Drugs and Its Impact on the Nervous System

By Mansi Arora

What are drugs? A medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body. Drugs can be divided into two separate sections: pharmaceutical and illegal drugs. In this blog, I will be focusing on illegal drugs. Most illegal drugs are made from various plants while the rest is made from various substances. There are different types of drugs like cocaine, crack cocaine, date rape drugs (GHB), Rohypnol (roofies), ecstasy, illicit fentanyl, heroin, ketamine hydrochloride, LSD, meth (methamphetamine), marijuana, nicotine, PDC (angel dust), hash, pot, and psilocybin mushrooms.

Drugs can negatively affect the nervous system particularly when it takes control of the brain through overuse. The consumption of drugs affects the nerve cells, the brain’s chemical messenger, and over-stimulates the “reward circuit” of the brain. Drugs like heroin and marijuana work similar to neurotransmitters (brain’s chemical messenger) and activate nerve cells and pathways. Drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are similar in shape to the dopamine precursor, and attach to the nerve cells involved in the dopamine cascade, causing a release of an unnaturally large amount of the neurotransmitter. The surge of dopamine is like the difference between someone whispering in your ear versus someone shouting in a microphone. Many other drugs like nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, etc. similarly affect the brain’s “reward” circuit, which is part of the limbic system. Normally, the reward circuit responds to healthy, pleasurable activities by releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, which teaches other parts of the brain to repeat those activities. Drugs, however, take control of this system by remembering the uncharacteristically intense feeling of euphoria and sending motivation to seek the drug again. Basically, the drug reinforces the desire to use more drugs.

Since drugs impact the brain, it also has side effects that affect the whole body. Side effects occur when a person starts to take drugs, stops taking drugs, or increases/decreases the drug intake. Some of the side effects include harm to organs and systems in your body, such as your throat, stomach, lungs, liver, pancreas, heart, brain, nervous system, increased risk for cancer (such as lung cancer from inhaling drugs). Other side effects include acne or skin lesions. In addition, if you utilize injections regularly, there can be physical side effects that differ for both men and women. Male get unusual patterns of hair growth whereas women inherit a lot of facial hair. Some of the common symptoms include bad breath, teeth cavities, gum disease, mood swings, and erratic behavior, addiction, psychosis (losing touch with reality), accidental overdose, higher risk of mental illness, depression, suicide, and death.

There are many reasons an individual may decide to take drugs. Some of the reasons are stress, trauma, peer/friend pressure, and much more. A common reason for consuming drugs is to avoid the challenges and struggles faced by the individual. Countries that have a very high number of drug consumers include America and Australia.

How can you assist someone with a drug addiction?

  • Get information about the drug and how it impacts the individual

  • Seek help from drug support groups

  • Get counseling from therapists

  • Contact the local rehabilitation for more help. For Ontario, one could obtain assistance from the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centers. Refer to https://www.otac.ca


1. Does coke contain cocaine?

Initially, when the coke company first opened, it did contain cocaine. In 1903, narcotics had filed a complaint against the coke company for adding cocaine in the beverages. In 1929, the Company stopped adding cocaine to the drink.

2. How does drug intake affect an unborn child?

Drugs consumed by a pregnant mother can cause birth defects, stillborn births, and also cause premature babies. In addition, it may affect the child’s memory and nervous system.


Image Credit:

Syringe Pill Capsule - Free image on Pixabay

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