Types of drugs
Drugs alter the way the mind and body work. Depressants slow down the central nervous system and brain activity - an example is alcohol. Stimulants do the opposite and speed up the central nervous system and increase brain activity. Hallucinogens affect the sense and alter the perception, distorting the vision and hearing. Examples of hallucinogens include LSD and magic mushrooms. Opioid analgesics like morphine have a painkilling effect.
Performance enhancing drugs
Some athletes take these drugs to improve their performance. As this gives them an unfair advantage, international governing bodies in sport want to stop athletes from taking them. In many sports the first 3 and a random selection of the others take drug tests and are stripped of medals and maybe banned from competing for some time if banned substances have been used.
There are problems with the testing of athletes for drugs. Not all drugs show up as drug companies try to stay one step ahead so athletes could be cheating. Also, traces of banned substances can show up in tests even when athletes haven't been using them because they are sometimes found in dietary supplements.
Why do people take drugs?
There are a variety of reasons why people may take drugs:
- Inaccurate information about drug effects
- To fit in
- They have a poor self-image
- They like the risk
Broader reasons why people take drugs
Usually the reason people take drugs can be put into one of these categories.
Experimental - To test it and experiment or to compare legal or illegal drugs.
Recreational - Part of social life, to relax.
Experiential - Taking for the effects of drugs, to experience it.
Addiction - Taking drugs and not being able to come off.
Caffeine - an addictive stimulant which occurs naturally in tea, coffee and chocolate.
Tobacco - short term effects of smoking include stained fingers and teeth, bad breath, dry skin, wrinkles, and worsened sporting performance. Long term effects can be coronary heart disease, emphysema (which affects the lungs and breathing), and cancer of the mouth, throat, lungs and bladder.
It affects the environment because trees need to be cut down and it produces litter. Millions of pounds are spent in the NHS to treat smoking-related diseases.
Action on smoking and health (ash) is a charity that works to challenge the tobacco industry.
Alcohol - A depressant. An alcoholic is a person addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease where they have a compulsion to drink. Symptoms are: an inability to limit the amount drunk; increased tolerance; and withdrawal symptoms like sweating, feeling sick, shaking and anxiety. Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation which helps recovering alcoholics.
About 1 in 5 road deaths are alcohol related.
Short term effects are: increased aggression; loss of control and judgement; inability to work; addiction and dependency.
Long term effects may include; decrease in brain tissue and function; heart disease and failure; liver disease and failure; anxiety and depression.
Illegal drugs are drugs that are against the law to possess or use. The illegal drugs trade is a multi-billion pound industry because they are more widely available and more people are taking them than ever before.
Why don't some people take illegal drugs or stop t
- They want to be healthy.
- They don't want to get caught and sent to prison.
- It's expensive.
- They don't want to or don't need drugs to be happy.
- Users may have been caught.
- Their job required it.
- They are afraid they are, or may become, too reliant on it.
Examples of drugs
Class A - cocaine, crack, heroin, ecstasy
Class B - amphetamines, cannabis, marijuana
Class C - anabolic steroids, tranquillisers
Risks of illegal drugs
Health risks - They are damaging to your health and needle sharing could also spread diseases
Financial problems - They cost a lot of money
Uncertainty - They are rarely pure so you don't know what you might be taking
Criminal risks - Getting a criminal record if you get caught could get you sacked or limit the jobs you can get.
How illegal drugs are taken
- Injection - This is the fastest, most efficient and possibly most dangerous way of taking drugs.
- Swallowing or chewing - this is as tablets or sometimes the substance is dissolved on blotting paper
Hard and soft drugs
Soft drugsare not considered to be physically addictive and are less dangerous. They may be habit forming and cause psychological dependence, they are often more readily available and developing tolerance can lead to increased use.
Hard drugsare considered to be addictive and dangerous. They cause physical dependence where your body can't function without them. Stopping is difficult because the person experiences craving. 'Cold turkey' is where the drug is stopped and the addict gets painful withdrawal symptoms like severe anxiety, agitation, shaking, headaches, nausea and confusion.