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There are a myriad of substances which can be abused or misused, all of which have dangerous health implications. While many drugs are illegal, some legal substances can be bad for you in large quantities or if taken incorrectly.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug misuse is a key concern within the DoD. According to the 2008 DoD Health Behavior Survey, prescription drug abuse doubled among military personnel from 2002 to 2005 and almost tripled between 2005 and 2008. Some people think that prescription drugs are safer and less addictive than street drugs, but prescription drugs are only safe for the individuals who actually have prescriptions for them. It's possible to abuse or become addicted to over-the-counter medications, too.

Like all drug abuse, using prescription drugs for the wrong reasons has serious risks for a person's health. The dangers of prescription drug abuse can be made worse if people take drugs in a way they weren't intended to be used. People who abuse medications can become addicted just as easily as if they were taking street drugs.

Prescription drugs can include rescribed opiods, central nervous system depressants and stimulants.

Misuse of prescription drugs can result in:

  • respiratory depression
  • seizures
  • decreased heart rate
  • high body temperature
  • cardiovascular system failure


Found in liquor, beer and wine.

Alcohol can result in:

  • increased risk of injuries due to drowsiness, loss of coordination, visual distortions and loss of consciousness
  • neurologic deficits
  • impaired memory
  • hypertension
  • sexual dysfunction
  • liver and heart disease
  • fetal damage
  • addiction and fatal overdose
  • depression


Marijuana and hashish may be smoked or swallowed.

Cannabinoids can result in:

  • slowed reaction time
  • impaired learning and memory
  • distorted sensory perception
  • anxiety, panic attacks and/or psychosis
  • impaired balance and coordination
  • cough and frequent respiratory infections
  • increased heart rate and appetite
  • possible mental health decline and addiction

Club Drugs

MDMA (methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), flunitrazepam and GHB include the drugs ecstasy, rohypnol and gamma-hydroxybutyrate.

MDMA use can result in:

  • mild hallucinogenic effects
  • sweating
  • impaired memory
  • increased tactile sensitivity
  • teeth clenching
  • hyperthermia
  • lowered inhibition
  • muscle cramping
  • addiction
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances
  • chills
  • depression

Flunitrazepam use can result in:

  • sedation
  • memory loss
  • confusion
  • muscle relaxation
  • dizziness
  • impaired coordination addiction

GHB use can result in:

  • drowsiness
  • memory loss
  • loss of coordination
  • nausea
  • unconsciousness
  • coma
  • headache
  • seizures
  • disorientation

Dissociative Drugs

Including Ketamine, PCP and analogs, salvia divinorum and dextromethorphan (DSM).

Dissociative drugs can result in:

  • being separate from one’s body and environment
  • numbness
  • impaired motor function
  • memory loss
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • tremors

Ketamine may also cause analgesia impaired memory, delirium, respiratory depression and arrest and death.

PCP and analogs may also cause:

  • analgesia
  • psychosis
  • aggression
  • violence
  • slurred speech
  • loss of coordination
  • hallucination

DXM can also result in slurred speech, confusion, dizziness and distorted visual perceptions.


Including lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline and psilocybin.

Hallucinogens can result in:

  • altered states of perception and feeling
  • hallucinations
  • nausea

LSD and mescaline can also cause:

  • increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure
  • loss of appetite
  • sweating
  • sleeplessness
  • numbness
  • dizziness
  • weakness and tremors
  • impulsive behavior
  • rapid shifts in emotion

LSD may also cause flashbacks and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder.

Psilocybin can also cause nervousness, paranoia and panic.


Found in cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco.

Nicotine may result in:

  • increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • stroke
  • chronic lung disease
  • adverse pregnancy outcomes
  • cardiovascular disease

Nicotine may also result in cancers of:

  • mouth
  • stomach
  • bladder
  • pharynx
  • pancreas
  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • larynx
  • cervix
  • esophagus
  • kidney


Including heroin and opium.

Opioids can result in:

  • drowsiness
  • feeling of heaviness in the body
  • impaired coordination
  • slowed or arrested breathing
  • dizziness
  • constipation
  • confusion
  • endocarditis
  • nausea
  • hepatitis
  • sedation


Including cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines.

Stimulants can result in:

  • increased heart rates and blood pressure
  • insomnia
  • increased body temperature and metabolism
  • cardiac or cardiovascular complications
  • tremors
  • stroke
  • reduced appetite
  • seizures
  • irritability
  • addiction
  • anxiety, panic, paranoia, violent behavior and/or psychosis
  • cocaine use may also result in nasal damage from snorting
  • weight loss
  • methamphetamines may also cause severe dental problems

Other Compounds

Including anabolic steroids, inhalants and herbal substances such as salvia divinorum (Spice).


Steroids have no intoxication effects, but can lead to hypertension, blood clotting and cholesterol changes, liver cysts, hostility and aggression, acne, premature stoppage of growth in adolescents, in males – prostate cancer, reduced sperm production, shrunken testicles and breast enlargement, in females – menstrual irregularities, development of beard and other masculine characteristics.


Inhalants, varying by the chemical, can cause loss of inhibition, headache, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, wheezing and cramps, muscle weakness, depression, memory impairment, damage to cardiovascular and nervous systems, unconsciousness and sudden death.

Salvia divinorum

Salvia divinorum has been found to cause hallucinations or “psychotomomimetic” episodes (a transient experience that mimics a psychosis), psychedelic-like changes in visual perception, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, feelings of detachment and a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, leading to a decreased ability to interact with one’s surroundings. The long-term effects of Salvia abuse have not yet been investigated systematically.

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