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Drugs Abuse: Trading Health for Euphoria

Ecstasy is chemically known as MDMA or Methyline Dioxymethamphetamine (WWW1). Similar to other amphetamine derivatives, Ecstasy is a stimulant to the central nervous system. Ecstasy was first synthesized in 1914 in Germany and was distributed as an alternative to the appetite suppressant, MDA (WWW2). As people became more knowledgeable about the euphoric effects of this drug, the demand for it became larger and larger. In the 1960’s, Ecstasy was characterized as the “love drug”. It was also used by psychologists and therapists to reduce hostility in marriage counseling sessions! At first, no noticeable harmful side effects could be detected from taking Ecstasy, and thus, it was a legal street drug. But after much research and experimentation, this pill was classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug in 1985. Drugs in this category serve no medical purposes and have a high potential for abuse (WWW3). Even though it is deemed illegal, there are still many Ecstasy users in the United States and Britain. And because of the lack of enforcement on the purchase and consumption of Ecstasy, people can easily get their hands on these pills.

Unlike other drugs, Ecstasy is mainly a drug for “ravers” and dancers, not drug addicts. This drug is taken mostly to produce a euphoric feeling and create a “high” that prevents users from feeling tired and gives them the ability to party all night. Like most drugs, Ecstasy affects the neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS). It mainly affects a neurotransmitter called serotonin (5-HT), chemicals that control our feeling of hunger, fatigue, and depression. Basically, Ecstasy causes an increased flow of serotonin to the rest of the body, causing a “high”. And once the effects of the drug wear off, the brain cannot produce anymore serotonin and consequently the user “crashes”, that is, he becomes depressed, slow, and extremely tired (WWW4).

Before discussing Ecstasy’s neurological effects, let me briefly describe the communication process of the brain. Brain cells communicate with each other by sending chemical messages. These messages, neurotransmitters, are released from nerve terminals at the end of an axon and diffused across the synapse to bind to a receptor located on the pre-synaptic region of another cell.

Amongst the many neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin and dopamine are the ones affected by Ecstasy. The serotonin produced in the brain is synthesized from tryptophan through the intermediate 5-hydroxytryptophan.

Drugs Abuse and the Decay of the Inner City

Societal and ethnographic reports have link the arrival of crack to gang violence, high murder rates, poverty, and family disruption. Popular opinion seemed to indicate that the introduction of crack cocaine has led to increases in central-city crime and accelerated trends toward overall inner-city decay in America.. This manuscript will established (1) briefly what crack cocaine is (2) when it was introduced (3) if there is a direct link between the introduction of crack cocaine and an increase decadence in the social and economic life of the American community (4) and why this drug had such a significant influence.

Crack could be known as “the poor man’s drug” because it provided an alternative to a more expensive drug, cocaine. The introduction of crack cocaine amounts to a technological innovation in the market for cocaine intoxication. Crack cocaine is a derivative of powered cocaine, made by dissolving cocaine powder in water, adding baking soda, and boiling the mixture until a solid base separates from the solution. This process does not change the chemical composition of the active cocaine alkaloid, but it does change the manner by which it may be ingested. Once converted into crack, the cocaine can be smoked, which allows the cocaine molecules to concentrate in the brain much more rapidly than is possible by taking powdered cocaine intranasally (Stein,1992). Because the euphoric effects of cocaine have more to do with the speed at which the alkaloid concentrates in the brain than with the level of the drug in the body, crack is the more intoxicating form of the drug. This fast delivery to the brain is cause by the large pulmonary area available for diffusion and absorption due to cocaine smoking (Ellwood and Gawin, 1988). Crack cocaine produces feelings of well-being, mental exhilaration, reduced appetite and great physical strength in the short term. The after-effects can include tiredness, depression, panic, anxiety and death. Long term users may believe to have develop tolerance, and therefore, are tempted to increase doses for a more intense effect which can lead to overdose. With continued use of this drug, paranoid psychosis can be seen (Cook and Laub, 1990). Since our course (MCB 165) deals much with the chemical effects of cocaine/crack, there is no need for much explanation on that particular topic.

Crack has become widespread phenomenon because of the user’s strong physical dependency to it.

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