Drugs of Abuse


Napa Special Investigations Bureau

Drugs of Abuse

The use of various chemicals and substances in our daily lives can treat illnesses, disease, change our mood and affect our behavior. Although some substances such as caffeine are taken by a large segment of our society other substances pose a health danger to the individual and to society as a whole. Substance abuse, the misuse of legal, illegal drugs and medications is a predominant cause of preventable illness and death in our society. By far, alcohol is the most readily available and most abused drug in the United States today.

NSIB is charged with controlling illegal drug manufacturing and drug sales within Napa County. Over the years NSIB has found that use is based upon four main factors.

  1. Price: The price of an illegal drug can cause a drug to fall out of favor sending the buyer to seek other drugs. In Napa County prices for illegal drugs have remained relatively stable.
  2. Availability: the ease at which someone can purchase drugs is also a deciding factor. NSIB has had a decided impact on this factor. Most of the drug sales are clandestine and not openly sold on the streets as found in most cities in California. Although we have not been as successful in eliminating the availability we have forced the drug seller underground.
  3. Preference: Choosing one drug over another. It is a choice in which the buyer once involved with a drug will generally not abandon. Napa County has a large marijuana and methamphetamine preference as represented by the drug seizures each year. However, drugs such as crack cocaine, ecstasy, GHB, and Ketamine have never taken on a strong presence in Napa County.
  4. Age Some drugs target or are favored young people. Marijuana, methamphetamine, and hallucinogens, are common substances as is the use of inhalants in reviewing drug arrests of juveniles. Drugs such as heroin and cocaine are rarely found with minors in part due to the unavailability and cost.

The cost of legal and illegal drug abuse to Napa County is substantial. When factoring in drug related crimes, diseases, injuries, property and productivity losses, the dollar amount is staggering. The impact of substance abuse has created an industry of drug testing companies and rehabilitation centers. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation four out of every ten prisoners released on parole return due to drug and alcohol violations. Drug arrests have continued to rise over the past decade and show no signs of slowing. To date, education has been the best preventative and cheapest way to address this problem.



MethamphetamineMethamphetamine, also known in street terms as “crank”, “speed, “meth”, and “wire”, has been a serious problem throughout Napa County forseveral decades. Methamphetamine on individuals is unpredictable and can cause a serious physical and mental health concerns to those who use the compound. Methamphetamine is not really a drug, although it is classified as a stimulant; it is a series of compounds brought together under heat and pressure creating a powder or crystal substance. Some of the substances than can go into the production of methamphetamine is solvents, nitrates, lye, and phosphorus. The compound has no useful medical purpose.

Because of the various production methods, varying degrees of skill of the clandestine lab operator, and different chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine, the finished product varies in color and texture. Methamphetamine is most commonly a shade of tan or white. Because the compound will loose its potency value when exposed to light and/or air, the necessity of the manufacturer or seller is to keep methamphetamine if a plastic sandwich or coin bag.

Methamphetamine can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally. The user will experience an intense rush or “flash”. Methamphetamine can cause a variety of health problems including rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and elevated body temperature. Methamphetamine can damage blood vessels and cause skin abscesses. Heavy users can exhibit progressive psychotic symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, and sudden mood swings.


CocaineCocaine is classified as a stimulant. It is derived from the coca leaf which grows in South America and is known for its medicinal value. There are two forms of cocaine; powdered cocaine and crack. The powdered, hydrochloride form can be snorted or dissolved in water and injected. Crack is cocaine that has not been neutralized by an acid to make the hydrochloride salt. This form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked.

Cocaine is generally sold on the street as a fine, white, crystalline powder. Street dealers may dilute pure cocaine with inert substances such as lactose, cornstarch, and/or sugar. Other active substances may include stimulants such as amphetamines.

Cocaine has a useful medical purpose. Cocaine has the ability to deaden nerve endings this it is commonly used as an anesthetic. Derivates of cocaine can include sunburn sprays, and Novocain.

Some of the signs of cocaine use can include blurred vision, dilated pupils, tremors and twitching, and chest pains or pressure. In general, cocaine use causes an elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, elevated respiratory rate, decreased appetite, aggression, paranoia, depression and irritability. Long term effects of use include a strong psychological dependence and varying degrees of physical tolerance.

Crack is derived directly from cocaine. Cocaine powder is dissolved in a solution of ammonia or baking soda and water. The solution is boiled until a solid substance separates from the boiling mixture. The solid substance, crack cocaine, is allowed to dry and then broken or cut into “rocks” of varying weights. Crack is typically heated and smoked. The term “crack” comes from the crackling sound heard when it is heated.


MarijuanaMarijuana refers to the leaves and flowering buds of the hemp plant. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in Napa County. The production of marijuana within Napa County rivals that of the grape crop averaging between $250 and $300 million dollars. Much of the illicit crop grown in Napa County is grown on private lands due to the accessible water source. Those who grown marijuana on private lands subject the property owner to the damages to their property which includes soil erosion, watershed damage, stream deviation, water depletion, and the use of herbicides and fertilizers are common environmental hazards found at grow sites.

Marijuana contains a chemical called Tetrhydrocannabino or THC. It is the THC which provides the pleasurable effects of smoking marijuana. Marijuana varies significantly in its potency depending on the source and selection of plant materials. The form of marijuana known as sinsemilla, or “bud”, derives from the unpollinated female cannabis plant and is preferred for its high THC content.

The short-term effects of marijuana use include impaired short-term memory, impaired attention, judgment, impaired coordination and balance, increased heart rate, blood shot eyes, dry mouth and increased appetite. Long term use can lead to addiction, paranoia, anxiety, impaired learning skills and long-term memory difficulties. Medical complications include an increased risk of chronic cough, bronchitis, and emphysema.

Napa County law enforcement recognizes and complies with the provisions of Prop 215 and is guided by legal opinions of the California Attorney General and court decisions. Marijuana possession and cultivation cases are reviewed by the Napa County District Attorney on a one on one basis.


'Black tar' heroinOpium is the key ingredient for several drugs including morphine, codeine, and heroin. Opium is the milky latex fluid contained in the unripened seed pod of the poppy plant. Opium and its derivative drugs are classified as depressants. Opium is primarily grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico and South America. All opiates are both physically and psychologically addictive. When combined with alcohol, opiates can be deadly.

Heroin, an illegal narcotic, is the most powerful of the opiates. In Napa County, a dark brown or black substance known as black tar heroin is found among its users. The color and consistency of black tar heroin results from the crude processing methods used to illicitly manufacture the substance. Black tar Heroin may be sticky, like roofing tar.

Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Injection continues to be the predominant method of heroin use. Heroin addicts are at risk for contracting HIV, Hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases. Drug abusers may become infected with Hepatitis C and other blood-borne pathogens through sharing and reuse of syringes and injection paraphernalia that have been used by infected individuals.

The initial and short term effects of heroin include a “rush” a feeling of euphoria, suppression off pain, depressed respiratory rate, clouded mental functioning, and nausea or vomiting. Other effects include scarred or collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and kicking movements.


LSD on 'blotter paper'Hallucinogenic drugs have played a role in human life for thousands of years. Cultures from the tropics to the artic have used plants to induce states of detachment from reality and to precipitate “visions” thought to provide mystical insight. Used in religious ceremonies and by oracles to advise governments, hallucinogens did not make the main stream of humanity until the 1960s. Hallucinogens are both natural and man made and effect the senses creating images in which people hear and see thing created in their minds. Signs of hallucinogens are dilated pupils, sweating, garbled speech, and disorientation. Other general effects include varying degrees of illusions, hallucinations, disorientation, impaired coordination, and confusion.

LSD is one such hallucinogen first synthesized in 1938. Produced from lysergic acid the drug can be found in both solid and liquid form. The liquid can be applied to sugar cubes or blotter paper. The drug is odorless and colorless and is taken orally. The effects of the drug do not occur immediately, nor are the doses uniform. The results can cause the user to consume multiple doses thus creating sensory overload.

Psilocybin is a type of mushroom which creates hallucinogenic images. The drug is introduced into the body by eating the mushroom. The effects can last from six to eight hours. Commonly known on the street as “shrooms”, or “magic mushrooms”, once ingested psilocybin is metabolized into psilocin.

Peyote is a small, spineless, cactus. Used in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States by natives as part of their religious rites. The top of the cactus consists of disk shaped buttons that are cut from the roots and dried.


Teen using an inhalantInhalant abuse is the sniffing volatile solvents, which can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system. By starving the body of oxygen or forcing the heart to beat more rapidly and erratically, inhalants can kill, most of whom are adolescents.

Inhalant abuse came to public attention in the 1950s when the news media reported that young people who were seeking a cheap “high” were sniffing glue. The term “glue sniffing” is still widely used, often to include inhalation of a broad range of common products besides glue.

Although different in makeup, nearly all abused inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body functions. When inhaled via the nose or mouth in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects that can last a few minutes or several hours if taken repeatedly. Initially, users may feel slightly stimulated; with successive inhalations they may feel less inhibited and less in control; finally, a user can lose consciousness.

“Huffing”, another term for sniffing, highly concentrated amounts of chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death. This is especially common from the abuse off fluorocarbon and butaine-type gases. High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system causing breathing to cease.

Some of the common products that adolescents will “huff” or sniff are airplane glue, nail polish remover, spray paint, correction fluid, gasoline, nitrous oxide, paint thinner, air freshener, butane fuels, wax removers, hair spray, lighter fuels, PVC cement, cleaning fluid, and degreasers.

Users can suffer visual hallucinations, severe mood swings, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, loss of muscle control, slurred speech, headache, and abdominal pain.


Ecstasy pillsMDMA also known by the street name of “ecstasy” is a synthetic drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties.

Ecstasy is typically distributed in urban areas, beach resorts, at or near college universities, high schools, raves parties, dance clubs, and bars.

The general effects of ecstasy use include increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased body temperature, possible hyperthermia, jaw and teeth clenching, muscle tension, hypertension, dehydration, chills and or sweating, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, dizziness, confusion, insomnia, and paranoia. Long term effects of MDMA include rash, depression, sleep disorders, drug craving, persistent elevation of anxiety, paranoia, aggressive and impulsive behavior.

Of great concern is MDMA’s adverse effect on the pumping efficiency of the heart and increased physical activity all of which places a strain on cardiovascular system.

MDMA in its true form works in the brain by increasing the activity levels of at least three neuro-transmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. MDMA causes these neurotransmitters to be released from their storage sites in neurons result in increased brain activity. By releasing large amounts of serotonin and also interfering with its synthesis, MDMA caused the brain to become significantly depleted of this important neurotransmitter. As a result, it takes the human brain time to rebuild its serotonin levels. Persistent deficits in serotonin are likely responsible for many of the persistent behavioral effects that the user experiences.

In Napa County MDMA or ecstasy is sold in pill form. The pills can be of various sizes and colors. Imprinted designs on the pills are not uncommon. The drug can be used to reduce inhibitions and eliminate anxiety and produces feelings of empathy for others.


RohypnolDate rape drugs are used to assist a sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to. It can include inappropriate touching, vaginal penetration, sexual intercourse, rape, and attempted rape. Because of the effects of these drugs, victims may be physically helpless, unable to refuse sex, and can’t remember what happened. The drugs often have no color, smell, or taste and are easily added to flavored drinks without the victim’s knowledge. There are at least three date rape drugs:

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid):
This drug can be in a liquid, white powder and pill form. As a liquid is has no distinguishable color or odor. Once ingested the drug can cause problems for the victim including problems breathing, tremors, sweating, slow heart rate, dizziness and unconsciousness.

Ketamine (Ketamine hydrochloride):
Ketamine is almost always found in a white powder form as a veterinary medicine. The victim may feel detached from her environment. The drug has pain relief and memory loss properties. Like GHB Ketamine quickly metabolizes in the body and can be difficult to detect with drug tests.

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam hydrochloride):
Rohypnol is a strong sedative which is similar to the drug Valium. Rohypnol dissolves easily in juice, coffee, carbonated and alcoholic beverages. It comes in a pill form and when mixed in a liquid is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Like GHB and Ketamine, when Rohypnol is mixed with alcohol the effect can be severe disorientation and “blackouts”.

How to protect yourself

  • Don’t accept drinks from other people.
  • Open containers yourself.
  • Keep your drink with you at all times.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Don’t drink anything that tastes or smells strange,
  • Have a non-drinking friend with you to make sure nothing happens.


Steroids in a glass ampuleSteroids can be legally prescribed to treat those with low testosterone levels and to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases. These drugs are also used illegally by athletes, body builders and others who claim that the drugs give them a competitive advantage or improve their physical appearance.

Anabolic steroids are any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone that promotes muscle growth. Most illicit steroids are sold at gyms, competitions and through mail order operations.

The major side effects from abusing anabolic steroids can include liver tumors and cancer, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure, increase in LDL (bad cholesterol), and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol). Other side effects include kidney tumors, severe acne, and trembling.

In addition, there are some gender-specific side effects:

Shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer.

Growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice.

Growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes. This means that adolescents risk remaining short for the remainder of their lives if they take anabolic steroids before the typical adolescent growth spurt.



  • Becomes disrespectful – is verbally and physically abusive
  • Is angry a lot, acts paranoid or confused, or suffers from extreme mood swings
  • Seems depressed and less out-going than usual
  • Is secretive and lies about what he/she is doing and where they are going
  • Is stealing or “losing” possessions he/she used to value
  • Seems to have a lot of money, or is always asking for money
  • Withdraws from the family and family activities

Physical Appearance:

  • Not taking care of hygiene and grooming
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Too hyperactive or too little energy


Social Activity / School Performance:

  • Drops old friends and activities
  • Is skipping school
  • Loses interest in school work and is getting low grades
  • Is sleeping in class
  • Loses concentration and is having trouble remembering things