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Sex 'n' Drugs

Ya Ba dabba doo; it's good to be informed

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Topping the list of the trendy illicit drugs this year is Ya Ba, a powerful methamphetamine from Asia. Though the drug has yet to hit the Springs with any powerful force, it is gaining popularity on the West Coast, especially at all-night ravers.

Ya Ba (which is Thai for "crazy medicine") is also known as "Nazi speed" and come from Myanmar, or Burma. The drug, which is highly addictive, is a very pure methamphetamine that comes in pill form, often flavored like candy. The high that it induces is reportedly more intense than the one that Ecstasy produces, and can last 10 hours.

Last week, 10 people were arrested in California and charged with trying to smuggle hundreds of thousands of Ya Ba pills into the United States. Federal authorities termed it the most "significant" Ya Ba bust in the United States so far.

Regardless of your moral, ethical or spiritual beliefs, novice and expert students alike will inevitably be faced with decisions about sex and drugs.

According to a 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, nearly 40 percent of U.S. citizens over the age of 12 have used a potentially addictive drug.

While the Independent would never condone the use of any dangerous or illegal substances, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects and dangers you may face if you choose to consume them. Here's a rundown on some of the other newer and trendier drugs you may come across.

Ecstasy -- the chemical name is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, but it is also known as MDMA for short, or XTC, or simply the love drug -- comes in either a pure powder or a capsule, often with some symbols written on it. Using ecstasy causes increased tactile sensitivity, high energy levels, and mild hallucinogenic effects. Ecstasy is also a neurotoxin that can cause a spike in body temperature resulting in kidney and heart failure. Its chemical structure also causes hallucinogenic effects similar to LCD. Also like LSD, another synthetic drug, ecstasy has been linked to long-term brain damage. Short-term use (only 4 days) has caused memory loss that is still evident 7 years later. Ecstasy is also similar to methamphetamine, which has been shown to damage the neurons that produce the brain chemical dopamine. Damage to dopamine production is also the underlying cause of Parkinson's disease. The amphetamine in ecstasy can also make it as addictive as cocaine.

OxyContin (or oxycodone hydrochloride) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1995 as a pain reliever for patients suffering from cancer and chronic pain. It was originally produced in time-release pill form; but you will probably see it dissolved into a liquid to disable the pill capsule's time release. It is a manmade drug derived from heroin and is just as addictive. OxyContin blocks pain messengers to the brain and increases dopamine production. As the body compensates tolerance increases, and more OxyContin is needed to achieve the same high. This is the same chemical dependency that occurs with heroin use.

Methamphetamine (meth, speed, crystal, crank, ice) causes a state of prolonged euphoria or a quick rush (depending on the method of ingestion) and increased energy. It comes in a powder, which can be snorted or injected, or put into pill capsules. Methamphetamine releases high levels of dopamine in the brain. But it also has a neurotoxic effect, which actually reduces the production of dopamine over long periods of time, which in turn can lead to symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Respiratory and cardiovascular problems can also result from prolonged use. Intravenous use of methamphetamine also increases the risk of contracting HIV.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate, Xyrem, G, liquid ecstasy) is often a colorless, odorless liquid with a slightly salty taste used pharmaceutically to treat cataplexy attacks in narcoleptics. It occasionally comes in pills. Ingestion of GHB can result in a confusion or loss of consciousness that has made it popular in the rave scene and as a date rape drug. Side effects of GHB use include coma, difficulty breathing, seizure and brain damage. GHB is often ingested with a combination of other substances, which can further increase the risks of dangerous side effects.

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride, K, special K, vitamin K) is an "disassociative anesthetic" or tranquilizer for humans and animals. It can come in a powder that looks similar to ecstasy or cocaine, or in a liquid state. Ketamine often causes "out of body" hallucinations and loss of muscle control. Some people can lose consciousness. It can cause seizures or even a coma. Flashbacks can last for up to a year. A full gram of Ketamine is enough to kill you, and it should never be taken with alcohol, GHB, valium or other opiates.

Call 9-1-1

Say you're at a party. You notice your dorm pal, fraternity brother, casual acquaintance, best friend is seriously out of it. You're not sure what they've taken, or how much they've drunk. You just know they are not responding, maybe they can't even hear you. What do you do?

Call 9-1-1. Immediately. Do not think twice.

So when the authorities arrive, will you or your pal get busted? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the situation. For example, a minor-aged student who is found with alcohol can conceivably be charged with underage drinking. Anyone with illicit drugs can be charged for the crime. Police have to weigh the situation when considering when to file charges against anyone.

But the alternative is far worse.

"The worst consequence is a loss of life," said Susan Szpyrka, chief of campus police at CU-Springs. "We don't want to see anyone die because their friends feel they might get in trouble."

Though campus cops are certainly on the lookout for illicit drugs at CU-Springs, of equal concern is the kind of binge and over-drinking that can be fatal. Many people, Szpyrka said, don't realize that extreme alcohol consumption can lead to death, mistakenly believing that an extremely drunk person can sleep it off.

Actually, extreme amounts of alcohol, a depressant, can shut down the central nervous system, leading to unconsciousness and death. As for other, illicit drugs, people can have all kinds of reactions. And sometimes, the one thing that determines life and death is an emergency phone call.

OK. So you have been doing some drugs here and there, maybe having the occasional beer.

Maybe the fun times just start getting a little too close together to ignore. One day, you wake up and realize you've not made it to class lately. You just can't seem to get out of bed.

Maybe there's a problem?

Tim Brady, adolescent program manager at the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, recommends students who want help contact their on-campus health services centers for assessment and/or referrals.

The county's McMaster Center for alcohol and drug treatment is also available to assist students, as long as they are living in El Paso County when seeking help.

El Paso County has numerous outpatient programs to treat people with drug and alcohol addictions, and many of those accept payment with sliding scale fees depending on how much money you've got. Unfortunately, all of the inpatient programs in Colorado Springs -- for people who need to be admitted and stabilized -- require their patients have insurance.

"We shop teens to Pueblo or the Western Slope or Denver for inpatient services," Brady said.

The following are phone numbers for Colorado Springsarea campus health services and counseling centers, as well as county mental health and substance abuse resources:

CU-Springs Health Center: 262-4444

CU-Springs Counseling Center: 262-3265

Colorado College Health Services: 389-6384

The Air Force Academy Cadet Clinic 333-5180

Pikes Peak Community College Student Support Services: 540-7095

El Paso County McMaster Center for Alcohol and Drug treatment: 578-3150

Pikes Peak Mental Health: 572-6330

Asian Pacific Family Center: 533-1301

Franciscan Family Wellness Program: 598-5486

Haven House: 578-1181

Penrose-St. Francis Behavioral Health: 776-8482

Child and Family Services: 572-6330 or 1-800-255-1204 (24-hour

crisis line: 635-7000)

Switzer Counseling Center: 442-0606

Adult and Senior Outpatient Services: 572-6330

Lighthouse Assessment Center: 635-7000

Veteran's Affairs Clinic: 327-5660 or 1-800-278-3883

Alternative Families and Grief Counseling: 651-1955

While there is no sure-fire way to prevent pregnancy or protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) other than abstinence, the next best thing is to use a condom, or a female condom in conjunction with other forms of birth control. If you're only having oral sex, make sure to use a condom over the man's penis or a dental dam over the woman's vagina (a sheet of celophane with lubrication on the underside will work). But remember that even these precautionary methods will not necessarily stop or stop the transmission of a STD or prevent pregnancy 100 percent of the time, and always avoid having sex while you are in any way inebriated.

The El Paso County Health Department reports that people age 18 to 24 (college age) are most at risk to contract chlymedia and Human Papilloma Virus (warts). There haven't been any unusually high incidences this year, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful. If you think you've contracted a sexually transmitted disease, or if you're worried you might be pregnant, get help immediately. Make an appointment with your physician, or visit one of these clinics.

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