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What can be
done about: Drugs
What is a ‘recreational’ drug?
£5.3 bn, 41% of the market for alcohol. Over £1 bn is spent The brain maintains basic functions such as breathing mostly on each of heroin, crack cocaine and cannabis: near £1 bn on without conscious thought. It organises appropriate reactions powder cocaine. to stimuli reaching it via the senses, for example touching a What drugs are in use?
hot surface or hearing a request. It initiates action such as The main recreational drugs are listed in Table 1 and seeking food. We would be dull personalities however if this described in more detail below. When considering the drug was all. Happily the brain can dream, imagine and feel emotion such as excitement and euphoria. Sometimes we feel common to lump all ‘alive’ or ’over the moon’. Recreational drugs can enhance performance, remove anxiety and cause euphoria - chemically. They override the brain’s normal perception of the world. What is the drug ‘problem’?
Drug use is increasing. 29% of 16-59 year olds have used cannabis at some time but 44% of 16-29 year olds have done so. 1% of this younger group has already used heroin and 5% addiction varies and cocaine, the most dangerous drugs. The health, criminal justice and ‘social’ costs of most users is small, about £40m/ yr, but the costs of dealing with ‘problem drug users’ was put have therapeutic as at £15.4 bn in 2003/04 of which 90% was for drug-related crime. A heroin or crack cocaine addict is estimated to need £10-20,000/year to feed the habit. The drugs ‘market’ is believed to involve some 300 importers, 3000 ‘wholesalers’ and 70,000 street dealers (pushers) and estimated to be worth than illegal ones (see Addiction
Effect Class
Opium poppies growing legally in Tasmania order (points made forcefully in a July 2006 House of A further dilemma is that many people can take even the most dangerous drugs without becoming addicted or causing harm to others or much harm to themselves. Criminalising such activity is illogical, wasteful of criminal justice resources, and risks charges of ‘kil joy’ and ‘Nanny State’. The following paragraphs look at individual drugs in more detail. It draws heavily on work by Professor Iverson1 of Kings College, The dried seeds of the opium poppy were smoked or taken
in alcohol as laudanum and widely used to relieve pain in the
19th century and earlier. Morphine, an extract of opium, is
still a pain relieving drug of first choice though both it and opium are now known to be addictive. In 1898 Bayer Table 1 - Recreational drugs in rough order of hazard produced an extract from morphine which was believed to be Eu= Euphoriant St = Stimulant Sed = Sedative safer and called this ‘heroic’ drug heroin (slang, smack). It
Notes: Figures for deaths are the best available but only approximate. Deaths from, can be smoked on tin foil and inhaled (a mode called ‘chasing say, nicotine take years but ecstasy only hours. the dragon’), snorted or, most commonly, injected into a vein Drugs are classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, Class A being the most by needle. It gives an intense pleasurable euphoria and total relief from anxiety but withdrawal leads to a craving for the An ALDES Briefing Note Last updated August 2009 This briefing note has been written by Richard Balmer. It should be technically accurate, but the views are his alone. If you see errors or have comments, please contact him at 79, Links Drive, Solihull, B91 2DJ, or next dose. Addiction is appalling. Costs of all drugs are falling following problems in America. The real danger comes when but heroin can still cost over £50/day. Addicts need amphetamines are prepared in a form which can be injected escalating doses, but high doses depress respiration and can into the vein as this greatly increases the intensity of the lead to death. The use of contaminated needles can cause infections such as HIV. Methadone is heroin taken by
Sleeping Pills and Sedatives
mouth. The drug is absorbed via the stomach and Barbiturates and similar drugs slow down the nervous
consequently acts more slowly giving a lower ‘high’, but it control system, removing anxiety. They can be supplied staves off the craving and, under medical supervision, can legally on prescription but must be used with great care help wean some users off heroin itself. Naltrexone counters because the control dose is not much lower than the lethal some of the signals triggered by heroin and has also had some one. They are addictive. Benzodiazepine compounds such as Valium and Temazepan have been commonly used with
For centuries peasants in Columbia (the current main source Nicotine
of supply) and elsewhere in the Andes found chewing coca The nicotine in tobacco brings alertness, the ability to think leaves induced a feeling of well being, reduced hunger and more clearly, and eases anxiety. As with all drugs taken into increased endurance. Coca leaves were actually used in the the lungs it is fast acting and it is also highly addictive: 2 original Coca Cola. The active chemical, cocaine, is snorted
packets will often be sufficient to cause dependence. into the nose in powder form giving a 20-30 minute intensely Withdrawal gives rise to agitation, nervousness, bad temper pleasurable ‘high’. 'Crack’ cocaine is smoked and the high is and a craving for nicotine, but this can be overcome with
more intense lasting 2 minutes, with a 20 minute ‘buzz’. A hit willpower. The health risks come less from the nicotine itself costs £12-20. The highs are followed by deep depression and than the carcinogens and carbon monoxide produced in the a single-minded need for another, relieving, dose. It is burning. These cause bronchitic problems and many cancers thought 10-15% become addicted after just one 'snort'. besides lung cancer. Smoking in pregnancy deprives the foetus of oxygen, slowing growth and leading to lower birth Lysergic acid diethylamide (slang, acid) is one of several
weights and intelligence. The risks of illness and premature hallucinogenic drugs and is more potent than magic
death increase substantially with the duration of smoking. The mushrooms or ecstasy. It is not addictive but a bad 'trip'
risk from 30 compared to 15 years of smoking is not just can be frightening. There is a risk too that under its influence double but 20 times as great. Giving up increases life a user might, for example, believe they could fly from a high expectancy: the sooner the better. Snuff is powdered
Amphetamines are basically stimulants - one reason, no Alcohol produces excitement, intoxication and then sedation. doubt, why they are attractive to the livelier, rock, bands. It releases normal inhibitions and can promote reckless and They were originally used as nasal decongestants (eg violent behaviour in the street, the home, anywhere. It Benzedrine) and later used (as Dexedrine) to keep World War weakens control of motor functions required for example for II pilots alert. Amphetamines are easy to make and the ability walking and driving leading to accidents and death. Some 5- to vary formulas led to the production of ‘designer’ drugs 10% of users become addicted. Moderate use may reduce the such as meth-amphetamine (slang, Speed, Crank) and a
risk of heart disease and stroke and particular claims are made concentrated version called crystal meth (slang, Ice or Base)
for red wine. Heavy use can lead to heart attacks and stroke, recently elevated from a Class B to a Class A drug. Drinamyl and steady damage to body organs such as the liver. In excess tablets called Purple Hearts are amphetamines mixed with
barbiturates. Methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is Solvents
known as Ecstasy or E.
A number of organic solvents are used as lighter fuel or Ecstasy is therefore a stimulant and also a euphoriant with
propellants, for example, for hairspray. They have similar mild hallucinogenic properties. One can rave all night and still effects to alcohol. feel good. Ecstasy raises body temperature. It was thought this increased the risk of dehydration, causing death, but Cannabis
more recently it has been suggested death comes from the When the leaves and flowering heads of the Cannabis plant reaction of drinking too much water. Past figures showed that are dried one has material variously called marijuana,
deaths rose six-fold from 1996 to 72 in 2001/2. In that time hashish, dope, weed, grass, spliff etc, which can be
the cost of pills halved from £16.50 to about £8 and later as smoked. Cannabis relieves anxiety and distorts the sense of low as £3. Deaths have now fallen again to about 30 a year as time. In high doses it may cause hallucination and loss of the adverse effects have been recognised. Drug experts have coherence. It intoxicates and eventually causes sleep like suggested it be down-rated from Class A to B but alcohol but does not provoke the same aggressive behaviour. Like alcohol it has a detrimental effect on activities such as driving and work. As with smoking tobacco there are health Heavy use of some amphetamines risks a form a risks from carcinogens etc in the smoke. It is thought one schizophrenic madness but this appears to be reversible. The third of regular users are addicted but there is not the same long term health effects of amphetamines are not known and intensity of craving as with heroin. It is the most widely used it was thought the risks of addiction were low. More recently of all recreational drugs. One third of the population aged 15- concern has focussed on Crystal Meth (methylamphetamine)
50 have tried cannabis and 10% of that group are regular class C and B) to signal the greater danger of at least some users. In the last few years claims that cannabis has pain variants. One side argues that cannabis is merely the first step relieving efficacy have grown bolder and it is probable that it towards taking more serious drugs and there is some evidence has a range of medical uses. On the other hand a recent study that having ‘got away with’ smoking cannabis some go on to at Kings Col ege London has suggested that 1 in 4 people harder drugs. Their opponents claim that demonising have a variant of the so called COMT gene where cannabis cannabis, which is arguably less harmful than smoking or use carries a 5 times greater risk of triggering schizophrenia. drinking alcohol, undermines the credibility of the law. If Cannabis can vary in strength. That known as skunk
society claims smoking cannabis is harmful, they say, it risks contained 14% of the active chemical tetrahydrocannabinol in ‘crying wolf’. More accurate claims will not be believed. 2005 compared to 7% 10 years earlier. Recently a herbal What receives less attention is why people take drugs in the mixture from China, sold as ‘Spice Gold’ and advertised as first place. There seem to be 4 separate reasons: as a dare; for giving a ‘herbal high’, has been found to mimic cannabis pleasure; for stimulation; to escape. Ultimately there is a 5th reason: because they are addicted. The risk of addiction is Caffeine
higher with some drugs than others; appears to increase with About 70 mg of caffeine is present in a cup of coffee, 35 mg usage, and appears to affect some people more than others in a cup of tea and about 50 mg in a cola drink. Caffeine possibly due to particular genetic traits. One day a test may be relieves tiredness and maintains mental alertness. It is only developed to provide guidance on genetic susceptibility but mildly addictive. Withdrawal can lead to fatigue, headaches Of the 4 initial reasons, the one of most concern is the last: The arguments for and against prohibition
the need to escape. Some individuals have always sought The classical liberal position is to allow any activity that escape. In the 19th century and even today it was through the causes no harm to others. One may climb mountains, box, race ‘demon’ drink, though the well meaning temperance cars and so on, despite the risk to life and limb. One may movement has given up on that one. Drugs now provide an drink alcohol but not in circumstances that might impair alternative route. The reasons to escape are many but include one’s ability to drive and so risk harm to others. The classical poverty, perceived failure, and social inadequacy. It seems liberal advises that individuals should be treated as 'grown logical to tackle the drug problem from that end, not a ban. ups' taking responsibility for their actions. The other concern is the risk of addiction. It is very clear No other person is automatically harmed by an individual from the table that the top 3 drugs, heroin, cocaine and choosing to take a drug. Harm arises from taking it injected amphetamines pose by far and away the greatest irresponsibly and the law could be framed this way. It does so threat. It would be a great deal more credible to defend a ban with respect to alcohol (and nicotine). It is legal to supply and on these 3 drugs than the present assorted bag-full. consume alcohol but illegal to be ‘drunk and disorderly’. Decriminalisation in practice.
This absolutist approach can be tempered by the community Decriminalisation would mean that drugs such as cannabis, accepting a general duty of care, for example by protecting ecstasy and amphetamine tablets would be on public sale. A minors; providing accurate information; and picking up any pragmatic policy would be to sell them at chemists with pieces afterwards. All this is done already, though not to the controls on age and quantity which exist for legal drugs now. As with tobacco, advertising would not be permitted and The counter view, held at present by the Government and, it warnings would be required on packets. There would be has to be said, the majority of the national press, is that problems preventing under age use as with tobacco and because some drug taking undoubtedly causes harm to both alcohol and of trading drugs across international borders. The individuals and society it should be denied to all, as occurred policy might attract large numbers of users from other with alcohol in the USA during prohibition. Clearly not all countries though Hol and seems able to cope. adults act at all times in a responsible manner. Many don’t Decriminalisation would be a step into the unknown. Other care. Others enjoy taking risks: indeed risk taking, countries have different policies but different cultures. It experimenting, can be said to enhance life. Challenging would be electorally brave and there are no guarantees. The ‘authority’ is part of youth’s rite of passage. Some will not use of drugs could increase due to increased availability and receive, others will not appreciate and yet others wil reject perhaps reduced cost, or could as easily decrease due to loss the educational messages. Use of the legal drug alcohol leads of 'kudos'. ‘Pushers' would be removed from the 'soft' market to widespread social disturbance, and smoking to widespread but there is no guarantee it would reduce the numbers personal harm. Individuals will fecklessly, recklessly, harm experimenting with harder drugs. There should be savings of themselves and in many cases their families and others. Much police, criminal justice and prison costs. If so the money crime is drug-related. It is plausible to claim that reducing could be re-invested in more treatment centres. drug use will reduce crime. In any case the argument goes, the In truth, drug policy should be decided by ‘what works’. If state has a responsibility to care for its citizens even if the the present policy, with all its recent initiatives, was having individuals themselves don’t care. It should take a precautionary success there would be no need to change. It is not. There is approach and keep harmful drugs from citizens. At present the debate is focussed on cannabis. In the last year Ref 1. Professor Leslie Iverson, Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases, cannabis has reverting back to a class B drug which would carry harsher penalties for possession (up to 5 years instead of 2 Information taken from Chap 4 of his book: Drugs: A Very Short and higher fines) though not supply (up to 14 years for both Introduction, published by Oxford Univ Press, 2001


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Nutritional Interventions and Athlete’s HealthLamprecht M (ed): Acute Topics in Sport Nutrition. Med Sport Sci. Basel, Karger, 2013, vol 59, pp 86–93 Cherry Juice Targets Antioxidant Potential and Pain Relief Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine, Department of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oreg., USA Abstract Strenuous physical activity increase

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