All drug use affects the brain and the body.
How the brain and body are impacted differs depending upon the type of drug used, the amount used and the frequency of use.
Different types of drugs impact the brain and body in different ways depending upon the type of drug used and the frequency of use. Learn more about drug types below.
What is it?
Alcohol is a colorless, flammable liquid that is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating part of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks.
What does it do?
Alcohol is a sedative. It slows down the body's systems and interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. As the amount of alcohol one drinks increases, so does the level of impairment. Tolerance develops when one drinks more often, and needs to drink more in quantity, to feel the same effects.
- Slurred speech, lack of coordination, blurred vision, slowed reaction time
- Nausea or vomiting, hangovers, memory loss or blackouts
- Accidents or injuries while drinking
- Some medical conditions can be caused, and others worsened, by drinking
- Inappropriate alcohol use interferes with work, school and/or other activities
Click here to learn more about potential side effects.
Effects on the Brain
Alcohol use can be risky, whether or not someone has developed an addiction (substance use disorder). The reason some are more affected by a certain amount of alcohol while others are less affected is unknown. The sedative effect of alcohol in the brain can cause bodily systems to shut down, and in extreme cases of alcohol poisoning, death can result. Substance use disorders develop when the brain is exposed to an amount of a drug, in this case alcohol, that causes structural and chemical changes to occur in the brain. There is no way to know how much alcohol may cause the development of an addiction in any one person, and it is different for different people. The structural and chemical changes that occur in the brain cause the pleasure-seeking part of the brain to override the rest. This is why people with an alcohol use disorder feel compelled to use more, even if it causes harm.
Nicknames include juice, sauce, booze, hooch, suds, vino, liquid courage and moonshine. Individual brands may also have related nicknames that are not listed here.
What is it?
"Club drugs" is a categorical term used to describe the various types of drugs most commonly used by teenagers and young adults in party type environments such as bars, nightclubs, and concerts. Examples of club drugs are MDMA (ecstasy), GHB, ketamine, Rohypnol, LSD, and methamphetamine.
Each category of the club drugs affects the brain and the body differently. MDMA and Methamphetamine are both stimulants, MDMA is a drug synthetically (man-made) produced and chemically is structured similarly to methamphetamines, both substances affect the brain and body similarly causing increased attention and fatigue, increased activity and wakefulness, euphoria, rapid/irregular heartbeat and hyperthermia. LSD (acid) is a hallucinogen that changes the perception (awareness of environment and thoughts/feelings) that can cause hallucination or delusions.
Effects on the Brain
Each of the club drugs can alter the structure of the brain, causing significant problems for the person that used them. This can occur with repetitive use, or even one use. Methamphetamine commonly causes significant anxiety, insomnia, mood disturbances, paranoia and even psychotic symptoms, such as visual and auditory hallucinations. Research has shown that hallucinogens such as LSD and ketamine can cause speech problems, memory loss and depression. All of the club drugs affect the normal functioning of the human brain; for example, methamphetamines have been strongly shown to interrupt the normal functioning of the dopamine system, which is designed to support our experiences of pleasure. Abnormal functioning of the dopamine system can impact our abilities to experience enjoyment and happiness.
Club drugs include GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, MDMA, methamphetamine and LSD. There are numerous nicknames for each type of club drug, but the most common are: MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly), methamphetamine (meth, speed, crank, Christina, Tina), LSD (acid, sunshine), and GHB (“G” or “Gina”).
Crack and Cocaine
What is it?
Cocaine is an addictive drug derived from the coca plant or produced synthetically as an illegal stimulant and is classified as a Schedule II drug. Crack is a term utilized to describe the change in appearance from cocaine powder/paste to a rock formation. The rock formation of cocaine is referred to as crack.
The effects of cocaine and crack differentiate depending upon the route of use. Individuals commonly experience irritability, restlessness, panic and paranoia, all of which can worsen with the repeated and increased use of cocaine. Cocaine is often used through binge patterns, and at increasingly higher doses which leads to higher risks for the mind and body. If cocaine is snorted, common effects on the body include loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds and problems with swallowing. If crack is smoked, it can additionally lead to damage to the lungs.
Effects on the Brain
Cocaine and crack are both powerful stimulants that increase the levels of dopamine in the brain circuits that control experiences of pleasure. The sudden increase of dopamine interrupts the normal brain communication; both cocaine and crack can cause feelings of happiness, energy, irritability and paranoia.
There are numerous slang terms used to describe cocaine, some of the most common are coke, C, snow, powder, blow, rocks and lines.
- Cocaine Facts Information for teens from AbovetheInfluence.com.
- Stimulants Information on stimulants (cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, amphetamines, ritalin, and adderall) from NIDA for teens.
- Cocaine Comprehensive information from NIDA
- In The Know Zone: Cocaine Syndistar site with cocaine information, images, statistics, street names, history, cocaine and the brain, short and long-term effects.
- Mind Over Matter: Cocaine Cocaine information for teens from NIDA.
What is it?
"Inhalants" refers to the various substances that people typically take only by inhaling. Inhalants includes solvents (liquids that become gas at room temperature), aerosol sprays, gases and nitrates (prescription medicines for chest pain). Common inhalants are found in household items such as paint thinner or removers, dry cleaning fluids, art supplies (such as correction fluids and glue), spray paints, hair/deodorant sprays, butane lighters and whipped cream aerosols.
What does it do?
Inhalants produce a quick, intense high that feels like alcohol intoxication. The initial pleasure experienced by the user is followed by drowsiness, lightheadedness, and often agitation. As the amount of inhalant used increases, the likelihood for loss of senses and unconsciousness also increases.
Inhalant use cuts off the flow of oxygen to the brain. In the long term, inhalant use can damage the liver and kidney, cause hearing loss, bone marrow damage, nerve damage leading to loss of coordination and limb spasms, brain problems that delay behavioral development, and brain damage.
A person is able to overdose on inhalants; an overdose occurs when a person uses too much of a drug, causing harmful effects on the body and brain, sometimes resulting in death.
Abuse, N. I. (n.d.). Inhalants. Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants
Inhalants are commonly referred to using the following slang terms: "aimies, rush, dusting, poppers."
- The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition Information on inhalants and huffing. Statistics, how to recognize signs of inhalant use, tips for teachers, products abused as inhalants, FAQs, prevention campaign, Spanish version.
- Inhalants Comprehensive information for teens from NIDA.
- Inhalants.DrugAbuse.Gov National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA), site that collects all NIDA's information on inhalants in one place.
What is it?
Marijuana (Cannabis) is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. Marijuana may be green, brown or grayish in color. Marijuana can be inhaled through smoking with the use of rolled papers, a pipe, in a blunt or using a vaporizer. Marijuana can also be consumed as an "edible" which is the product of a food or beverage that includes marijuana. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance. Some states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. Marijuana is illegal in Iowa.
What does it do?
There is significant evidence that shows adverse and permanent changes to the functioning of the brain when marijuana is used during the developing years in humans.
Also, the effects of marijuana differ depending upon the method of consumption. Both the onset of symptoms and the length in which the symptoms last depends upon if marijuana is inhaled or ingested. Ingestion of 'edibles' has caused significant concern across the United States, as legalization has led to statistically higher incidences of children ingesting marijuana, and increased hospitalizations of children and adults following exposure to marijuana or ingestion of marijuana.
Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, a person’s heart rate speeds up, the bronchial passages (the pipes that let air in and out of your lungs) relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red. While these and other effects seem harmless, they can take a toll on the body.
- Increased heart rate is common and may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute or, in some cases, even double. This effect can be greater if other drugs are taken with marijuana. The increased heart rate forces the heart to work extra hard to keep up.
- Similar to the effects of regular cigarettes, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs and can cause a chronic cough, often resulting in respiratory (lung and chest) problems.
- The risk of experiencing depression and anxiety is increased with marijuana use.
- Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight and a higher risk for many developmental issues.
- Marijuana. (n.d.). Retrieved June 08, 2017, from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana
- Panlilio, LV, et al. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats.
- The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence
Marijuana is often called weed, pot, grass, reefer, Mary Jane or MJ, fire or ganja, but has many other names, as well.
- Marijuana Comprehensive information for teens from NIDA.
- Marijuana Legalization in Iowa Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.
- Marijuana Facts Marijuana information from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Marijuana Presents science-based information on the effects of marijuana use on the body and brain. A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) sponsored site.
- Is Marijuana Medicine? Drug facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- Scientists Warn About Mental Health Consequences of Using Marijuana April 21st, 2016 A group of scientists in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia is warning about the potential mental health consequences of marijuana use, The Guardian reports. They say frequent use of marijuana increases the risk of psychotic disorders in vulnerable people.
- Casual Marijuana Use Linked with Brain Abnormalities The study's findings, published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience April 16, 2014
- Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization DEA booklet dispels misinformation.
What is it?
Methamphetamine is a seriously addictive stimulant and is most commonly a white, odorless and crystalline powder. According to treatment facilities in the state of Iowa, methamphetamine is one of the drugs most used by Iowans in the 30 days prior to admission.
Common short term effects include increased attention and activity, decreased appetite, euphoria or “rush,” rapid heartbeat and an increased body temperature. In the long term, consequences include addiction, paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive involuntary movements, brain structure changes, reductions in thinking and motor skills, memory loss, aggression, mood swings and severe dental problems.
Crank, crystal, meth, and ice are common slang terms for methamphetamines.
- Iowa Substance Abuse Brief (June 2018) - This Iowa Substance Abuse Brief from June 2018 (Issue 6) provides information about the prevention, use and treatment of methamphetamine in Iowa.
- In The Know Zone: Amphetamine - Comprehensive site with amphetamine photos, history, statistics, street Names.
- Just Think Twice - A youth oriented site created by the DEA's Demand Reduction Program.
- Meth Awareness - A USDOJ site that includes a images of meth, meth labs, photos of users, effect on users, more.
- Methamphetamine Infographic (NEW) - An infographic highlighting current Iowa and national statistics on methamphetamine use
- The Meth Project - The Meth Project is a large-scale prevention program aimed at reducing first-time meth use through public service messaging, public policy, and community outreach.
- Methamphetamine Radio PSA's (NEW) - Radio PSA #1 Radio PSA #2
- National Indian County Methamphetamine Initiative - There are lots of cool things about being native. Meth isn't one of them. An anti-methamphetamine ad campaign for a Native American audience.
- Tips for Teens - Methamphetamine (SAMHSA) - This fact sheet for teens provides facts about methamphetamine.
- Abuse, N. I. (n.d.). What is methamphetamine? Retrieved June 09, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/...
What is it?
Opioids are a category of drugs that include some types of prescription medications as well as illicit drugs such as heroin. Opioids are also called narcotics. The term opiate refers to a drug derived from natural opium, while opioid includes synthetic and semi-synthetic substances created to have similar effects.
Opioids bind to the receptors in the body (especially in the brain) to reduce sensations of pain (pain management). Opioids also slow down body systems, and if misused, can lead to incidents of overdose and death. The prolonged use of opioids (whether with a prescription or not) may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using opioids.
What does it do?
Prescription opioids are strong pain medicines that require a healthcare provider to prescribe them. Over the counter pain relievers are not opioids. The goal of prescription opioids is to relieve pain, and they are generally safe and effective when taken for a short time as prescribed. However, these medicines can have very serious side effects if not used correctly. One of the effects of opioids is to slow down breathing and other body systems. Interactions with other medications or with alcohol can cause dangerous symptoms. It is important to discuss any prescription and your particular health issues with your doctor. There are several types of non-opioid pain relief medicines, as well as non-pharmaceutical strategies to reduce and manage pain symptoms.
An illegal drug made from the opium poppy plant, heroin is highly addictive. People using heroin may snort, smoke, swallow, or inject it intravenously. It is commonly sold as a white or brown powder or a dark, sticky, tar-like substance. Heroin may also be pressed into pills that look like prescription medicines, or combined with the even more potent synthetic fentanyl. As an illegal drug, heroin is very dangerous because of the unknown potency of each batch and the risk of overdose. For more information on heroin, click here.
Fentanyl is a very potent opioid that is used as a medication for severe pain. Related analogues, such as carfentanil, are even stronger and are generally used as a tranquilizer for large zoo animals. Both of these substances are also made in clandestine labs and sold as illegal drugs, often mixed with heroin or other drugs. Due to the dramatic increase in potency as compared to morphine, these drugs create a high risk of death due to overdose.
Effects on the Brain
A person that is accustomed to the presence of opioids will experience uncomfortable symptoms if opioids are not regularly taken. With ongoing use, the body develops a tolerance, which means more and more opioids are needed to avoid pain and withdrawal. As a person’s tolerance increases, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms they will experience when they stop taking opioids also increases. For some, withdrawal symptoms include severe flu-like symptoms, physical pain, problems sleeping, and strong cravings for more opioids. While not technically life-threatening, opioid withdrawal symptoms are often so powerful that a person seeks out more opioids, and may overdose.
An opioid overdose occurs when the amount of opioids in a person’s body is too high and begins to shut down their life-sustaining functions, such as breathing. The overdose reversal drug, naloxone, is available for people (friends, family, first responders, service providers) who may be in a position to assist in the case of an overdose. It is important to act fast and recognize the signs of an overdose .
Hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and fentanyl are common types of prescription opioids that are abused. Common slang term for prescription opioids are Sizzurp, Purple Drank, Cody (Codeine), O.C., Oxy, (Oxycodone), China, White, (Fentanyl).
The common slang terms for heroin are extensive and numerous (H, Tar, Junk, Dragon, Dope).
- Heroin A Medline Plus health page with comprehensive information, including overdose, withdrawal, intoxication, photos, more.
- Heroin Facts For Teens From AbovetheInfluence.com.
- Heroin: NIDA Drugs of Abuse Publications from NIDA, research reports, infofacts, notes, monographs, news.
- Iowa's Good Samaritan Law Learn about Iowa's Good Samaritan Law and available media.
- Iowa Opioid Impacts and Solutions (IDPH) An interactive mapping tool of Iowa opioid data.
- Opioids National Institute on Drug Abuse page on opioids.
- Opioid Addiction Someone addicted to opioids is a real person with a real illness. And they deserve to be treated humanely, and with understanding of the challenges they're going through.
- Naloxone Did you know you can purchase naloxone at your local pharmacy without a prescription?
- Prescription Drugs Are Still Drugs Did you know four out of five new heroin users started with prescription drugs like Oxycodone?
- RX Pain Medications: Know the Options - Get the Facts A series of 13 fact sheets designed to increase awareness of the risks associated with prescription opioid use and misuse, as well as to educate patients who are prescribed opioids for pain about the risks and to provide resources on methods for alternative pain management from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Women and Opioids Do you know the group of women most at risk for an opioid overdose?
Prescription Drugs and Cold Medicine
What does it do?
Misuse of prescription medications and cold medicines occur when an individual takes a prescription medication or cold medicine other than the way it was prescribed or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor. This also includes when a person takes a prescription medication that was not prescribed the medication. Commonly abused prescriptions drugs are opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants used for anxiety and sleep disorders, and stimulants used for ADHD and narcolepsy.
Commonly abused central nervous system (CNS) depressants include benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, and barbiturates. Slang terms used to describe commonly abused CNS depressants are Z-Bars, Bricks, Benzos (Xanax).
Commonly abused stimulants are dextroamphetamine (DXM), methylphenidate and amphetamines. DXM is commonly used in cough suppressants and expectorants.
- PEERx: Rx Abuse is Drug Abuse Comprehensive information for Teens from NIDA.
- Take Away - Environmental Return System The Iowa Pharmacy Association sponsored program that provides the public with a safe, easy way to properly dispose of unwanted and expired medications. TakeAway uses community pharmacies across the state as take-back site.
- Prescription Drugs NIDA site with links to research reports, infofacts, new releases, more.
- National Take-Back Initiative Day On specific days throughout the year, the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
- RX Drug Drop Box The National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) has launched a program designed to significantly reduce the prescription drugs in American homes that are either no longer needed or outdated.Therefore, NADDI has developed this webpage to provide the locations of law enforcement sites that are accepting prescription drugs throughout the United States.
- RX Pain Medications: Know the Options - Get the Facts A series of 13 fact sheets designed to increase awareness of the risks associated with prescription opioid use and misuse, as well as to educate patients who are prescribed opioids for pain about the risks and to provide resources on methods for alternative pain management (SAMHSA).
- Report Illicit Pharmaceutical Activities US Dept. of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration
- Good Medicine, Bad Behavior Drug diversion in America. DEA sponsored site.
- Prescription Drug Abuse Medline Plus
- Stop Medicine Abuse StopMedicineAbuse.org was created by the leading makers of OTC cough medicines.
- Make Up Your Own Mind About Cough Medicine A Partnership for Drug-Free Kids site about cough and cold medicine abuse for teens.
What is it?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone.
What does it do?
Most commonly, people take steroids orally or inject the steroid into the muscle with purpose of improving their physical experience.
Common effects that are developed after short term use are paranoia, irrational jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions or impaired judgment. Long term use commonly develops severe and/or permanent health problems such as kidney problems, enlarged heart, high blood pressure, and liver damage.
Common slang names used to describe anabolic steroids are Juice, Roids and Stackers.
- Anabolic Steroid Abuse National Institute on Drug Abuse, (NIDA) site that collects all NIDA's information on steroids in one place.(see also en Espanol)
- Anabolic Steroid NIDA Facts about anabolic steriods with the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.
- Play Healthy This program introduces parents and coaches to the risks and dangers of steroid and Performance Enhancing Substance (PES) use. The Play Healthy presentation empowers parents with tips and tools to help their children avoid PES abuse. The Play Healthy presentation can be co-delivered by coaches, athletic directors, involved parents, and law enforcement, prevention, and treatment professionals.
What is it?
Synthetics are drugs developed utilizing manufactured chemicals which are created by humans to imitate the effects of different controlled substances.
Because synthetic drugs are developed with chemicals manufactured by humans, individual batches of a drug differ leaving little information on the chemical composition of a synthetic drug. Without the knowledge of the chemical composition it is unpredictable what the side effects of a drug will be. Most common side effects experienced by synthetic cannabinoids are elevated mood, altered perception, symptoms of psychosis, confusion, paranoia, and hallucination. Commonly experienced side effects to a person’s health are rapid heartbeat, vomiting, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts. Most side effects experienced by synthetic cathinones vary significant depending upon the chemical composition of the drug used, however, common side effects reported are lowered inhibition, anxiety, and depression.
Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC, January 12, 2017. Available at http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis....
One of the most common synthetics are synthetic cannabinoids also commonly referred to as “Spice” or “K2” which are developed to imitate the effects of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Another prevalent synthetic are cathinones, commonly known as “bath salts,” which are drugs chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant found in the khat plant.
- Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center For poison emergency call 1-800-222-1222 (voice and TTY)
- Synthetics Fact Sheet Comprehensive information on K2, spice, bath salts, and salvia from the Iowa Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP).
- Emerging Drugs Information on K2/spice, bath salts, flakka and many more - National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Synthetic Cathinones Fact Sheet Information on "bath salts," a human-made stimulants chemically related to cathinone - National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Tobacco and Nicotine
What is it?
Tobacco is a green and leafy agricultural product. The leaves of the plant are dried, ground and cured, and combined with over roughly 4,000 chemicals including a stimulant, nicotine, which is an extremely addictive chemical compound.
Tobacco is one of the most harmful drugs and can damage almost every organ of the body. Tobacco causes nearly one of every five deaths in the United States each year.
Tobacco comes in multiple forms: cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, smokeless tobacco, pipe and a hookah. Common slang names for cigarettes are cigs, butts and smokes; for smokeless tobacco, slang names include dip and chew.
- Quitline Iowa Quitline Iowa is a toll-free, statewide tobacco cessation telephone counseling hotline (1-800-784-8669). Trained counselors provide callers with information about the health consequences of tobacco use, assistance in making an individualized quit plan, and ongoing support through optional follow-up calls.
- My Life My Quit At My Life, My Quit we share the truth about nicotine, vaping and other tobacco products. If you decide you want to quit, we're here to help you do it successfully. Text "Start My Quit" to 855.891.9989 or call to talk with a coach who is ready to listen and cheer you on. It's YOUR LIFE and we're here to help you live it YOUR WAY.
- Vaping, E-Cigarettes & Electronic Smoking Devices Find up to date information on Vaping from the Iowa Department of Public Health Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control.
- Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids A leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. We advocate for public policies proven to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke. Learn more about our key initiatives.
- Iowa Dept. of Public Health Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Programs, events, master tobacco settlement agreement, publications and fact sheets, statistics.
- Tobacco.org Tobacco News and Information News, quotes, resources, links, tobacco history.
- Smoking and Tobacco Use from the CDC Site with tobacco information for all ages. Includes Surgeon General's tobacco reports, data, statistics and fact sheets, cessation information, educational materials, and campaigns and events.
- The American Lung Association State of Tobacco Control 2020 The American Lung Association has released its annual State of Tobacco Control report grading all 50 states on their policies to reduce tobacco addiction, diseases and death. Find out if your state has the policies in place to get the job done.
- American Cancer Society Smoking health issues, public issues, quitting smoking, the Great American Smokeout, smoking-related cancers.
- National Cancer Institute Valuable cancer-related health information. Tobacco, smoking and cessation fact sheets.
- Smokefree.gov Offers science-driven tools, information, and support proven effective in helping smokers quit. Find state and national resources, free materials, and the best quitting advice the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has to offer.
- TobaccoFree.org Organization aims is to educate people of all ages about smoking and tobacco use.
- TobaccoFreeLife.org Information and tips on how to get started, make a plan, and stay tobacco free.
- Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Information on secondhand smoke, smoke free advocacy, tobacco industry information, and current nonsmokers campaigns
(2012, August 20). Effects of Smoking on Your Health. Retrieved June 08, 2017, from https://betobaccofree.hhs.gov/health-effects/smoking-health/index.html
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