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Gateway Drugs and Common Drug Abuse

Essay by review  •  September 27, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  3,814 Words (16 Pages)  •  4,223 Views

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Gateway Drugs and Common Drug Abuse

The oldest known written record of drug use is a clay tablet from the ancient Sumerian civilization of the Middle East. This tablet, made in the 2000's B.C., lists about a dozen drug prescriptions. An Egyptian scroll from bout 1550 B.C. names more than 800 prescriptions containing about 700 drugs. The ancient Chinese, Greek and Romans also used many drugs. The Greeks and Romans used opium to relieve pain. The Egyptians used castor oil as a laxative. The Chinese ate liver to cure anemia.

In the 1500,s and 1600's, doctors and scientists made important advances in Pharmacology and in other fields of science. In the early 1500's, Swiss physician Philippus Paracelsus pioneered in the use of minerals as drugs. He introduces many compounds of lead, mercury and other minerals in the treatment of other diseases.

Gateway drugs are substances that people take which, in many cases, lead to those people taking more drugs. Alcohol and pot are the most obvious gateway drugs. Studies show that if you smoke pot, you're more likely to try things like crystal meth or cocaine or heroin. Many people see alcohol and pot as less dangerous and harmful than other drugs, but the truth is, they are just as dangerous as any other drug in more ways than one. Not only are alcohol and pot dangerous in there own right, they also screw up your judgment making you more likely to use other drugs. Gateway drugs work in two major ways. The first, gateway drugs break down a psychological barrier against doing other drugs. Once you have crossed the line with a gateway drug, you are more likely to go there with other drugs. Second, Gateway drugs impair your judgment. If you are drunk to high, it is easier to say yes to cocaine or whatever else is around. These drugs break down your inhibitions, so you are more susceptible to peer pressure and experimenting. They do not just impair your judgment when you are on them they can change the way you feel about drugs in general.

LSD

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the major drugs making up the hallucinogen class. LSD was discovered in 1938 and is one of the most potent mood-

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changing chemicals. It is manufactured commonly referred to as "acid," The effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on the amount taken; the user's personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used. Usually, the user feels the first effects of the drug 30 to 90 minutes after taking it. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. From lysergic acid, this is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

Sensations and feelings change much more dramatically than the physical signs. The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. If taken in a large enough dose, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations, the user's sense of time and self-changes. Sensations may seem to "cross over," giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. These changes can be frightening and can cause panic. Users refer to their experience with LSD as a "trip" and to acute adverse reactions as a "bad trip." These experiences are long - typically they begin to clear after about 12 hours.

Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of losing control, fear of insanity and death, and despair while using LSD. Some fatal accidents have occurred during states of LSD intoxication.

Many LSD users experience flashbacks, recurrence of certain aspects of a person's experience, without the user having taken the drug again. A flashback occurs suddenly, often without warning, and may occur within a few days or more than a year after LSD use. Flashbacks usually occur in people who use hallucinogens chronically or have an underlying personality problem; however, otherwise healthy people who use LSD occasionally may also have flashbacks. Bad trips and flashbacks are only part of the risks of LSD use. LSD users may manifest relatively long-lasting psychoses, such as schizophrenia or severe depression. It is difficult to determine the extent and mechanism of the LSD involvement in these illnesses.

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Most users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop its use over time. LSD is not considered an addictive drug since it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior, as do cocaine, amphetamine, heroin, alcohol, and nicotine. However, like many of the addictive drugs, LSD produces tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the state of intoxication that they had previously achieved. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug.

MDMA (Ecstasy)

MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with both stimulant (amphetamine-like) and hallucinogenic (LSD-like) properties. Street names for MDMA include Ecstasy, Adam, XTC, hug, beans, and love drug. Its chemical structure (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, "MDMA") is similar to methamphetamine, methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), and mescaline - other synthetic drugs known to cause brain damage.

MDMA also is neurotoxic. In addition, in high doses it can cause a sharp increase in body temperature (malignant hyperthermia) leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure.

Brain imaging research in humans indicates that MDMA causes injury to the brain, affecting neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays a direct role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. Many of the risks users face with MDMA use are similar to those found with the use of cocaine and amphetamines:

* Psychological difficulties, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia - during and sometimes weeks after taking MDMA.

* Physical symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating.

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* Increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.

* Also, there is evidence that people who develop a rash that looks like acne after using MDMA may be risking severe side effects, including liver damage, if they continue to use the drug.

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