Table of Contents

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What's the Deal with Alcohol and Drugs?

An image of a woman drinking and smoking

The decision to try alcohol or drugs often has lasting consequences, especially when addiction enters the picture.

There's nothing wrong with taking the right drugs to treat a medical condition. Even some are socially accepted, such as caffeine. Many people drink alcohol or smoke socially, and these activities are not illegal for adults. However, some people take prescription drugs to get high, while others abuse various illegal drugs.

Often this decision to try alcohol or drugs can have lasting consequences. Although many may have only tried a few times and then stopped with minimal damage, others may not be able to control their intake and become addicted (hooked). This can be disastrous, especially when combined with driving.

Alcohol/drug abuse, or substance abuse, is often defined as using illicit (illegal) drugs, or when the drug is alcohol, tobacco, or a legitimate drug (prescription or over-the-counter), taking too much or using them for recreation (pleasure). At this stage, a person actively seeks out a drug to get high ("high" and "drunk" are the same as intoxicated but sound cooler). He or she also develops a tolerance to that drug (the need to use more of a drug to get the same high). However, not everyone who uses or abuses alcohol or drugs becomes addicted. Teens seem to become dependent more quickly than adults.

The federal government regulates five classes of controlled (intoxicating) substances: depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, and steroids. All of these substances can be abused, and all except steroids are psychoactive, or mind-altering. Most can also produce dependence. The term controlled substance refers to any drug or chemical that can create problems (such as intoxication) in the body if not used properly. Drugs are chemicals that alter bodily functions.

How Alcohol Affects You

The most widely available drug is alcohol, and it is also the most commonly abused. As a young adult, you need to know that in the state of Nevada it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess alcohol, although there is an exception: students who are at least 18 may taste alcohol if it is part of a required class at an accredited college. In addition, it is illegal for anyone to possess certain types of drugs, and some can be obtained only by prescription. Many of us already know that alcohol has a negative effect on our driving abilities. Before we look at the skills affected by alcohol, you must first understand how it affects your body, especially if you abuse alcohol.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

An image of the nervous system

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The central nervous system includes the brain and the spinal cord. A depressant is a type of drug that slows down the functions of the nervous system. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol relaxes the body, often in such a way that it impairs you. How it affects you depends on a number of factors, including how much you drink, the temperature of the drink, and the concentration (amount) of alcohol in the drink. Pure alcohol, for example, will be absorbed much more quickly, and the same is true at warmer temperatures.

At first, alcohol may appear to work as a stimulant because it can produce feelings of euphoria, or a high, where you feel so good you're excited. For example, someone who is normally quiet may suddenly become talkative after only a few drinks. In fact, alcohol merely slows down brain activities, resulting in such effects as lowered inhibitions (self-control).

About 20% of the alcohol that you drink goes into the bloodstream through the stomach walls, and the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestines. Once in the blood, the alcohol goes to other internal organs. About 5% is processed by the kidney and leaves through the urine. Another 5% is exhaled through the lungs. The rest go through the liver, which then metabolizes (breaks down) and eliminates the alcohol. The organs that contain a high concentration of water and require a lot of blood, such as the brain, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol.

Alcohol may cause any of the following after you drink it:

  • Elevated (increased) blood pressure. This may occur when your heart has to work harder to pump the blood throughout your body. Some areas may get less blood than they need. When your heart is forced to work harder than usual, your risk for a heart attack, hypertension (high blood pressure), or stroke is higher.
  • Increased sweating and loss of body heat.
  • Muscle aches and weaknesses. High blood pressure may result in less blood getting to your muscles.
  • Irritated digestive system (which includes the stomach and intestines). This often causes vomiting. If you don't vomit, you may still have to go to the restroom a lot more often.
  • Premature (too early) production of urine. Your frequent trips to the toilet may lead to dehydration (dryness) because alcohol often causes the body to lose more water than usual.
  • Physical and psychological dependence. This usually develops after repeated drinking and after the body has developed a tolerance for alcohol. A person with tolerance appears to "handle" alcohol well but needs to drink more to get the same high.

When your body has developed a tolerance for alcohol, you will experience withdrawal, or a need to continue using, after you stop drinking. This is because your body is craving alcohol. The symptoms of withdrawal are not pleasant, and in the most severe cases they can kill. The most common result from drinking too much is the hangover. Some experts believe a hangover is mild withdrawal, but you don't have to be a chronic abuser to experience it; in fact, you can get a hangover after just one night of heavy drinking. A hangover makes you feel sick; the symptoms include:

  • Headaches.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Thirst.
  • Nausea.
  • Stomach pain/cramps.
An image of a man with his head over a toilet

A hangover is the most common result from drinking too much alcohol.

The only way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation or not at all. Eating may help slow down the alcohol. But if you still get a hangover, you should avoid certain drugs such as Tylenol, which may damage your liver.

Over time, chronic (long-term) misuse of alcohol may damage the organs in your body. Heart disease, stomach ulcers, sexual dysfunction, and several types of cancer may also result from long-term abuse of alcohol. The body may even have difficulty adjusting when a long-time drinker suddenly stops drinking. But will alcohol affect teenagers differently?

Teens and Alcohol

Alcohol does appear to affect teenagers differently than adults. During adolescence, the body undergoes many important changes, particularly in the brain. The brains in young people continue to develop until about the age of 20. This is the reason that when you drink or use drugs, the functions you need to drive are severely impaired even if you had the same amount as an older person. Recent research suggests that alcohol affects the cognitive abilities (learning and memory) in teens more than in adults. However, teens appear to be more resistant to certain effects. For example, they appear less likely to become drowsy, stumble while walking, or lose their balance.

Some teens engage in binge drinking, or drinking large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time, because they believe they are not impaired. Because the brain is still developing, researchers believe that teens who continue to drink heavily experience long-term damage to their cognitive abilities in addition to other effects.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

The next few paragraphs look at how drinking excessive amounts of alcohol affects certain important organs in your body in the short term.

An image of a human brain

Alcohol affects the brain more than it does any other area of the body.

Alcohol's Effects on the Brain

Research shows that alcohol affects the brain and the central nervous system more than it does any other area of the body. This organ is perhaps the most important one because it regulates several complex bodily functions such as circulation, breathing and digestion. The brain also controls the processing of information as well as your emotions and memory, which you need for complex tasks like driving. Any alcohol you drink is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and then heads to the brain. The alcohol that reaches the brain can cut off oxygen and kill brain cells. It slows down and impairs your reasoning and motor skills, which increases your reaction time.

It only takes a few drinks for alcohol to impair your memory. When you drink too much alcohol too quickly, it can result in a blackout. You will not become unconscious, but you will not be able to remember details of events that occurred during this period. Blackouts are most common in social drinkers. They often engage in binge drinking and drinking contests, where they drink a large amount of alcohol quickly. Even if you don't make it a habit to drink heavily, just one blackout episode can create a hazardous situation that you may not remember or even survive.

Alcohol's Effects on Vision

An image of a human eye

Alcohol can greatly affect vision just as it does the brain.

When alcohol has such a profound effect on the brain, it will also affect vision. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the eyes when consumed and makes it more difficult to focus, which may result in blurred or double vision. Depth perception becomes a problem. You will also have more difficulty adapting to changes in light, such as darkness and glare from headlights coming from other vehicles. Contrast sensitivity, or the ability to see fine details or distinguish objects from one another, is reduced.

The result is that simple tasks become harder to perform. Driving, which is a complex set of tasks, becomes an adventure because people or objects on the road may be difficult to see or even overlooked, particularly at night or in adverse conditions. The eyes move less, which means less scanning of the road for hazards. This creates a problem with perceiving the distance and speed of other objects.

An image of drunk vision

Vision problems caused by alcohol include blurred or double vision.

A 2004 study conducted by researchers from North Dakota State University found that depth perception as applied to moving objects is at least 4.5 times worse when the alcohol level gets close to 0.1%. This is just above the presumptive limit (.08%) at which a police officer may arrest you. At this level, you will find it difficult to judge the speed and distance of objects such as other vehicles while driving, making it harder for you to avoid them if they are about to hit you.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

In the long run, heavy drinking may result in malnutrition (not enough nutrients) and the development of chronic conditions reflecting damage to the body from alcohol abuse. Damage to the brain and liver can be permanent. Diet is often also poor, further affecting health. Emotional difficulties, such as depression and relationship problems, are also likely.

The Liver - While the brain and eyes are essential for safe driving, the liver is vital to your long-term health. The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It stores nutrients vital to the body, protects it from disease, and metabolizes and eliminates toxins (poisons) such as alcohol. However, when you drink excessive amounts frequently, the alcohol overworks your liver and may lead to liver disease (including cancer) and liver failure. As few as three drinks at a time may harm your liver.

An image of a human liver

Alcohol abuse can result in severe damage to the liver.

The most common disorder resulting from heavy drinking is steatosis, or fatty liver. This is when there is too much fat in the liver cells, which makes the liver less efficient. Steatosis is the earliest stage of alcoholic liver disease, but it can be reversed through abstinence (avoidance) of alcohol.

If a person continues to abuse alcohol, he or she may develop more serious conditions such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Some symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea (upset stomach).
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever.
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

In some cases hepatitis can lead to death. For most people, the best treatment is to stop drinking and to avoid alcohol completely.

When damage to the liver continues, the result is cirrhosis, where healthy liver cells are replaced by scar tissue. At this stage, the liver cannot process alcohol and other toxins. They remain in the body free to damage other organs, particularly the brain. As many as 70% of patients with alcoholic hepatitis eventually develop cirrhosis. The scar tissue cannot heal, but treatment can prevent further damage. Many alcoholics die young because a lifetime of alcohol abuse damages the liver. Cirrhosis was the 12th leading cause of death among all Americans in 2000, but the 4th leading cause of death among those ages 45 to 54. Again, the best treatment is abstinence along with medication and weight control. In some cases a liver transplant is the only possible treatment, though alcoholics may find it difficult to get the transplant.

Other Long-Term Effects

When the liver is damaged from long-term alcohol abuse, the brain will also be harmed because the liver cannot break down the alcohol in the body. A woman who drinks alcohol while pregnant may harm her fetus, especially if she drinks excessively. The most serious cases lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which is a condition that causes physical and mental disabilities and stays with the child for a lifetime. There is no safe amount to drink during pregnancy, so any woman who is pregnant or about to get pregnant should not drink at all.

Below are some of the most common signs of a child with FAS:

An image depicting the common signs of a child with FAS

Special Considerations

The chronic conditions discussed above, while common in heavy drinkers, can still develop in some people who drink moderately. The amount you drink is just one factor. Each person's body responds differently to alcohol, so some people will be more vulnerable to its effects than others.

Females have a higher risk of developing alcohol-related disorders for a number of reasons. One factor is the amount of water they have in their bodies compared to males. Water helps to dilute (weaken) the effects of alcohol. Men on average have about 10% more water in their bodies, so a woman will have a higher level of alcohol in her blood than a man of similar size and weight after drinking the same amount. Women also appear to eliminate alcohol from the blood more quickly. Because a woman has less water in her body than a man, the liver begins its work on the alcohol earlier.

How Much is Too Much?

Intoxication, and impairment (negative effects), from alcohol can begin with just one drink, although it may be mild. You will likely have more problems if you drink more alcohol. To determine levels of impairment, we need an objective measure. Counting the number of drinks does not get you an accurate measurement because people come in different sizes. However, measuring the amount of alcohol in a certain volume of blood does.

Blood Alcohol Concentration - So how do you measure how much alcohol is in your blood? The courts use alcohol concentration/content (AC). The federal government and many states refer to it as "blood alcohol concentration/content" (BAC). AC is a measurement of the ratio of alcohol in a given volume of blood. For example, an AC of .01 means you have 1 gram per 100 milliliters of blood in your body or 1 gram per 210 liters of breath (used with breath tests). As your AC goes up, you lose some control over mental and physical functions. This loss of control affects tasks such as driving.

Your alcohol concentration is affected by your age, gender, weight, physical condition, sensitivity to alcohol, the amount of food you eat, and the number of drinks you have. Alcohol mixes with the water in your body, so the more body fat you have, the less water your body has and the more you will be affected. Also alcoholic drinks vary in the amount of alcohol they contain.

Comparing Drinks

An image of a variety of alcoholic beverages

There are different types of alcoholic beverages.

One standard drink contains about 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Thus the following drinks at the stated sizes have approximately the same amount of alcohol:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 5 ounces of table wine
  • 1 shot (1.5 ounces) of 80-proof liquor (40% alcohol)

The actual alcohol content of a drink may vary by brand. Mixed drinks also may contain different amounts of alcohol.

Percent of alcohol content in selected beverages:

Beverage Alcohol Content
Beer 3.2% - 4.0%
Ales 4.5%
Malt Liquor 3.2% - 7.0%
Wine 7.1% - 20%
Brandy 40% - 43%
Whiskey 40% - 75%
Vodka 40% - 50%
Rum 40% - 95%
Tequila 45% - 50.5%
An image of champagne being poured

You can quickly feel the effects of champagne after drinking a glass.

Effects of Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated alcoholic beverages such as champagne hit the blood system and brain much quicker than non-carbonated drinks. As a result, a drinker rarely knows the effects of the drink until it is too late. Festivities that celebrate life with a glass of champagne often lead to catastrophes, especially when drinkers try to drive back home.

Over time, the body eliminates the alcohol that you drink. The average healthy adult body can process and eliminate about half to three-quarters ounce of alcohol, or the approximate size of a standard drink, per hour. After you drink an alcoholic beverage, you need to give your body some time to recover before you are back to your old self.

Stages of Influence

The chart below shows how alcohol may affect the body at different AC levels. Every person responds differently to alcohol, so your symptoms at certain levels may differ from someone you know.

AC Stage Clinical Symptoms
.01-.05 Subclinical Behavior appears near normal by casual observation.
.03-.12 Euphoria Mild euphoria, decreased inhibitions, increased sociability and talkativeness, increased self-confidence, Cognitive and motor skills start to deteriorate.
.09-.25 Excitement Emotional instability; loss of critical judgment. Impaired perception, memory and comprehension. Increased reaction time Blurred vision, loss of peripheral (side) vision, longer glare recovery time. Impaired balance due to reduced motor coordination, drowsiness.
.18-.30 Confusion Disorientation, dizziness, exaggerated emotional states. Perception of color, form, motion and dimensions impaired. Increased pain threshold. Reduced muscular coordination, staggering gait, slurred speech. Increased fatigue.
.25-.40 Stupor Delayed or limited response to stimuli. Marked loss of muscular coordination; inability to stand or walk. Vomiting; loss of bladder control. Limited consciousness; sleep or stupor.
.35-.50 Coma Coma. Depressed or abolished reflexes. Body temperature below normal. Loss of bladder control. Impaired circulation and respiration. Possible death.
.45+ Death Respiratory arrest leading to death

Know Your Limits

Most people of average weight and of legal age would be impaired after one or two drinks, but at DUI levels after three. However, alcohol affects everyone differently, so it makes little sense to compare what you had with a friend. It also may affect you differently when you get older. Although everyone may differ in how they respond to alcohol, the reality is that anyone can die from drinking too much alcohol. You need to know your own limits.

Does Alcohol Have Any Health Benefits?

An image of wine with various foods surrounding it

Alcohol has a few health benefits when used in moderation.

So is alcohol really that bad? Not necessarily, as long as you don't have too much. Research shows that alcohol has a few health benefits when used in moderation. When taken in limited quantities, alcohol seems to raise the amount of "good" cholesterol (HDL) and decrease the risk of blood clots, helping to keep your heart healthy. Drinking some wine may reduce your chances of developing age-related macular degeneration, which is an eye disease that can lead to blindness.

Moderate drinking, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is up to one drink a day for adult women and up to two drinks a day for adult men. Again, one drink of alcohol is about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1 and a half ounces of 80-proof liquor. Despite the potential health benefits, these people should not drink at all for a variety of reasons:

  • Anyone under 21 years old (it's the law).
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant (the alcohol may harm their baby).
  • Those unable to control the amount of alcohol they drink (they may become addicted and their drinking may get out of control).
  • People on medication (you don't want to mix alcohol with other drugs).
  • Those with certain medical conditions (the body may behave strangely).

When you drink alcohol, always limit yourself to no more than what the USDA recommends. You also should avoid drinking if you plan to drive, work with heavy machinery (such as in woodshop), or engage in any other dangerous activity that requires your focus, skill or coordination.

Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

An image of drugs and alcohol

One plus one does not always equal two when combining drugs.

Many people take different types of drugs at the same time. However, you should only do that under the direction of your physician. One plus one does not always equal two when it comes to drug combinations, so a drug taken with another may perform quite differently than you expect. Often the combination produces effects that are greater together than when taken individually. This is known as synergism. In some cases combining one drug with another can bring some good results, such as with allergy medicines that use both antihistamines (a depressant) and decongestants (a stimulant). But in others, you'll only get some undesirable results. The liver can only process one drug at a time, so the other will still be in your body free to produce its effects.

The most dangerous combination of drugs is alcohol with another depressant, such as beer with antihistamines. Because alcohol is itself a depressant, the effects of both on your body will be much greater. Both will slow down your body a great deal, and if too much is taken, they may even shut it down. People often fail to realize that many drugs prescribed by their physicians have warning labels attached noting alcohol consumption with the drug could be very dangerous. For example, antibiotics help you fight infections, but they will not work as well if taken with alcohol. This combination may cause:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Sudden changes in blood pressure.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Flushing (redness) of the face.

Avoid mixing any type of medicine except as directed by your physician. This does mean that you should tell your doctor what medication you are taking so he or she can prescribe the right drug for you. Drugs can never cancel each other out, and they may or may not work well together.

How Other Drugs Affect You

Alcohol is not the only drug that can affect your ability to drive safely. Many illicit drugs create effects that impair your senses, making it difficult to drive. Even medicines prescribed to you by your physician or purchased over the counter can make you dangerous behind the wheel. Different drugs affect the body differently, but while certain drugs may not make you feel drowsy, they will still impair you in other ways. It's also important to note that our bodies will react differently to drugs as we mature due to the physical changes that take place.

Nevada includes other drugs with alcohol in determining when a person is driving under the influence. Nevada Revised Statute 484.379 says that you are guilty of DUI if you are driving or in actual physical control of your vehicle and are under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances or a combination to a degree which renders you incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle. If you drive while under the influence of codeine, for example, you are still breaking the law because you are driving under the influence.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs

An image of prescription drugs

Even the drugs you buy from the pharmacy can impair your ability to drive safely.

You can get many drugs with a physician's prescription or over the counter such as cough medicine, antihistamines, barbiturates, and tranquilizers. Even these can impair you in many ways, such as your ability to drive safely, especially if misused. When taking any medication, be sure you use them properly. You also need to be aware of any side effects. If you are unsure, just ask your physician or pharmacist.

If you look at the label on the bottle, you will see some specific directions on how to use them, and many also have warnings. For example, it may warn you not to operate machinery due to side effects such as drowsiness and reduced alertness. "Machinery" includes motor vehicles, so do not drive if you get that warning. Some drugs may help you drive safely if you have conditions such as epilepsy that require treatment, but you should always check with your physician or pharmacist. Also let this person know if you are taking other medications. Do not drive if you are not sure how your medication will affect you behind the wheel.

Categories of Drugs and Their Effects

An image of various pills

A few examples of depressants.

Although many drugs are illegal, some can be prescribed or purchased over the counter. Since misuse can often lead to physical or psychological dependence, you should take them only as directed. Never mix drugs except under the supervision of your physician as that will enhance their effects and can be quite dangerous. The following sections briefly discuss some types of drugs and how they affect the driving task.

Depressants and Stimulants

Depressants, also known as sedatives or tranquilizers, are drugs that relax the central nervous system, which includes the brain. These are typically prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders. Alcohol falls into this category, as would barbiturates, antihistamines (used in allergy medication) and tranquilizers. Although these drugs are useful for reducing and relieving anxiety and tension, they can also significantly slow down reflexes and increase reaction time, and they can make you drowsy. Driving under the influence of a depressant can have catastrophic effects because judgment is impaired (drivers think they are okay to drive when they are not) and reactions are dulled and slowed, as is concentration. Babies born to mothers addicted to depressants may have birth defects and behavioral problems.

Type What is it called? What does it look like? How is it used?
Barbiturates Downers, Barbs, Blue devils, Red devils, Yellow jacket, Yellows, Nembutal, Tuinals, Seconal, Amytal. Red, yellow, blue, or red and blue capsules. Taken orally
Methaqualone Quaaludes, Ludes, Sopors. Tablets. Taken orally
Tranquilizers Valium, Librium, Miltown, Serax, Equanil, Tranxene. Tablets or capsules. Taken orally
An image of various stimulants

A few examples of stimulants.

Stimulants are drugs that give you a boost by temporarily increasing alertness and physical activity, resulting in an increase in heart and respiratory rates, elevated blood pressure, a loss of appetite, and dilated pupils. Large doses of stimulants will cause an irregular heartbeat, tremors, loss of coordination, and even physical collapse. Certain disorders, such as ADHD and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder), are often treated with stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). Other drugs that fall within this category include decongestants (used in allergy medication), amphetamines, and more potent stimulants such as cocaine (though it is classified as a narcotic drug by law) and methamphetamines.

An image of lines of coke

Cocaine is a classic example of a stimulant.

Consuming these drugs may cause users to become anxious and confused, as well as impair the ability to perceive time and distance. Drivers who use stimulants are likely to misjudge speed and stopping distances on the road. They gain a false sense of confidence, leading to increased risk-taking behaviors. Concentration is more difficult.

Cocaine is a classic example of a stimulant. Cocaine affects a driver's view of reality, increases reaction time, heightens impulsive or impatient behavior, enhances aggressive or hostile behavior, and distorts the decision-making process. Immediate effects of cocaine use include dilated pupils and elevated blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Crack or freebase is extremely addictive, and it is also so powerful you can feel the effects within 10 seconds. Physical effects include dilated pupils, increased pulse rate, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, loss of appetite, tactile hallucinations, paranoia, and seizure. You can even die by cardiac arrest or respiratory failure after just one use.

Type What is it called? What does it look like? How is it used?
Amphetamines Speed, Uppers, Ups, Black beauties, Pep pills, Copilots, Bumblebees, Hearts, Benzedrine, Dexedrine, Footballs, Biphetamine Capsules, pills, tablets Taken orally, injected, inhaled
Cocaine Coke, Snow, Nose candy, Flake, Blow, Big C, Lady, White, Snowbirds White crystalline powder Inhaled, injected
Crack Cocaine Crack, rock, freebase White to tan pellets or crystalline rocks that look like soap Smoked
Methamphetamines Crank, Crystal meth, Crystal methedrine, Speed White powder, pills, rock that resembles a block of paraffin Taken orally, injected, inhaled
Additional Stimulants Ritalin, Cylert, Preludin, Didrex, Pre-State, Voranil, Sandrex, Plegin Pills or capsules Taken orally, injected
An image of opium

A few examples of opioids.

Narcotics, Hallucinogens, and Other Drugs

Narcotics, or opioids, are drugs often used to relieve pain because they induce a soothing, lulling or dulling effect. In large enough doses, they can cause comas and death. Drugs in this category include codeine, heroin, morphine and opium. These are highly addictive and may cause restlessness and nausea, as well as drowsiness. Your ability to drive may be impaired, depending on dosage. Narcotics affect a driver's decision-making process, impair vision and motor skills, cause him or her to become restless, make the mind wander, and result in loss of consciousness. Addiction in pregnant women can lead to premature, stillborn, or addicted infants who experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

Type What is it called? What does it look like? How is it used?
Heroin Smack, Horse, Mud, Brown sugar, Junk, Black tar, Big H White to dark-brown powder or tar-like substance Injected, smoked or inhaled
Codeine Empirin compound with codeine, Tylenol with codeine, Codeine in cough medicine Dark liquid varying in thickness, capsules, tablets Taken orally, injected
Morphine Pectoral syrup White crystals, hypodermic tablets, or injectable solutions Taken orally, injected, or smoked
Opium Paregoric, Dover's powder, Parepectolin Dark brown chunks, powder Smoked, eaten, or injected
Meperidine Pethidine, Demerol, Mepergan White powder, solution, tablets Taken orally, injected
Other Narcotics Percocet, Percodan, Tussionex, Fentanyl, Darvon, Talwin, Lomotil, Oxycodone Tablets or capsules Taken orally, injected
An image of pcp

Hallucinogens alter your perception.

Hallucinogens, or psychedelics, are drugs that alter the senses. Many of these cause hallucinations, though they are more likely to affect the mood or thought. Included in this category are LSD, ecstasy, and PCP. Marijuana is sometimes classified as a hallucinogen. Most hallucinogens have no acceptable medical use and are illegal. There are a few exceptions such as ketamine, which is used as a general anesthetic drug to reduce pain during surgery, and DXM, which is used to treat coughs.

Consuming hallucinogens results in severely impaired judgment, and drivers who use them are often confused on the road. Hallucinogens distort perception, sight, hearing, time and distance comprehension. They can induce rapid mood swings, slow down reaction time, and cause lack of coordination. Potent hallucinogens, such as LSD, may cause drivers to jump at imaginary objects or sounds, which can mean sudden stops or lane changes. Visual perception becomes distorted, making it difficult to judge distances and speed. Since driving depends on your perception, sight, hearing and vision, dramatically reducing these abilities is not conducive to safe driving.

Type What is it called? What does it look like? How is it used?
Phencyclidine PCP, Hog, Angel dust, Loveboat, Lovely, Killer Weed Liquid, white crystalline powder, pills, capsules Taken orally, injected, smoked (sprayed on joints or cigarettes)
Lysergic acid diethylamide LSD, Acid, Microdot, White lightning, Blue heaven, Sugar cubes Colored tablets, blotter paper, clear liquid, thin squares of gelatin Taken orally, licked off paper, gelatin and liquid that can be put in the eyes
Mescaline and Peyote Mesc, Buttons, Cactus Hard brown discs, tablets, capsules Discs-chewed, swallowed, or smoked; Tablets and capsules-taken orally
Psilocybin Magic mushrooms, 'shrooms Fresh or dried mushrooms Chewed and swallowed
An image of marijuana

Cannabis is a controversial drug.

Cannabis, which includes marijuana, is a drug that can relieve patients of the effects from glaucoma and nausea, increase appetite, and provide pain relief, to name a few medicinal uses. However, it is illegal in all forms, but even if it becomes legal, it can affect a driver. Marijuana may cause drowsiness, paranoia, disorientation, loss of coordination, slowed reflexes, and concentration difficulties, which can all have an adverse effect on driving.

Type What is it called? What does it look like? How is it used?
Marijuana Cannabis sativa, pot, reefer, grass, bud, weed, dope, ganja, smoke, chronic, indo, Mary Jane or Sinsemilla Dried parsley, with stems and/or seeds; rolled into cigarettes Smoked or eaten
Tetrahydrocannabinol THC Soft gelatin capsules Taken orally
Hashish Hash Brown or black cakes or balls Smoked or eaten
Hashish Oil Hash Oil Concentrated syrupy liquid varying in color from clear to black Smoked -- mixed with tobacco

Designer Drugs - The law defines illegal drugs by their chemical formulas. To get around these legal restrictions, chemists have modified the molecular structure of certain illegal substances to produce similar drugs known as designer drugs. One of the better known in this category is MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. Ecstasy is derived from methamphetamines but has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Designer drugs can be several hundred times stronger than the drugs they are designed to imitate. When used, they can cause uncontrollable tremors, drooling, impaired speech, paralysis, irreversible brain damage, nausea, blurred vision, chills or sweating, faintness, anxiety, depression, and paranoia.