How Drugs Work


HowDrugs Work

HowDrugs Work

Theuse of drugs has been one of the most problematic issues in thecontemporary United States human society. This is particularlyconsidering the effects that substance use has on the health ofindividuals and, consequently, the health of the economy. It is wellacknowledged that only healthy individuals have the capacity toundertake wealth creation activities. Of particular note is the factthat drug use in the United States has been on the rise.

Statisticsshow that an estimated 19.1 million Americans from the ages of 12 andabove are currently using drugs. This means that they have used anillicit drug for at least a single time in the last thirty days. Itis noteworthy that the number represents about 8% of the number ofindividuals aged between 12 and 17. On the same note, there arevariations in the prevalence of the drugs that are used (Douaihy,2014).Statistics show that marijuana comes as the most abused illicit drugwith 14.6 million current users or 6.1 percent of the United Statespopulation. This is followed by cocaine used by 2.0 million people,hallucinogens which are used by around 929,000 people, as well asheroin with 166,000 users. In some instances, the use of certaindrugs has decreased among American population (Abadinsky,2014).For instance, ecstasy use in the United States for the period between2009 and 2010 declined from 676,000 to around 470,000, with thenumbers slightly decreasing for the period between 2010 and 2011 toaround 450,000. In 2011, it is estimated that 6.0 million people wereusing psychotherapeutic drugs that were taken non-medically including4.4 million people taking pain relievers, 1.2 million for stimulants,1.6 million for tranquilizers and 0.3 million taking sedatives(Abadinsky,2014).The latest statistics also show that there is a decline in the numberof male drug users, while the contrary happened in the case of girls.Further, there are variations in the statistics pertaining to druguse across races. Statistics show that among youths between the agesof 12 and 17, the current rates pertaining to drug use considerablyvaried across major ethnic and racial groups in 2011 (Abadinsky,2014).It is noted that the rate of drug use was highest among Alaska NativeYouths or American Indian (26%), while youth with two or more racesformed 12.2%. A total of 11.1 percent of white youths used drugs, asdid 10.2 percent, 9.3 percent and 6.0 percent Hispanic, black andAsian youths respectively (Abadinsky,2014).

Drugs,in spite of their variations, work in almost the same manner. Thefunction by interacting with the receptors on the surface of enzymesor cells that regulate the chemical reactions in the body. Enzyme andreceptor molecules incorporate a specific three-dimensional structurethat enables only substances that precisely fit to attach to them ina lock and key model. However, the drugs would work since they arecapable of either mimicking the effects of protein or blocking itpsychological function in the brain through binding to the targetreceptor site (Douaihy,2014).In instances where drugs result in a response from the proteinreceptor in the same manner as naturally occurring substances, it iscalled an agonist. Drugs in this category include morphine andnicotine among others. (Douaihy,2014)There are also the antagonists, which are substances that selectivelyinteract with the receptors but never result in an observed effect.The antagonists may be classified as irreversible and reversible,where the former create a stable chemical bond with the receptor,while the latter can readily dissociate with the receptor.

A case in point regarding the manner in which drugs work is thefunctioning of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory inhibitors. Thesedrugs such as aspirin, function by interfering with the functioningof the cyclooxygenase pathway. The process would start with theconversion of the arachidonic acid by the enzyme cyclooxygenase so asto synthesize the varying prostaglandins (Douaihy,2014).The prostaglandins would the stimulate a large number of the otherreactionary responses and regulatory functions in the body such asincreased sensitivity to pain and inflammation.

Thereare varied effects of drug abuse and dependence, with their impactbeing far-reaching and impacting on almost every organ in the humanbody. The use of drugs would weaken the individual’s immune systemthereby increasing his or her susceptibility to ailments andinfections, result in varied cardiovascular conditions such asabnormal heart rates, infections of the blood valves and vessels, aswell as collapsed veins (Abadinsky,2014).In addition, they may cause liver failure or damage to the same as aresult of increased functioning, as well as result in widespreadbrain damage, seizures and stroke, which may impact all the aspectsof the daily life of an individual through causing problems withdecision-making, attention and memory such as permanent brain damageand sustained mental confusion (Abadinsky,2014).As noted, all drugs of abuse such as marijuana, nicotine and cocaineaffect the reward circuit of the brain. They hijack the reward systemand result in unusually large amounts of dopamine in the system. Thisis what causes euphoria or the “high” that is associated withsubstance use.


Abadinsky,H. (2014).&nbspDruguse and abuse: A comprehensive introduction.Belmont,OH : Wadsworth/Cengage Learning

Douaihy,A. B. (2014).&nbspSubstanceuse disorders.Oxford: Oxford University Press.