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Illegal Drugs

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Biology 103
2002 Second Paper
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Illegal Drugs


There is a terrible problem that plagues the nation in the year 2002. It is one word that does considerable amounts of damage—drugs. Over the years, the level of teenage drug use fluctuates. "The prevalence of illicit drug use among America's teenagers dropped slightly in 1998. The decrease follows a leveling off in 1997, and suggests that the increasing use of drugs by teenagers that marked most of the 1990s may have begun to turn around."(1) . However, recent reports conclude that drug use is on the rise. In October, the Boston Herald reported that cocaine use was the leading cause of overdose in the Boston area. Illegal drug use interests me because I see it first hand and teens don't know what the long term effects are or even that there are any. Most teens are going to jail or even killing themselves because they are so addicted. What is most surprising among drug users is they don't know the long term effects of drugs- they are just in it for the ride; however, most rides end up deadly.

In writing my paper, I will focus on the long term effects of three specific drugs: cocaine, heroin and Oxycontin. Each of these drugs is moving into a more mainstream category and is being used as commonly as drinking a beer. Heroin and cocaine, which were very popular in the 80's, are back and taking away lives of many teens. Oxycontin is a newly discovered drug used for cancer treatment, but when snorted or injected is more deadly than heroin and cocaine. Heroin contains hydrochloride (diacetylmorphine, diamorphine) which releases endorphins and blocks pain. Cocaine contains hydrochloride which releases dopamine, adrenaline ( causing rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure), acetylcholine (causing muscle tremors), serotonin (causing feelings of calm and pleasure). (2) Oxycontin are a prescription drug used as painkillers for extremely sick cancer patients. They contain an opium derivative, which is the same active ingredient in Percodan and Percocet (also pain relievers).

Unfortunately, heroin is the most addictive and commonly used substance out of the three drugs. The reason is because it is so cheap. It costs less to get high than it does to order a beer at a bar. Heroin is the most popular drug in the slums and ghettos. Authorities never thought that heroin use would be a problem because it had to be injected with a needle, however they were wrong. Just this past February, Attorney General Janet Reno admitted heroin is more plentiful, purer, and less expensive than it was just a few years ago. "If we do not counteract the heroin threat now," she said, "we risk repeating the terrible consequences of the 1980s' cocaine and crack epidemic." Authorities estimate that heroin addiction has increased 20 percent and worldwide production has grown sharply, even as other illegal substance abuse is declining. (3)

Just as heroine is addictive, cocaine is as well. Fortunately, cocaine is more expensive, therefore it is not used as much as heroine. Cocaine gives off the same type of high as heroin, just not as strong and does not last as long. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s cocaine and heroin has been the leading drug of choice, with increasing numbers. In 1996, it was reported that heroin was the primary drug of abuse related to drug abuse treatment admissions in Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston, and it ranked a close second to cocaine in New York and Seattle. (3) It was not until recently that teens discovered oxycontins. In 1995, the FDA approved the drug and by the end of 1996, Oxycontins had been linked to at least 120 deaths. (4) What teens don't know when they are getting into drugs is that they are addictive and it is too late for them to stop once they realize what these drugs are doing to them. There are numerous effects drugs have on teenagers.

Heroin, cocaine and oxycontins are all narcotics and therefore cause similar effects to the body and the brain. Some effects include euphoria, drowsiness and respiratory depression. Used over a long period of time, these drugs cause serious damage. Not to mention that with cocaine and heroin, which both can be injected for an immediate high, there is a high possibility of getting AIDS through sharing of needles. Oxycontins are so addicting that withdrawals cause depression from dependency on the drug. All of these drugs when injected cause an immediate high but coming down from the high is very bad because of withdrawals. Withdrawals to these drugs are why addiction is so high; instead of coming down, they just shoot/snort up again and they have the euphoric feeling again.

Doctors agree that you can always tell a previous drug user even after being sober for years. Track marks on people's arms from injection, delayed reactions, paranoia, high blood pressure and even heart attack are all long term effects of these drugs. The most popular long-term effect of heroin, cocaine and oxycontins is addiction. Addiction is a chronic problem, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, and by neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain. (3) The long term effects of these three drugs are still being studied today and researchers are still finding new discoveries and problems that drugs cause. In Philadelphia, Dr. Michelle Ehrlich, a neurology professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia insists there is a link to adolescent drug use and brain damage. "The adolescent brain appears to be more sensitive to certain effects of these psycho-stimulant drugs. We need to see whether this sensitivity leads to permanent brain changes and behavior changes." (5) Either way, not everything is known about drugs and what they will do to you. People think that since they have been around for so long that they know everything about them—they are wrong.

In conclusion, cocaine, heroin and oxycontins are all extremely addicting and cause dependency over short and long periods of time. Teens need to ask themselves before taking drugs if a "thirty minute high" is worth (in some cases) the rest of their life. It is proven that drugs do kill and if not, cause permanent damage to your body and brain. Your brain is affected by drugs immediately and in most cases leaves permanent damage. Long-term use may result in changes in brain function that last long after the person stops using drugs. (6) Unfortunately with illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and oxycontins, there is no place for a "warning" label. The only way drug use will go down is with increased education and programs.


1)National Institute on Drug Abuse

2)HIV Plus, September 1998

3)Drug Rehab Center

4)Drug Rehab Center

5)Health on the Net Foundation, 10/31/02

6)Discovery Health Channel, November 2002, Diseases and Conditions



Comments made prior to 2007


First off, do you know that opiates. Such as Heroine (Diacetylmorphine) and (Dihydrohydroxycodeinone) Oxycodone have less side effects then that of an over the counter medication such as Tylneol? Yes, they are addictive. The "problem" of addiction stems from the fact of gettting or accquiring the drug. The goverment makes this hard and therefor creates crime and desperation ... Xavier, 29 March 2006



Oxycontin is repeatedly used in the same sentence with, heroin and cocaine, illegal drugs. Oxycontin is an FDA/DEA schedule ll medication and is therefore not illegal. The abuse, misuse or use of this medication other than the individual it is prescribed for makes Oxyontin illegal. It is important that this distinction is made. We have an epidemic of abused and misused prescribed and over the counter medications which needs to be distinguished from use of illegal drugs ... Reader on the web, 15 March 2007


yhuma's picture


complete your research..
but you have a good work and it helps many people especially to the students...
and please do some more research with a complete idea..

dan murdock's picture

ummm facts?

please do some real research. cocaine is not a narcotic. a narcotic refers to an opium derivative or a synthetic opium derivative. used sparingly, cocaine perfectly safe.

kennedyy's picture

illegal druqss...

im doinqq a ppr about illegal druqss nd this paqee realee hlped mehh!!! thanxx:)

experienced recovered user's picture

This paper is extremely

This paper is extremely inaccurate and reflects a lack of understanding and experience by the writer. The first blatantly misleading comment stems from the statement; “Cocaine gives off the same type of high as heroin, just not as strong and does not last as long.” The highs produced by heroin and cocaine are not similar in any way and in fact are opposite of each other. Cocaine is a short acting stimulant which releases excess dopamine into the brain and increases heart rate and motor functions. This flood of dopamine produces an effect similar to an adrenaline rush. Heroin, in contrast, is a much longer lasting downer which acts on endorphins in the brain. It slows bodily functions and causes a user to “nod out” or lose consciousness into a euphoric sleep like state (among other effects.) The highs which each of these extremely different substances create are so contrary to the other that many heroin addicts hate the effects of cocaine and vice-versa.
How can she miss that fact that oxycotnin and heroin (a word she frequently misspells) produce essentially the same high and are both strong opiates? All too frequently people who are prescribed oxy for legitimate pain become addicted to it and after awhile start buying heroin instead because it is less expensive and basically the same thing. Also, unlike cocaine, opiates cause a user to become physically addicted and their motivation for use is tremendously different from a cocaine addict. Lumping all drugs in the same category as the author has done is extremely damaging and reflects an extreme lack of understanding. One must understand the unique effects that each drug produces to begin to talk about addiction and treatment. I could go on and on, and perhaps I will add more comments at a later date, but for now please do not take anything written in this paper seriously.