In addition to snorting Cocaine, users also inject and/or free base smoke by using drug paraphernalia.
* Use by injections: skin infections, hepatitis, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart and its valves) and HIV
* Use by free-basing: inflammation of the lungs, explosions, and burns

Designer Drugs
It is important to point out that there are approximately 150 chemical simulations to the major classes of the drugs outlined. Structurally, these drugs are between amphetamines and hallucinogens. These chemical substances often have a very potent effect on the central and peripheral nervous system and can cause permanent derangement. Any number of medical and psychological effects, including those previously outlined, can occur with use.

Medical and Psychological Complications of Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens (mushrooms being the most popular) cause a distorted mode of action within the central nervous system. Specifically, some of the primary neurotransmitters (Pontine Raphe, Serotonin and Dopamine) for emotional response are affected through inhibition. Use of hallucinogens can cause psychotic symptoms including: paranoia, anxiety and sensory distortion.

Medical Complications of Opiates
Use of Opiates may cause: severe dependency, infections from injections; high risk of overdosing; hepatitis; and HIV/AIDS.

Volatile Solvents
Inhaling volatile solvents, such as gasoline, lighter fluid or glue can produce a "high". This practice may also cause: liver damage, nerve cell damage; lung damage; and death.


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