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Drugs of Abuse

Drugs that are abused can be classified into:

  • Natural drugs
  • Semi-synthetic drugs and
  • Synthetic drugs.

Natural drugs come from one of the following three plants:

  • Opium poppy (Papaver somniferous)
  • Cannabis
  • Coca

Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) plant produces beautiful red and white flowers which mature into bolls. Incisions are made on the bolls through a process called lancing and latex oozes out and sticks to the surface of the boll. On exposure to atmosphere, the latex turns brownish to black, gummy and resinous and this substance is called the opium or opium gum. Opium is a drug of abuse.

Cannabis plant grows wild and is also illegally cultivated. The flowering tops of cannabis are called ganja. The resin produced by crushing the plant is called hashish or charas. Hashish oil is also produced through distillation.

The leaves of coca plant and the coca paste made from these leaves are stimulating drugs.

Thus, opium, ganja, hashish, hashish oil, coca leaves and coca paste are natural drugs.

Semi-synthetic drugs: If the natural drug is treated chemically to either isolate its active ingredient or to modify it, semi-synthetic drugs are produced. Morphine, codeine, heroin, etc. are semi-synthetic drugs produced from opium while cocaine is a semi-synthetic drug produced from coca plant.

Synthetic drugs: Synthetic drugs are produced purely through chemical processes. Amphetamines, ecstasy, diazepam, methaqualone (commonly called mandrax) are some examples of synthetic drugs

How are drugs abused?

Drugs are smoked, snorted, consumed orally or injected depending on the nature of drug. Some drugs can be used in more than one way. For instance, heroin can be smoked while purer form of heroin can be injected. Injections give a greater high than oral use or smoking and hence injecting drug use is more harmful than oral use or smoking.

Effects of drugs

When abused, drugs produce a variety of effects depending upon the drug:

Stimulants increase the activity of the abuser and make him more lively and active. Some stimulants such as amphetamines were used in wars to make the soldiers more active.

Sedatives make the person feel sleepy and reduce his activity. Opium and opiates are good examples of sedatives.

Hallucinogens create hallucinations in the abuser. LSD is one of the well known hallucinogens.

Tranquilisers calm the nerves of the addict without making him feel sleepy.