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Drug Abuse Facts

Substance abuse touches many lives, maybe even yours.

Drug Facts and Statistics

Street Names

Snow, Powder lines, Freebase, C, Dust, Crack, Rock, Coke, Flake, Blow

Cocaine comes from the leaves of the coca bush, which grows in the Andes Mountains in South America. Historically, the people in Peru and Bolivia chewed coca leaves for strength and energy when working without much food at high altitudes. Cocaine, after praise from Sigmund Freud, was widely and legally available in patent medicines and soft drinks, but is now an illegal substance.

How It Works

Cocaine is a stimulant that triggers the reward system in the brain, which is why it's so addictive. Dopamine is responsible for pleasurable feelings (like after we eat for example). Cocaine traps dopamine (and to lesser degrees serotonin [increased confidence] and norepinephrine [energy]) creating a build-up which is what maintains that pleasurable high. After time, your brain becomes so accustomed to elevated levels of dopamine that it actually manufactures additional receptors for this chemical, in effect rewiring your brain. In experiments, monkeys will press a bar up to 12,000 times before they are rewarded with cocaine and immediately begin again after the reward.

How Is It Used?

Cocaine comes in a powder form (snorted or add water to inject), a freebase form (smoked) or in a crystalline form (rock/crack cocaine).

Canadian Statistics
  • According to a 2022 study, hallucinogens are the most used illegal drug (alcohol remains Canada’s favorite drug of choice). Learn More
  • Crack cocaine is the second most used illegal drug in Canada. Learn More
  • In Canada, cocaine is the most common drug of injection users, followed by heroin. Learn More
Canadian Articles
  • Straight talk on crack cocaine use. Learn More
  • Toronto police unveil largest single day illicit drug seizure in force’s history. Learn More
  • Canada ranks second in the world for cocaine use. Learn More
Street Name

B-bombs, Clarity, Cristal, Decadence, Disco biscuit, E, Essence, Eve, Go, Hug drug, Iboga, Love drug, Morning shot, Pollutants, Scooby snacks, Speed for lovers, Sweeties, Wheels, X, XTC.

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or Ecstasy is man-made; thought to be developed in Germany in the early 1900's to suppress appetite. Through the 90's ecstasy was used by party and club goers for its hallucinogenic effects. MDMA is now used mostly by teens and college-age students as a stimulant (an upper) at all-night raves, concerts and parties.

How It Works

Ecstasy works by primarily affecting serotonin levels in the brain giving users increased energy, euphoria and lessens inhibitions. Serotonin is the messenger between cells in the brain which controls mood and emotions. Ecstasy releases all of the brain's serotonin in one glorious rush. Research on animals has shown that elevated levels of serotonin destroy those brain terminals. Debate continues on the effect of ecstasy on humans, but some researchers believe that continued use of ecstasy may be toxic to the brain.

Canadian Statistics
  • Ecstasy is Canada’s third most used illegal drug. Learn More
  • An estimated 271,000 Canadians have used ecstasy in 2019. Learn More
Canadian Articles
  • What is Ecstasy? A drug that affects the brain’s chemistry by releasing a high level of serotonin, which plays a role in regulating mood, energy level and appetite. Learn More
  • MDMA is often called ecstasy. You may believe that MDMA is a 'safe' drug, but it can have harmful short and long-term effects. Learn More
  • What is Ecstasy (Molly)? Learn More
Street Name

Mescaline (peyote), Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD (acid), PCP, Ketamine, Cannabis, Ecstasy, Jimsonweed, Salvia Divinorum, Nutmeg, Morning Glory, Dextromethorphan (DM)

Hallucinogens – the reality

These drugs are known as "psychedelic" drugs and, though their potency varies, they all will alter your perception of reality (physically through your senses, emotionally, etc). Users cannot predict whether they will have a good or bad 'trip' and the experience can change between uses of the same drug. Psychedelic drugs do not cause physical dependence, with the exception of PCP and DM, but psychological dependence has been reported. Many have been injured while intoxicated on these drugs due to impaired decision making and an altered sense of time and space leading to high-risk behaviours and in some cases, suicide. Flashbacks, days and even months later, have been reported.

Substances abused for their psychedelic properties

Psilocybin: magic mushrooms, shrooms, psychedelic mushrooms, Liberties, magics, mushies, liberty cap
Psilocybin, first used by Native groups in North America, has been used recreationally since the 1950's. Mushrooms take effect within minutes and last about 2 hours. Users eat magic mushrooms fresh and dried, steeped in tea, added to foods, and as capsules. The misidentification of mushroom species has led to accidental poisonings. It is not uncommon for grocery-store mushrooms laced with LSD or PCP to be sold as magic mushrooms on the street. Mushroom growing kits are available legally because the psychedelic in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, is not present in the spores. Psilocybin is a controlled substance in Canada.

Mescaline: Peyote
Peyote is a cactus that grows in the Southwestern United States and Mexico. The exposed top of the small cactus contains mescaline, a hallucinatory drug. American Native groups have used peyote for religious ceremonies for centuries. Peyote is a controlled substance in Canada.

Ketamine: K, Special K, Vitamin K
Ketamine has been in use as a veterinary anaesthetic and painkiller for 30 years. In addition to its psychedelic effects, ketamine is also dissociative (makes your body feel separated from your mind). When abused, ketamine is injected, snorted or mixed with drinks, marijuana or tobacco. Ketamine has become popular at raves and is also used as a 'date rape' drug. Ketamine is a controlled substance in Canada.

Jimsonweed: Devil's apple, Fireweed, Stinkweed and Stinkwort
Jimsonweed is a plant that grows from Texas to southern Ontario. It is a close relative of Deadly Nightshade (Belladona - another plant with hallucinogenic properties). All parts of Jimsonweed are toxic. The hallucinogenic effects begin within 2 hours and can last 24-48 hours. Most websites warns users that Jimsonweed gives a bad 'trip'. Police in London, ON asked residents to destroy any Jimsonweed seed pods in their gardens a few summers ago after a group of 5 teens ate seeds and all ended up in hospital, one in critical care. Some had eaten only one seed. Jimsonweed is not a controlled substance in Canada.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: LSD, Acid, Blotter, Window Pane
LSD is considered the most widely used psychedelic drug. It's found in a fungus that grows on certain grains, like rye, but is more commonly made in illegal labs and sold as a white powder, tablets or capsules. When sold in liquid form, LSD is dabbed onto blotting paper and eaten that way, inhaled or injected. Trips last about 12 hours. LSD is known to cause flashbacks and is a controlled substance.

Phencyclidine: PCP, Angel Dust, Horse Tranquillizer, Hog
PCP was developed in the 1950s as an anaesthetic; in 1965 hospitals stopped using PCP because of horrible effects coming off it had on some patients. PCP is generally considered not worth the risk, but is available illegally in tablet, capsule, and powders that are snorted, smoked, or taken by mouth. PCP is commonly mixed, unknowingly to the user, with other drugs partly because of its addictive qualities (notably with marijuana and mushrooms). The effects of PCP last about 4–6 hours. PCP is addictive and in large doses is fatal. PCP is a controlled substance in Canada.

Salvia Divinorum: Magic Mint, Diviner's Sage
Salvia Divinorum, like Jimsonweed, Nutmeg and Morning Glory seeds, is not a controlled substance and is available legally in Canada (although it is banned in other countries and will earn you a fine in a few states south of the border). In fact, you may see a sign in places that sell bongs and other drug paraphernalia that says 'Salvia sold here'. Salvia Divinorum does not have the same chemical make-up as other hallucinogenic drugs, and scientists haven't studied it enough to know exactly how it works. Salvia Divinorum induces intense visions and impairs coordination and reaction time. A rash of youtube videos posted by users document the effect Salvia has on people.

Yes, the common spice in your cabinet. When eaten or sometimes snorted, it can produce mild euphoria and leaves users with hangover-like symptoms. Usually, nutmeg is used as a last resort.

Morning Glory Seeds:
Morning Glory seeds are used medically for a variety of purposes because of their hallucinogenic effects. Morning Glory is a cousin to LSD and will give users similar, though less powerful, effects when 100 or more seeds are eaten. Commercially available seeds are often covered in pesticides and/or herbicides causing vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms.

Dextromethorphan: the DM in extra-strength cough syrups
Drug makers put DM, a codeine-derived narcotic, into various non-prescription medicines, but extra strength cough syrups are the most easily abused with about 3mg of DM per 1ml of cough syrup. At recommended levels the drug is safe, but at about 4mg and higher the drug produces effects similar to that of PCP or Ketamine and is addictive. Urine tests may show false PCP results and there have been complaints that this addiction isn't taken seriously.

Canadian Statistics
  • PCP is also referred to as Angel Dust and its effects last 4 to 6 hours. Learn More
  • Males are nearly 40% more likely to use hallucinogens than females. Learn More
Street Names

Big H, Boy, Capital H, China white, Chiva, Dead on arrival, Diesel, Dope, Eighth, Good H, H, Hell dust, Horse, Junk, Mexican horse, Mud, Poppy, Smack, Thunder, Train, White junk

Heroin is derived from morphine, which is refined from the opium poppy grown in South Asia, Mexico and the Middle East. Historically, heroin was prescribed by physicians for a range of illnesses (eg. Laudanum [heroin mixed with alcohol] as a cure-all, and was an ingredient in a children's sore throat remedy). Heroin became illegal when medical professionals learned of its addictive nature.

How It Works

Heroin is a depressant that slows breathing, heart rate and metabolism. Heroin mimics the painkilling chemical (endorphins) produced naturally in our brains, and intensifies the effect. The feeling of contentment can last between 1 and 5 hours. Heroin affects nerve cells related to motor activity so users often have a heavy feeling in their arms and legs.

Heroin withdrawal is notoriously bad and addicts will continue to use to avoid the pain. Withdrawal can begin between 6 and 12 hours after the last use, peaking at 36-70hrs, forcing addicts to continually search out the drug.

How Is It Used?

Heroin is either smoked, snorted or injected. Heroin can come as a powder ranging in colour from light brown to white, or in a sticky black form called 'black tar'.

Canadian Statistics
  • Heroin is the fifth most injected drug in Canada. Learn More
Canadian Articles
  • CBSA seizes over 50 KG of cocaine and heroin in the Lower Mainland, BC. Learn More
Street Names

Kus-es-Salahin, Catha, Quat, African Tea, Abyssinian tea, African salad, Bushman's tea, Chat, Gat, Kat, Miraa, Oat, Qat, Somali Tea, Tohai, Tschat, Jimma

Khat comes from the Catha edulis plant, a flowering shrub native to Africa and the Middle East. Khat is legal and considered mainstream in Yemen and other countries such as Somalia and Kenya, and is a huge cash crop for Yemenis farmers. Khat has a long history in East-African and Middle Eastern countries and immigrants have taken the practice of chewing Khat with them around the world. Khat is illegal in most European countries as well as Canada and the USA.

How It Works

Like the Coca plant, the people who live in regions native to the Catha plant chewed the leaves as a stimulant and at times for a religious experience. Khat looks like basil and contains two psychoactive ingredients: cathinone (a natural amphetamine) and cathine (a milder form of the first). Fresh leaves contain both substances, but about 48 hours after harvesting the more powerful cathinone diminishes leaving only the cathine active. Khat is shipped in airtight plastic containers in bundles, mainly through airports, because freshness is a key selling point.

Users report feelings of euphoria, reduced inhibition, increased sexual performance, increased alertness and excitement, and reduced appetite. Its effects last about 3 hours. It is highly addictive with no recognized medicinal uses. Khat gives users a similar experience to ecstasy or amphetamines.

How Is It Used?

Because the potency dramatically decreases with the dried variety, most users prefer to chew khat, much as one would chewing tobacco. Dried khat can be brewed in tea or added to food. Khat tea is known as 'bushman's tea'.

Canadian Articles
  • In 2021 CBSA seized 2000 kilos of khat in Vancouver. Learn More
Street Names

420, Acapulco gold, BC bud, Buddha, Cheeba, Chronic Dope, Ganja, Green goddess, Herb, Homegrown Hydro, Indo, KGB (killer green bud), Kindbud, Locoweed, Mary Jane, Shake, Sinsemilla, Skunk, Wacky tabacky, weed, pot

Using marijuana is not a new idea. Cannabis cultivation is found in Chinese records as far back as 28 BC, and traces of THC have been found in Egyptian mummies. The marijuana plant has many uses apart from drug use including hemp (rope, fabric and paper). The leaves, resin and flowers are the only parts of the plant that contain enough THC to get high off of.

How It Works

The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahyrdrocannabinol). THC targets specific receptors in our brains in three key areas which affect memory and learning, balance and coordination, and movement control. The initial effect of THC wears off after an hour or two, but the chemical remains in the brain for days. Marijuana also increases dopamine levels (the 'feel-good' chemical that's released in our brain when we feel pleasure).

How Is It Used?

Typically marijuana is smoked as a cigarette (joint or nail), in a pipe, a bong or in a cigar (blunt). Marijuana has a very distinctive smell when being smoked, described by some as 'burning wet leaves'.

There is a long history of marijuana being used in a variety of baked goods, usually with the name 'space' or 'special' tacked onto it, ie: space cookies, special brownies. Marijuana is soluble in alcohol and can be infused into cooking brandy or rum and used that way also. "When infused in high-proof grain-based alcohol (such as vodka) it becomes what is commonly known as 'Green Dragon'."

Street Names

Ice, Crystal, Glass, Tina, Speed, Meth, Jibb, Gak, Ladies Speed, Mye, Chalk, Crank, Crystal Meth, C.R., Go, Go Fast, Geek, Geet, Red Rock, Tweak, Amp, Prope Dope, P2P, Poor Man's Coke, Pink Glass, Zip

Amphetamine and methamphetamine are not new synthetic drugs. Marketed as Benzedrine in North America and the UK in the '20s and '30s, amphetamine (and its more powerful cousin methamphetamine) was used in low doses as a diet aid and to treat narcolepsy and depression. Governments on both sides in WWII gave troops and pilots meth and pharmaceutical amphetamines.

In the 50's amphetamines became available by prescription only and by the 80's governments limited public access to known precursor chemicals (ingredients) to answer the rise in home chem labs producing the illegal substance. Meth didn't become popular as a street drug until the late 80's and in the early 90's a crystal smoke-able form of meth (crystal meth) quickly became popular.

How It Works

Amphetamines (prescription or street varieties) work the same way — by stimulating the heart and breathing functions, tightening blood vessels and causing sleeplessness. Like other stimulants, meth floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter, which influences body movement, emotions and feelings of pleasure and pain. Its effects can last up to 16hrs.

* But meth is even more powerful than amphetamine.

For example, using cocaine will boost dopamine levels by 400%; Crystal meth up to 1500%. (NAHO 2006) The unnatural flood of dopamine disrupts the brain's ability to create or use the chemical naturally. Because of this, users who quit meth struggle to find pleasure in anything and are often depressed, and the only way back up is more meth. (The brain may repair the damage over time, but long-time addicts often struggle with memory loss, short attention spans and other problems.) Some Canadian addiction experts say that coming off crystal meth is worse than heroin or cocaine and point to the 92% relapse rate among crank addicts as proof.

Meth stays in your body's system for a long time. There are reports of new inmates who are regular meth users selling their own urine for the meth it contains.

Signs and Symptoms

Addicts of meth can be in an almost constant state of 'fight or flight' with the increased sensory perception – lights are brighter, sounds are louder, etc. Police are trained to speak with low voices and slow movements to prevent further agitation.

'Tweaking' refers to an OCD like repetitive behaviour users high on meth do without realizing the harm, sometimes for hours at a time. Meth bugs refer to severe and chronic users' perception of their skin crawling, or bugs crawling all over them. If they are desperate enough, they will pick at the scabs and eat them for the meth that's still in their bodies. Meth mouth is a term that applies to the tooth decay and loss of teeth many meth addicts suffer. Many meth addicts are underweight because the drug suppresses appetite.

* Crystal meth is one of a few substances that will penetrate the barrier between a mother and fetus causing infants
to be born addicted.

Some long term effects of using meth can be: Schizoprehia and bi-polar disorders, paranoid psychosis, depression, fatigue, cravings, dilated pupils, suicide, psychotic behaviours and auditory hallucinations.

How Is It Used?

Meth is available in a wide variety of forms: ingest (swallow), snort, smoke or inject. This variety combined with the often low cost of crystal meth is what makes this drug so popular among poor and rural youth. Users are very particular often about which amphetamine they use and how they use it. Those interested in pharmaceutical amphetamines won't touch the street or 'dirty' drugs. Those who inject or snort have a wider selection, but those who choose to smoke are more limited and must find a freebase form like crystal meth.

Canadian Articles
  • Police seize 63kg of methamphetamine in largest Winnipeg meth bust ever. Learn More
  • Alberta man faces prison time for attempting to smuggle boatload of meth into Canada. Learn More
Prescription Narcotics
Frequently abused narcotics and common names

Oxycontin® (known on the street as Oxy, Hillbilly heroin, Big C, and Killer), Dilaudid®, Percocet®, Percodan®, Demerol®, Codeine, Morphine (Duramorph® and Roxanol®), MS Contin®, Fentanyl (Duragesic®), Pentazocine (Talwin®), Propoxyphene (Darvon®), and Tylenol 3

How It Works

Narcotics work by blocking the pain signals going to the brain or by interfering with the brain's interpretation of those pain signals. Doctors will prescribe narcotic pain medications based on a variety of criteria. Oxycontin, for instance, is prescribed for the relief of moderate to severe pain requiring long-term use – chronic pain. It has a time-release feature which allows patients to take it only twice a day. Over time, our brains develop tolerance for narcotics, which require the dosage to be increased to have the same pain relief.

How Is It Used?

Prescription narcotics come in tablets, capsules, syrups, solutions and suppositories and can be mixed with other drugs such as acetaminophen or a cough suppressant. Oxycontin, unlike some others, is crushed to by-pass the time release feature. Users snort the powder or add water and inject the drug intravenously.

Prescription Stimulants
Commonly prescribed stimulants

Ritalin (Methylphenidate), Adderall, Dexedrine, Adderall XR, Concerta

Street Names

Dex(ies), Rits, Vitamin R, West Coast, Add(ies)

With the exception of Ritalin, these drugs are all amphetamines (speed) and have dozens of street names. Those who abuse prescription drugs will use different names than those looking for street 'dirty' drugs. Ecstasy is one of the most popular street amphetamines and has a collection of exclusive street names. For more information on Ecstasy see above.

How It Works

All stimulants affect your brain in much the same way (such as cocaine). They focus primarily on the norepinephrine and dopamine levels in your brain causing increased alertness and attention (ability to focus), energy and a 'feel-good' euphoria or high. These drugs are (or have been) prescribed for narcolepsy, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity and depression. They are considered safe when taken as advised by a physician where the risk of dependence is virtually non-existent. When abused, these drugs are addictive. There have been cases in the United States where people have died from heart complications as a result of using these drugs.

How Is It Used?

Sold in pill form, abusers crush and snort the powder or mix with water and inject. These prescription drugs are most popular with 18-25 year olds. These drugs are taken as 'performance enhancers' by students for late night study sessions and tests to increase alertness, focus and stay up for long periods. Considered 'safe' by students, the effect these drugs give is much greater than energy drinks or caffeine pills. These drugs are also used to get 'high'. Most of the drugs listed above have extended relief versions, which are more easily abused. Ritalin, for example, only lasts 4 hours, whereas Concerta was designed to be taken once a day.

Designer Drugs

Many of the stimulants doctors prescribe are only slightly different than the illegal stimulants sold on the street. Super labs often chemically alter (in only small ways) legal drugs to sell in the illegal drug trade to make them more powerful (and addictive). Amphetamine is a large component of ecstasy, meth, crystal meth and other designer drugs, as well as these prescription stimulants. Street and online sellers promise safe regulated pills, but the truth is that you never know what you're getting.

Canadian Statistics
  • Nearly 22% of Canadians over the age of 15 use psychoactive prescription drugs in some form. Learn More
Street names

Drone, Bubbles, Meow Meow, Miaow, Meph, 4-MMC, MCAT, MM-Cat, Stardust (North Dakota), Krabba (Sweden), Sunshine (Oregon)

Legal Status

Mephedrone is considered a 'legal high' in many countries. The widespread popularity of the drug through Europe has sparked various countries to ban the substance.

* Health Canada lists mephedrone as a controlled substance, though no seizures or arrests have been reported by
major media.


Mephedrone is a synthetic party or designer drug, chemically very similar to cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamine and methamphetamine. Police forces around the world insist that mephedrone is the drug cook's way around legislation that ban specific compounds.

It's believed that mephedrone has been available since 2007 when police in France received the results back from what they believed was an ecstasy tablet. It started to appear in clubs in Britain in early 2009. Sold as a designer drug, mephedrone has gained quick popularity among rave and dance club goers in Europe and the UK.

Because mephedrone is currently legal in many states, it's become very popular as a cheap, more effective and legal alternative to ecstasy and cocaine that has no withdrawal effects.

Mephedrone is sold online or in headshops usually as plant food or bath salts. Online sellers promise discreet same or next day home delivery, but always warn that mephedrone is not for human consumption to skirt current laws. As with any uncontrolled substance, quality and ingredients are always in question.

How It Works

Mephedrone is a stimulant that gives users a euphoric rush that removes inhibition. The effects can last 2 to 4 hours, and depending on method of ingestion, can begin to take effect within 2 to 15 minutes. Side effects of mephedrone, as reported anecdotally by users, are nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, paranoia, increased heart rate, anxiety, sweating, cold or blue fingers, and dilated pupils. Aggression has been reported by police.

Users are prone to redosing — repeated usage over a short period of time. Experts fear that this trend is indicative of possible psychological addiction. Users do not report withdraw symptoms, so mephedrone is unlikely to be physically addictive. Because this drug is so new, little is actually known about it.

How Is It Used?

Mephedrone can be snorted, taken as a pill, injected or mixed in a drink. It's rarely smoked.

Prescription and Street Names

Sublimaze®, Duragesic®, Actiq®, Fentora®, Apache, China girl, China white, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot, murder 8, TNT, Tango and Cash


Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate used for chronic severe pain management for those already used to, or tolerant of, powerful opiates. It's available as a 72hr patch for long-term use (the Fentanyl is contained in the gel inside the patch and delivered into the bloodstream through the skin), as a lollipop or sucker, as a pill or by injection. Duragesic, the patch, became available in Canada in 1992.

How It Works

Fentanyl is an opiate similar in effect to other prescription narcotics such as Oxycontin or morphine or the street drug, heroin. It's a depressant and when used as recommended is effective for pain management. When abused, Fentanyl floods the dopamine centres in the brain (the reward centre) causing euphoria and relaxation. The Medical Journal of Australia says that Fentanyl is 200 times more potent than morphine.

Obviously, mixing Fentanyl with other opiates or depressants such as heroin or alcohol is extremely dangerous. Aside from the desired effects of abusing Fentanyl, users may experience breathing problems, nausea, constipation, drowsiness, unconsciousness, coma, and death.

* Fentanyl abuse has been linked to overdose deaths in Canada, the United States, Australia and other countries.

How Is It Used?

Aside from the prescribed methods, users have become extremely creative when abusing Fentanyl. Even used patches contain enough Fentanyl to be lethal. There have been reports of patches being sold by those with a legitimate prescription, stolen from garbage or the elderly in nursing homes, and ripped off corpses. Users will extract the gel from the skin patches and eat, smoke, inject, and dissolve it under their tongues. Because Fentanyl is highly soluble, users have soaked pieces of the patch in alcohol and then infused herbs such as basil with the mixture to smoke. Exceeding the recommended amount, having more than one lollipop for instance, is common as well.

Clandestine labs are also producing Fentanyl creating a host of street names for the product.

Canadian Statistics
  • Of all accidental apparent opioid toxicity deaths so far in 2023 (January-March), 81% involved fentanyl. Learn More
Canadian Articles
  • New Brunswick RCMP seize largest cargo of fentanyl in province’s history. Learn More
Inhalants, Solvents & Glue

Inhalants, solvents and glues are most commonly abused by younger teens and tweens — the average age is 12 years old. Experts admit that those who use these substances habitually are more likely to try harder drugs. Teens are nonchalant and ignorant of exactly what they're inhaling, with potentially fatal consequences.

Common Street Terms

Air Blast, Bolt, Boppers, Buzz Bomb, Climax, Glading, Hippie Crack, Kick, Medusa, Moon Gas, Oz, Poor Man's Pot, Poppers, Quick Silver, Rush, Shoot The Breeze, Dusting.

Commonly Abused Inhalants Are In YOUR House

Glues, Nail Polish Remover, Nail Polish, Lighter Fluid, Spray Paints, Aerosol Deodorant and Hair Sprays, Whipped cream canisters, Cleaning Fluids, Paint Thinners and Removers, Dry-Cleaning Fluids, Degreasers, Gasoline, Correction fluids, Felt-tip Markers, Ether, Chloroform, Halothane, Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)

The Chemicals Involved ...

* This lists are not exhaustive, but give parents an idea of just how common and accessible these inhalants are.

Nitrous Oxide
Whipped Cream Dispensers, Anything that will boost octane levels in cars
Gasoline, Paint Thinners and Removers, Correction Fluid, Spray Paints, Aerosol Deodorant and Hair Spray, Vegetable Oil Cooking Sprays, Fabric Protector Sprays, Shoe-Shining Spray
Amyl Nitrite, Isobutyl (butyl) Nitrite, Cyclohexyl Nitrite
Video Head Cleaner, Room Odorizer, Leather Cleaner, Liquid Aroma
Butane, Propane
Lighter Fluid, Hair and Paint Sprays
Refrigerant and Aerosol Propellant, Computer Keyboard Dusting Sprays
Methylene Chloride
Paint Thinners and Removers, Degreasers
Spot Removers, Degreasers

More Than Sniffing?
  • Sniffing – Holding the marker or a container (original or improvised) to the nose and sniffing deeply. Users may use nail polish remover, or correction fluid on their nails, and then sniff their nails.
  • Snorting – A variation of sniffing.
  • Spraying – Users spray the desired chemical or substance onto a surface, a piece of paper, clothing, skin, (etc.) and either sniff or huff the vapours.
  • Huffing – Users draw in the chemical vapours through their mouth, as a smoker does with a cigarette. Youtube has many videos showing teens huffing.
  • Bagging – Popular with vapours from liquids such as gasoline. Users pour or spray the substance into a plastic or paper bag and either sniff or huff the vapours. This was graphically depicted by a video taken by an RCMP officer in Davis Inlet, Labrador, in 1999. The video documented Innu children sniffing gasoline from plastic garbage bags. Nitrous Oxide is commonly huffed using a balloon.
  • Dusting — A specific term for using computer keyboard cleaner containing compressed gas.

When inhaled, these gases, vapours and solvents take effect right away and diminish within 15 minutes (usually), prompting users to continue using over an extended period of time increasing the amount of chemicals entering their body.

Once inside the body, these substances can be absorbed into parts of the brain and nervous system slowing down body functions similar to alcohol. Some teens have been killed using for the first time. Nitrites cause body functions to speed up and is often used by older teens and early 20-somethings to increase sexual function and pleasure.

Tell-Tale Signs

mood swings, extreme anger, agitation, irritability, exhaustion, loss of appetite, frequent vomiting, hallucinations and illusions, facial rashes and blisters, frequent nose running, coughing, dilated pupils, extremely bad breath, strong odours on clothing or person

How Inhalants Kill
  • Sudden Sniffing Death — Cardiac arrest (particularly with butane, propane, and aerosols)
  • Asphyxia — Oxygen in the lungs is replaced with poisonous gases causing death.
  • Suffocation — Users who huff or bag vapours by placing plastic bags over their heads are at high risk for this.
  • Injuries — Poor judgement and coordination has led to irrational behaviour causing death. Many everyday products are also highly flammable and have caused burns and explosions. People have been known to dip cigarettes in these substances and light up - bad idea.
  • Suicide — With the 'high' comes a significant 'low' causing some to commit or attempt suicide.

Canadian Articles
Benzodiazepines and Barbituates
Most frequently abused benzodiazepines in Canada and the USA
Common Street Names

Benzos, Downers, Nerve Pills, Tranks

Alprazolam – Xanax®, Xanor®, Tafil®, Alprox®

Clonazepam – Klonopin®, Klonapin®, Rivotril®, Iktorivil®

Lorazepam – Ativan®, Temesta®, Lorabenz®

Diazepam – Valium®, Apzepam®, Stesolid®, Vival®, Apozepam®, Hexalid®, Valaxona® (V's, Vallies)

Flunitrazepam – Rohypnol® (Roofies, Rope, Rophies, Ropies, Ruffies, Roche, Roachies, R-2, Mexican Valium, and Forget-Me-Pill)

Temazepam – Restoril® (Rugby Balls, Tems, Jellies)

Nitrazepam – Alodorm®, Arem®, Insoma®, Mogadon®, Nitrados®, Nitrazadon®, Ormodon®, Paxadorm®, Remnos® and Somnite®

* There are over fifteen FDA approved benzodiazepines (though over 2000 varieties have been created).
Each of those fifteen or more are marketed under multiple names.

Most frequently abused barbituates

Secobarbital – Seconal® (reds, red birds, red devils)>

Pentobarbital – Nembutal® (Yellow Jackets)

Amobarbital – Amytal® (Blue Heavens)

Amobarbital – Secobarbital - Tuinal® (Christmas Trees, Rainbows)

Zopiclone – Imovane®

What is it?

Benzodiazepines and barbiturates are prescription depressants (sedatives). Barbituates fell out of favour with doctors in the 1970's and were largely replaced by benzodiazepines for sedative and hypnotic uses. By the 1980's, the highly addictive nature of Benzodiazepines was recognized by the medical community (barbiturates are also highly addictive). Benzodiazepines are some of the most popular medications in North America, prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, agitation, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures. They are also prescribed before medical or dental appointments to calm people and for their amnesiac effects (to help people 'forget' difficult or painful procedures). Benzodiazepines are also used to treat hallucinogen intoxication.

Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and build tolerance quickly. Sudden withdrawal can cause severe and traumatic physical effects including seizures called withdrawal syndrome. It is highly recommended to come off benzodiazepines under a doctor's supervision, and this process can take up to a full year depending on circumstances.

How It Works

At prescribed dosages, benzodiazepines produce a calming effect and a sense of well-being. Barbituates cause a sense of well-being, calm and drowsiness. Being high on benzodiazepines has been compared to alcohol intoxication. At high doses, users can experience what's known as a paradoxical reaction with symptoms of rage, paranoia, violence, loss of inhibition, risk-taking behaviour, blackouts and memory loss.

While overdose from benzodiazepines rarely results in fatality, when mixed with other drugs it can be very dangerous. Mixing benzodiazepines with depressants such as alcohol, barbituates or other opiates causes excitability, alertness and confidence, while mixing benzodiazepines with stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine, will keep the user from feeling the full effects of either drug, increasing the risk of overdose. Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs has resulted in death.

How Is It Used?

Like any prescription drug, benzodiazepines are taken orally, or by injecting either crushed tablets or the jelly from capsules. Benzodiazepines are not readily soluble in water, and injecting them can cause serious vein injuries, circulatory problems, loss of limb and infection. Benzodiazepines are also popular as a date rape drug, and when crushed and dissolved in alcoholic or carbonated drinks are virtually tasteless. Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine are the most common date-rape drugs, but any benzodiazepine could be used for this purpose, so be aware. (Rohypnol is 7-10 times stronger than Valium)

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Street Names

Juice, Meth (also used to refer to methamphetamines)

Methadone was created by German scientists during World War II. They were looking for a pain reliever made with common precursors (ingredients) to help alleviate the opium shortage at the time.

Methadone is an opioid, a synthetic drug made to mimic the effects of opiates such as heroin or morphine. Methadone is available on the streets as a drug of abuse, and will produce the same euphoric high as other opioids such as Oxycontin, when taken in large enough quantities.

Methadone is used primarily to treat opiate addictions: opiates like heroin and morphine, and opioids like Oxycontin (but not other types of drugs). Methadone works by attaching to the brain's opium receptors preventing cravings, withdraw, and the erratic drug-seeking behaviours that disrupt lives. Methadone does not give users a euphoric high with a prescribed dose, and will block the high from other opiates or opioids such as heroin.

However, Methadone is highly addictive. Many Methadone Maintanence Treatment (MMT) patients require the treatment for prolonged periods of time. Addicts become physically dependent on Methadone, and if treatment is stopped suddenly users undergo painful withdraw. Withdraw symptoms can be up to twice as severe as for morphine or heroin (drugs notoriously known for their violent withdraw effects) and last for several weeks instead of days.

How Is It Used?

Methadone, as given out at pharmacies, is either in liquid or powder form diluted in a flavoured drink and taken once a day. Patients who have demonstrated commitment and responsibility can be given up to a week's worth of "Take-Home doses" to allow them to take the treatment at home. On the streets, users are snorting the powder, crushing and 'cooking' the pills for injection, and using the liquid form to inject also.

Street Names

Oxy, Hillbilly Heroin, Big C, and Killer

How It Works

Oxycontin is a prescription narcotic that's prescribed for long-term excessive pain management. Oxycontin is the brand-name for the opiate, Oxycodone, and it affects the brain in the same way as heroin or morphine. Oxycontin is manufactured with a built-in time release feature to deliver a sustainable amount of pain-relief over a twelve hour period.

As with any opiate, increased tolerance is a concern. Oxycontin is extremely addictive, and can result in physical dependence.

The manufacturers were fined several million dollars in 2007 by a U.S. District Judge for downplaying the drug's addictive properties to physicians, and for claiming the drug was less subject to abuse than other pain medications.

How Is It Abused?

Oxycontin is taken orally, in excess, to achieve a high very similar to heroin. Users also crush the tablet to by-pass the time release feature and receive the full amount of opiate at once. Once crushed, some may dilute the powder to inject the opiate. Snorting is less common.

Oxycontin addicts are often prescribed methadone treatments.