The drug responsible for birthing organized crime in Chicago that would soon spread nationwide, known as alcohol, still affects countless people in Illinois, and kills its fair share even without the involvement of gang activity. In fact, alcohol is the most popularly abused substance in Illinois--partly because it is legal and immensely popular in American society. Alcoholism is a physical and psychological dependency that creates many mental health obstacles and increases risks for heart and lung disease, as well as other forms of organ failure. While it is possible (more so than other drugs like heroin or cocaine) to consume alcohol recreationally without becoming addicted, social drinking and genetic factors cause many people to be unable to stop drinking, and soon dependency and the fears of withdrawal and sobriety can create a crippling, chronic condition.
Another drug that has taken an extraordinary toll on Chicago in more recent years, cocaine and crack cocaine are an ongoing epidemic for Illinois. Cocaine is popularly snorted, injected, and smoked, or freebased, in the form of crack rocks. While cocaine's euphoric high is very popular recreationally, first-time users can become reliant on cocaine very quickly. Crime in poverty stricken areas is affected by the cocaine epidemic not just because of gang activity, but because cocaine addicts tend to rob and steal to supply their habit. Side effects can include extreme states of psychosis, paranoia, agitation, increased blood pressure and heart rate, nausea, and serious long term effects, including mental health and brain disorders.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of heroin production takes place in Western Asia, heroin is widely available across America. While its second-to-none sense of euphoria is partially responsible, the profitability of its addictive nature is what keeps it constantly available in Illinois. The high it creates is so strong that first time users often become addicted to its effects and will spend every dollar they have, and steal from others, to continue to feel that way. Tolerance levels increase quickly, so more and more heroin is needed overtime to create equal effects, and overdose and other severe health consequences are almost always the outcome.
The most popular form of illicit drug use in America, marijuana's often under estimated effects have hurt many people and is also a massive source of income for violent drug gangs. Unlike several other states in the Midwest, marijuana is not available by prescription and is still a controlled substance according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Long term smoking of marijuana can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis, as well as increased risk of lung disease. As the popularity of hydroponically-grown marijuana increases, which is found more often in Northern states and Canada, there comes with it an even greater risk of mental health disorders because of its potency.
Also known as "fake weed" or "spice," K2 is a blend of spices that is sprayed with a chemical that is similar to marijuana, and the effects of smoking it are similar to smoking marijuana. In mid-2011 Illinois became the 17th state to make trafficking and possession of K2 a felony. However many head shops that have profited enormously from legal sales of this marijuana-substitute have circumvented this law by using other chemical variants on the spices that are not yet banned. This is sneaky, illegal, and dangerous to our society. K2 carries many of the same risks and side effects of marijuana, as well as its intended effects, except it can be much more dangerous depending on what is added to the chemical substance.
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a common drug in America. Its effects include hallucinations, high levels of energy, and euphoria. However many people can and have become dependent on MDMA, experiencing many side effects including overdose and mental health issues. While it is not an extremely addictive substance, it can carry all the same consequences because ecstasy pills are frequently "cut" with other, much stronger drugs. Therefore, when someone uses ecstasy they are often, in fact, also ingesting heroin, methamphetamine, or other dangerous narcotics. A large percent of overdoses and hospitalizations from ecstasy are a result of "bad doses" that are cut with a dangerous combination of pharmaceutical chemicals.
Meth use and trafficking in Illinois has boomed over the past couple of decades. Cheap and easy to produce, highly potent and addictive, and carrying some of the most extreme health consequences of any major narcotic, methamphetamine is one of America's greatest and fastest growing drug problems. Meth is a more powerful version of amphetamine, that when made in illicit drug labs, can be very toxic and dangerous. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or even eaten; the very act of taking it often has greater risks than heroin or cocaine. Meth is known to destroy brain functions, as well as any part of the body it travels through on a regular basis. Meth addicts are particularly notorious for quickly losing any sense of right or wrong in their actions because the need to get high is all too consuming.
The addictive quality of legally prescribed drugs in America can no longer be ignored. There are as many people addicted to and abusing legal narcotics (such as Oxycontin) as there are heroin users today in many parts of the nation. While Illinois is not a main source of prescription pills, drug gangs often traffic them from states where they are produced and proliferated; most commonly California, Florida, and Texas. The 3 main types of prescription narcotics abused are:
Opiods, including: codeine, hydrocodone, and brand names such as Oxycontin and Roxicodone, are some of the worst drugs available in America, and they're very easy to get through prescription for pain treatment. Many people become addicts through doctors who are too quick to prescribe pain relievers. Others seek out these doctors knowing that just about any health complaint can result in getting incredibly powerful narcotics, which are sometimes covered by free government healthcare plans!
CNS depressants are another type and include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and zolpidem (Ambien). These drugs depress brain functioning, and overdose can lead to breathing failure of the abuser until death. Withdrawal from depressants can be particularly hard because trying to get back to normal often results in extreme emotional states, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Lastly there are stimulants, including prescribed forms of amphetamine such as Adderall and Ritalin. These drugs have seen a boom for the treatment of attention deficit disorder and social anxiety disorders, but are often abused to get high or as stay-awake aids. However these are really just less powerful forms of methamphetamine and carry the same serious consequences of addiction and health problems. Also, many weight-loss drugs are amphetamines and can actually be incredibly unhealthy to use as medication.
LSD, AKA acid, along with drugs such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), peyote or mescaline, PCP, and ketamine, are what are commonly known as hallucinogens. Hallucinogens carry few of the extreme addictive properties and health consequences of narcotic drugs, but create many mental health issues for users. The hallucinations and altered states of consciousness that users experience can be horrible as often as they are pleasant; distressed mental states while on hallucinating can last long after the drug is out of the user's system. Flashbacks, paranoia, psychosis, and developmental problems often arise from continued use of drugs such as acid. It is impossible to physically overdose on some drugs like LSD, but it is possible to have a very extreme emotional response that can lead to panic attacks or reckless behavior. It is possible to overdose on some hallucinogens such as magic mushrooms and there are many hospitalizations every year from overdoses and "bad trips."
A national outcry during the summer of 2011 led to bath salts being banned in most US states, including Illinois. At least one woman in Illinois died of an overdose on bath salts, which are sold as incense but are really a synthetic stimulant--bought solely to be snorted, smoked, or injected. The active ingredient is usually Mephedrone or MDPV, which has an effect similar to amphetamine use. Their brief legality caused hundreds of emergency room visits and hospitalizations because of breathing and heart problems, as well as panic and anxiety attacks. Although it is banned, the drug is still available for purchase on the internet and on the streets, as a federally monitored substance.
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