Barbiturates such as amphetamines, benzodiazepines and lysergic acid diethyl amides (LSD) when taken in inordinate amounts, they cause physical, physiological and psychological damage. This phenomenon of overuse of drugs is often referred to as drug abuse.
Drugs that are overused are mainly opioids, cannabinoids and coca alkaloids, which are generally obtained from flowering plants. Heroin, better known as smack, is an opioid drug. Opioids are drugs that bind to specific receptors in our central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Heroin is a white, odourless and bitter crystalline compound that is obtained from the acetylation of morphine, which in turn is extracted from the poppy plant, papaver somniferum. Chemically, therefore, heroin is a diacetylmorphine. It is generally taken as an injection or is snorted. Since it is a depressant, it slows down body functions.
Cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that bind to cannabinoid receptors, which are found chiefly in the brain. Cannabinoids are naturally obtained during the blossoming of the plant, Cannabis sativa. The resin, leaves and flowertops of this cannabis plant are used in various proportions to produce drugs like marijuana, hashish, charas and ganja. All these drugs are known for their effects on the cardiovascular system of the body and they are usually either inhaled or orally ingested. Cannabinoids are also sometimes abused by sportspersons because of their performance-enhancing properties.
Coca alkaloids are better known as cocaine, coke or crack. They are obtained from the coca plant Erythroxylum coca, which is a native plant of South America. They interfere with the transport of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Excessive dosage of cocaine, which is usually snorted, also causes hallucinations. Like drugs, tobacco too has chemical substances such as nicotine that cause addiction. Nicotine stimulates the adrenal gland to release adrenaline and nor-adrenaline hormones which result in increased heart rate and blood pressure. Smoking also causes lung, throat and urinary bladder cancers, other than causing coronary heart diseases. Chewing tobacco often results in mouth cancer. Due to the harmful effects of tobacco, the government has ordered that cigarette packs must carry visual statuary warnings that smoking cigarettes is injurious to health.
Despite the well-publicised harmful effects of drugs and smoking, both the young and old fall prey to the addiction. Therefore, both drug abusers and smoke addicts require counselling and medical assistance to be cured of their addictions.