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Alcohol and Drug Facts Week

Wednesday, 27 January 2016 00:00  by Yolanda F.

drug fact

Did you know that bath salts have been involved in thousands of visits to the emergency room? National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) may be the perfect time to learn the many interesting facts surrounding substance abuse. It never crossed my mind that bath salts could be dangerous. Yet, they are made up of chemicals and therefore, can be harmful if not used properly.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for Teens website, in 2011 alone, there were 22,904 reports of bath salts use during emergency room visits. About two thirds of those visits involved bath salts in combination with other drugs. It seems everywhere you turn there is potential danger, but education can help avoid an unnecessary crisis. This week-long observance held January 26 – February 1 is designed to join teens and scientific experts to shatter persistent myths about substance use and addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have launched new online toolkits designed for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week event holders interested in focusing on specific drugs. The toolkits highlight information to specific drugs or audiences, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • New Psychoactive Substances (Synthetics)
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription Drugs

Perhaps you know, but do your children know the dangers of cough and cold medicines? While presumably safe when taken as directed, when taken in higher quantities or when such symptoms aren’t present, they may affect the brain in ways very similar to illegal drugs.

Codeine, which is commonly contained as an additive to prescribed cough medicine, attaches to the same cell receptors as opioids like heroin. High doses of promethazine-codeine cough syrup can produce euphoria similar to that produced by other opioid drugs. Also, both codeine and promethazine depress activities in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), which produces calming effects. Repeatedly seeking to experience such calming affects and feelings of euphoria can lead to addiction.

Another troubling household possibility for danger is inhalants, also known as: “laughing gas” (nitrous oxide), “snappers” (amyl nitrite), “poppers” (amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite), “whippets” (fluorinated hydrocarbons), “bold” (nitrites), and “rush” (nitrites).

As teens, my friends and I never thought to use household chemicals this way, yet I’ve come to learn that inhalants are often among the first drugs that young adolescents use. Apparently, they are one of the few classes of drugs that are used more by younger adolescents than older ones. Inhalants are everyday ordinary household products that can be used to inhale and get high from the fumes. It only takes once to harm the brain, body and even cause death.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) reports approximately 100 to 125 inhalant deaths per year, based on contacts with families of victims and media accounts. But this isn’t the whole story. Inhalant-related deaths are often unreported either because they’re not recognized as such or because cases are kept quiet to avoid the stigma.

As parents and citizens, the best we can do is learn and get informed. Learn what you don’t know. Refresh yourself on the things you think you know. And never assume something doesn’t exist just because you’ve never heard of it before. Two words: bath salts. Now I know.

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