Counselor discusses impact of different types of drugs

By Alisha Thompson/reporter

Abusing substances of any kind, whether legal or illegal, is playing Russian roulette with one’s life, SE students learned at a session called Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders Oct. 19.

“Drugs are a problem often not talked about,” said licensed chemical dependency counselor Sam Weaver who has worked in counseling more than 20 years. “A lot of times with social pressure, people aren’t aware of the risks. They think a little bit of experimentation is no big deal.”

Drugs can be classified into three categories: uppers (stimulants), downers (depressants) and all-arounders (psychedelic/hallucinogens), each of which attack the central and autonomic nervous systems within the body, Weaver said. Chronic use can lead to liver cancer, heart disease, digestive and respiratory disorders.

Stimulants come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and forms, which can be smoked, inhaled or swallowed. They increase alertness, attention, energy, blood pressure, heart rate and respiration.

After consuming coffee, it can take up to 45 minutes to reach the autonomic nervous system that releases adrenaline, but “ingesting more than one-eighth of a teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine can kill you,” Weaver said. Smoking a cigarette takes seven seconds to reach the brain, increasing the body’s feel good dopamine levels and promoting a euphoric, more awake sensation.

Energy drinks such as Red Bull, Full Throttle and Mega Cut are sold legally but can become habit-forming since one can is equal to six cups of coffee, giving the user a temporary boost and then a hard crash.

Several studies have shown the top reasons why people turn to drugs are to fulfill a basic human need to cope with their environment, to be cool or to fit in to social pressure, to experiment, pleasure-seek or self-medicate to avoid painful memories.

The history of drugs dates back to prehistoric and ancient times. Even Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, “used cocaine in small amounts to treat patients suffering from depression,” Weaver said.

“Alcohol, a downer, is the first known drug, which can be dated back to ancient civilization,” Weaver said.

Downers slow the central nervous system. And when used in excess, they can cause slurred speech, loss of muscle coordination, blackouts and even death. Other downers include opiates, sedatives and muscle relaxers. Long-term effects include increased tolerance, depression or chronic fatigue.

All-arounders (psychedelic/hallucinogens) distort perceptions and can cause hallucinations, delusions or illusions. Drugs more commonly known as LSD, PCP, mushrooms and peyote have been known for years. But Weaver said these “new drugs that are being discovered, many are to get around drug testing. Some of these products were never intended to be put into the body,” including K2, spice and bath salts.

SE student Mechelle Nguyen took one thing in particular from the presentation.

“I learned that when mixing alcohol and drugs, it can result in much more severe effects,” Nguyen said.

Students in need of counseling can stop by the counseling and advising department on any campus for a free, confidential session.

“We would like students to take away from this event the tools needed to say no to peer pressure and think next time they are in a situation where drugs are offered,” Weaver said. “They will think what am I about to do and how will this impact me?”