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Psychology: Drugs and Abuse

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Psychology: Drugs And Abuse

Drugs and Abuse Abuse of drugs can have effects on the user even after the use of drugs has stopped. Different drugs produce different effects, depending on the user, type of drug, and severity of abuse. New research is done every day in the area of drug abuse that makes finding accurate results on the broad topic of drug abuse very difficult. From the most recent studies only can one find data that is presently accepted as correct. These numerous studies provide enough data to explain the effects of both legal and illegal drugs. To understand how drugs work, it is necessary to understand the changes that take place in different areas of the body when drugs take affect. Found in the brain are the synapses, the interaction point of two neurons (Perrine, 1996). The synapses in the brain are often the main target of a drug, altering the perception of something at the point of perception. When a drug is taken, it attaches itself to receptors in the brain, which ! have a pattern chemically similar to the neurotransmitters that send and receive messages in the brain. Perrine makes the analogy of a drug to receptors as a hand to a doorknob. Because certain drugs can attach themselves to these receptors, they may become blocked, and the neurotransmitters originally being sent by the brain's neurons are forced to wander around the brain until it can find another similar receptor, possibly creating a false signal (Perrine, 1996). The physiological responses created by these false signals, sent by both the drug and the extraneous neurotransmitters are what are perceived to be the effects of the drugs. However, the effects of drugs vary greatly from person to person. Perrine states that are four main aspects to keep in mind when considering the effects of drugs on each individual person: "(1) the individual, the particular human being, both as a unique biological organism with a possibly idiosyncratic response to a given chemical substance a! nd as a unique personality and psychology; (2) the particular mental set of the person taking the drug, which often has a dramatic influence on its effects; (3) the setting in which a person takes a drug, which can range from a religious ceremony to a rock concert to an assisted suicide; and (4) the pharmacology of the drug itself." Opiates are a classification of drugs that include heroin, morphine, and opium. The name for opium is derived from the Latin word Papaver somniferum. It is one of the oldest drugs known to mankind, presumably being used by the Sumerians around 4,000 BC to relieve pain and help induce sleep (Perrine, 1996). Thomas De Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, was an admitted abuser of laudanum, to the point where he took about 20.8 grams a day. De Quincey felt that opium enhanced his mental powers, and felt that it was much better than alcohol in many regards (Perrine, 1996). This abuse in the long run, however, took its toll on De ! Quincey. After enough constant abuse of laudanum, opium in it's freebased form, he was tortured by horrific dreams that kept him awake, causing him to eventually have to decrease the amount he used by 32 times his original daily usage. He was also never able to drop below this maintenance level of 250 drops a day or he suffered severe withdrawal symptoms (Perrine, 1996). This is only one example of the negative effects of this opioid on the human body. Morphine, like laudanum, is derived from opium, but it is different in that it was the first alkaloid discovered, and was named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams (Perrine, 1996). Morphine is used in medical practice as a pain reliever, and is classified as a Schedule II drug. It is the drug of choice with most doctors whose patients suffer from pain related to heart attacks. It is much more potent in injected form than when taken orally, and must usually be administered under controlled circumstances (Perrine, 1996). Her! oin is also an opioid, and is formed by reacting morphine with one of many acetylating agents. Heroin by itself is inactive, but when it enters the brain, it is chemically changed and attaches itself to the opioid receptors in the brain (Perrine, 1996). Heroin is illegal in the United States, but is used medically in countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Heroin is a very addictive drug, and the most popular treatment is methadone. Methadone is a drug that is similar to heroin, except that it takes several hours to take affect and doesn't provide the "high" that heroin does. An estimated 600,000 heroin addicts are in the United States, and only about 115,000 are enrolled in methadone maintenance programs (Recer, 1997). The addiction from the opioids is caused by: (1) the withdrawal symptoms being too much tolerate; (2) the sense of euphoria simply feels good; and (3) it is an attempt to self-medicate an endogenous ps! ychological or physical disorder (Perrine, 1996). One method of quitting addiction, not just to opioids, but to any dug, is the holistic way, which can include acupuncture, homeopathy, massage therapy, aromatherapy, yoga, nutrition therapy, and dozens more (Apostolides, 1996). The opioids affect the central nervous system as a depressant, which are very addictive both mentally and physically. Alcohol affects the user in a similar manner. Depressants are some of the more commonly abused drugs, mainly alcohol because it is sociably acceptable to use. Alcohol is the most abused depressant in the United States. With alcohol being tried for the first time by this year by 773,417 people, 101,302 this month, and 10,167 today (3/8/98) (NCADI, 1998). Alcohol is also the oldest of known drugs, as Perrine says, "its use being coextensive with recorded human history". The use of Alcohol is part of many religions including Judaism and Christianity. The prohibition of alcohol lead to the ! rising of the most powerful gangs in the United States. The underworld created during this time laid the foundation for other black market dealers to learn from. Alcohol has been found to have certain health benefits when used in moderation. The use of alcohol has been shown to have cardio-protective qualities (Rimm, 1996). In the Common Cold Unit of Britain's Medical Research Council, 391 subjects were quarantined and given nasal drops containing one of five respiratory viruses. The study showed that the likelihood of catching a cold was increased by smoking but decreased with moderate alcohol consumption (up to 4 drinks per day) (Cohen, 1993). Despite the few possible benefits alcohol can have, the negative aspects can far outweigh the good for many people. The social responsibilities are often overlooked when the use of alcohol takes place. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous help abusers of alcohol learn to curtail their drinking



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