“Drugs are substances that, when introduced into a living organism, drugs modify biochemical processes, resulting in physiological or behavioral changes.
Usually, when asked “What are drugs?” , so what comes to mind are substances prohibited by law. However, as the definition above showed, drugs (or more correctly “drugs”) also cause physiological changes in the body, so they are also considered drugs, but they are not illegal.
Pharmacology is the branch that studies medicines and drugs . This area of knowledge defines that medicines are drugs used for therapeutic purposes and thus seek beneficial actions to the body . Diseases cause changes in biochemical processes in the individual’s body, and the administration of drugs serves to restore the balance of these processes.
In addition, alcoholic beverages and cigarettes are two examples of licit drugs in Brazil, that is, the sale of these products is not prohibited by law for people over 18 years of age.
On the other hand, there are illicit drugs such as cocaine, crack , marijuana and so on.
Examples of illicit drugs
Therefore, it is not the fact that it is prohibited or not that characterizes a substance or material as a drug, but rather the action of causing physiological and/or behavioral changes. If these changes are reflected in the person’s feelings, thoughts and attitudes, it is a psychotropic drug , which means that it acts on the central part of the nervous system, formerly called the central nervous system (CNS) , as we will discuss later. further up.
Psychotropic drugs have three main properties: (1) the user develops tolerance , needing to take increasingly high drug doses to feel its effects; (2) it causes dependence and (3), with the interruption of use, there is a withdrawal syndrome — very unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms that make it difficult to stop using the drug.
That is why even medicines must be administered under the guidance of a doctor, because if they are not taken properly and in the correct doses, they can lead to addiction and serious health problems, as drugs do not only act on the biochemical process related to the disease to be corrected, but also on other body processes, generating side effects.
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Drugs used without medical advice and in excess can lead to addiction
Drugs activate or deactivate certain neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and can act in three ways: as depressants , stimulants or disruptors .
Depressant drugs decrease brain activity , which makes the person slower and without motor coordination, in addition to generating disturbances in perception and skills, sleep, lack of control and can lead to coma. An example of a depressant drug is alcohol , which decreases the transmission of nerve signals, which is why drunk driving is so dangerous.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant drug.
Stimulating drugs, on the other hand, cause the opposite effect, as they increase brain activity and generate euphoria. In this way, the person becomes “electric”, with ease to speak and uninhibited. This is the effect of nicotine , cocaine , crack and amphetamines .
Finally, drugs that disturb the central part of the nervous system are those that generally cause hallucinations (hallucinogenic drugs) , such as ecstasy .
However, these three actions of drugs (as depressants, stimulants and disturbers) generally do not appear in isolation. For example, alcohol can have a stimulating effect at first and then become a depressant.
From a chemical point of view, all drugs are organic substances, and the main functions present in their molecules are alcohols (hydroxyl, OH, attached to a carbon chain) and amines (derived from ammonia (NH 3 )), mainly alkaloids .
The physiological effects of drugs are associated with the specific metabolism of each one, but it is proven that the constant use of all of them leads to various diseases, in addition to causing the aforementioned dependence. On the consequences of drug use, read the text Harm caused by drug use .