NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Choose Your Path - BFF or the Ex?

Depending on which path you take in this video, a teenager is either offered Xanax or Vicodin by a friend.

Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant prescribed to people for anxiety and sleeping problems. CNS depressants slow down the normal activity in the brain; when abused they can have dangerous consequences. Most CNS depressants affect the brain in the same way—they enhance the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that sends messages between cells. GABA works by slowing down brain activity. Although different classes of CNS depressants work in unique ways, they ultimately increase GABA activity, which produces a drowsy or calming effect.

Vicodin is an opioid prescribed to people to treat pain. They are often prescribed by doctors after surgery or to help patients with severe acute or chronic pain. Opioid prescriptions are also known as “painkillers” or “pain meds.” Opioids affect the brain the same way as illicit opiates like heroin. Studies have shown that if taken exactly as prescribed by a medical professional, opioids are safe, can manage pain effectively, and rarely cause addiction. The problem occurs when they are abused. Opioids attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. When opioid drugs attach to these receptors in certain brain regions, they can diminish the perception of pain. Opioids can produce drowsiness, cause constipation, and, depending on the amount taken, affect a person's ability to breathe properly. In fact, taking just one large dose could cause severe breathing complications or death. Repeated abuse of opioids can lead to addiction—compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite known harmful consequences.

Play the video to find out what might happen if someone takes Xanax or Vicodin not prescribed for them.