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Minnesota Adult Basic Education Disability Specialists

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About Specific Chemicals

Marijuana/ Cannabis [Depressant]

THC, pot, hash, cannabis, grass, joint, dope, weed, reefer, nail, green and Mary Jane alter mood and perception. Marijuana’s active ingredient is called THC. The higher the amount of THC, the more potent the marijuana.

Marijuana is green and/or brown dried leaves, stems and seeds from the hemp plant. Marijuana is normally smoked in a rolled up cigarette, called a joint or nail, or in a hollowed out cigar, called a blunt. Sometimes marijuana is brewed in a tea and other individuals also eat marijuana in the form of baked goods, normally brownies.


  1. It irritates the lungs and lowers lung capacity for oxygen causing respiratory issues including coughing and increased vulnerability to respiratory infections, including pneumonia and emphysema.
  2. It prevents short-term memory from storing into long-term memory.
  3. It decreases reaction and concentration time, impairing planning, decision-making and driving skills.
  4. It causes balance and coordination problems.
  5. It raises blood pressure and can double a persons heartbeat
  6. It increases the risk for heart disease
  7. It causes cancer. One joint has about the same amount of tar as 12 cigarettes.
  8. It creates deformed sperm, erectile dysfunction and lower testosterone levels in males.
  9. It reduces sexual reflexes, which include pre-orgasmic events, orgasm and post-orgasmic changes that occur during intercourse.
  10. It reduces both male and female sex drive.
  11. It mixes with other nervous system depressants irritates the central nervous system. This irritation can also increase the amount and intensity of pain after the high wears off. Since it takes more time for your nervous system to calm down.
  12. It can cause panic attacks and increase generalized feelings of anxiety.
  13. It can cause unhealthy eating habits and lead to weight gain.


Whippets, poppers, snappers, rush, bolt, bullet, aerosol sprays, solvents, gasoline, glues, laughing gas and anything with propellant cause mental confusion. Inhalants can be many things including spray paints, glues, cleaning supplies, gasoline, deodorant sprays, hairsprays, aerosol cooking sprays, felt tip markers, office supplies such as white out, butane lighters and refills for butane lighters. Most individuals will sniff the chemical or place it in large balloons and inhale it.

Inhalants are very dangerous and many people have died from using them. The high is caused by cutting oxygen off from the brain.


  1. They increase nausea and cause coughing fits.
  2. They interfere with the respiratory system increasing risk of respiratory infection including pneumonia.
  3. They increase balance and coordination problems.
  4. They can cause additional injuries and make existing ones worse.
  5. They impair judgment, reasoning and problem solving.
  6. They can cause fatigue and weakness, especially in muscles.
  7. They can cause incontinence of urine and feces, and can also cause permanent liver damage. Chemicals “gum up” the liver, making parts of it unusable.
  8. They damage the growing bone marrow, affecting and deforming white blood cells.
    These important cells fight diseases and heal wounds, protecting the body.
  9. They can diminish muscle tone and create long-term muscle fatigue.
  10. They can increase violent thoughts and behaviors.
  11. They can cause death since the high is oxygen being cut off from the brain. The brain is literally being suffocated. This causes brain damage or further brain damage.

Heroin [Narcotic]

Smack, horse, junk, mud, black tar, brown sugar and Big H lowers the perception of pain.

Heroin is processed from morphine and is normally a white or brown powder that comes from the poppy plant. It causes an increase in wakefulness followed by drowsiness. Heroin can be smoked, snorted, sniffed or injected—injection is the most common form of administration. Withdrawal can be extremely dangerous.


  1. It increases vomiting and nausea.
  2. It creates uncontrollable itching.
  3. It slows breathing and interferes with respiratory function causing slow
    and shallow breathing and increased rate of infection.
  4. Use of needles increases risk of AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis.
  5. It creates confusion.
  6. It can cause constipation.
  7. It interferes with balance and coordination.
  8. It increases restlessness, muscle and bone pain.
  9. It increases insomnia.
  10. It can cause collapsed veins.
  11. It can cause infections in the heart valves and blood vessels.
  12. It can cause lung and kidney disease and cancer.
  13. It can cause or worsen arthritis.
  14. It can cause miscarriage.

Cocaine/Crack [Stimulant]

Snow, flake, white, blow, nose candy, Big C, snowbirds, lady, Charlie, toot and rock speed up the central nervous system. Cocaine is often cut with other chemicals that look like it to increase the street value, which can make it even more dangerous.

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug that can be snorted, sniffed, smoked or injected. Crack is made by cooking the cocaine into a rock form and smoking it. The term crack comes from the sound it makes while cooking it. Cocaine and crack causes euphoria and manic behavior. Often individuals will not sleep or eat for days, then crash into a deep depression.


  1. It can create bladder control problems like overfilling, incontinence and bowel problems.
  2. It increases the risk of stroke and seizures.
  3. It increases blood pressure and heart rate, and can also lead to an irregular heartbeat and chest pains.
  4. It can cause strokes and heart attacks.
  5. It can cause dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia).
  6. It can cause weight loss that can lead to skin breakdown.
  7. It overstimulates the central nervous system often increasing spasticity and increased pain.
  8. It increases feeling of paranoia, anxiety and hallucinations.
  9. It can increase headaches and make migraines worse.
  10. It decreases sex drive and sexual pleasure.
  11. It causes the body to stop absorbing calcium. This causes the body to take it from stores like our teeth, nails, hair and bones, leading to dental problems, brittle nails, dry lifeless hair and brittle bones.
  12. It increases feelings of depression and intensifies other mental health issues, including anxiety.
  13. Needle use increases the risk of AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis.
  14. It makes falling and staying asleep difficult when high, and it makes waking up difficult as the effects wear off.
  15. It causes chronic sinus problems.
  16. It weakens the immune system.

Amphetamines/Methamphetamine/Crank Including Ecstasy, MDMA, Adam, XTC, Essence [Stimulant]

Speed, uppers, ups, black beauties, pep pills, hearts, beans, love drug, hug, geep, Ice, lemon drop, sketch, spoosh, tick, wash, cinnamon, X, footballs, crystal meth and meth also speed up the central nervous system.

Amphetamines are normally taken in pill form orally. Meth can be taken orally, or by snorting, smoking or injection. It often is a clear crystal or powder and easily dissolves in water or alcohol. Often it is smoked in a glass pipe and looks clear. Both decreases appetite and the need for sleep. Many teenagers, especially girls, start using amphetamines and methamphetamines as a way to lose weight. However, both chemicals are extremely addictive.


  1. It can cause irregular heartbeat due to inflammation of the heart muscle.
  2. It can cause tremors, loss of coordination and stroke.
  3. It can cause malnutrition, weight loss and poor eating habits.
  4. If smoked, it increases the risk of respiratory problems including coughing and infection.
  5. It interferes with body temperature causing chills and sweats. This can lead to difficulty in determining if a person needs warmth or to cool down.
  6. It increases speech and learning problems.
  7. It causes long-term liver and kidney damage.
  8. It creates blurred vision.
  9. It interferes with storing information into long-term memory.
  10. It interferes with healthy problem solving and increases impulsivity especially around sexual behavior, which in turn increases risk for pregnancy, STDS, HIV, rape and assault.
  11. It causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease: uncontrollable tremors, drooling, impaired speech, paralysis and brain damage.
  12. It increases depression, feelings of anxiety and paranoia. An example is “crank bugs.”
  13. It clashes with your pores. creating uncontrollable acne, similar to a rash and scars from the measles.
  14. It irritates the Central Nervous System, increasing spasticity and pain.


PCP, angel dust, loveboat, lovely, hog, killer weed, LSD, acid, dragons, boat, blotter, blotter acid, buttons, cactus, dots, pane, ‘shrooms, white lightening, sugar cubes, sin and trip temporarily distort reality by changing the way neurons communicate with each other with serotonin.


Often comes in tablets, on paper and as liquid. It often produces hallucinations, distorts reality and creates feelings of detachment, often with changes in the senses and severe mood swings. It is made in a pure crystallized form that is often crushed into powder and diluted with gelatin or other compounds. 


Is often sold in pill form or as colored powder. It is taken orally, or crushed and snorted or eaten. The result is an “out of body” experience. It creates delirium and agitation, and sometimes individuals become psychotic and/or suicidal. It was approved for use in animals, but never in humans. PCP is often mixed with marijuana and tobacco and smoked.


Is similar to PCP, and is odorless and colorless. It is often referred to as the date rape drug, as it dissolves completely in alcohol and other liquids, and can be difficult to detect.


Are a type of mushrooms that when eaten create hallucinations and distorts reality.


  1. It increases self-inflicted injuries since the drug numbs the part of the brain that keeps instincts in check. It increases violence towards self and others.
  2. Senses become dulled.
  3. Speech is affected. It increases aphasia (difficulty expressing oneself) and regular speech becomes incoherent.
  4. It blocks short-term memory from processing into long-term.
  5. It blocks short-term memory from retrieving memories stored in long-term memory for months at a time. Things that you used to know, you can’t access—like when you just can’t find the right word for something.
  6. It elevates body temperature (hyperthermia).
  7. It increases heart rate and blood pressure.
  8. It can cause hyperventilation.
  9. It increases irritation on the central nervous system, making spasticity worse.
  10. It creates delusions and hallucinations.
  11. It increases panic attacks, feelings of loss of control, anxiety, confusion and suspicious feelings.
  12. It can create flashbacks.
  13. It can cause bone fractures related to muscle breakdown.

The Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on Persons with Disabilities

People experience a wide variety of effects from a disability. Many of the effects of excessive use of alcohol and other drugs are similar to the effects of disability. Combined, the effects can be much worse than using or the disability alone.

Possible Effects of:
  Alcohol Drugs Brain Injury Spinal Cord Injury
Seizures X X X X
Reactions to Meds X X X X
Damage to Brain X X X X
Damage to the CNS X X   X
Vision Issues X X X X
Balance Issues X X X X
Another Injury / TBI X X X X
Incontinence / UTIs X X X X
Skin Ulcers X X   X
Spasms X X X X
Chronic Pain X X X  
Hypothermia X X   X
Diuretic X      
Liver Damage X X    
High Blood Pressure X X    
Trouble Breathing X X   X
Depression X X X X
Impaired Thinking (Attention, Judgment, Memory) X X X X
Unacceptable Behavior X X X X
Mood Swings X X X X
Anxiety / Panic X X X X
Impulsive X X X X
Decreased Tolerance for Alcohol X X X X
Interferes with Therapy X X    
Slows recovery X X X X
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