MOUNT VERNON — They’re called recreational drugs, but the term defies logic. They come in all forms, and go by many names. Pills, powders, liquids, crystals, crushed leaves and gases are smoked, sniffed, swallowed or injected. Users may want to get up or get down, or merely escape their problems for awhile. They do it with Spice and Special K, roofies and reefers, Dexies and downers, snappers and smack, and the result is seldom pretty.
The seedy subculture of drug abuse creates a few millionaires and many slaves. Kids seeking a thrill and addicts craving a fix spend billions on drugs. They don’t set out to become dependent or cross criminal lines, and they certainly don’t intend to die — that only happens to the other guy.
This series of articles has discussed heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, bath salts and marijuana, and while those are among the most common illegal drugs, they by no means stand alone. Prescription medications are abused by millions. Clandestine labs concoct substances that toy with the delicate workings of the human brain. And there is widespread abuse of the least imaginable common substances as inhalants.
Experts routinely use the term epidemic in regards to prescription opiates, and the Justice Department estimates that more than seven million Americans, including 6.6 percent of kids aged 12-17 and 11.9 percent of those 18-25, misused painkillers at least once in 2009. Overdose deaths attributed to prescription painkillers exceed those from heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine combined.
Drug users also seek out other medications. Central nervous system depressants that are prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, such as Nembutal, Valium and Xanax, may be obtained through friends, stolen from family members, purchased from drug dealers or acquired through doctor shopping. The same is true for stimulants like Dexedrine, Adderall and Ritalin, which are prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy patients.