Heroin and Other Opioids

Poppies' Perilous Children

Inhalants and Solvents: Sniffing Disaster

Marijuana: Mind-Altering Weed

Methamphetamine: Unsafe Speed

Natural and Everyday Drugs: A False Sense of Security

Painkillers: Prescription Dependency

Recreational Ritalin: The Not-So-Smart Drug

Sedatives and Hypnotics: Deadly Downers

Steroids: Pumped Up and Dangerous

Tobacco: Through the Smoke Screen


Addicting drugs are among the greatest challenges to health, well-being, and the sense of independence and freedom for which we all strive—and yet these drugs are present in the everyday lives of most people. Almost every home has alcohol or tobacco waiting to be used, and has medicine cabinets stocked with possibly outdated but still potentially deadly drugs. Almost everyone has a friend or loved one with an addiction-related problem. Almost everyone seems to have a solution neatly summarized by word or phrase: medicalization, legalization, criminaliza-tion, war-on-drugs.

For better and for worse, drug information seems to be everywhere, but what information sources can you trust? How do you separate misinformation (whether deliberate or born of ignorance and prejudice) from the facts? Are prescription drugs safer than "street" drugs? Is occasional drug use really harmful? Is cigarette smoking more addictive than heroin? Is marijuana safer than alcohol? Are the harms caused by drug use limited to the users? Can some people become addicted following just a few exposures? Is treatment or counseling just for those with serious addiction problems?

These are just a few of the many questions addressed in this series. It is an empowering series because it provides the information and perspectives that can help people come to their own opinions and find answers to the challenges posed by drugs in their own lives. The series also provides further resources for information and assistance, recognizing that no single source has all the answers. It should be of interest and relevance to areas of study spanning biology, chemistry, history, health, social studies and more. Its efforts to provide a real-world context for the information that is clearly presented but not overly simplified should be appreciated by students, teachers, and parents.

The series is especially commendable in that it does not pretend to pose easy answers or imply that all decisions can be made on the basis of simple facts: some challenges have no immediate or simple solutions, and some solutions will need to rely as much upon basic values as basic facts. Despite this, the series should help to at least provide a foundation of knowledge. In the end, it may help as much by pointing out where the solutions are not simple, obvious, or known to work. In fact, at many points, the reader is challenged to think for him- or herself by being asked what his or her opinion is.

A core concept of the series is to recognize that we will never have all the facts, and many of the decisions will never be easy. Hopefully, however, armed with information, perspective, and resources, readers will be better prepared for taking on the challenges posed by addictive drugs in everyday life.

/What Are Over-the-Counter Drugs?

When the word "drug" comes to mind, people either conjure up images of illegal substances like cocaine and heroin—or they think of medical drugs. But while people may distinguish between these two categories of drugs, a growing trend links the two: over-the-counter (OTC) drug abuse.

OTC drugs are substances that alter the body for medical purposes but that don't need a doctor's prescription to be purchased. This category of drugs includes some medicines that treat headaches, colds, coughing, and allergies. Common medicines such as Advil®, Tylenol®, and Robi-tussin® are all classified as over-the-counter drugs.

While these medicines may seem innocent enough, more and more people are intentionally misusing them.

OTC drug abuse is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2003, the American Association of Poison Control Centers cited a doubling in OTC drug-related calls to U.S. poison control centers. Emergency room visits having to do with OTC drug abuse have also increased dramatically. Nor is this abuse just a problem contained in North America. Countries around the world have also seen a rise in abuse. In Switzerland, the Swiss Toxicological Information Center saw a rise in calls relating to OTC products, which are easily bought in stores and on the street.

Instead of seeking the drugs' medicinal benefits, users want to experience the highs that accompany taking large amounts of some OTC drugs. Unfortunately, these habits are detrimental to users' health. In fact, they can be just as serious as illegal drug abuse.

Continue reading here: Deadly Cough Syrup

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