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Prince George's County Maryland Health Department Prince George's County

Give Drug A Bad Rap

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PARENTS, Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol.

Kids experiment with drugs and alcohol for many reasons, including: To reduce stress To feel grown up To fit in It feels good Out of curiosity Their parents do drugs/alcohol They are easy to get It's hard to know which teens will only try these substances, which will use them casually, and which will develop serious problems. The best approach is to talk to them early so they are aware of the dangerous effects, and to set clear rules and enforce them.

You Can Keep Your Kids Off Drugs!

Whether or not it seems like it, you are an important influence on your children. And what you say does matter to them. So talk to them about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Children and young adults need your guidance as they grow up and experience the world around them—at school, at home, at play, and even at work. Explain the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco—and set clear rules and consequences. You are one of the most powerful influencers in their lives—and believe it or not, they value your opinions and don't want to disappoint you. Your support and understanding can impact decisions they make today that affect the rest of their lives. Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol early on, and they'll be more likely to come to you when they come face-to-face with these substances.

Prevention Tips

  • Discuss it in a way that doesn't make kids fear punishment or judgment.
  • Emphasize what kids do right rather than wrong. Self-confidence is a child's best protection against peer pressure.
  • Keep talking to kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol use over the years. Even young children can understand that drugs and alcohol are bad for the body.
  • Ask what kids find appealing—or unappealing—about alcohol, drugs, and/or smoking. Be a patient listener.
  • Show that you value your kids' opinions and ideas. Listen carefully and respond thoughtfully.
  • Talk about personal, family, social, or religious values that give your teen reasons not to use drugs, drink, or smoke.
  • Read, watch TV, and go to the movies with your kids. Compare media images with what happens in reality.
  • Encourage kids to get involved in activities that prohibit smoking or that would be negatively impacted by their use of drugs and alcohol—like sports or music.
  • Discuss ways to respond to peer pressure. Your child may feel confident simply saying "no." But also offer alternative responses such as "I hate the way it makes me look," "I don't like feeling like I'm not in control of my actions," "It makes me feel sick," or "It makes my hair and clothes smell."
  • Encourage kids to walk away from friends who don't respect their reasons for not using drugs and alcohol.
  • Explain how much drugs and alcohol govern the daily life of kids who start using them. How do they afford drugs, alcohol, and/or cigarettes? How do they have money to pay for other things they want? How does it affect their friendships?
  • Establish firm rules that exclude drugs and alcohol from your house and explain why. For example: Smokers smell bad, look bad, and feel bad, and it's bad for everyone's health. Or: Drugs are dangerous, have lasting negative effects on your health, and can hurt—or even kill—you or others around you.
  • For information on the effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, check out the Drug Facts page

For more information visit:

  • The Prince George's County Health Department
  • Parents: The Anti-Drug
  • Time to Talk: Get Help Talking to Your Kids about Drugs and Alcohol
  • Kids Health: For Parents
  • Parents: Be Role Models for Your Children

Get Involved in Your Kids' Lives.

Ask about their day at school, their friends, and their activities. By showing that you care and are interested in their choices and daily activities, they know that you care and that they have your support. They won't want to disappoint you by making poor choices.

1 in 5 teens binge drinks. Only 1 in 100 parents believes his/her teen binge drinks.

Know Where Your Kids Are

Make sure that you know where your kids are and who they're hanging out with. Ask whose house they're visiting and if the parents will be home. Kids need structure in their lives—including rules and a stable environment. Your positive influence can help them say no when offered dangerous substances.

Keep Alcohol and Prescription Pills Behind Locked Doors You are responsible for your children and the environment in which they live. As part of your responsibility, keep alcohol and other substances such as prescription pills in a locked cabinet. If it's easily accessible, it's tempting for kids to try it.

Ask Questions

If you suspect that your child is using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, try not to overreact. Ask about it first. For instance, maybe he or she has been hanging around with friends who smoke or tried one cigarette. Many kids try a cigarette or experiment with drugs or alcohol at one time or another but don't go on to become regular smokers, drug users, or drinkers.

Be Honest—with Your Kids & with Yourself.

Look your kids in the eyes—be open with them and honest with yourself. If you notice signs of alcohol/drug use, address it immediately. Don't go into denial and think that your kid knows better or wouldn't use. Peer pressure is powerful—kids want to be accepted, and they'll often experiment in order to feel cool or be accepted by their peers.

Talk to your kids regularly to ensure that they understand the dangers of drugs and alcohol—and enforce clear rules and consequences.

What if They Start Using?

Sometimes even the best foundation isn't enough to stop kids from experimenting with drugs and alcohol. It's tempting to get angry, but it's more productive to focus on communicating with your child. Calmly talk about the extent of his or her use—how often, how much, with whom, where, and why. Explain why you are concerned. Remind your teen of your rules about alcohol use and enforce the consequences for breaking them. If you have reason to believe your teen is abusing alcohol or your efforts to enforce the rules have failed repeatedly, seek help from a counselor or health care professional.

Helpful Tips

  • Resist lecturing or turning your advice into a sermon.
  • Uncover what appeals to your child about using and talk about it honestly.
  • Talk to them about the immediate downsides of using. Many times, kids aren't able to appreciate how their current behaviors can affect their future health. Ensure they're aware of the downsides of using drugs, drinking, or smoking. For example, if they are smoking, point out that they'll have less money, shortness of breath (affecting sports), yellow teeth, and smelly clothes.
  • Stick to the rules you've set up. And don't let a child use drugs, drink, or smoke at home to keep the peace.
  • If you hear, "I can quit any time I want," ask your child to show you by quitting cold turkey for a week.
  • Try not to nag.
  • Help your child develop a quitting plan and encourage them to seek treatment. Call the Prince George's Health Department for information on treatment services 301-883-7853.

Set a Good Example—Take Care of Your Own Health.

"I stopped using drugs for my kids. I don't want to end up too sick to care for them—or in jail, where I'd miss seeing them grow up."
– Mother of two who recently entered a drug treatment program

If you are using drugs, smoking, or abusing alcohol, your kids might think it's normal or that it's not harmful. Kids are quick to observe any contradiction between what their parents say and what they do. Despite what you might think, most kids say that the adult whom they most want to be like when they grow up is one of their parents.

Get Help

If you or someone you know wants to stop using drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco, there is help available. The Prince George's Health Department offers a variety of treatment options for people struggling with addictions and/or mental health problems, including:

  • Residential services
  • Evaluation
  • Treatment planning
  • Individual, family, and group counseling

Get the Facts About Drugs & Alcohol

Learn as much as you can about illegal and legal drugs and their effects on the body and brain. The more you know, the more confidently you can make smart decisions about drugs and alcohol.

  1. Using drugs can lead to abuse, addiction, serious health problems, and even death.
  2. You can't predict the effect a drug will have on you, even a small amount is dangerous, especially if it's your first time using it.
  3. Drugs that are legal—prescription and over-the counter (OTC) medications—can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.

K2 (Spice)

K2 (Spice)

What is it?
"Spice" is used to describe a family of mixtures containing leafy-looking herbs, spices, and shredded plant material that are sprayed with synthetic compounds (cannabinoids) which are chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. These products are produced in China and Korea.

K2 is labeled "not for human consumption."

What else is it called?
Spice products are also called "fake pot" and synthetic cannabis. Popular brand names include:

  • K2
  • Skunk
  • Moon Rocks
  • Genie
  • Zohai
  • Bliss

How it is used?
Typically smoked Used in tea infusions What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms? Many cannabinoids are illegal in the U.S. because they can be extremely harmful and pose an imminent hazard to public safety. Emergency calls are increasing at an alarming frequency as recreational use of synthetic drugs increases across the country. When you use Spice, it takes over the brain's endogenous cannabinoid system, which is important for memory, body temperature, reproduction, perception, movement and hormone secretion. Studies show that Spice is stored in the body for long periods of time, but long-term effects on humans are not fully known.

K2 can trigger a long- term psychotic disorder.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Loss of memory
  • Anxiety
  • Gastric pain
  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heart rates
  • Drastically raised blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Inability to drive
  • Can damage vital organs
  • Can cause changes in behavior and perception
  • Seizures and death

Bath Salts

Bath Salts

What is it?
"Bath salts" are designer synthetic central nervous system stimulants that come in powder form and contain amphetamine-like chemicals, including mephedrone. These substances should not be confused with traditional bath salts.

Because the drug is new and some of the contents unknown, using it in any way is highly dangerous. Right now, bath salts are illegal in a growing number of U.S. states.

Bath salts are much more potent than cocaine.

What else is it called?
The synthetic powder is sold legally online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of names, including:

  • Ivory Wave
  • Purple Wave
  • Red Dove
  • Blue Silk
  • Zoom
  • Ocean Snow

How it is used?

  • Typically snorted
  • Can also be swallowed or smoked

What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms?
Though the name may sound harmless, bath salts are a dangerous synthetic stimulant that carry the risk of easy overdose, hallucinations and even death. Bath salts are a dangerous drug whose full risks and effects are still unknown, but they seem to have many similarities to methamphetamine (meth). Taking a lot of it for a long time can lead to emotional and physical "crash-like" feelings of depression, anxiety and intense cravings for more of the drug.

Some users become extremely combative and have been known to present a danger to themselves and others. Symptoms can last from a few hours to two or three days.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pains
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme paranoia and delusions
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Sudden death



What is it?
Marijuana is a dry, shredded, green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana, also present in other forms of cannabis, is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Of the roughly 400 chemicals found in the cannabis plant, THC affects the brain the most.

What else is it called?

  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Reefer
  • Chronic
  • Dope
  • Ganja

How is it used?
Loose marijuana rolled into a cigarette called a "joint" Can be smoked in a water pipe, called a "bong" Mixed into food or brewed as tea Smoked in cigars called "blunts"

What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms?
Marijuana is illegal to use in the state of Maryland. Marijuana for medical use is legal 17 states and Washington, DC, with proper documentation and a legal prescription.

1 in 11 of people who use marijuana at least once will become addicted.

Penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use or possession of paraphernalia include:

  • One year in jail
  • Up to $1,000 fine

Possession of even a small amount of marijuana with intent to distribute is a felony, punishable by:

  • Five years in jail
  • Up to $15,000 fine

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Distorted perception
  • Loss of concentration
  • Psychosis
  • May cause/increase depression
  • Loss of coordination
  • Animated behavior
  • Sleepiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hallucinations
  • May cause irritation for lungs and respiratory system



What is it?
Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in food into alcohol. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative.

When you drink alcohol, it's absorbed into your bloodstream. From there, it affects your central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions.

There are three basic types of alcoholic drinks:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Liquor

What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms?
It is illegal to drink alcohol if you are under the age of 21. However, alcohol has serious effects for both adults and underage youth.

Teen alcohol use kills about 6,000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.

Possible consequences of alcohol use include:

  • Difficulty remembering things, making school and/or work even harder.
  • Impaired judgment and motor functions, putting you at risk of making dangerous decisions which could cause injury to yourself or others, or even death. Can also cause social effects such as unprotected sex, which can lead to pregnancy, HIV, or other STDs.
  • Depression or unhappiness.

Alcohol is a depressant and will not cheer you up or make you feel better. Alcohol-related injuries are often caused by binge drinking or drinking and driving.

Alcohol-related accidents are the #1 killer of teens in the U.S.

  • Binge drinking (consuming several drinks in a short time period, often with the intent to get drunk) is dangerous and could kill you. Approximately 11 million American youth under the age of 21 drink alcohol. Nearly half of them drink to excess, consuming five or more drinks in a row, one or more times in a two-week period.
  • Drinking and driving is never OK, even if you've had just one drink. Alcohol impairs your judgment and motor skills, making driving very dangerous. You could hurt—or even kill—yourself or others. Plus, if convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you could face a year in jail, over $1,000 in fines and fees, 12 points on your license, a suspended license, loss of car insurance, and high car insurance rates.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Use and/or Intoxication:
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain, altering your perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.

Every minute in the U.S., someone is injured from an alcohol-related crash. If you drink and drive, you could hurt or kill yourself or others.

Symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Inappropriate or violent behavior
  • Loss of balance
  • Unsteady gait
  • Alcohol poisoning/binge drinking can lead to permanent brain damage, coma, and death
  • Slurred and/or incoherent speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed thinking
  • Depression
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Blackouts



What is it?
Drugs that are legal prescription and over-the counter (OTC) medications can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs.

Pills that are commonly abused to get high or stay awake include: Downers -- or painkillers such as oxycodone, oxycontin, Demerol, Percocet, percodan, and vicodin; and Uppers such as Ritalin and other drugs prescribed for ADHD, methamphetamine (desoxcyn), and ecstasy

Methods of abuse:
Typically taken orally

Prescription drug abuse kills more people than traffic accidents.

What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms?
Using pills to get high, using pills that aren't prescribed to you, and using pills in any way other than the directions on them, is dangerous.

Signs & Symptoms:
Overuse or overdose of prescription drugs can cause:

  • Damage to vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Brain damage



What is it?
Tobacco is a plant. Its leaves are manufactured into products such as cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco (pipes, snuff, and chewing tobacco).

Tobacco affects your brain and can cause depression.

Tobacco is the only organic source of nicotine, which is its addictive agent. In addition to nicotine, tobacco smoke contains 4,000 different gases and particles, including:

  • "Tar," a conglomeration of many chemicals, which is especially harmful to the lungs
  • Nitrogen oxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Cyanide
  • More than 40 carcinogens—chemicals capable of causing cancer. One of these chemicals, benzo(a)pyrene, is being studied as a possible direct link to cancer

What are the consequences of using it and the possible symptoms?

  • Cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Heart disease
  • Damage to heart and brain tissue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression
  • Smoking impedes the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen to bodily tissues, including heart and brain tissue. The lack of oxygen causes the heart to work harder and can lead to a thickening of the walls and possible heart failure

Tobacco kills more people than alcohol, cocaine, heroin, homicide, suicide, car accidents, fire, and AIDS combined.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Dangerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, appetite, temperature, and digestion.
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

Get Help

If you or someone you know wants to stop using, there is help available. The Prince George's Health Department offers many treatment options for people struggling with addictions and/or mental health problems, including:

  • Residential services
  • Evaluation
  • Treatment planning
  • Individual, family and group counseling

Visit the Prince George's Health Department for more information.

Additional Resources

For more information on drugs and alcohol, visit:

  • The Prince George's County Health Department
  • Drug-Free World
  • Just Think Twice
  • Above the Influence

Sources consulted include:

  • Streetdrugs: A Drug Guide, 2012
  • DEA
  • The Partnership at
  • The American Council for Drug Education

Our Partner!

This message is brought to you by the Prince George's County Health Department.

Special thanks to our partner:

  • Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration (ADAA)


Prince George's County
Health Department

1701 McCormick Drive
Largo, Maryland 20774

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