SUPPORTING YOUTH
STRENGTHENING FAMILIES

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Drugs can be obtained very easily in our community

In large part because of Monroe County’s relatively close proximity to ports of entry from Canada and to the NYS Thruway and other interstates that serve as “drug highways,” according to a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office undercover narcotics officer for the Pittsford area. Transportation of drugs in private vehicles or concealed within legitimate shipments in commercial vehicles is commonplace and extremely hard to detect, due to the high volume of daily traffic.Drugs are also transported to our area by air, rail, and buses.

The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Assessment 2007 states marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the NY/NJ Region, and availability of high potency hydroponic marijuana is increasing, coming across the Canadian border.

Cocaine and heroin also pose serious threats. Heroin use is increasing, particularly among youth, and is spreading throughout all demographic classes. MDMA (Ecstasy) trafficking has also increased significantly.

KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR SUPPLY - if you keep alcohol in the house and/or in the garage, and keep a close watch on medications kept in your house or in your purse! Also keep tabs on your child’s money and ask for receipts.

Where do kids get alcohol and other drugs? What do they cost?

Kids are very resourceful despite how much you try to supervise. You need to know drugs are very easy to get wherever kids congregate.

  • Alcohol is usually obtained from parents and/or their home liquor supply, from a friend’s parents’ or a neighbor’s house or garage.

  • It is also bought by proxy—older, “legal” kids buy and then sell for a profit to younger kids; fake IDs are also used by older teens and college students.

  • Marijuana is easily obtainable anywhere in our community. It can be purchased from other kids or dealers in public places or can be delivered to your home or to an agreed-upon pick-up location. Other sources include an older brother or sister, an older friend, or an adult with whom your child is familiar (a parent, relative, or friend).

  • Today’s marijuana is hydroponically grown and much more potent than the pot of the ‘60s. It is usually sold in small bags and the cost is approximately $10 for 1.9 grams, $20 for 3.8 grams, $40–45 for an 1/8 ounce, $80 for a 1/4 ounce, $120 for a 1/2 ounce and $200 or more for an ounce, depending on the quality.

  • Cocaine (powdered) is sold in small bags for $10; larger amounts (“eight balls”) are sold for $150–$180. Kids may buy a dime ($10) bag of cocaine from a peer, but dealers get it from the city. Cocaine is being seen enough in Pittsford for there to be concern. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office projects this problem to worsen because of our “economic good fortune;” dealers know they can make a profit in Pittsford.
  • OxyContin® is usually stolen from someone who has chronic and/or severe pain, or purchased from another teen, or purchased from an online source.*

  • Vicodin® is usually stolen from someone who has chronic and/or severe pain, or purchased from another teen, or purchased from an online source.*

  • Ritalin® and other ADHD medications are usually taken from home, or purchased from other kids who sell pills from their own or a sibling’s prescription. Pills range in price from $1 to $5, depending on the strength of the pill/tablet.

  • DXM is the active ingredient in Coricidin®, some Robitussin® products or other OTC cold medications. These products can be purchased or stolen from local pharmacies or supermarkets or taken from home medicine cabinets. (To find out the right dosage to take to get high, kids can go to Internet sites that give detailed information about how much to take according to height, weight and the intensity of the high desired.)

FAST FACT: 8% of Pittsford high school students stated they were under the influence of marijuana during school.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

Drug paraphernalia:

  • It is very easy for kids to purchase drug paraphernalia, if they have an older sibling or friend willing to drive them to make the purchase. There are local shops and even some local flea markets that sell rolling papers, pipes, bongs, bubblers and other drug-related items. Some shops may carry legitimate merchandise, but may also have drug paraphernalia for sale in a back room or elsewhere.
  • The Internet is increasingly becoming a source to buy prescription drugs without a prescription. It is also a good place to buy drug paraphernalia. It is very easy to use a parent’s credit card number to make these purchases.

Where kids may use alcohol and other drugs:

  • Gatherings where kids are allowed to roam freely without close parental supervision are prime places to use and deal, such as village/town/school celebrations/sports events.

  • In addition, there are many places for kids to gather and get high or drunk, including local wooded areas, parks, parking lots, along the canal, and in your own basements and rec. rooms, children’s bedrooms, behind your garage, or in secluded areas in your neighborhood, if you aren’t paying attention.

Our kids are telling us:

“Kids start using young, like middle school, and teens are not only using pot or alcohol.”
– Pittsford high school senior

“Drinking and driving or driving high are more common than people think.”
– Pittsford high school sophomore

“Peer normalization is much more prevalent than peer pressure.”
– Pittsford high school senior

“Experimenting isn’t provoked by peer pressure; people choose to do things because others get away with it.”
– Pittsford high school sophomore

Average age for first use of alcohol and other drugs:

  • Some kids may start using drugs as early as age 12 (or earlier) although 14 to 16 is the average age of first use. Older siblings may influence earlier use. Transitions, such as the move from 8th to 9th grade, are a common time for kids to start experimentation.

  • Kids may start using alcohol and inhalants at an earlier age, sometimes as early as age 10, because of the easy accessibility of these substances in their homes.

FAST FACT: 20% of Pittsford high school students and 26% of middle school students rode in a car with someone who had been drinking alcohol.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

Most frequently abused substances in Pittsford

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey® conducted in April, 2011 the most frequently abused substances in Pittsford are:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Prescription drugs: OxyContin®, Vicodin® (pain medications) and Ritalin®, Dexedrine®, Adderall®, and Concerta® (ADHD medications) Valium, Xanax, Percocet
  • Cocaine
  • Inhalants used as hallucinogens (glue, aerosol propellents, gasoline, paints, correction fluid, “dusters,” etc.)

Anecdotal data from a local undercover Sheriff’s deputy also noted abuse of the following substances in Pittsford:

- OTC (over-the-counter) DRUGS: Robitussin®, Coricidin®, other cold medications which contain DXM (dextromethorphan)
- HEROIN
- CLUB DRUGS: MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine and LSD
- OTHER PLANT SUBSTANCES, such as Salvia Divinorum or Datura Stramonium (common names: moonflower, angel trumpet, jimson weed); Psilocybin mushrooms
- HERBAL MIXTURES, such as Spice, K2, K3

ALCOHOL

  • “Alcopops,” sweet drinks that contain 5%–7% alcohol, are especially popular with girls. These drinks come in colorful packaging and appear to be marketed to young teens.
  • Among kids who begin drinking at age 13, 43% will go on to develop alcoholism.
  • People reporting they first used alcohol before age 15 are more than 15 times more likely to report past year alcohol dependence or abuse than people who first used alcohol as adults at age 21 or older.
  • Children of alcoholics have a 4 to 10 times greater risk of becoming alcoholics than children of non-alcoholics.
  • More than one third of America’s alcoholics (4.7 million) are 21 years old or younger.
  • Adolescents who use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active, which places them at greater risk of HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • Adolescents diagnosed with alcohol abuse are four times more likely to experience major depression than those without an alcohol problem, according to one study. In addition, alcohol use among adolescents has been associated with considering, planning, attempting, and completing suicide.
  • Combining alcohol with other drugs is especially dangerous because the effects of each drug are multiplied.

FAST FACT: Binge drinking is heavy consumption of alcohol (5 drinks) within a short period of time. 21% of Pittsford high school students who drank, have engaged in binge drinking in the past 30 days.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

Fast Fact: 15% of Pittsford 9th graders have used alcohol in the past month. This number jumps to 55% among Pittsford 12th graders.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

MARIJUANA

Is marijuana a “gateway” drug? Absolutely, say researchers, scientists and drug users who began their drug use with pot. Studies are underway to validate that today’s more potent marijuana changes brain chemistry in a way that causes users to be more prone to addiction to other drugs. There is also the issue of taking that first step to the “other side,” by breaking the law to use an illegal substance, and being exposed to other drug users and even more harmful drugs.

  • Marijuana use can impact an adolescent’s learning ability and short-term memory. Specifically, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active chemical in marijuana, can affect the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls memory, learning and emotion and motivation. This is especially significant for adolescents because their brains are still developing.
  • The THC in marijuana can also significantly interfere with adolescent emotions and motivation, again because of the effect it has on the hippocampus.
  • Marijuana use can cause an increased frequency of chest colds or symptoms of chronic bronchitis due to the irritation of the respiratory system, which may result in more school days missed.
  • Studies show that teens who are heavy marijuana users often have difficulty sustaining attention, shifting attention to changes in the environment and in registering, processing and using the information gained in school.
  • Marijuana use inhibits nausea, which may allow adolescents to drink high quantities of alcohol without vomiting. This could result in death due an overdose of alcohol.
  • Getting high contributes to risky and irresponsible behavior such as delinquency and multiple sexual partners.
  • Although used by some teens to reduce anxiety, marijuana use in adolescents can cause increased panic attacks, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, and for those prone to depression it can actually accelerate those problems.
  • Marijuana has a potentially higher cancer risk than tobacco because it contains higher amounts of tar and other chemicals. Studies have shown that consumption of five marijuana joints per week is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
  • Studies have found that marijuana use can trigger a heart attack, even in teens, and the risks are five times higher than usual in the hour after smoking marijuana.
  • When an adolescent uses marijuana regularly, his or her normal psychological and social development is put on hold because of the effects of marijuana on brain chemistry. If and when the user finally makes the commitment to stop using, these developmental stages will still have to be experienced, even at a later age.
  • Marijuana use affects concentration, perception reaction and coordination time, all of which are essential for safe driving.

FAST FACT: In Pittsford, 5% of Pittsford 8th graders have tried marijuana. By the time Pittsford students are in 10th grade, 20% have tried marijuana. 42% of Pittsford seniors have tried marijuana and 28% have used in the last month.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

NICOTINE (Tobacco)

  • The peak time for the initiation of smoking is in the 6th and 7th grades.
  • 90% of all adult smokers began at or before age 18.
  • According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey®, 17% of Pittsford high school students have tried cigarettes.
  • One million teens begin smoking and one third of them will die from tobacco-related illnesses each year.
  • The number of girls smoking has increased significantly in recent years. One of the main reasons given is to lose weight and to maintain weight loss.
  • Nicotine is highly addictive, working as both a stimulant and a sedative. Depression and fatigue follow the stimulation of smoking, causing the need for more nicotine.
  • Kids exhibit serious symptoms of addiction within weeks or just days of first smoking according to recent research.
  • Adolescent smokers are 29 times more likely to fail when trying to quit than adult smokers because of the strong addictive properties of nicotine and its effect on the adolescent brain.
  • Kids who smoke are three times more likely to use alcohol, 14 times more likely to use marijuana, and 22 times more likely to use cocaine than non-smokers according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Other consequences include a decrease in physical performance, shortness of breath, gum disease, tooth decay, persistent coughs, greater susceptibility to illness, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

OTHER TOBACCO-LIKE PRODUCTS

  • Clove cigarettes (kreteks) and flavored bidis are popular and are legally available in some shops. Both are made primarily of tobacco, and contain twice as much tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide as regular cigarettes (according to the CDC), though kids who smoke them think they’re more “natural” than cigarettes. Clove cigarettes have the added risk of causing lung infections and allergic reactions.

INHALANTS

  • Inhalants are widely available in households, so they are easy to obtain. Because of their availability, inhalants are often the “drug of choice” for younger children.
  • Inhalants are volatile substances such as cleaning solvents, gasoline, glues or paint thinners that are sniffed directly from the container, “huffed” from a rag soaked in the substance, or poured or sprayed into a bag and then deeply inhaled. Other inhalants include aerosol propellants (“whippits,” from Reddi Whip®, etc.), computer keyboard cleaners (Dust Off®, etc.), nitrous oxide, amyl nitrate, and butyl nitrate.
  • Short-term inhalant use can cause heart palpitations, breathing difficulty, dizziness and headaches.
  • Long-term use can have irreversible side effects such as brain damage, central nervous system damage, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, and heart failure.
  • SSD (Sudden Sniffing Death) can also occur after the very first use or after repeated use of inhalants due to the displacement of oxygen in the brain, lungs, and other organs.

FAST FACT: In Pittsford, 7% of 9th graders have reported using inhalants in their lifetime.
– Youth Risk Behavior Survey® 2011

COCAINE

Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that causes a powerful high. Cocaine is sniffed or snorted, injected, or smoked (including “freebase” and “crack” cocaine).

  • Cocaine use causes constricted peripheral blood vessels, dilated pupils, increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, as well as restlessness, irritability, aggression, anxiety and paranoia.
  • Prolonged cocaine snorting can result in ulceration of the mucous membrane of the nose and can damage the nasal septum enough to cause it to collapse.
  • Cocaine-related deaths are often a result of cardiac arrest or seizures followed by respiratory arrest.
  • Mixing cocaine and alcohol is especially dangerous. Researchers have found that the human liver combines cocaine and alcohol to make a third substance, coca ethylene, which can increase the risk of sudden death.

PRESCRIPTION AND OTC (OVER THE COUNTER) MEDICATIONS

In Pittsford, the most widely abused medications are Ritalin®, Adderall®, Concerta® and Dexadrine® (legally prescribed for ADHD, but they may be taken or stolen and sold), and prescription pain medication such as Vicodin® and OxyContin®. Abused over-the-counter (OTC) medications include cold medications such as Robitussin® and Coricidin®.

PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS

  • Ritalin® and other ADHD stimulant medications help to balance neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain, allowing students to maintain focus in class. These medications, when taken as prescribed, are very effective in reducing ADHD symptoms and do not lead to substance abuse. But these medications are also commonly abused. Kids may crush them and “snort” (inhale) the powder to get a more immediate (and dangerous) high.
  • Some teens snort “lines” of Ritalin® and other ADHD medications before lunch to reduce appetite. These medications are also abused by teens and college kids to increase energy levels and to stay up late to study, thus it has been named the “cramming drug.”
  • Ingesting high amounts of stimulants such as Ritalin® consistently over a short period of time can lead to increased feelings of hostility or paranoia.
  • High doses of stimulants can result in irregularly high body temperatures and rapid heart rates as well as the possibility for high blood pressure, heart failure, loss ofconsciousness, deadly seizures and death.
  • OxyContin® (oxycodone) is a narcotic that is very addictive and its effects can be compared to those of heroin (though withdrawal from this drug is said to be even worse than heroin). Abuse of OxyContin® causes cardiovascular damage, liver damage, and scarred and collapsed veins. Other long-term effects are unknown, since this drug has been around for less than a decade. Data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that the most dramatic increase in new users of prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes occurs in 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25 year-olds. It also appears that college students’ non-medical use of pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin® and Percodan®) and hydrocodone (Vicodin®) is on the rise.

FAST FACT: In recent years, girls have caught up with boys in their drug use, including the misuse of prescription drugs.
– Office of National Drug Control Policy 2010

FAST FACT: More than 70% of people who abuse prescription painkillers say they get them from family or friends. 40%
of 12th graders say they are easy to get and 10% of teens say they took them from friends or relatives without asking.
www.the antidrug.com

OTC MEDICATIONS

  • “Robo-tripping” is the slang term kids use to describe when cold and cough medicines containing DXM (dextromethorphan), such as Robitussin®, Coricidin HBP®, Vicks NyQuil® and Vicks Formula 44® are consumed to create a hallucinogenic effect similar to PCP or LSD. See the Terms/Slang section of this guide for related slang terms used.
  • DXM is often mixed with alcohol or soda to mask the flavor and the color.
  • There has been a recent rise in emergency room visits and poison control contacts as a result of “robo-tripping.” Kids who have overdosed on DXM have experienced accelerated heart beat, very high blood pressure, tremors, seizures, brain damage, stroke and death. Even more dangerous is the combination of DXM and other drugs, such as acetaminophen, which can cause permanent liver damage and liver failure.

HEROIN

  • Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, in the form of a white or brown powder that is snorted or dissolved and injected. Short-term effects include euphoria followed by wakeful/drowsy states and confusion. Fatal overdose can occur with first time use or continued use. Long-term users may also develop collapsed veins, liver disease, lung complications, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and general poor health.

CLUB DRUGS

  • MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD can all cause serious health problems such as long-term damage to serotonin-containing neurons in the brain, and in some cases even death. Because some club drugs are colorless, tasteless, and odorless, they can be added unnoticed to beverages by someone who wants to intoxicate or sedate others. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of club drugs used to commit sexual assaults.

OTHER PLANT SUBSTANCES

Flowering Plants

  • Datura Stramonium, a common garden and roadside plant in this area, also known as moonflower, jimson weed or angel’s trumpet, causes hallucinogenic effects, irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular collapse and coma. All parts of the plant are deadly.
  • Salvia Divinorum’s effects are similar to those of other hallucinogens; including depression, schizophrenia and “flashbacks.” Long-term effects are unknown.
  • Psilocybin mushrooms cause LSD-type highs, anxiety, disorientation and paranoia.
  • Herbal Mixtures. “Spice” is used to describe a diverse family of herbal mixtures also marketed under K2, K3, fake marijuana, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others. Although they are sold as incense they are used as an alternative to marijuana and produce very similiar effects.

ADDITIONAL CONSEQUENCES

  • Effects on physical growth. Repeated alcohol and other drug use near puberty lead to a decrease in bone volume in the limbs and the skull, especially in boys. Long-term drinking can lead to addiction and permanent damage to the brain, liver and other vital organs.
  • Arrested psychological development. When kids use alcohol, tobacco or other drugs as a crutch in social situations, they severely hamper their ability to develop the necessary social skills and self-confidence to be successful in their dealings with others.
  • Car crashes. Alcohol and other drugs reduce a person’s normal reaction time, increasing the chances of crashes. Driving under the influence or having passengers who are drunk can result in not only the loss of a driver’s license and insurance, but more importantly, injury or death.
  • Date rape/loss of judgment. When one or more parties are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, loss of judgment and lower inhibitions may result. Sexual activity may occur that will not only be regretted later on, but may result in pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases. To have sex with a person who is mentally or physically incapable of saying “no” or is unaware of what is happening is to commit rape, which is a crime.
  • Shattered dreams/Lost opportunities. Those who repeatedly use alcohol and other drugs as teens may fail to complete goals regarding education, employment, marriage and financial independence. Lost opportunities may include suspension or expulsion from school, rejection for summer or full-time employment as more and more companies are requiring their employees to pass drug tests, or risk of arrest and/or fines.

Fast Fact: Alcohol is involved in as many as 73% of all rapes and up to 70% of all incidents of domestic violence.
– www.casacolumbia.org 2011

Information taken from the following sources:

  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • A Parent’s Guide For the Prevention of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use, Community of Concern; National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • www.theantidrug.org
  • Teens Under the Influence by Katherine Ketcham and Nicholas A. Pace, M.D
  • Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
  • Ann M. Bayer, CASAC, Pittsford School District Prevention Coordinator

LOCAL AND NATIONAL RESOURCES

Emergency Numbers


Monroe County Sheriff
911
Life Line
275-5151, TTY 275-2700
Monroe County Drug Help Line
275-0505, TTY 275-2700
National Poision Center
1-800-222-1222

 

If you suspect your child has a substance abuse problem:


Your family physician or pediatrician and/or your Employee Assistance Program
 
Pittsford School District Prevention Coordinator
267-3677
Pittsford Youth Services, Inc.
248-6299
Monroe County Crime Prevention Officer
753-4387
Pittsford Community Wellness Coordinator
267-3343

 

For substance abuse evaluation, counseling, treatment and aftercare:


Catholic Family Center–Restart Substance Abuse Services
546-3046
Conifer Park Counseling Services
(evaluation, inpatient, outpatient, aftercare)
442-8422
Delphi Drug & Alcohol Council
467-2230
DePaul National Council on Alcohol & Drug Dependence
Rochester Area
426-8000
St. Joseph’s Villa of Rochester
(evaluation, outpatient, adolescent residential, aftercare)
865-1550
Substance & Alcohol Intervention Services for the Deaf /RIT
TTY 475-4978
Unity Health Chemical Dependency Services/Park Ridge
(evaluation, outpatient, inpatient, long term adolescent residential, aftercare)
723-7740
Westfall Associates (evaluation, outpatient, aftercare)
473-1500

 

What’s 211?

211 is an easy-to remember telephone number that connects callers to information about health and human services    available in our community, such as counseling, drug and alcohol intervention, eldercare, summer camps and recreation programs, tutoring, emergency food, clothing and shelter, and volunteer opportunities.

 

Self-help groups:


Alcoholics Anonymous (Rochester Area Intergroup, Inc.)
232-6720
to download a local meeting list, go to:
www.rochester-ny-aa.org
Narcotics Anonymous
234-7889
to download a local meeting list, go to:
www.na.org
AlAnon/AlaTeen
(for family members and friends of alcoholics/addicts)
288-0540
to download a local meeting list, go to:
www.aisrochester.org

 

Legal help/law enforcement:


Catholic Family Center/Legal Services
232-1840
Drug Court
428-2736
Family Court/ Juvenile Drug Court
428-1797
PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision) Info Line
428-2250
AlAnon/AlaTeen
(for family members and friends of alcoholics/addicts)
288-0540
Monroe County Sheriff/Zone A
753-4370

  

To report drug activities:

24 hour “GIVE TIP” Drug Hotline
(can be anonymous)
1-800-448-3847
Drug Crime Hotline
428-6000
Monroe County Drug Help Line
275-0505, TTY 275-2700

PARENT RESOURCE GUIDE

This is a great resource with everything from prevention and intervention strategies to in depth information on where to go for help

Click here for the 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey


DRUGS ARE CHEMICALS.

They work in the brain by tapping into its communication system and interfering with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. Different drugs—because of their chemical structures—work differently. In fact, some can change the brain in ways that last long after the person has stopped taking them, maybe even permanently. This is more likely when a drug is taken repeatedly.

FAST FACT: Adolescents are more vulnerable to addictive substances than adults because the parts of the brain responsible for judgment, decision making, emotion and impulse control are not yet fully developed. This developmental process will not be complete until the mid-20’s.

How Drugs Affect the Brain

Some drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, activate neurons because their chemical structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter. In fact, these drugs can “fool” receptors, can lock onto them, and can activate the nerve cells. The problem is, they don't work the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, so the neurons wind up sending abnormal messages through the brain.

Other drugs, such as amphetamines, cause nerve cells to release excessive amounts of natural neurotransmitters or prevent the normal recycling of these brain chemicals. This leads to an exaggerated message in the brain, ultimately wreaking havoc on the communication channels. The difference in effect is like the difference between someone whispering in your ear versus someone shouting in a microphone.

How Drugs "Hijack" the Brain

All drugs of abuse—nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and others—affect the brain’s “reward” circuit, which is part of the limbic system. Normally, the reward circuit responds to pleasurable experiences by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, which creates feelings of pleasure, and tells the brain that this is something important—pay attention and remember it. Drugs hijack this system, causing unusually large amounts of dopamine to flood the system. Sometimes, this lasts for a long time compared to what happens when a natural reward stimulates dopamine. This flood of dopamine is what causes the “high” or euphoria associated with drug abuse.

A Downward Spiral

With repeated use the brain starts changing as a result of the unnatural flood of neurotransmitters. Because they sense more than enough dopamine, neurons may begin to reduce the number of dopamine receptors or simply make less dopamine. The result is less dopamine signaling in the brain, what the scientists call “down regulation.” Because some drugs are toxic, some neurons also may die. As a result, dopamine’s ability to activate circuits to cause pleasure is severely weakened. The person feels flat, lifeless, and depressed. In fact, without drugs, life may seem joyless. Now the person needs drugs just to bring dopamine levels up to normal. Larger amounts of the drug are needed to create a dopamine flood, or “high”—an effect known as “tolerance.” These brain changes drive a person to seek out and use drugs compulsively, despite negative consequences.

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