The Effects Of Drugs Essay Research Paper

The Effects Of Drugs Essay, Research Paper Introduction Many different drugs have different effects on the body. This paper focuses on the effects caused by three widely used drugs opium, cocaine, and cannabis. They have many common effects between them. Some characteristics of the effects of those drugs are those of stimulants and others are those of depressants.

The Effects Of Drugs Essay, Research Paper


Many different drugs have different effects on the body. This paper focuses on the effects caused by three widely used drugs opium, cocaine, and cannabis. They have many common effects between them. Some characteristics of the effects of those drugs are those of stimulants and others are those of depressants. We will describe the chemical effects of each drug on the body.


Opium is a drug produced from the capsules of the opium poppy. When fresh from the plant it is a gooey light brown mass (”Opium,” Microsoft? Encarta? Online Encyclopedia 2000). After it is allowed to dry out it hardens and darkens. Its chemical formula consists of 17 carbon atoms, 19 hydrogen atoms, 3 oxygen atoms, and 1 nitrogen atom (Barbara Hodgson, 1999, p 15).

Opium has an extensive history. It was first used about 3400 B. C. In the early 1800?s British opium smugglers illegally smuggled the drug into China. In doing this they made enormous profits and hooked many Chinese citizens on the drug. This illegal trade caused a war, appropriately titled the ?Opium War.? Eventually when the Chinese began migrating out into the world they spread opium use. Opium can be smoked, eaten, drunk or injected. Most commonly it was smoked. This was in part because opium designed for smoking was the cheapest and easiest to obtain. Smokers took their habit very seriously. They usually possessed a smoker?s kit, which included a lamp to light the opium, a box to store it, one of a variety of different pipes, extra bowls for the pipe, a sponge and bowl scraper to clean the pipe, and a pillow to rest their heads on as they smoked (Barbara Hodgson, pgs.1-46).

Most smokers did so in groups, normally in places called ?opium dens?. These dens were located in cities and many in Chinatowns. Chinatowns were areas within cities where the Chinese migrated to, lived, and brought their addictions to. The addicts who ingest opium orally are nicknamed ?opium eaters? (Barbara Hodgson, p.3, 62 ). This edible opium is in the form of pills and it has a horribly bitter taste. The form of opium that can be drunk is called laudanum, which is an opium-alcohol mixture. (Barbara Hodgson, p 3). With the invention of the hypodermic syringe during the American Civil War, injection presented another way for addicts to get their fix. The opium derivatives that were introduced to the body through a syringe were called morphine and heroine, both of which were extremely addictive. There were commercial drugs that were introduced into the market which were supposed to help addicts kick their opium habit. These drugs did not help very well due to the fact that most of them contained either opium or some other addictive drug, therefore hooking the addict. Other commercial products that contained opium were cough syrups and baby soothing medicines. Of course, opium would make babies stop crying but it had many negative side effects. Many children grew up with deformities and mental retardation. Opium was a very popular drug, but it caused much harm (Barbara Hodgson, p1-7).

Opium?s short-term affects include drowsiness, lightheadedness, weakness, euphoria, dry mouth, urinary retention, and constipation. It is said that the most effective way to smoke opium is by lying on your side with your head on the pillow mentioned in the smoker?s kit. Most people could not sit up and smoke opium because they became too dizzy or tired to remain upright, or were to weak to hold up the pipe. Whenever people smoked opium they went to sleep immediately afterwards. This was quite a sight at the opium dens, where there would be dozens of people passed out on the floor. They smoked just for a few minutes of pleasure and anywhere from 1 to 3 hours of near-paralytic sleep. Opium gave a temporary feeling of euphoria to anyone who used it. This was the main reason why the drug was in such high demand. It let people get away from the stress of their everyday lives. Opium also caused its abuser to dehydrate. After smoking one would drink much water and liquid to help soothe their horrible thirst. This dehydration leads to constipation and urinary retention, both of which tended to be quite painful ( .

Opium?s long-term affects include hallucinations, psychosis, and seizures. If an opium addict consumed their drug over a long period of time, they usually developed several harmful side effects. One of them was recurring hallucinations, which have been compared to the ?trips? induced by the modern-day hallucinogen LSD, also known as ?acid.? During these hallucinations people see objects and people that are not really there. These people and objects sometimes talk to them. For instance, if an addict was having hallucinations while eating, their food might talk to them and say, ?Don?t eat me.? Another long-term affect that relates closely to hallucination is psychosis. This is the condition in which the user loses touch with reality, their mind is very disorganized, and their thought process is altered greatly. They are conscious but do not have much common sense (

Psychosis is a type of altered consciousness. Seizures are another side effect, occurring after prolonged use of opium. This is because the body is rejecting the drug. As with any drug, opium overdosing is possible. The symptoms that indicate an overdose are marked by extra drowsiness and dizziness, extreme confusion, a possible coma, bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat) and depressed breathing (

Some other drugs derived from opium include morphine, heroine, and codeine. Both morphine and heroine can be injected into the body through the use of needles. Morphine is commonly given for pain relief to people who have undergone surgery or who have serious injuries. Morphine acts in the brain to decrease the feeling of pain and to reduce emotional response to pain, as do most opiates. Since morphine is made from the same poppy flowers as opium it is highly addictive. Morphine was used more in the past than it was now. It is on its way out of the drug abusing society ( .

Heroine use, on the other hand, is rising in the drug community. Heroine?s effects are almost identical to morphine?s because it is made from the same opium poppy and it is introduced to the body in the same way, through a needle.

Codeine is another opiate that is growing quite popular today. It is introduced into the body in the form of a pill. It is addictive but not nearly as addictive as the other opiates mentioned so far. It is used as a painkiller and cough suppressant (

All of these opiates are quite harmful to the body as are most illegal drugs. To kick their addiction, addicts must go through many years of rehabilitation and usually through many recurrences. After going for some time without their drug the addicts in rehabilitation undergo withdrawal. Opium withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, nausea, diarrhea, or pain; symptoms vary with the type of drug. The overall edginess associated with withdrawal is due to the lack of drug content in the user?s system. After an addict is so used to being high and they come down, they cannot handle a normal life with stress. Opiates are horrible drugs and they have many horrific effects on the body(


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant with terrible side effects on the body. “It is a stimulant drug derived from the South American coca plant, Erythroxylon coca”(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, 1994, p.169). The intranasal, inhalation and intravenous use causes complications to vital organs in the body and also creates many complications such as the acquiring diseases and psychiatric problems.

One of the ways cocaine may be used is in the form of coca paste and crack used thru smoking. ?Coca paste consists of a mixture of cocaine, kerosene, sulfuric acid, and sodium carbonate?. The white or brown paste is allowed to be dry after being manufactured; it is then placed at the end of a tobacco or marijuana cigarette, and inhaled deeply?(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.20). Cocaine can also be smoked in the crack form and is made using a procedure of reacting chemicals. ?Crack is produced by combining cocaine hydrochloride with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). This mixture is heated until all the water has evaporated. The resultant product is small white chips, consisting of the alkaline precipitate of cocaine? (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.21).

Another form of cocaine is crystalline cocaine hydrochloride. This compound is chopped up finely by a razor blade to be used for snorting and/or for intravenous use. “Cocaine is prepared for intravenous administration by placing between one-tenth and one-quarter of a gram in a spoon and then adding water. This aqueous solution is then strained, after which it is drawn up into a syringe and injected into a vein. Euphoria occurs almost immediately” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.23).

Cocaine is popularly used because it works as a vasoconstrictor. A vasoconstrictor is a substance that can constrict blood vessels to a specific area to where it was applied. ??. thus blood vessels in the area exposed to cocaine are reduced in size, and blood flow to that area is diminished?(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.34). Since cocaine restricts blood flow, nutrients and oxygen are unable to flow properly to many organs, which restricts the cells in that area to become malnourished. When the blood flow is diminished, it causes the person’s sympathetic nervous system (which controls the “fight or flight” response) to be activated. Once the sympathetic nervous system is activated, a user enters in a state of euphoria where the person may feel more activated and alert.

One of the organs that the vasoconstrictor effects is the heart. When cocaine is taken through intranasal administration, a high heart rate and blood pressure may result. These problems can lead to cardiomyopathy, the condition in which the heart contracts abnormally. “Cardiomyopathy may be caused by a direct toxic effect of cocaine on the heart. People who have cardiomyopathy are more susceptible to heart attacks and to sudden cardiac death” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.34). The reason cardiomyopathy may result is due to the sudden increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Cocaine also has effects on the respiratory system. An overdose of cocaine may result in respiratory arrest. A person can also obtain other respiratory problems if he or she smokes it, because of the decreased amount of transportation of oxygen to the blood. A syndrome called crack lung may result. “Patients with this syndrome may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood. Symptoms may begin almost immediately after smoking crack, or up to 48 hours after crack was last used” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.35).

Out of all the organs in the human body, cocaine produces the greatest effects on the brain. “Cocaine is a very powerful drug that profoundly influences brain function” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.70).

The brain works by sending electrical impulses to every nerve cell in the body. The brain uses neurotransmitters to transport electrical impulses across the gaps that separate nerve cells. To check the effects of cocaine on the body, researchers check the production, release and breakdown of various neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters are broken down into a variety of metabolic end products that can be measured in urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.35). “?. cocaine blocks the return (reuptake) of neurotransmitters from the synaptic space back into the presynaptic neuron (thus interfering with their metabolic breakdown)?.”(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.57).

“High doses of cocaine and other central nervous systems stimulants also appear to increase the firing rate of dopamine-containing neurons in the brain”(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.67). Dr. Micheal Sherer demonstrated a correlation between dopamine levels and paranoia. “Dr. Sherer showed that suspiciousness and paranoia were related to an increase of homovanillic acid, suggesting paranoia in these subjects was related to increased levels of dopamine in the brain”(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.67).

Cocaine can also cause psychological effects to a person. As the euphoric state decreases after frequent use, the person may feel dependent on the drug and fall into depression with and/or without it. “?.cocaine can cause roller-coaster like swings between euphoria and depression. As the frequency and intensity of cocaine use increase, the severity of the depression can increase proportionately”(Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.47). At this state, cocaine users may resort to suicide. He/she may feel worthless because of failed attempts of stopping the use of cocaine.

Not only does cocaine affect the user, but also greatly affects the family. Cocaine, Second Edition, shows how a users addiction can hurt the rest of the family.

“When 21-year-old ‘Tom’ ran out of money after a cocaine binge, he asked his parents to drive him New York City to replenish his supply. When they demurred, he threatened to rob a gas station to finance his habit. Tom’s parents never found out whether he would have carried out his threat, because they gave in to his request. This scenario was repeated numerous occasions, always with the same result. Tom’s parent’s ultimately sold their home to continue supporting their son’s habit. His mother said, ‘Whenever I thought of not giving in to him, I imagined him in a shoot-out with the police and I pictured Tom dead. No matter what, I couldn’t let that happen to my boy” (Weiss, Mirin, and Bartel, p.111).


Cannabis sativa is a tall plant that grows in many parts of the world. Cannabis sativa is considered a hemp plant. It is known as the most durable of the hemp plants, and produces the toughest cloth, called canvass. This hemp plant is used for many purposes but is mostly commonly developed as a form of drug preparation to about 300 million people throughout the world (Wagmanm, 1986, p.1376). There are many drug derivatives generated from the cannabis plant. The most common form that is used extensively throughout the United States is the form known as marijuana. Other forms include charas, found throughout India, and a brown powder called hashish, found in the Middle East (Wagmanm, p.1377). This plant also produces three other important products. It produces seed, pulp, and medicine ( .

The pulp is used as fuel, and to make paper. The seed of the plant is used for both human and animal foods. The oil can be utilized as a form of base for paints and varnishes. A pigment in the plant produces medicine that can be used for a variety of purposes. Although it is legal to posses hemp in the United States, meaning the roots, stalk, and stems of the cannabis plant, it is illegal to posses marijuana, which is defined as the flowers, buds, or leaves of the cannabis plant. Therefore, the constant usage of marijuana in the United States has been a prominent drug issue throughout the years ( .

The use of cannabis sativa when used in the body can be both beneficial and hurtful. The affects of cannabis sativa on the body are very interesting and sometimes different depending on the individual. The body seems to take on a feeling of being caught between a stage ?half way between elation and sleepiness, with some heightened or altered perceptions (of sounds and color, for example)? (Wagmanm, p.1378). An experienced smoker will feel as if there is a slowed-down sense of time, and at times experiences mild headache or nausea. However, it has also been observed that people using large doses of marijuana, hashish, and THC have induced what they termed hallucinations and psychotic reactions (Wagmanm, p.1378). Some people experience nothing at all if they are not expecting to feel affects on the body while smoking. Although, if a person is feeling anxiety, they may also feel panic (Wagmanm, p.1378). Whatever the effects may be for the individual, in most cases, any form of cannabis sativa proves to cause an altered state of consciousness throughout the body as well as strains towards a person?s mental processes.

It is not apparent what exact substances within the cannabis plant actually induce drug affects within the body. However, scientists have discovered three of the resin?s ingredients. These are chemical compounds known as cannabinol, cannabidiol, and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Tetrahydrocannabinol is a classified as a narcotic. Its molecular formula is C21H30O2 with a molecular weight of 314.45. THC is an active ingredient in marijuana and causes the body to undergo relaxation states as well as leading to hallucinations and bizarre behavior ( . Cannabis is hard to classify because its properties and reactions resemble both a stimulant and depressant drug.

Cannabis has also been known to have positive effects on the body when used as a medicine. There are many diseases which cannabis can be used for as a form of treatment. These diseases include multiple sclerosis, cancer treatment, AIDS, glaucoma, depression, epilepsy, migraine headaches, asthma, pruritis, sclerodoma, severe pain, and dystonia. Various chemicals in cannabis have chemical uses for treatment in the body. Cannabinol is used for the treatment of sleeping disorders. It can help in relaxing the senses and giving the body a better ability to sleep. Cannabidiolic acid is also used as a disinfectant. AIDS patients use marijuana to treat vomiting and nausea. Studies have shown that marijuana can be effective in reducing the pressure of fluids with the eyes of patients suffering from glaucoma (Wagmanm, p.1378). Cannabis sativa, when used in the form of medicine, can be extremely beneficial to the body.

No matter what form of cannabis is extracted for use on the human body, its effects are extremely altering. A person can use its effects in a positive or negative fashion. They can use it to altar their state of consciousness when trying to escape some sort of inner conflicts or to functionally heal their ailments. Its usage is still considered immoral throughout the United States, unless its use is for medical needs. The chemical effects of THC, cannabolinol, and cannabidiol prove to be the most important active principles within the hemp plant, and their reactions within the body are the cause of various alterations in consciousness.


These three drugs have been chemically proven to cause many changes within the human body. Some changes may be positive, while others may be harmful. Opium and cocaine are both very addictive and cause withdrawal symptoms. Even though these drugs cause chemical alterations on the body, billions of people continue to use then them throughout the world. All of these drugs are mainly used for their euphoric effects to escape the conflicts within ones personal life.


“Opium,” Microsoft? Encarta? Online Encyclopedia 2000 ? 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation.