MANILA -- What's with drugs that make the world so deeply concerned about people using them? In the Philippines alone, an estimated four to seven million of its 104 million population are said to be using prohibited drugs. 
 
As a campaign promise, President Rodrigo Duterte has made the crackdown on illegal drugs a centerpiece of his administration -- for which he has been chastised from all fronts, in and out of the country.
 
Drug addiction, no doubt, has severely affected society, cutting across all socio-economic echelons and demographics. No one can deny that drug addiction is a societal menace, resulting in countless crimes, financial problems, and broken relationships, both with families and friends. 
 
Here’s a glimpse of what the common prohibited drugs are and how they affect the body and mind.
 
According to a primer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) posted on its website, drugs are chemical substances that affect the normal functioning of the body, either physically and/or psychologically. 
 
Not all drugs are illegal, it says. The caffeine in coffee, the nicotine in cigarettes, and alcohol are technically legal drugs. Medicines are pharmaceutical drugs used to treat or prevent illnesses. They are legal, although they could also be abused.
 
The ones people should totally shun are the illegal drugs because they alter a person’s mood, thinking, and behavior.
 
All illegal drugs have immediate physical effects, and they also hinder psychological and emotional development, especially among young people, says the UNODC.
 
Drugs cloud a user’s judgment, making him/her take more risks, for instance having unsafe sex that could lead one to contract sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
 
The effects of illegal drugs do not last long. When they wear off, a user gets depressed, lonely and sick, appears confused, sweats a lot, has red eyes, and neglects his/her physical appearance. Then comes the irrational craving.
 
The following are the most common prohibited drugs and how they affect their users:
 
Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine, a.k.a. Shabu, also goes by the names Crack meth, Ice, Crystal meth, Tik, and Yaba. 
 
Methamphetamine belongs to a group of drugs called amphetamine-type stimulants. Like ecstasy, it is manufactured in illegal laboratories and sold in powder, tablet or crystal form. It could be swallowed, sniffed, smoked or injected.  
 
The UNODC says meth produces a feeling of physical and mental wellbeing, euphoria, and exhilaration. Users experience a temporary boost in energy, often perceived to improve their performance of manual or mental tasks, along with delayed hunger and fatigue. At times, they become more aggressive and violent. 
 
Over the short term, users tend to lose their appetite, start to breathe faster, and sweat due to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.
 
Taking in large doses would make users feel restless and irritable and could induce panic attacks. Taking in excessive doses could result in convulsions, seizures, and death from respiratory failure, stroke or heart failure.
 
Long-term use could also lead to malnutrition, weight loss, and psychological dependence. 
 
Stopping its use results in a long period of sleep, followed by depression.
 
Ecstasy 
Ecstasy goes around by the names E, Snackies and New Yorkers. The drug, usually made in illegal laboratories, consists of a range of substances that make it dangerous to consume. It comes in the form of tablet, powder or capsule and is usually swallowed, but could also be snorted or injected. 
 
Ecstasy increases users’ empathy levels and induces a feeling of closeness to people around them. It makes them feel more sociable and energetic. Short-term use of ecstasy prompts the body to ignore distress signals such as dehydration, dizziness, and exhaustion, and interferes with the body's ability to regulate temperature. It could also severely damage the liver and kidneys and could cause convulsions and heart failure. 
 
In large doses, ecstasy could cause restlessness, anxiety and severe hallucinations. Long-term use damages certain parts of the brain, bringing about serious depression and memory loss.
 
Cannabis 
Cannabis is known by many names -- Bongo, Ganja, Grass, Pot or Thai sticks. Its most famous name, however, is Marijuana, or Mary Jane.
 
Cannabis, a tobacco-like greenish or brownish substance made of dried flowering tops and leaves of the cannabis plant, is usually smoked, but its resin and oil could also be swallowed or brewed in tea. 
 
According to the UNODC, cannabis smoke contains 50 percent more tar than high-tar cigarettes, putting users at an increased risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
 
After taking cannabis, users feel relaxed and sometimes euphoric, with an intensified sense of sight, smell, taste, and hearing. 
 
Short-term use makes them experience increased appetite and pulse rate, and an impaired ability to perform physical and mental tasks, such as driving a car and thinking logically. 
 
With large doses, users’ thinking slows down and they become confused and have bouts of anxiety, panic, and psychotic episodes.
 
The UNODC said that regular users of cannabis run the risk of developing psychological dependence to the point that they lose interest in all other activities, such as work and personal relationships.
 
Cocaine 
Cocaine is known as Crack, Bazooka, Blanche, Cake, Coke or Lady. It is a fine white or off-white powder extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. 
 
The UNODC said that on the street, cocaine is diluted with other substances, such as ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), to increase its quantity and produce crack.
 
Cocaine is usually sniffed or injected, while crack is usually smoked. After snorting cocaine, users feel exhilarated and euphoric, leading to increased energy levels and alertness, along with delayed hunger and fatigue. 
 
Short-term use results in loss of appetite, faster breathing, increased body temperature and heart rate. Users may act strangely, erratically and at times violently. 
 
Ingesting large doses of cocaine could cause convulsions, seizures, stroke, cerebral hemorrhage or heart failure. Long-term use of cocaine damages the nose tissue and leads to respiratory problems, abscesses, and infectious diseases.
 
Other risks include strong psychological dependence, malnutrition, weight loss, disorientation, apathy and a state similar to paranoid psychosis.  Mixing cocaine with alcohol is dangerous and could lead to sudden death.
 
Heroin
Heroin is also called Smack, H, Horse, Junk, Harry and White Lady. Heroin is a painkiller processed from morphine, which comes from the opium poppy plant.
 
Pure heroin is a white powder, but street heroin is brownish white. This highly addictive drug is usually injected, but could also be snorted, smoked or inhaled. 
 
Heroin could relieve tension, anxiety, and depression, including physical distress or pain. 
 
According to the UNODC, its short-term effects include constricted pupils, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, inability to concentrate and apathy.
 
Long-term effects, meanwhile, include severe weight loss, malnutrition, constipation, menstrual irregularity, sedation and chronic apathy. Users could develop a tolerance for the drug, making them ingest more to achieve the effect they want.
 
Overdosing on heroin could lead to coma and death through respiratory depression. Abruptly quitting heroin leads to severe withdrawal symptoms, such as cramps, diarrhea, tremors, panic, runny nose, chills, and sweats.
 
LSD 
Also known as Acid or Hippie, LSD is a semi-synthetic drug made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. 
 
Dealers often sell it in squares of blotting paper with drops containing the drug, but also in the form of tablets, capsules, and liquid. The colorless and odorless drug is often swallowed and has a slightly bitter taste.
 
According to the UNODC, LSD use leads to strong changes in thought, mood, and senses, along with feelings of empathy and sociability. Its exact effects, however, vary, depending on the mental state of the user and the environment when taking the drug. 
 
Over the short term, users experience delusions and distorted perceptions in terms of time and color, severe and terrifying thoughts and feelings, such as fear of losing control, insanity, death, and despair.  Users manifest dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, dry mouth and tremors. They lack appetite and are sleepless. (PNA)