Learn more about drugs and how to support your health and wellness
Health and wellness are core necessities whether a person has an active drug use disorder or is in early or long-term recovery. In short, health and wellness means taking care of yourself in any healthy way to help improve your life.
Repeated patterns of drug use can lead to chronic health conditions (physical and/or emotional) that impact both the length of a person’s life, and the overall quality of life that can be experienced and achieved.
Recovery from a drug use disorder can be hard, but you can help yourself by improving your physical and mental health, or supporting a loved one in doing so. This may mean starting to exercise more, relaxing by listening to music, or it may mean seeking help from a professional, like a mental health therapist. If you need ideas to improve your health and wellness, talk with your healthcare provider, ask for advice from healthy and sober supports or search the internet for ideas. Always pay attention to your personal needs and remember, there is hope wherever you are. Stories of recovery happen every day.
Types of Drugs
- Club drugs
- Crack or cocaine
- Prescription drugs and cold medicines
- Steroids (anabolic)
- Tobacco and nicotine
Myths & Facts
How much do you know about drugs and their effects? Review these statements about drugs and learn the facts.
Nicotine is the only chemical in cigarettes that affects the brain.
Myth. Research suggests that there are other chemicals in tobacco smoke that affect the brain. It’s not just nicotine.
Anabolic steroids are still addictive, even though they do not get the user “high” like other drugs.
Fact. The use of anabolic steroids can lead to addiction. Like other drugs, anabolic steroids do affect brain chemistry and neurologic pathways.
Using cocaine speeds up the advancement of a HIV infection.
Fact. Research indicates that cocaine use hinders the body’s immune system and allows the HIV infection to progress more quickly.
There’s no such thing as an overdose on marijuana.
Myth. It is possible to overdose on marijuana. An overdose happens when a person uses too much of a drug and it reaches toxic levels in the body.
Ecstasy acts like both a stimulant and a hallucinogen.
Fact. Since it is similar chemically to both stimulants and hallucinogens, ecstasy produces feelings of increased pleasure, energy and distorted reality.
It is safer to use prescription drugs than it is to use street drugs.
Myth. Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and addictive as street drugs.
Heroin is turned into morphine in the brain.
Fact. Heroin is absorbed into the brain quickly, where it is converted to morphine.
Bath salts can be at least 10 times more powerful than cocaine.
Fact. 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) is one common drug found in synthetic bath salts. A scientific study found that MDVP affects the brain in a way similar to cocaine, but it is at least 10 times more powerful.
The feeling of having a "high" from one dose of methamphetamine can last days.
Myth. The high from methamphetamine starts and fades quickly. Because of this, drug users will often take repeated doses in a "binge and crash" cycle.
Drug use is a factor in many car crashes, falls, burns, drownings, suicides, homicides, sexual assaults and transfers of sexually transmitted infections. If you choose to use drugs, reduce your risk.
Drug use, in both single and repetitive forms, has a significant effect on how people function and perceive the world. It is very common for people to struggle to understand just how much and how strongly their drug use has or is influencing their function. A drug’s effect varies from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:
- How much and how often you use
- Type of drug you use
- Your age and gender
- Your health status and mental health status
- Your family support system
- Your family history
Substance use disorders develop when the brain is exposed to an amount of a drug that causes structural and chemical changes to occur in the brain. The reason some are more affected by a certain amount of a drug while others are less affected is unknown. What we do know: depending on the person and the drug, any amount can cause the development of an addiction. The structural and chemical changes that occur in the brain cause the pleasurable feelings one experiences when under the influence of drugs. This is why people with a substance use disorder feel compelled to use more, even if it causes harm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are over-the-counter (OTC) drugs dangerous?
All drugs, regardless of whether they are illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter (available without a prescription), change the body’s function or chemistry, and can be harmful. OTC drugs are available to the public with the understanding that they will be used only as directed and to treat a particular ailment.
An overdose on over-the-counter drugs can vary greatly depending on what other drugs they are mixed with, the amount of drugs taken, and how they are taken. Some over-the-counter drugs can cause serious problems or even death if used incorrectly. The only safe way to take over-the-counter medications is exactly as directed on the bottle and to treat the symptoms for which they are intended.
Are prescription drugs dangerous?
ALL drugs are chemicals that affect the body. But some people don’t realize that prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs can be equally as dangerous as street drugs. The very reason prescription drugs require a prescription from a doctor is because they are powerful substances, and need to be regulated and taken under a physician’s care to ensure that patients take them safely. Even if a person is prescribed a medication, taking more of that drug, or taking it more often than recommended, is dangerous.
Additionally, getting prescription drugs without a prescription is illegal and may subject a person to arrest and prosecution. Regardless of how you acquire a prescription medication, using these types of drugs without a valid prescription and medical supervision is unsafe and illegal.
Source: Above the Influence
How quickly can someone become addicted to a drug?
There is no easy answer to this common question. If and how quickly you become addicted to a drug depends on many factors, including your biology (your genes, for example), age, gender, environment and interactions among these factors. While one person may use a drug one or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may overdose with the first use or become addicted after a few uses. There is no way of knowing in advance how quickly you will become addicted, but there are some clues—an important one being whether you have a family history of addiction.
Can you get addicted even though you only do it once in a while?
No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to be an addict.” Addiction is a process – not an event. Most people who start using drugs do so with the intention of only using once or occasionally. But drugs affect the brain, so even with only occasional use, changes are happening that could lead to addiction. The “occasional” use of drugs can quickly change to frequent use and then to constant use. No one knows when the “chemical switch” goes off in your brain or who will get addicted. It’s a little like playing Russian Roulette—you just never know. The only thing we do know is that if you don’t do drugs, you definitely won’t get addicted.
Source: Above the Influence
Encouragement. One Text at a time.
You can never have too much support. Especially when you’re facing a problem with alcohol or drug use, gambling, suicidal thoughts or mental health challenges. That’s why Your Life Iowa created our supportive text messaging program. So you can sign up to receive messages designed to provide you encouragement, no matter what you may be facing.
Brain injuries can be a multi-occurring condition with substance use.
Brain injuries are often a multi-occurring condition with substance use. Screening for brain injury is a best practice when responding to, and/or planning clinical and community-based responses for clients in health, community, and corrections services. Brain injury screening tools can provide a brief assessment of a person's exposure to brain injury, but do not provide a diagnosis or indicate an absence of a brain injury. Learn more with the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa.
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