Drug Facts Chat Day: Drug Use

What are your thoughts on the rap industry's references to drug use, specifically Snoop Dogg's lyrics, "Hey hey hey. Smoke weed every day."

Some people argue that songs and other forms of entertainment only reflect behaviors that are already present in society, while others suggest that the media can influence how people think and behave. There is some research to support the latter, which led to efforts to reduce the amount of cigarette smoking in movies and on TV.

While definitive evidence is still needed, music can reinforce the notion that drug use is common and acceptable and may send a message that drugs are more widely used than they really are. However, it's also important to recognize the efforts of the musicians who are out there trying to provide a realistic picture of drug use. Finally, it's important to acknowledge that drug references have been in various kinds of music and entertainment for decades and this is not solely a rap industry issue.

Which age group usually takes the most drugs?

Drug use is most common among young adults who are 18 to 25 years old. Rates of current (past month) use of illicit drugs in 2015 were higher for young adults aged 18 to 25 (22.3 percent) than for youths aged 12 to 17 (8.8 percent) and adults aged 26 or older (8.2 percent). Among these young adults, 19.8 percent used marijuana, 5.1 percent used prescription-type drugs nonmedically, 1.7 percent used cocaine, and 1.8 percent used hallucinogens. See http://www.samhsa.gov/data/population-data-nsduh for the latest information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

If a mother or father was addicted to drugs and then had a child, would it affect the child? Would the child have medical problems, or even be addicted to the drug?

It depends on the individual situation. There are a number of the reasons why the child of addicted parents might have medical problems or become addicted. For example, if a mom is addicted to opioids (like heroin, morphine, or prescription pain relievers like Vicodin® or OxyContin®) while pregnant, her baby could be born addicted to that drug and go through a period of withdrawal. Usually this can be managed medically, but it is not a pleasant experience for the newborn (or the mom).

Researchers are also looking into whether or not exposure to other drugs before birth can make you more likely to get addicted to drugs when you are older. So far, one researcher has found that if a mother smokes cigarettes while she is pregnant, her child is more likely to use tobacco as a teenager, and to become addicted if they do use it. The child may also have a higher risk of other medical problems like asthma, and possibly behavioral problems too. For all these reasons, we recommend that pregnant women not use alcohol or drugs, including cigarettes, during pregnancy. It they having trouble stopping drug use, they should ask their doctor for help.

Two more things that can affect your risk of addiction are genetics and family environment. If your parents are addicted to drugs, you might have a higher risk for becoming addicted yourself if you start using them. So it is especially important for kids of parents who were addicted to avoid using drugs. But the good news is if you avoid drugs, you can protect yourself from ever becoming addicted!

Can diseases be inherited?

Absolutely. All diseases have some heritable component (this means that you can inherit them), but how much can vary. Here's an example. Huntington's disease is caused by a genetic defect that, if passed on, causes a person's offspring (their child) to be affected. That means that Huntington's is 100 percent genetic. Inheritance, in the form of genes, plays a large role in drug addiction also. BUT while genes play a big role, they are only part of the picture. Other factors, like having friends who don't use drugs, or being involved in sports and other recreational activities, also affect your risk of trying drugs and of becoming addicted to them. Researchers are trying to find the genes that make you vulnerable or resistant to addiction, in order to find ways to improve treatment and prevention approaches. Want more information on genes, addiction and teens? Check out NIDA's website, http://www.teens.drugabuse.gov/

How many people die each year from drug use?

About 570,000 people die annually in the U.S. due to drug use. That breaks down to more than 480,000 deaths related to tobacco, about 31,000 due to alcohol, nearly 22,000 due to overdose from illicit (illegal) drugs, and close to 23,000 due to overdose from prescription pain relievers. If you want more information, check out cdc.gov

I think that when a school teaches students about drugs, some students like me, who are not aware of those drugs, learn a lot more about what's out there. So, why are they teaching students all about drugs?

While trying drugs and alcohol might not have occurred to you until seeing all these messages from authority figures in school, many kids do get exposed to drugs and drug opportunities outside of the classroom, including on the internet. School systems know this, and figure that they had better equip you with knowledge about the risks of trying drugs and alcohol--to counter some of the misinformation that you might pick up elsewhere. However, your point is very important, and this is why we try hard to make our messages "age-appropriate" so as to maximize the usefulness of the information while minimizing the likelihood of its misuse.

Has drug use risen or declined among teens in the last few years?

For the most part, teens are taking better care of themselves today than in the past, and they are well informed about the downsides to drug taking. According to NIDA's Monitoring the Future survey--a national survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders--past-year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana was down from recent peaks in all three grades in 2016. Also notable is the decrease in tobacco use, which is now at the lowest rate in the survey's history for all three grades.

However, there are still areas that cause concern. For example, almost 36 percent of seniors reported past-month marijuana use. Also, misuse of prescription medications can be can dangerous and addictive, but nearly 6 percent of seniors reported past-month use of prescription amphetamines. In addition, teens are more likely to use electronic cigarettes than regular cigarettes, but many don't even know what's actually in the vapor they're inhaling.

What's the most commonly used drug by teens?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the most commonly used substance among teens is alcohol, followed by tobacco. The most commonly used illegal drug is marijuana. In 2015, 9.6 percent of 12 to 17 year-olds had used alcohol, 4.2 percent had used cigarettes, and 7.0 percent had used marijuana in the month prior to the survey.

You can learn more about drug use trends and statistics at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

How many young people are addicted to drugs?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2015, more than 1 million youths in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 met diagnostic criteria for problem use or dependence (addiction) on illicit drugs or alcohol. Of these, only 198,000 youths received treatment at a specialty facility.

Are there any medical benefits of illegal drugs?

For some, yes, but before giving you specific examples it may be useful to outline how drugs (or more generally, what we call controlled substances) are classified. According to the law we recognize five different drug categories, or schedules, which determine whether or not it is legal to use a drug and under what circumstances.

  • Schedule I includes drugs with high misuse potential but no currently accepted medical applications, therefore no prescription can be written for any Schedule I substance. Some of the drugs in this category are heroin, GHB, ecstasy, LSD, and cannabis (i.e., marijuana).
  • In contrast, Schedule II drugs also have high potential for misuse but have, in addition, accepted and approved medical applications. In this class, we can find various stimulants (e.g., cocaine, amphetamines), opioids (opium, methadone, oxycodone), and dronabinol (Marinol®), which contain the main active ingredient in marijuana (THC).
  • Schedule III drugs, like anabolic steroids, buprenorphine, hydrocodone, and ketamine, have in general less misuse potential than Schedule I or II drugs and have accepted medical uses.
  • Schedule IV (e.g., benzodiazepines and barbiturates) and Schedule V (e.g., cough suppressants containing small amounts of codeine) drugs, have decreasingly lower potential for misuse than Schedule III drugs and also well-accepted medical uses.

As you can see, dividing drugs based on their legal status is not very helpful in answering your question: indeed, there are legal substances that can be misused but have no approved medical use (e.g., tobacco, alcohol) while, conversely, many substances that are illegal under certain circumstances do offer medical benefits when used properly and under the supervision of a physician. Opioids, for example, include both morphine and other pain relievers, and are used by physicians to provide pain relief to millions of people. Also, amphetamine (speed) and methylphenidate are legitimate treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Doctors who prescribe these drugs are well trained to evaluate if and when a person needs them, and how much is safe for a specific person to take. Prescription medications, when properly used, are of invaluable help in the treatment of serious medical conditions, but their use becomes dangerous and illegal when not under the supervision of a physician--even if they are taken for their intended purposes--to relieve pain, increase attention, or lose weight. Of course, their misuse to get high or to improve mental or physical performance is also dangerous and illegal.

If a person has a penny in their mouth when taking a breathalyzer test, will it impact the results of the test?

No, pennies will not affect the test. Holding batteries, tongue studs, braces, dentures, or anything else (except alcohol) in your mouth will not influence the results of a breathalyzer test.

What is date rape?

Date rape is unwanted sexual contact from someone you know, may have just met, and/or thought you could trust. A number of drugs have been used in date rape because they can be slipped into someone's drink and have no taste or smell; these include ketamine, Rohypnol®, and gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB). These drugs can sedate a person and make them forget what happens to them. Rohypnol and GHB are predominantly central nervous system depressants and can be very dangerous, even fatal, because of their effects on the respiratory system.

To learn more about the side effects and medical consequences of these drugs, visit: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts.

If you have experienced any sexual assault, report the attack by calling 911. You can also call 1-800-656-4673 to speak with a counselor at any time. More information can be found at http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/date-rape-drugs.html.