Drugs

A drug is a chemical which alters the way in which the body works. Many drugs interfere with the central nervous system. These drugs can be placed into one of four groups: stimulants, sedatives, painkillers and hallucinogens.

Stimulants

These speed up the brain and make you more alert. They include amphetamines, ecstasy, caffeine (from coffee & tea), nicotine (from tobacco) and cocaine. Cocaine is a white powder which has the effect of making the user feel more energetic, confident and cheerful for a short while, followed by tiredness. Using cocaine increases the effect of your pleasure centres of your brain so that you feel really happy. When you stop using it though, you will feel depressed and will crave cocaine just to make you feel normal again. This is psychological addiction.

Sedatives

These slow down the brain and make you feel sleepy. They include tranquillizers and sleeping pills. Valium is a tranquillizers and is given to help people suffering from anxiety. Barbiturates are very powerful sedatives and can make you fall asleep almost immediately. They are used as anaesthetics in hospitals. Alcohol is also a sedative. It sedates the higher centres of the brain, making people less inhibited (but also less competent).

Painkillers

pillThese drugs suppress the part of the brain which gives us the sense of pain. They are called analgesics. They range from mild drugs such as aspirin to powerful ones like morphine & heroin which are derived from opium. Some painkillers are also sedatives and can make people drowsy. Heroin and related drugs reduce pain and make the user feel drowsy, warm and content and relieve stress and discomfort. This is called euphoria. They physically alter they way in which the brain works and prolonged use leads to physical addiction. This means that the drug is needed by the body in order to function properly. If the drug is not taken they it reacts with symptoms which include depression, vomiting, abdominal pain and weakness. This is called withdrawal.

Hallucinogens

These drugs make you feel, see or hear things which don't really exist. Such experiences are called hallucinations. Cannabis is a very mild type, often making colours seem brighter and sounds louder. It also causes relaxation, laughter and talkativeness. It also affects short term memory and has been linked to mouth, throat and lung cancer. LSD (lysergic acid diathylamide) is much more powerful. Light, sound, space and distance appear different and this increases the likelihood of accidents. A bad trip may be very frightening and can lead to mental illness.

Drugs and the body.

Drugs are poisons and can kill cells. Alcohol, for example, kills cells in the brain and liver. Prolonged drinking can cause a disease called cirrhosis: the liver cells are gradually replaced by useless fibrous tissue. Sniffing solvents can also be dangerous. You can become dependant on drugs. Nicotine and cannabis are habit forming, and once hooked you crave them. You are psychologically dependant on them. Heroin and alcohol are worse. These become tied up in the physical workings of the body. If you do not get any of the drug you suffer from withdrawal symptoms. This is physical addiction. The reason that people can get physically addicted is due to tolerance. As people take the drug, the body becomes used to it and so a larger dose is needed to produce the same effect. As it continues the user needs more and more of the drug to get the same effect. This also increases the risk of overdose, when too much of the drug is taken and death can be the result. All drugs are harmful, even socially acceptable ones like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. The risk is even greater with illegal drugs. They are often mixed (cut) with other substances which add to the bulk of the drug. If you bought a gram of heroin, probably only 5% of it is the real drug. The rest of it could be sugar, baking powder or even scouring powder used to clean baths.