When people think about the bodily harm that results from drug abuse, they most often consider things like damage to the brain, lungs, heart or stomach. What is less known is the serious harm that drugs and substances cause to a person’s teeth and gums.
While almost any drug, legal or illegal, can affect a person’s system and cause harm to their teeth and gums the greatest damage comes from the use of common street drugs: methamphetamine (meth), heroin, marijuana and cocaine.
What Drug Use Does to the Teeth and Gums
Using of drugs frequently causes dry mouth – a serious lack of saliva production. Saliva is a key protector that wards off bacteria overpopulation. Without enough saliva, dry mouth irritates the soft tissue in the mouth and the gums. Once the gums are inflamed, they can recede from the tooth wall. This then allows bacteria to enter the gaps, resulting in infections and tooth decay. For people who abuse substances, poor oral hygiene is common due to multiple factors -an inability to afford proper oral care, a lack of concern for oral health, or a lack of nutritious foods. Stimulant drugs, such as ecstasy, meth, cocaine or heroin, cause the individual to clench or grind their teeth. This can result in jaw pain and the weakening of teeth -sometimes to the point that they end up breaking off. People who smoke in addition to using drugs are also at risk for infection and tooth decay since smoking negatively affects any part of the mouth.
Harm to Teeth Based on Specific Drugs
In addition to the general harm associated with substance abuse and poor oral health, each different street drug creates additional adverse health outcomes, resulting in rotten, discolored, broken, missing teeth and gum disease.
Methamphetamine is very acidic. Use can lead to upset stomach due to the drug’s acidity -causing reflux and vomiting. Excessive vomiting coats the teeth with acid, leading to further corrosion of the enamel and allowing more decay to set in. Additionally, meth sometimes makes people crave soda and sweets, another common element in tooth decay.
Use of heroin causes damage to the teeth that are nearly the same as those seen with meth use. Also, the drug’s pain-killing property can cause an individual to ignore symptoms of damaged teeth and gums, leading to further problems.
Smoking marijuana can cause mouth cancer. Additionally, some people develop a condition called “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.” This condition leads to nausea and vomiting that can wear away the enamel of the teeth, leading to tooth decay.
When snorted, use of cocaine damages the tissue that separates the roof of the mouth from the nasal cavity. Over time, this can cause a hole to form, making it hard for the individual to eat or speak. Also, cocaine is acidic. If it is smoked (as with crack) or if the powder is placed in the mouth, the teeth are coated with the acid and their protective enamel breaks down. For some people, rubbing cocaine on the gums produces mouth sores.
Nyquil is a common cold and flu relief medication that is sold over-the-counter in either liquid or pill form. It is usually used to relieve coughing but it also produces a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. Additionally, some people who have conditions with associated pain use Nyquil to help maintain a pain-free state of sleep.
Because Nyquil is thought to produce a deep and enduring state of sleep, people often ask: can you take Nyquil just to sleep? Or: can I use Nyquil as a sleep aid? To answer these questions, a few aspects of Nyquil need to be considered.
What Makes Using Nyquil for Sleep Work?
The main component of Nyquil is Doxylamine Succinate, an antihistamine that causes drowsiness by blocking histamine from attaching to receptors in the brain. Because doxylamine succinate doesn’t discriminate between which histamine receptors they block, they cross the blood-brain barrier and inhibit receptors that are involved with the regulation of sleep (just one of the important functions of histamines). The disruption of this particular function of histamines in the brain results in drowsiness. Nyquil also includes the ingredient dextromethorphan HBr, which is included in the medication to suppress coughing. However, as it metabolizes in the body, it becomes dextrorphan (DXO) and levorphanol. Levorphanol is a painkiller, reported to be five times more powerful than morphine. Listed as a dissociative drug by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, DXO is an NMDA receptor antagonist psychoactive that acts primarily as an antitussive (cough suppressant) but has dissociative hallucinogenic properties –like those found when using ketamine, DXM (dextromethorphan) and PCP (phencyclidine).
Taking Nyquil to Sleep
Even though Nyquil contains components that are specifically designed to induce sleep, relying on the medication for sleep is not advised. Use of Nyquil, as with any drug that is said to assist with either falling asleep or maintaining sleep throughout the night, may lead to several problems.
Nyquil Effects on Sleep
Using Nyquil as a sleep aid is known to make people drowsy and fall asleep. The duration of sleep can vary depending on the person. For some, taking Nyquil is good for sleeping between four to six hours while for others sleep lasts between seven to eight hours. For most people, sleep is calm and continuous; however, some people have reported experiencing disrupted sleep, often involving lucid and weird dreams, increased anxiety, breathing stoppage and trouble falling back to sleep. This can lead people to consume more of the drug in a shorter time period in order to get back to sleep.
Addicted to Nyquil for Sleep
According to Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “When used as directed, Nyquil does not present substantial risks, even with repeated use. It is better to stop using it for sleep-inducing purposes.” So, while using Nyquil as directed is thought to be safe, taking it in ways that are not recommended can be dangerous. As one becomes more accustomed to the positive effects brought on by drinking Nyquil, they may become psychologically addicted to using Nyquil. For these people, the thought of attempting to go to sleep without using Nyquil brings on anxiety. This anxiety then motivates them to use the product. However, people who have become addicted to Nyquil sometimes notice that, over time, the typical amount that they consume does not produce the same effect. Instead, it may take longer to fall asleep or they may not be sleeping as long. Taking larger doses or more frequent doses usually indicates that the body has developed a tolerance to the drug, and is likely to have formed a dependence and addiction. As with any drug, this situation should be treated as a serious condition. Withdrawal symptoms can occur, and the individual should seek assistance from medical and/or mental health providers in order to overcome the addiction.
Original blog post: TheRecoveryVillage.com
I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!