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Arkansas Drug Addiction
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“Street drugs” are non-prescription drugs that are illegal at the federal level and are usually listed high on the DEA’s Drug Schedule. There are certain exceptions on a state-by-state basis now that some states have legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use, but generally speaking, these drugs have little to no medical use and are mostly sold on the street for illicit recreational purposes.

Street drugs also tend to be among the most dangerous. Heroin, meth and crack cocaine are three of the most addictive drugs available, including all potentially addictive prescription drugs. Cocaine also has a high potential for addiction, and likely only lags behind these other drugs in abuse statistics because it is also much more expensive.

Arkansas Drug Addiction and Abuse Statistics

According to the 2013 “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic” report published by Trust for America’s Health, Arkansas was right in the middle of the pack nationally for drug overdose deaths, with 12.5 per every 100,000 state residents. The majority of these deaths were from prescription drugs, but deaths due to stimulant use have been significant in recent years.

Data collected by the White House Task Force on Substance Abuse indicates that marijuana and methamphetamine are by far the leading illicit substances of abuse in the state. One in four people between the ages of 18 to 25 report using marijuana each year, and over 10% of all treatment cases in the state are for meth use. Use of cocaine is also significant, at roughly half the rate of these substances.

Heroin use is surprisingly minimal at present, but with prescription opioid abuse being the third most frequent form of substance abuse in the state, there is potential for an explosion in heroin addiction similar to what many other states have experienced in the past decade.

Busts of meth labs in Arkansas have substantially decreased from a high of 800 in 2004, but they still remain more common than in most of the rest of the country, with over 300 labs seized by police annually.

Commonly Abused Street Drugs

Heroin

Heroin is a powder that is white in color when pure, but is usually more of an off-white or brown due to impurity. Users most frequently inject it, so they will usually have track marks somewhere on their arms, legs or feet. Syringes, rubber tubing, and spoons with a dark residue are commonly found in the homes of heroin users.

While high, heroin users will frequently be slow, sluggish and appear dopey or very tired. They may fall asleep (“nod out”) in public or social situations suddenly. It also tends to make their skin flush and give them cottonmouth, leading them to drink an unusual amount of fluids or have slurred speech.

Heroin is listed as a Schedule I drug by the DEA, among the most dangerous and addictive of all drugs. It does have some extremely limited medical application, but the vast majority of sale and use is done illegally on the streets.

Heroin is highly addictive because it changes the chemical structure of the part of the brain responsible for pain management and feelings of pleasure. Heroin is not instantly addictive, but it produces such a powerful feeling of euphoria and tranquility that those who dabble with it often quickly progress to regular use. With long enough exposure to the drug — in some cases as little as a few weeks – a physical dependency forms. This is when the brain comes to see the drug as vital for proper function. When a full addiction has taken hold, the user usually cannot go more than a day without shooting up or they will experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings for the drug that override all of their other thoughts.

Since heroin is so potent and since the composition of drugs bought on the street is never fully known to the user, there is a risk of overdose with every hit taken. Overdose deaths are caused by respiratory depression, or a fatal slowing of respiration following unconsciousness. Users that survive to shoot up for years aren’t much better off, however — health complications that are commonly seen include incurable diseases (hepatitis and HIV) due to needle sharing, cardiac infections, abscesses, collapsed veins and a greatly increased risk of kidney and liver disease.

Cocaine

Cocaine users will appear energetic, often to the point of mania, and may sniffle or have red nostrils since insufflation is the most common route of administration. The high of cocaine is short-lasting, however, and is followed by a crash period in which the user will become sluggish and withdrawn.

Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has some legitimate medical use (mostly as an anesthetic for those who are allergic to most other types) but is still considered ripe for abuse.

Cocaine use elevates the dopamine levels in the body by stimulating production and keeping it in circulation for longer than is normal. Physical dependency forms when this state happens often enough and the body comes to see these elevated dopamine levels as normal. When an addiction has formed, the user feels cravings and withdrawal symptoms if this state is not maintained almost constantly.

The short-term health risks of cocaine are mostly psychological. It can make users anxious, paranoid and even delusional. They may be irrational while high and prone to outbursts of violence. Death by overdose is also possible, usually due to a heart attack. In the long term, cocaine abuse can cause heart failure, strokes, fungal brain infection (due to insufflation), seizures and lung disorders.

Crystal Meth

As the name implies, crystal meth is sold in a crystalline form, usually broken up into very small crystals that are most frequently smoked to get high. As with cocaine, meth makes the user extremely energetic, sometimes to the point of mania. But unlike cocaine, this effect can potentially last for days at time. During this time the user will frequently stay awake, neglect to eat (or only drink sugary beverages), neglect their hygiene and be prone to various psychological symptoms.

Although it is one of the most addictive and dangerous of the illicit substances, meth is listed as a Schedule II drug by the DEA because it does have some medical application for extreme cases of narcolepsy and obesity.

As with cocaine, meth stimulates dopamine production and keeps it circulating in the brain for far longer than is natural. The intensity of meth and its long-lasting effects present a greater risk for addiction than with most other illicit drugs.

In the short term, meth users experience a wide variety of psychological symptoms as well as impaired thinking. The elevation of body temperature caused by meth can lead to convulsions or even to a stroke. Death by overdose is possible and is usually caused by heart failure. In the long term, a combination of cotton mouth, poor oral hygiene and tooth grinding usually causes significant tooth decay in habitual users. They also often have skin conditions caused by a continual feeling of itchiness that leads them to scratch and pick at it. Habitual meth users are also at elevated risk for liver disease and often have compromised immune systems.

How to Beat Drug Addiction

Arkansas drug addiction can be beaten with treatment at a certified addiction treatment facility. With appropriate medication, counseling, and peer support, it is possible to once again live a life free of the grip of substance abuse. Pick up the phone and dial an addiction specialist when you are serious about your sobriety.