Drugs of Misuse

  • Created by: nkirby
  • Created on: 03-12-19 15:57


Stimulants, also known as ‘uppers’, are drugs that cause the taker to be energised.
Examples of stimulants: cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, amphetamine.
They are usually injected, insufflated (inhaled) or smoked but may be taken orally too.

Responses to stimulants:

  • Increased dopamine (a sense of pleasure/euphoria).
  • Blocked re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Dilation of pupils.

Issues caused by prolonged use:

  • Cardiac enlargement and scarring.
  • Heart arrhythmias.
  • Paranoid psychosis.
  • Blood vessel damage.
  • ‘Excited delirium syndrome’ which has symptoms of an acute on-set of hyperthermia, agitated and violent behaviour, autonomic dysfunction and sudden unexplained death.
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Hallucinogens alter the perceptions of those who take them.

Examples of hallucinogens: LSD, nitrous oxide, magic mushrooms.

Usually taken orally or sublingually (under the tongue).

Response to hallucinogens:

  • Change in mood.
  • Alter perception of reality.

MDMA is an empathogen but shares properties with hallucinogens - it stimulated empathy and connectedness.

However, complications of MDMA are much more serious, such as hyperthermia and multi-system failure.

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Also knows as ‘downers’. They are calming and a sedative. They have painkilling properties (analgesic) and can also reduce anxiety (anxiolytic).

Examples: alcohol, cannabis, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opiates, opioids.

They are usually injected, smoked or orally ingested.

Response to depressants:

  • They bind to the GABA active site and slow down brain function, slowing down reactions.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Slowed breathing.
  • Slowed heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Fatigue.

Complications of depressants:

  • Unconsciousness.
  • Seizures.
  • Long-term dependance.
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The active ingredient of cannabis is THC.
It interacts with various biological receptors.


  • Increased heart rate.
  • Decreased cardiac output.
  • Anxiety.
  • Impaired attention.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Tiredness.

Long-term complications:

  • Psychosis.
  • Dependence.
  • Cognitive deficit.
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Opiated & Opioids

Opiate: morphine or other constituent of the opium poppy.
Opioids: synthetic opiates.


  • Binds to receptor in the brain.
  • Constipation.
  • Pain relief.
  • Respiratory depression.
  • Pupil constriction.


  • Associated with self-injection: infection, venous damage, deep vein thrombosis, disease transmission.
  • Highly addictive with serious withdrawal effects.
  • The more a person takes, their tolerance increases leading to them taking more.This increases the risk of an overdose.
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