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Grades 1 to 10: Glossary

Copyright © 1998-2008

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Alcohol — a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and metabolized in the liver. Moderate doses produce disinhibition, while heavier doses produce cognitive and motor impairment and a decreased level of consciousness. Adverse effects of acute intoxication include blackouts, suicide, violence against persons and property; and trauma, including trauma from motor vehicle accidents.

Amphetamines (speed, ice, glass, crystal, crank, bennies, uppers) — stimulants,a group of drugs that speed up the central nervous system. Effects: wakefulness, alertness, increased energy, reduced hunger and an overall feeling of well-being. Amphetamines are made wholly from chemicals and mimic the hormone, adrenaline, one of the body's natural stimulants. At the same time, they affect the heart and lungs and many other organs.

Anorexia — marked loss of appetite that may be induced by drugs, psychological disorders or physical illness.

Antibiotics — drugs used to fight infections, e.g., penicillin and tetracycline.

Antidepressants — drugs that are usually prescribed to relieve depression.

Anticonvulsants (anti-epileptic, anti-seizure) — drugs that prevent or relieve seizures (convulsions), e.g., phenytoin (Dilantin®).

Antiemetic — drug that prevents or relieves nausea and vomiting, e.g., dimenhydrinate (Gravol®).

Anti-inflammatory — drug that reduces tissue inflammation; e.g., ASA (Aspirin®), ibuprofen (Advil®, and Motrin®).

Antipyretic — drug that reduces fever, e.g., acetaminophen (Tylenol®), ASA (Aspirin®) and ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®).

Antitussive — drug that supresses the cough reflex, e.g., codeine, dextromethorphan (the latter often indicated by the letters DM, such as Benylin DM.)

Barbiturates (downers, barbs, blue heavens, yellow jackets, red devils) — sedative/hypnotic (powerful depressant) drugs that slow down the central nervous system. They can be prescribed by a doctor under such trade names as Seconal®, Amytal®, Nembutal®, and Tuinal®. Fiorinal® is used for migraine headaches. Doctors don't often prescribe them now because there are safer drugs available. Barbiturates are among the most dangerous of drugs when they are used illegally.

Benzodiazepines — central nervous system depressants. They are the most commonly prescribed medications (for daytime anxiety relief and for sleep problems). Frequently prescribed names include lorazepam, alprazolam, diazepam, temazepam, and triazolam.

Caffeine — a central nervous system stimulant used in many medicines (e.g., painkillers, cold and cough remedies, antihistamines) and is found in coffee, tea, cola drinks, cocoa, and chocolate.

Cannabis — the name that covers marijuana, hashish, hash oil — all of them come from Cannabis sativa, a plant that grows in many parts of the world. All three forms contain THC, a chemical that changes the way the user/person thinks, acts and feels. Cannabis is a hallucinogen smoked in "joints" or eaten in cooked or baked foods, and is the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada.

Cocaine (crack, coke, C, flake, snow) — a powerful central nervous system stimulant, and an anaesthetic that numbs whatever tissue it touches, such as the inside of the nose. Cocaine overworks the body and brain, boosting the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.

Depressant — a drug which acts on the central nervous system to suppress neural activity in the brain. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates and opioids are depressants.

Derivative — substance derived from another substance by chemical manipulation, e.g., heroin is derived from morphine by reaction of morphine with acetic anhydride.

(What is a) Drug (psychoactive) — any substance that affects perceptions, thoughts, emotions or behaviour.

Drug Misuse/Abuse — any use of a drug that results in a physical, mental, emotional, legal or social problem.

Ecstasy — is sold in tablet or gelatin capsule form and is both a stimulant and a hallucinogen which has many adverse effects. It is produced through chemical synthesis, mostly in illicit laboratories, and is often called a "Designer Drug". Ecstasy's use has been associated with young people who attend "Raves" but recently, it has also gained popularity among urban professionals. There is no approved medical use.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) — a specific pattern of permanent physical and mental characteristics seen in some children whose mothers consumed large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy.

Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) — a less clearly defined pattern of permanent physical and mental characteristics seen in some children whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

Glue/Paint Stripper/Varnish/Gasoline — (see Solvents and Aerosols)

Hallucinogens — drugs that induce hallucinations or distort reality. Hallucinogens such as LSD ["acid"], PCP ["angel dust," "hog"] are made synthetically or are found in plants: mushrooms (psilocybin), cactus (mescaline), and from morning glory seeds, nutmeg, jimson weed. Large doses of cannabis, amphetamines and solvents can also produce hallucinations.

Harm Reduction — a public health approach that aims to minimize the harms cased by certain conditions that pose serious risks to individuals, groups and society. Harm reduction is not about stopping people from doing something risky. It is about showing people how to more safely do whatever they choose to do.

Hypnotic — a drug that induces sleep, e.g., benzodiazepines such as triazolam (Halcion®), barbiturates.

LSD/PCP/Magic Mushrooms — (see Hallucinogens)

Marijuana — (see Cannabis)

Narcotics — commonly used to mean any drug listed in the Narcotic Control Act (including opioids, cannabis and cocaine). This Act has now been replaced by the Controlled Drugs & Substance Act. Some people still refer to opioids as narcotics.

Needle Exchange — A needle exchange program collects used needles and distributes clean needles and other material. The service is intended to promote safe needle use by users of both legal and illegal drugs. A needle exchange also provides referrals or access to testing for HIV, Hepatitis, other Sexually Transmitted Diseases or Tuberculosis as well as referrals to other services.

Nicotine — a stimulant drug and a main component in tobacco. Nicotine is highly addictive and reaches the brain seconds after puffing a cigarette, immediately causing an increase in blood pressure and pulse in some people. Depending on the dose and circumstances of present use, nicotine may produce a range of behavioural effects, from mild stimulation and euphoria to relaxation, anxiety reduction and sedation.

Opioids — include both natural opiates (drugs from the opium poppy) such as morphine, codeine, semi-synthetic heroin, and opiate-related synthetic drugs, such as meperidine (Demerol) and methadone. Opioids are strong painkillers.

Sedative — is a depressant which acts on the central nervous system to relieve anxiety and induce calmness/sleep, e.g., barbiturates, benzodiazepines.

Side Effect — drug-induced effect that accompanies the intended effects of a drug. Side effects are often undesirable, but may occasionally be beneficial.

Solvents and Aerosols — can be used as inhalant drugs. They are very easy to obtain. They are made by the chemical industry to be used as gasoline, shoe polish, paint removers, model airplane glue, nail polish remover, spray deodorants, hairsprays and insecticides. Regular use may lead to a physical and/or psychological dependence. Sniffing any of these substances can be extremely harmful to health and can cause death.

Steroids — anabolic steroids are chemically manufactured substances similar in action to the male sex hormone, testosterone. Some athletes use these drugs trying to build muscle strength and endurance. Steroid use can have dangerous short-term and long-term effects on health.

Stimulants — drugs such as caffeine, amphetamines, nicotine and beverages containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cola), that stimulate the central nervous system, giving a feeling of alertness and energy. Their effects may wear off quickly. Powerful stimulants such as cocaine can overwork the body, causing harmful effects.

Substance Abuse — any use of a substance that causes a physical, mental, emotional, legal or social problem.

Tobacco — a plant substance that is smoked and can cause physical and psychological dependence. Tobacco smoke has many components including nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. Health problems resulting from the use of tobacco are the leading cause of preventable death in Canada.

Tolerance — reduced sensitivity to a drug resulting from the body adapting to repeated exposure to that drug, thus requiring higher doses to maintain the body's original response to the drug.

Topical (pertaining to drugs) — applied locally to the area being treated, e.g., to the skin, eye, etc.

Toxicity — state of being poisoned. Also, adverse effects created by a drug.

Tranquilizers/Sleeping Pills/Pain Killers — drugs that can be obtained legally with a prescription. These substances may be found in many households. These drugs can become both physically and psychologically addictive when used inappropriately.

Withdrawal — the body's reaction to the absence or sudden large decrease in the amount of a psychoactive drug to which it has adapted.