THE USE AND ABUSE OF DRUGS

Legal Recreational Drugs

Legal Recreational Drugs

DrugsDrugs are able to change chemical reactions that occur in the body. Different drugs affect the body in different ways and are used for different reasons. Medical drugs are used to assist with recovery from an illness. Recreational drugs are used by people because they cause an enjoyable effect. Certain drugs are used by athletes because they help to make their performance better. Some drugs are addictive and it’s always important that people know what a drug can do before using it.

By the end of this section you should understand:

  • statins effects in cardiovascular disease
  • the difference between particular drugs and why illegal drugs are used for recreational purposes by some people
  • how to interpret claims made about prescribed and non-prescribed drugs
  • why people have concerns about the move from recreational to hard drugs
  • why drugs are used in sport to enhance performance and ethical implications of this

NOTE: You don’t need to know the classification of drugs.

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Legal Recreational Drugs

Drugs can also be used for recreational purposes and some people like using these because they make them feel good in certain ways. Two popular legal drugs are alcohol and nicotine. However, even though they’re legal they can still be misused, which poses many health risks.

Alcohol

DrugsThe alcohol which is found in drinks like beer and wine is called ethanol. Ethanol is a depressant and works by slowing down the signals to the central nervous system. Many people enjoy drinking alcohol because it makes them feel relaxed.

However, drinking too much alcohol can have very negative effects. Short-term, a person can lose their sense of co-ordination and their judgement can be impaired. If someone drinks a lot of alcohol this can lead to alcohol poisoning and a person can end up unconscious or even in a coma.

Long-term effects of alcohol use can lead to a number of serious health conditions like liver disease, diabetes and brain damage. Woman are advised not to drink while they’re pregnant or at least to cut down.

Alcohol is also an addictive drug. When people become dependent on alcohol they start to drink more regularly throughout the day and feel they need it to cope with everyday life.

Nicotine

DrugsNicotine is a very addictive drug. It is mixed with tobacco in cigarettes and it is this substance that causes people to become so quickly dependant on smoking.

Although nicotine is a legal drug, smoking has been recognised as the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the UK. It has been estimated that in the UK alone it causes over 110,000 deaths a year. Due to this, more and more warnings and controls are being used on cigarettes.

Nicotine itself has no negative effects accept increased blood pressure and the increased chance of heart disease. It’s much more dangerous when mixed with tobacco and when smoked this way and can cause:

  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • lung disorders
  • stroke

As with alcohol, pregnant women are strongly advised not to smoke as it increases the chances of a miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight.

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Illegal Recreational Drugs

A few people like to use illegal recreational drugs for pleasure. Three well-known drugs are cannabis, ecstasy and heroin. All of these can have damaging effects on your health, including your circulatory system, heart and brain.

Heroin and cocaine are two very addictive drugs. These drugs are able to change particular chemical processes in the body so that a person becomes dependant on them. It can then be very hard for someone to stop taking one of these drugs and, if they do, they tend to have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug, for example with heroin (and also alcohol) they include vomiting and shaking while with cocaine it tends to be irritability and depression.

Cannabis

DrugsCannabis is a popular recreational drug that is usually smoked but can also be eaten. Many people enjoy taking it because it makes them feel relaxed and happy. However, cannabis has also been shown to have a number of adverse health effects. One particularly serious effect that some people think can happen is damage to a person’s mental health. Users can become very anxious and even paranoid. If used on a regular basis it can even cause psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, although this has never been scientifically proven.

On the other hand, cannabis has been shown to help alleviate pain, for example for people suffering from multiple sclerosis, and it has also helped to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy. However, a lot of medical research is still being carried out in order to get a better understanding of its effects.

NOTE: You only need to understand the effects of cannabis, not any other recreational drugs.

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Drug safety

Due to the fact that scientists tend to concentrate more on the effects of legal drugs, whether they’re prescribed or not, the effect of these on the general health of the public is much more apparent than the effects of illegal drugs.

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Performance enhancing drugs

DrugsAs well as medical and recreational purposes, drugs can also be used by athletes to help make their performance better. These include:

  • anabolic steroids, which are used to help increase muscle growth
  • stimulants, which are used to improve particular bodily functions like heart rate

Some of these drugs are illegal while some can be prescribed. Either way, within sporting regulations athletes are not allowed to use either and regular testing is carried out. Not only is their use seen as unfair when competing, they can also lead to serious health problems.