1. The word “drug” is generally applied to any substance used as a medicine or in making medicine. For example. Aspirin, which alleviates pain and helps lower body temperature, and quinine, used in the prevention and treatment of malaria, are drugs.
2. Certain drugs, however, are taken not as medicines, but to satisfy a craving that has become an ingrained habit. These habit-forming drugs have brought misery to millions in every quarter of the globe.
3. Habit-forming drugs fall into two main groups: stimulants, or excitants, and sedatives, also known as depressants.
4. The stimulant drugs excite the nervous system and keep the user alert, at least for a time; they include cocaine, marijuana and Benzedrine.
5. The sedatives do not stimulate but lull. Taken in moderate quantities and upon the advice and prescription of a physician, they are legitimate remedies. They relieve anxiety and pain, cause mental and physical relaxation and often produce badly needed sleep. Taken in too large doses, however, these drugs may have very unfortunate physical and psychological effects. Opium and its derivatives are depressants; so are the synthetic substances demerol and methadone, used as substitutes for morphine. The depressants are also called narcotics (torpor-producing drugs), a term applied to certain stimulants as well.
6. It has long been known that many Indians of Peru, Chile and Bolivia chew the leaves of the plant called Erythroxylon coca and that these leaves produce extraordinary effects. The chewers can do an incredible amount of work without showing signs of fatigue or hunger; they also seem mentally stimulated.
7. Alcohol – when alcohol reaches the brain, it affects the cerebral cortex first, followed by the limbic system (hippocampus and septal area), cerebellum, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and lastly, the medulla, or brain stem. After drinking [alcohol], the brain works inefficiently, taking longer to receive messages from the eye; processing information becomes more difficult and instructions to the muscles are delayed. Alcohol can slow down reaction time by 10 to 30 per cent. It also reduces ability to perform two or more tasks at the same time.
8. Cocaine – the numbing properties of cocaine led a group of young physicians in Vienna to experiment with it as an anesthetic. As cocaine came into more general use as an anesthetic, the medical world became aware that it is a habit-forming drug. Synthetic chemists, therefore, set to work to develop a substance that would produce the numbing effects of cocaine but would not be habit-forming. The result of their researches was a synthetic agent called procaine, a nonhabit-forming drug also known by its trade name of Novocain.
9. Marijuana – a stimulant known as marijuana, in North and South America, is derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The habit-forming drug is derived from a resinous substance in the flowers and leaves of the plant. One of the earliest stimulants derived from , the hemp plant was hashish. Marijuana is really a kind of hashish, in less concentrated form.
10. Depressant, or sedative, drugs – Opium and its derivatives-particularly morphine and heroin – are the most dangerous of the habit-forming narcotic drugs. Opium is a product of the opium poppy plant (Papaver somniferum).