Sep 13

Drugs, alcohol and stimulants knowledge base

1. Cocaine

Cocaine is a one of the most powerfully addictive stimulant drugs. It is commonly found in powdered or crystal form. The powdered form of cocaine can be snorted or dissolved in water and then injected. Crack is the street name given to the form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal. This crystal, when heated, produces vapors that are smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound produced by the rock as it is heated.

How Is Cocaine Abused?

Three routes of administration are commonly used for cocaine: snorting, injecting, and smoking. Snorting involves inhaling cocaine powder through the nose, where absorption into the bloodstream is through the nasal tissues. Injecting is where a needle and syringe is used to insert the drug directly into the bloodstream. Smoking involves inhaling cocaine vapor or smoke into the lungs, where absorption into the bloodstream is as rapid as by injection. All three methods of cocaine abuse can lead to addiction and other severe health problems, including increasing the risk of contracting HIV through needle sharing and other infectious diseases.

The intensity and duration of cocaine’s effects—which include increased energy, reduced fatigue, and mental alertness—depend on the route of drug administration. The faster cocaine is absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the brain, the more intense the high. Injecting or smoking cocaine produces a quicker, stronger high than snorting. On the other hand, faster absorption usually means shorter duration of action: the high from snorting cocaine may last 15 to 30 minutes, but the high from smoking may last only 5 to 10 minutes. In order to sustain the high, a cocaine abuser has to administer the drug again. For this reason, cocaine is sometimes abused in binges—taken repeatedly within a relatively short period of time, at increasingly higher doses.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Brain?

Cocaine is a strong central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine, a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) associated with pleasure and movement, in the brain’s reward circuit. Certain brain cells, or neurons, use dopamine to communicate. Normally, dopamine is released by a neuron in response to a pleasurable signal (e.g., the smell of good food), and then recycled back into the cell that released it, thus shutting off the signal between neurons. Cocaine acts by preventing the dopamine from being recycled, causing excessive amounts of the neurotransmitter to build up, amplifying the message to and response of the receiving neuron, and ultimately disrupting normal communication. It is this excess of dopamine that is responsible for cocaine’s euphoric effects. With repeated use, cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward system and in other brain systems as well, which may eventually lead to addiction. With repeated use, tolerance to the cocaine high also often develops. Many cocaine abusers report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure. Some users will increase their dose in an attempt to intensify and prolong the euphoria, but this can also increase the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects.

What Adverse Effects Does Cocaine Have on Health?

Abusing cocaine has a variety of adverse effects on the body. For example, cocaine constricts blood vessels, dilates pupils, and increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea. Because cocaine tends to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well.

Different methods of taking cocaine can produce different adverse effects. Regular intranasal use (snorting) of cocaine, for example, can lead to loss of the sense of smell; nosebleeds; problems with swallowing; hoarseness; and a chronically runny nose. Ingesting cocaine can cause severe bowel gangrene as a result of reduced blood flow. Injecting cocaine can bring about severe allergic reactions and increased risk for contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases. Binge-patterned cocaine use may lead to irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. Cocaine abusers can also experience severe paranoia—a temporary state of full-blown paranoid psychosis—in which they lose touch with reality and experience auditory hallucinations.

Regardless of the route or frequency of use, cocaine abusers can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death. Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizure followed by respiratory arrest.

Added Danger: Cocaethylene – when cocaine and alcohol are consumed together, the body forms a unique cocaine metabolite named cocaethylene. It is unique because it is formed only during the combined ingestion of cocaine and alcohol. (The name “cocaethylene” is derived from the words “cocaine” and “ethyl alcohol.”) It is unique also because it is the first known example of the body forming a third drug following ingestion of two other drugs. It is not a natural alkaloid of the coca leaf, and is not found in street cocaine.

Polydrug use—use of more than one drug—is common among substance abusers. When people consume two or more psychoactive drugs together, such as cocaine and alcohol, they compound the danger each drug poses and unknowingly perform a complex chemical experiment within their bodies. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to produce a third substance, cocaethylene, that intensifies cocaine’s euphoric effects. Cocaethylene is associated with a greater risk of sudden death than cocaine alone.


2. Sexual Stimulants and Sex Enhancing Drugs

What are sexual stimulants and sex enhancing drugs?

These are “pills”, drinks, or ointments that are commonly offered over the internet and in various drug outlets for various sex oriented purposes including:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Female sexual dysfunction
  • Penis enlargement
  • Improve sexual performance
  • female breast enlargement
  • increase libido among other reasons

examples of these drugs include:

  • Viagra
  • Cialis
  • Levitra
  • Enzoy
How do sexual stimulants and sex enhancing drugs affect my body?

These drugs may increase§ testosterone levels in your body and could be effective should your problem be due to hormonal deficiency.

Your body could be exposed§ to harmful contaminants that some of these drugs contain. Some of the substances you could be exposing your self to include mold, yeast, dangerous bacteria, pesticides, and lead.

You risk consuming some§ unappealing substances such as fecal matter that contaminate some of the herbal pills, possibly from animals grazing near the plants harvested for herbal ingredients.

Some of these drugs do not§ have any real effect on your body and you may only be experiencing a placebo effect when using them, i.e. psychological effect making you think you can perform better increasing your confidence, when there is no actual physical or physiological change.

What happens to me when I abuse sexual stimulants and sexual enhancing drugs?

If you are abusing these drugs you risk suffering adverse and serious side effects such as:  severe hypertension or stroke. For men the penis may remain erect and fail to return to its flaccid state which can be a very painful experience. You risk getting skin irritations in case you are using lubricants i.e. itching, burning sensation, rashes. You may also experience some of the following common side effects:

  • Sneezing and headache
  • flushing – change of skin colour (usually reddening if you have light skin)
  • Dyspepsia (indigestion with chronic or recurrent pain in your upper abdomen, upper abdominal fullness and you may feel full earlier than expected when eating)
  • Palpitations (abnormal awareness of your heartbeat)

Photophobia – you may experience of discomfort or pain to the eyes due to light exposure even under normal lighting conditions. Due to this you may impair your vision or go completely blind.

You could also go deaf.

If you are using herbal sexual stimulants you could suffer from various stomach problems including worms since some of these drugs are contaminated.

How can I identify a person who is abusing prescription drugs?
  • It is difficult for you to identify a person abusing prescription medication since they do not have the more common physical indicators of most other abused drugs such as bleary-eyes or slurring words, they actually seem to have a lot to live for.
  • These in most cases the abuser appears normal to you mostly due to the social acceptability of the drugs you see them using, they blend in well in society and only in extreme cases will you notice any abnormal tendencies such as sudden bouts of deep sleep.
  • You will only realise a person has been abusing a prescription drug after they are hospitalised due to an overdose.

3. Corticostreroids

What are corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex. Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiologic systems such as stress response, immune response and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte levels, and behaviour.

Synthetic corticosteroids are used commonly for smoothening the skin and lightening skin colour.

They are also used to treat eye diseases or inflammatory bowel disease and used along with other drugs to prevent nausea.

How do corticosteroids affect my body?

Corticosteroids control how carbohydrate, fat and protein are metabolised in your body

They also promote sodium retention in your kidney.

What happens to me when I abuse corticosteroid?

When you abuse corticosteroids you risk suffering permanent skin damage

It many also cause your skin to thin and cause you acne

The typical side effects you may experience include hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure),hypokalemia, (low potassium levels in the blood), and hypernatremia (high sodium levels in the blood)

Experimental evidence indicates that corticosteroids can also cause you permanent eye damage

4. Sedatives & Tranqulizers

Central Nervous System (CNS)depressants (sedatives and tranquilisers)

What are CNS depressants?

CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that can slow normal brain function. Because of this property, some CNS depressants are useful in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disorders.

Among the medications that are commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:

Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), are used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), are prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. The more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) are prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for long-term use.

How do CNS depressants affect my brain and body?

Most depressants act on your brain by decreasing your brain activity.

CNS depressants make you drowsy or produce in you a calming effect that is beneficial to you if you suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders.

What happens to me when I use CNS depressants?

During the first few days of taking a prescribed CNS depressant, you usually feel sleepy and uncoordinated.

Your brain activity is reduced

What happens to me if I am abusing CNS depressants?

If you use these drugs long term, your body develops tolerance for the drugs, and larger doses are needed to achieve the same initial effects.

If you continue to use you end up physically dependent on them and – when you reduce or stop using you experience withdrawal.

When you stop taking them, your brain’s activity can rebound and race out of control, potentially leading to seizures and other harmful consequences.

When withdrawing from prolonged use you may suffer serious life-threatening complications.

5. Khat

Khat contains the alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence.

It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries. Khat is a slow-growing shrub or tree that grows to between 1.5 metres and 20 metres tall, depending on region and rainfall, with evergreen leaves 5–10cm long and 1–4cm broad. The flowers are produced on short axillary cymes 4–8cm long, each flower small, with five white petals. The fruit is an oblong three-valved capsule containing 1–3 seeds.

Khat use has traditionally been confined to the regions where khat is grown, because only the fresh leaves have the desired stimulating effects. In recent years improved roads, off-road motor vehicles and air transport have increased the global distribution of this perishable commodity. Traditionally, khat has been used as a socializing drug.

It takes nearly seven to eight years for the Khat plant to reach its full height. Khat requires a little maintenance as it needs a little more than sun and water. Ground water is often pumped from deep wells by diesel engines to irrigate the crops, or brought in by water trucks. The plants are watered heavily starting around a month before it is harvested to make the leaves and stems soft and moist. A good Khat plant can be harvested four times a year, providing a year long source of income for the farmer.

Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the drug and may appear to be unrealistic and emotionally unstable. Khat can induce manic behaviours and hyperactivity. Khat is an effective anorectic and its use also results in constipation. Dilated pupils (mydriasis), which are prominent during khat consumption, reflect the sympathomimetic effects of the drug, which are also reflected in increased heart rate and blood pressure. A state of drowsy hallucinations (hypnagogic hallucinations) may result coming down from khat use as well. Withdrawal symptoms that may follow occasional use include mild depression and irritability. Withdrawal symptoms that may follow prolonged khat use include lethargy, mild depression, nightmares, and slight tremor.

Long-term use can precipitate the following effects: negative impact on liver function, permanent tooth darkening (of a greenish tinge), susceptibility to ulcers, and diminished sex drive. Those who abuse the drug generally cannot stay without it for more than 4–5 days, feeling tired and having difficulty concentrating.[15] Occasionally a psychosis can result, resembling a hypomanic state in presentation.

6. Marijuana

The plant Cannabis sativa is the source of both Bhang, hashish and hashish oil. The leaves, flowers, and twigs of the plant are crushed to produce marijuana; its concentrated resin is hashish while an extract of hashish using vegetable oil gives hashish oil. The active ingredient in Bhang is delta -9 -tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Bhang is preparation from the leaves and flowers (buds) of the female cannabis plant. It is consumed either as a beverage or smoked.

(THC) in Bhang has been found to have high affinity for the fatty structures hence in addition to the brain, Bhang has been found to affect the liver, the respiratory, reproductive, and blood cell systems.

Bhang use causes: a state of relaxation, accelerated heart beat rate, perceived slowing of time, and a sense of heightened hearing, taste, touch, and smell. These effects vary depending on the amount of drug consumed and the circumstances under which it is taken. Bhang and hashish are not thought to produce psychological dependence except when taken in large daily doses. The drug can be dangerous, however, especially when smoked before an activity requiring concentration like driving.
Although chronic effects are not yet clear, Bhang is injurious to the lungs in much the same way as tobacco.

A source of concern is its regular use by children and teenagers, because the intoxication markedly alters thinking and interferes with learning. A consensus exists among doctors and others working with children and adolescents that its use is undesirable and may interfere with psychological, and possibly physical, maturation.

Facts on Marijuana

  • Bhang (cannabis) contains more than 400 chemicals, many of which are harmful
  • Bhang (Cannabis) smoke has more cancer-causing agents than cigarette smoke.
  • The chemicals in Bhang smoke can remain in the body for up to a month.
  • Bhang (cannabis) affects co-ordination and slows down thinking and reflexes.
  • Bhang (cannabis) reduces people’s memory and affects comprehension.
  • Bhang smokers often lose interest in schoolwork, sports, and other extracurricular activities
  • Smoking Bhang is especially harmful for young people because their bodies are still growing.

7. Chang’aa

This is an illegal liquor consumed by people who cannot afford beer or those who want to experience the effect of alcohol more quickly and at a lesser cost. It is a distilled liquor made from a variety of grains, malted millet and malted maize being the most common. Its alcoholic content ranges from 20 to 50%.

8. Muratina

This is an alcoholic drink made from sugarcane and sun-dried Muratina fruit. The fruit is added to a small amount of sugar-cane juice and incubated in a warm place. The fruit is removed from the juice after 24 hours and sun-dried. The fruit is then added to a barrel of sugar-cane juice which is allowed to ferment between one and four days. The final product has a sour alcoholic taste.

9. Tobacco

Tobacco is a drug. A drug is any substance taken by people to change either the way they feel, think or behave

Tobacco is a herbal plant grown extensively through out the world. It falls under the category of drugs known as selective drugs since its effects vary from person to person. Tobacco sedates and stimulates. It is a plant with tapering hairy leaves that are dried and prepared for snuffing, chewing and smoking. Nicotine is the main active ingredient and most addictive substance in tobacco. It contains 4,700 chemicals, 40 of which are carcinogenic. In a tobacco plantation, no other animal, insect or plant can survive the harsh chemical environment produced by the tobacco plant. In Kenya, common tobacco products are filter-tipped cigarettes, cheroots, cigars, snuff and Kuber (an illegal product smuggled in from India).

According to results of a national baseline survey on alcohol and drug abuse in Kenya [ released by the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse on 26th March 2004 (NACADA 2004), ] tobacco is one of the most commonly abused drug in Kenya. The others are alcohol, bhang, miraa (khat), inhalants and prescription drugs

Tobacco is a temperate crop which is grown in more than 100 countries world-wide, mostly in developing countries. China is the world’s largest producer, followed by the USA, India, Brazil and Turkey. These five countries produce nearly two-thirds of global output.

The plant is divided into two:

Nicotiana tabaccum

Tobacco comes in these forms: cigars. Pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco and cigarettes.

History of Tobacco

The growth is dated back as far as about 6000 B.C by the Americans. The following are some of the ways in which the drug was used long ago:

Tobacco was believed to cure almost all diseases and was used in dressing of wounds and the relieving of pain.

Chewing of the plant was believed to cure toothaches

Soldiers also used tobacco in First World War to escape from the horrors of the war. Cigarettes were therefore given the name ‘soldier’s smoke.

Romans believed that the drug could cure 36 health problems.

Street Names of Tobacco

In many cases those who abuse tobacco do not refer it in the normal terms for various reasons. For example students may wish to escape notice by parents and teachers.  Some of the names used are

  • Gaff
  • Ngale
  • algae
  • fegi
  • cancer sticks
  • mozo
  • zale
  • cigs
  • butts
  • fags
  • kafera
  • smokes
  • sigara

10. Banana

Banana beer is made from ripe bananas, mixed with cereal flour (often sorghum flour) and fermented to an orange, alcoholic beverage. It is sweet and slightly hazy with a shelf life of several days under correct storage conditions. Urwaga banana beer is made from bananas and sorghum or millet.

11. Busaa

This is a traditional beer made from finger millet malt and is consumed in many parts of the country though rampant in the Western region. Palm wine (Mnazi) is consumed especially along the coastal region.

12. Alcohol

Alcohol sometimes referred with its street name of booze is a  nervous system depressant and is used in liquid form. Types of alcohol include beer, wine and liquor. Alcohol is seen by many as a more socially acceptable drug, but that’s not to say it’s any less dangerous than other drugs.  More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech.

They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry. alcohol is harmful to some people, while others find it enjoyable when used in moderation.

Alcohol is an addictive substance. Repeated high volume consumption leads to reduced sensitivity to the drug effects (tolerance). Removal is accompanied by recognized withdrawal   syndrome, and a proportion of all individuals who consume alcohol become dependent.

Alcohol abuse is a major factor in thousands of preventable injuries and premature deaths due to crashes, falls, suicides, fires, drowning and homicides.

13. Beer

This alcoholic beverage is made by fermenting a cereal (or mixture of cereals) flavored with hops. Lager beer is the most commonly produced and consumed though other types of beers are also available in the market

14. Wines

Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made of fermented grape juice. A variety of wines are consumed in Kenya mainly from South Africa, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Chile and America. There is also local production of wine mainly from the Naivasha area.

15. Spirits

Various types of spirits are sold in the market and are regulated by the Kenya Wine Agencies Limited (KWAL) and the Kenya Bureau of Standards.