Mechanisms of Various Street Drugs

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23 Apr 2012
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Heroin
1. Before heroin enters the system, inhibitory neurotransmitters are active in the
synapse. These neurotransmitters inhibit dopamine from being released.
2. When the body’s natural opiates activate opiate receptors, the release of inhibitory
neurotransmitters is shut down. Without inhibition, dopamine can be released.
3. Heroin mimics natural opiates and binds to opiate receptors, turning off dopamine
inhibition. Dopamine is allowed to flood the synapse, producing immediate feelings
of sedation and well-being.
4. Neurons with opiate receptors are in parts of the brain responsible for the
transmission of pain signals, stress response, and emotional attachment. Our body’s
opiates are natural painkillers, effective when we have sustained massive injury.
This is why morphine, a drug related to heroin is used as a painkiller.
Ecstasy
1. Serotonin transporters are responsible for removing serotonin molecules from the
synaptic cleft after they have done their job.
2. Ecstasy mimics serotonin and is taken up by serotonin transporters. In fact, ecstasy
is more readily taken up than serotonin itself.
3. This interaction with ecstasy alters the transporter. The transporter becomes
temporarily ‘confused’ and starts to do its job in reverse! The transporter starts
transporting serotonin out of the cell.
4. The excess serotonin becomes trapped in the synaptic cleft. As a result, it binds
again and again to the receptors, over stimulating the cell.
5. Ecstasy affects serotonin pathways responsible for mood, sleep, perception and
appetite. Ecstasy also indirectly interacts with the reward pathway. The excess
serotonin stimulates a milder release of dopamine along the reward pathway giving
ecstasy slightly addictive properties.
Marijuana
1. Before heroin enters the system, inhibitory neurotransmitters are active in the
synapse. These neurotransmitters inhibit dopamine from being released.
2. When activated by the body’s own native cannabinoid (called anandamide),
cannabinoid receptors turn off the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters. Without
inhibition, Dopamine can be released.
3. THC, the active chemical in marijuana, mimics anandamide and binds to
cannabinoid receptors. Inhibition is turned off and dopamine is allowed to squirt
into the synapse.
4. Anandamide is known to be involved in removing unnecessary short-term
memories. It is also responsible for slowing down movement, making us feel
relaxed and calm. Unlike THC, anandamide breaks down very quickly in the body.
That explains why anandamide doesn’t produce a perpetual natural “high”.
Methamphetamine
1. Dopamine transporters are responsible for removing dopamine from the synaptic
cleft. Because meth mimics dopamine, it is taken into the cell by the dopamine
transporters.
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