Illegal Drugs: Their effects on the body
There are many types of drugs, and they have many different effects on the body. Drugs can kill those abuse them in 3 different ways: by overdose, through side effects or bad reactions, and as a means of committing suicide. Some drugs may cause both murderous and suicidal behavior. The hallucinogens, especially PCP, are infamous in this respect. Valium has also been cited as producing unwanted suicidal thoughts in some people. Drugs that affect mood and lesson self-control can lead to a lack of restraint that promotes suicidal behavior. In this way, many people who drink to excess become both depressed and reckless. ( Chiles, pg.47)
Of course, many people who use drugs will not become suicidal. However, the odds that a user will commit suicide rise with the degree of his or her drug abuse. Various studies have pointed out that the rates for suicide and suicide attempts are between 5 and 20 times higher for drug abusers than for the general population. ( Chiles, pg.47-48)
Abusing any drug is of course harmful. The only reason for doing so is to satisfy a self-destructive impulse. For this reason many studies link the psychological and emotional characteristics of drug abusers with those of suicidal people. Depression, hopelessness, and a negative attitude toward life are common in both groups. It might be said that drug abusers are on a slow but relentless downhill slide, while people committing suicide have chosen simply to jump off a cliff. ( Chiles, pg.48)
PCP goes by many names- Angel Dust, Crystal, Peace Pill, Loveboat, and a Krystal Joint, just to name a few. Great Variety of names given to PCP reflects the great diversity of its effects. While it can sometimes produce pleasurable feelings, it can also create strange and unpleasant ones. ( Carroll,pg.19)
PCP is considered to be taken in two different amounts, a low dose ( 0-5 mg) and a high dose ( 10+ mg). The effects on behavior on someone who has taken a low dose would be speech disturbances or no speech, gross and fine muscular incoordination, a blank stare, difficulty walking, blurred vision, dizziness or drowsiness. A person would also experience racing thoughts or thinking faster than one can normally talk. Rapid mood changes, anxiety, agitation, paranoid thinking, panic, terror, and thought disorganization are the side effects on a person on a low dose of PCP. Muscle rigidity, small rapid eye movements vertically or horizontally, excessive water intake and urinary output and decreased sensitivity to pain is how a low dose of PCP would effect the body. The effects of behavior when on a high dose would be erratic, bizarre or violent behavior, compulsive and repetitive movements, incoherent speech, severe psychological disorganization, paranoia, agitation, relentlessness, and acute toxic psychosis. On a high dose your eyes remain open although horizontal and vertical oscillation is still present, your blood pressure may elevate alternating with low blood pressure and body temperature may elevate as another effect on the body. The ultimate effect is of course a coma or even death. ( Carroll, pgs.29-30)
Although physical or physiological dependence on PCP has not yet been extensively documented in studies on people, there is some evidence that withdrawal symptoms occur when a user stops taking the drug. A study performed during the eartly 1980s revealed that one-third of 68 regular users tried to find treatment or obtain medication to help them stop taking PCP. When they did eventually stop, they claimed to have experienced symptoms of depression, drug craving, increased appetite, increased need for sleep and laziness. These symptoms usually lasted from one week to one month after the last use of PCP, usually depending on the frequency of use. ( Carroll, pg.46)
Marijuana is the most used and most widely spread illegal drug in the country. It is the third most used drug, behind only alcohol and cigarettes, which are not illegal. Marijuana has more nicknames than ever imaginable. Just a few are Weed, Pot, Mary Jane, Ganja, Herb, Bud, and Refer. The thing that makes marijuana unique in its own world is that there is no stereotyped Marijuana User, people from all societies smoke pot. The potency of marijuana is determined on the amount of THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol- the chemical that gives people the high ) it contains. ( Hanes, pg.19 )
Marijuana moves quickly through the body and goes through the blood stream and the brain as well as all of the tissues and organs. Even though the THC moves quickly, it leaves very slowly, it usually takes a user 4 weeks from the last use to get it out of their system. Researchers often compare smoking weed with smoking cigarettes. Asthma, Bronchitis, Emphysema, Heart Disease and lung cancer can all result from cigarette smoking, and are suspected to also be linked to marijuana smoking. Irritation and obstruction of the upper airways ( the sinuses and larynx ) are frequent among users, and the lower airways ( the trachea and bronchi ) may also become irritated, resulting in a sore throat and cough. Heavy marijuana use may compromise the lung ability to clean and repair themselves. ( Hanes, pgs.68-71)
A research performed by the University of California, Los Angeles, sought to compare the effects of marijuana smoke vs. cigarette smoke on the lungs. ( Even though chemical content can vary from one batch to another in marijuana, because it is sold on a black market.) Based on the batches of marijuana the scientists used, it was found that smoking marijuana causes five times more carbon monoxide to accumulate in the blood than smoking cigarettes does. The researches also concluded that three times more tar is inhaled from marijuana smoke than from cigarette smoke and that 1/3 more settles in the respiratory tract. The potential danger of one joint to the lungs is equal to that of 5 cigarettes. Marijuana can also contain harmful contaminants. Salmonella bacteria or aspergillus fungi may infect marijuana and cause lung infections in smokers. ( Hanes, pgs.68-69 )
Cocaine another illegal drug, blocks the mechanism that pumps NE ( a neurotransmitter in the brain ) back into the nerve. Cocaine also blocks the reuptake of other brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotinin. The psychological effects of cocaine are complex and are influenced by the enviroment , the dose, the route of administration, and the characteristics and experience of the user. The major effect sought by most recreation users is what is frequently termedeuphoria. In addition, users describe an intense rush that is experienced when cocaine is smoked or injected. People report feelings of increased mental alertness, sexual desire, and sensory awareness and are more energetic, talkative and self-confident. Cocaine also causes a profound decrease in appetite, which in a chronic user can result in severe weight loss as well as a nutritional imbalance. Finally, use of this drug results in loss of sleep. ( Johanson, pgs.30-32)
With continual use of cocaine, the high is frequently unobtainable and, in fact, may be replaced by feelings of dysphoria and displeasure. Shortly after the first high many users crash , or experience sleepiness, irritability, feelings of depression, and lack of motivation. In those individuals who smoke, these undesirable effects occur within seconds after the initial euphoria. Because of this, users often increase their intake and/or repeatedly ingest the drug with the hope that they will be able to regain the initial pleasant feeling. With repeated use a psychosis similar to that produced by chronic high doses of amphetamine can replace the euphoria. In fact the psychosis produced by both these drugs so closely resemble schizomphenia that phsychosis often have a difficulty distinguishing between a drug-induced condition and a true psychiatric disorder. ( Johanson, pgs.35-36)
The symptoms of cocaine psychosis usually include paranoia, delusions of persecution, and visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. Frequently the tactile hallucinations involve the sensation of insects crawling under the skin- a condition known as formication. In humans, the progressive increases in irritability, restlessness, paranoia and suspiciousness associated with prolongs high-dose use may be a result of kindling. ( Johanson, pg.36 )
Under a variety of circumstances cocaine can be lethal. For instance, some individuals are born lacking pseudocholinesterases, the enzymes necessary for the metabolism, or breakdown, of cocaine in the blood. Because of this, even a dose as low as 20mg can cause death. However, individuals afflicted with this condition are rare. More commonly, death results from much higher doses than 20 mg. Massive cocaine intoxication is characterized by CNS stimulation ( restlessness, tremors, and convulsions ) followed by depression ( respiratory and cardiovascular failure.) Because of increased demand on the heart during cocaine use, people with heart problems, such as hypertension or cardiovascular disease, are more prone to a fatal reaction. There are also rare cases of cerebral hemorrhages ( a great discharge of blood in the brain ) occurring from acute increases in blood pressure. ( Johanson, pgs.37-38)
Sudden death from a massive overdose can also occur when cocaine is smuggled in various cavities of the body, a method called body packing. Sometimes balloons, condoms, or plastic bags are filled with cocaine and swallowed by smugglers. These packets sometimes break, resulting in the absortion of excessive amounts of the drug and a massive overdose. Since many of the packets are made of semipermeable materials, even when the packets remain intact the cocaine can be absorbed into the body and cause death. ( Johanson, pg.38 )
Heroin is another lethal drug. Heroin is derived from the opium poppy. Opium is a calming, painkilling and sleep inducing drug. Heroin gets into the bloodstream and is turned into morphine by the liver and produces analgesia , a pain reducing drug. If the injection dose is heavy enough, the rush can bring on unconsciousness or even death. Heroin makes its users feel peaceful, painless, a protected feel, warm sensations and makes them feel worry-free. The drug is also known to cause extreme itching.. ( Zackon, pgs.25 )
Heroin can be distinctly unpleasant for many first-time users. Direct injection into a vein often causes the initiation to want to vomit. A characteristic of all opiates is that the user soon builds up tolerance to the drug and must steadily increase the amount taken in order to get the same effect. Heroin slows the pulse, breathing rate, causes a drop in blood pressure, and reduces the smooth tissues of certain automatically functioning muscles, such as those of the diaphragm and intestines. Someone high on heroin may therefore exhibit poor condition, slowed reflexes, and slurred speech. The pupils of the eyes are often constricted, the eyes look glazed or watery, and the face may have a feverish flush. ( Zackon, pg.37 )
When a drug is used regularly and heavily, they can cause physiological changes to such an extent that the body will undergo predictable distress as soon as use is stopped. The suffering that a dependent person goes through upon abruptly ceasing drug use is called withdrawal syndrome resembles a case of the flu. Chills and gooseflesh, runny nose, aching limbs , abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrea are all common symptoms. Though it can be very uncomfortable , withdrawal is not a life-threatening condition. The withdrawal syndrome typically begins 8 to 12 hours following a dependent persons dose of heroin. Usually symptoms peak within a day or two and ease considerably within 3 to 5 days, but insomnia and irritability may persist for weeks. The severity of withdrawal varies with the amount, frequency, and duration of opiate use during the episode of dependence. ( Zackon, 42-44 )
The use of any kind of illegal drug is a very risky thing to do because the effects very for each drug and each part of the body. Any drug can kill a person, or can even do life long damage to a person.
Carrol, Marilyn. PCP: The Dangerous Angel. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.
Chiles, John. Teenage Depression and Drugs. New: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.
Hermes, William J. Marijuana: Its Effects on the Mind and Body. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.
Johanson, Chris-Ellyn. Cocaine: A New Epidemic. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.
Zackon, Fred. Heroin: The Street Narcotic. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992