Drug Abuse is generally defined as the use of a drug with such frequencythat the user has physical or mental harm or it impairs social abilities. Thesubstances that are discussed in this report are called psychoactive drugs;those drugs that influence or alter the workings of the mind, affect moods,emotions, feelings, and thinking processes. Drug Dependence/AddictionThere are three basic characteristics that indicate that the user isdependent on a drug. First, the user continues to use the drug for an extendedperiod of time. Second, the user finds it difficult to stop using the drug. Theymay drop out of school, steal, go to jail, lose their jobs, or leave theirfamilies in order to keep using.
Finally, the user has withdrawal symptoms whendrug use is stopped. They may undergo physical pain or mental distress. The drug mimics a natural process in the brain called neurotransmission. This is when a brain cell releases a signal to another brain cell. The signalthen returns to the first brain cell. The signal is called a neurotransmitter.
One major neurotransmitter is called dopamine, which is involved in feelings ofpleasure. When the drug is released into the brain, it blocks the dopamine fromreturning to the first brain cell. Repeated use changes the brain cells so thatnormal messages can’t be sent between brain cells. The drug must always bepresent in order for neurotransmissions to take place. The user is only able tofeel pleasure from the cocaine rather than the things he/she used to findpleasurable.
This is called drug addiction or dependence. Drug Classification Drugs are generally categorized into two groups, stimulants anddepressants. Stimulants are drugs that speed up signals through the nervoussystem. They produce alertness, arousal and excitability. They also inhibitfatigue and sleep. They include the amphetamines, such as cocaine, caffeine, andnicotine.
Depressants slow down the signals through the nervous system. Theyproduce relaxation, lowering of anxiety, drowsiness, and sleep. They includesedatives (such as barbiturates, alcohol, and tranquilizers) and narcotics(heroin, morphine, opium, codeine), which dull the mind’s perception of pain. Some drugs are not included in the stimulant/depressant categories. Anexample is the hallucinogens, such as PCP and LSD, which produce unusual mentalstates such as psychedelic visions.
Also, marijuana is not generally regarded asbelonging to any one of these categories. Effects of DrugsThere are four basic stages that the drug user goes through. In stageone, there are no outward behavioral changes caused by the use of drugs. Thedrug use is considered normal. In stage two, the user actively seeks theeuphoric effects of the drug by using it more frequently. A reliable source ofthe drug is established.
The user may add mid-week use rather than only onweekends or at parties. In younger users, a general lack of motivation isnoticed, along with changes in friends and lower grades. In stage three, theuser is extremely preoccupied with the desire to experience the effects of thedrug. The drug is used daily.
There may be thoughts of suicide and/or depression. There may be family problems or trouble with the law. In the fourth and finalstage, the user has become addicted. They are dependent on the drug just to feelnormal. Physical signs are frequent sore throats, coughing, fatigue, and weightloss.
They may be experiencing overdosing and blackouts more frequently. Theuser may be engaging in criminal activities in order to obtain money for thedrug. AlcoholOne major drug that physically effects the user is alcohol. It causesdamage to the brain, pancreas, and kidney.
It also causes high blood pressureand may heighten the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Other consequences ofalcohol abuse are possible alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, stomachand duodenal ulcers, colitis, irritable colon, impotence and infertility, birthdefects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (retardation, low birth weight, small headsize, limb abnormalities), and premature aging. The user may also experiencediminished immunity to disease, sleep disturbances, muscle cramps, and edema. MarijuanaAnother harmful drug is marijuana, especially since the potency ofmarijuana available has over the last decade increased by 275 percent. Somemarijuana users have chronic lung disease.
Marijuana can be more dangerous thancigarettes because there are more known cancer causing agents in marijuana smokethan cigarette smoke. Also, one marijuana cigarette is as damaging to the lungsas four tobacco cigarettes. Small doses of marijuana diminish motor skills, hamper judgement,distort perception, and impair memory function. Chronic marijuana may causebrain damage, accelerated heartbeat, and .