Asked in HealthMedication and DrugsIllegal DrugsNeuroscience
How illegal drugs affect nervous system?
July 15, 2009 4:14AM
Each drug is unique, but recreational drugs usually just piggyback on an existing nervous system chemical signaling mechanism. They change the rate at which the signal is transmitted, ramping it up or down, by mimicking natural chemicals, often at dangerously high levels. For example, the body has normal, natural signals using pain-killing opiates (opium et al) and mood-altering endocannabinoids (marijuana), among others. Cocaine acts indirectly, but similarly; it blocks a chemical that transports an important neural signal. Synthetic / designer drugs do likewise. Same with neurotoxins. Snakes, spiders, mushrooms, poisonous fish -- almost all of them change the rate at which neural signaling occurs, leading to paralysis, death, heart attack, embolism, etc.