Drugs - Core Biology

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Drugs - something that alters your body chemistry


  • Discovery: From research and traditional remedies. 
  • First tests in Lab: On Cells and (pregnant) animals, testing for toxicity, whether it works.
  • Human testing: Dosage, side effects, safety, 20-100 healthy volunteers.
  • Patient testing: Whether it works, double-blind (using a placebo), 100-500 patients.
  • Final tests and licensing: Double-blind, 1000-5000 patients.
  • Approved: Drugs are still monitored once licensed. 

Thalidomide - sedative and for morning sickness relief in the 1950s. It affected the fetus and stunted growth of arms and legs. 10,000 were affected and only half survived. Was banned for more rigorous tests. Now used for leprosy, AIDS and certain cancers. Never used on pregnant women. 

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Alcohol and Tobacco

Alcohol reduces activity of the nervous system- slowing your reactions. It is used to relax people, but too much means: impaired judgment, poor balance and coordination, lack of self-control, unconsciousness, coma, dehydration (leading to brain cell damage, lowering brain function), severe liver damage causing liver disease.

Tobacco causes the most deaths per year in the UK and causes many problems. 

  • Carbon monoxide is in the smoke and it means less oxygen is carried in the blood. This leads to a baby being born underweight as it's starved of oxygen. 
  • Carcinogens are in the smoke, which are chemicals that can lead to cancer. 90% of lung cancers are linked to smoking and most kill
  • Causes disease of the heart and blood vessels leading to heart attacks and stokes
  • Lung damage leads to emphysema and bronchitis
  • Cilia are damaged by tar meaning chest infections are more likely and breathing is more difficult and coughing more common. 
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Illegal Drugs

Hard Drugs - seriously addictive and more harmful e.g. heroin and cocaine. 

Drugs are used recreationally, despite dangers for: relaxation, enjoyment and stress relief

Cannabis - Cannabis is thought of as a stepping-stone to hard drugs as it creates desire for harder drugs and contact is made with a drug dealer. Cannabis is legal in Holland. It is debated whether or not is should be legalised (next card)

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Cannabis Legalisation

For Legalisation:

  • Medical benefits for glaucoma, asthma and spasticity sufferers
  • Relieves pain and suffering for incurable diseases sufferers e.g. Some cancers, AIDS, multiple sclerosis. 
  • Saves Government money by having less court cases and less need for controlling imports etc.
  • Sometimes thought to only be as damaging as alcohol and tobacco. 

Against Legalisation: 

  • Kick starts use of more harmful drugs - people who use it between 12 and 17 are five times more likely to use harder drugs in later life. 
  • Prolonged effects on mental health: hallucinations, mad behaviour, paranoia and mood swings.
  • Dealers are often part of other criminal activities
  • Smoking cannabis has the same effects on lungs as smoking tobacco: build up of tar, coughing, lung cancer etc. 
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