Many people have questions about drug use. Is all drug use bad? What's wrong with smoking pot? Sure, drugs are dangerous, but many things are dangerous. What are the specific dangers of a drug, and just how dangerous is it. The dangers of starting to use drugs fall into two major categories: (1) accidental death from overdose or trauma, and (2) progression to addiction.

Most illegal drugs are illegal for a reason; They are harmful to your health. There are also some legal drugs (such as alcohol, cigarettes, and some herbal supplements) that can be harmful to your health. The risks of Alcohol and Cigarettes are listed in other pages on this web site. The major harmful effect of Marijuana is brain damage, and people who use Marijuana chronically will eventually suffer loss of memory, concentration, and thinking ability. Additiionally, Marijuana smoke contains some of the same carcinogens as Tobacco smoke. Cocaine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and inhaled Ritalin are all capable of causing heart attacks, strokes, and death. Heroin (and other opiates) causes slow, shallow breathing, which can be fatal (from lack of oxygen) if a large enough dose is taken. Injection of Heroin (or any drug) can cause infections with bacteria, HIV, and/or Hepatitis C, and this can happen with only one injection.

The new rave drug, GHB (Gammahydroxybutyrate , Grievous Bodily Harm, G, Liquid Ecstasy, Georgia Home Boy), can cause a deep coma, even though the person using it appears to be sleeping peacefully. A normal person will cough, reposition their head, awaken, or do whatever is needed to re-open a windpipe that has been closed, blocked, or kinked. The coma of GHB causes a loss of these normal reflexes, and people on GHB have died from asphyxiation with their own vomit, closing off of their windpipe while sitting in a crouched position (such as the back seat of a car), and drowning in their own bathtub after sliding below the waterline of their bath water and not waking up. GHB is also used as a date rape drug, and women on GHB have been videotaped having sex, with absolutely no memory of the event. The actor Nick Nolte was arrested for driving under the influence of GHB. He had no alcohol in his body at the time.

All of these drugs can cause impaired judgment, and people under the influence tend to do things that they would not normally do. This can lead to car accidents, inappropriate behaviors, loss of relationships, loss of dignity, criminal arrest, and/or death.

For additional information on the effects of specific drugs, you can click below to read reports published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
Most people know that using drugs is risky for them and bad for their health. So why do so many people use drugs? They usually start due to peer pressure. Teenagers do not want their peers to think they are "uncool", or "different", so they try the drugs they get from their peers. Some people try drugs out of curiosity. Most people do not continue to use drugs, because they have better things to do with their lives, and they feel pretty good most of the time without drugs.

Those who use drugs chronically or frequently are often trying to escape from the reality of their lives. They do not feel very good on most days, and frequently have low self-esteem. Using a drug is their way of temporarily avoiding reality, and focusing on the drug (or its effects) instead of dealing with their problems or their pain. The drug distracts them. It may calm their anxiety or postpone their depression. Unfortunately, when the drug wears off, they are back to reality, unless they take more of the drug.

Some people will take more of their drug, over and over, for as long as they can. When this happens, the disease of Addiction slowly sets in. All addictive drugs have the property of tolerance, which means that increasing doses of the drug are needed in order to have the same effect. So the user must get bigger and bigger amounts of the substance to maintain a constant effect, with no ceiling. Eventually, the user must continue to use their drug just to keep from getting sick (withdrawal). If you think you may have a drug problem, but you aren't sure, try taking this Drug use Quiz .

No one who tries a drug for the first time intends to become addicted. We are not sure why one person becomes addicted and another does not. However, we do know that Addiction is a disease, just like Asthma and Diabetes are diseases. It is not a weakness, a lack of willpower, or a lack of morality. Anyone can become addicted to a drug, but certain factors are known to increase one's risk of becoming addicted. These risk factors include (1) having had a family member with the disease of Addiction (including Alcoholism), (2) a personal or family history of anxiety or depression, (3) a history of child abuse, (4) being in a bad relationship, and (5) possible genetic influences.

People who become addicted to drugs gradually lose their ability to have healthy relationships with themselves, their family, or others. They become unable to experience joy, love, or hope. In the end, their only relationship is with the drug. They spend most of their time trying to acquire, use, and recover from the effects of their drug. They become sicker, and more tired, as time goes by, until eventually their disease ends in death, jail, or an institution. Fortunately, the disease can be halted, or arrested, if the addicted person gets into an effective recovery program.

The most effective program for the of treatment of Addiction is Narcotics Anonymous. Addiction is a powerful and cunning disease, and its recovery is not easy. Those who regularly attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings have the best chance of recovering. People who regularly attend NA meetings learn how to have fun without drugs. Gradually, they improve their relationships with self, others, and their Higher Power, while staying clean and sober. In contrast, Addicts who try to quit drugs on their own (without NA) are usually unsuccessful. Those who are able to stop on their own seem to retain their addictive thinking (eg fear, guilt, regret, loneliness) and addictive traits (eg irritability and erratic mood) even though they are no longer using drugs. That type of thinking, and those traits, prevent the improvements in fun, relationships, and spirituality that NA members enjoy.

Those who become aware that they have the disease of Addiction need to avoid taking the first drug or the first drink every day. If they take that first "hit" of any drug, they will be unable to control what happens afterward. They will have an intense craving for a second hit, and a third, and so on, so they must abstain completely. Regardless of what drug they were addicted to in the past, they must avoid all addictive substances now, including alcohol.

Those who suffer from the disease of Addiction also need to tell their doctors that they are recovering Addicts, so the doctors can avoid prescribing addictive medications whenever possible. Some doctors are better at this than others, and recovering Addicts need to look for a doctor who understands Addiction.

There may be times when a recovering Addict will need to take a prescribed addictive medication for a short period of time, such as a pain medicine after a surgery. During these periods, the Addict will need to increase the level of his recovery program until a couple of weeks after he finishes the medication. Some ways to increase one's program include attending extra NA meetings, and seeing a drug and alcohol counselor.

NA Big Book

Some Addicts are more affected by their disease than others. While NA is an important part of any Recovery from Addiction, many Addicts need other treatments in addition to NA. If you find that you are unable to stop using drugs, and you have attended NA meetings, then you probably need to combine some of the following treatments:
  • Inpatient Drug & Alcohol Treatment at a Rehabilitation Facility such as Livengrin or The Caron Foundation. (Rehab - not just Detox.)
  • An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) that meets 4-5 days/week for 1-3 months.
  • Daily Attendance at NA meetings (90 meetings in 90 days).
  • Individual Counseling with a Therapist who understands Addiction, such as a Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC).
  • Read a Recovery book. The NA Big Book is available at most NA meetings and at Amazon.com. (See link on right.)
  • Medication (such as Naltrexone or an antidepressant) if needed. (See your doctor.)
To recover from Addiction, you will need Honesty, Openness, and Willingness, but you do not need any special ability or talent. With the right combination of treatments, I strongly believe that you can Recover from the disease of Addiction.

Brad Paddock, MD


  Read What Amazon.com Customers Have Said About the NA Big Book:

N.A. Text : Narcotics Anonymous

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars

5 out of 5 stars It works if you work it, September 27, 2002
Reviewer: Richard V. from Boulder Creek, CA, United States
I use that line because so many of the passing parade come into NA, and then go back out there and say that it doesn't work. I beleive that if you are a true addict and true to yourself at least to the point that you really don't want to use ever again then you will read this book and relate to the feelings described in the stories, and find out that "YES" this book was written by addicts for addicts by a HIGHER POWER, via group conscience.The book is basic not big. Other fellowships say rarely have we seen a person fail and this book says that never have we seen a person fail, who has followed this path. The only other book that I would recomend is The How and Why wich you will want to get after you get a sponsor and get willing. SO FAR SO CLEAN for me...

5 out of 5 stars Dopeless Hope Fiend (Lisbeth), July 18, 2002
Reviewer: lisbeth west from Carter Lake, Rocky Mountains, Colorado

The disease of addiction has gripped me since I was 7 years old and created such unmanageability in my life that I was suicidal when I found this.. My family has disowned me and I have missed the most important and beautiful times in my sisters' lives: watching their children grow and mature. My mother is turning 80 and I will never get the chance to say goodbye.

This unmanageability is my resposibility and I own all of it. I found out through this book and fellowship, however, that I am not responsible for having the diesease -- I am responsible for the everyday recovery from its grip. I currently celebrate 7 years of recovery with my husband, Gary at my side.

I tried many many ways to change. I went from working as a custom color photographic printer to walking the halls of the courtrooms assisting victims with their legal needs. As an on-site victim advocate, I saw what addiction does to our spirits and our dreams. The change didn't help; I just found lawyers and cops to smoke weed with instead of hiding it in my darkroom.

I am almost fifty years old. I found this book when I was 42. I would not be here if I hadn't found myself on every page of this text and re-read parts of it every day. Not all people can handle the word "God" in it; many substitute "grandfather" or "goddess" or "Kuan Lin". or "Vishnu"... don't be afraid to read it. Groups on the web include "Taoists in Narcotics Anonymous" and you will find many alternative paths. It isn't contagious. Send it to a friend. You may save a life.

For every addict who reads this book, 12 have to die. I am glad I am writing this today. I send you unconditional love and compassion if you are an addict or a member of the addict's family. This might hold you over until you find the rooms of NA.

5 out of 5 stars It works if you work it, May 25, 2002
Reviewer: cbaron from Seattle, WA, USA
There are those who will dispute the methods of recovery detailed in this book. They might call it "Hocus Pocus" or refer to it at spiritual jibberish. To them I ask, "Why then has this program helped millions get clean and stay clean?" It you struggle with drugs (alcohol and marijauna included) then read this book. Miracles do happen and it will happen for you if you want it. I dare say that all of us, whether we struggle with an addiction or not, can benefit from the principles laid out in this book. Certainly it is geared toward the addict, but these are life principles none the less.