The perception of drugs as substances potentially affecting human conscience has been one of the major social concepts over the past decades. Indeed, the rapidly emerging market of new illicit drugs introduced to people makes it of paramount importance to dwell on the theoretical aspects of drugs, their composition, and nature (NicDaéid & McKenzie, 2019).
While being either implicitly or explicitly engaged in the overwhelming process of the war on drugs, people find themselves in a place where they are convinced that drugs are bad yet are not aware of the existing types of drugs and their primary exploitation. Hence, the purpose of the present paper is to conduct a contrastive analysis of depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens as some of the most widespread types of drugs. The drugs chosen from each category are morphine, cocaine, and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), respectively.
Drug Composition and Use
When speaking of various types of drugs, it is of primary importance to dwell on their composition and intention for use. Thus, the primary purpose of drugs known as depressants is to suppress, inhibit, or reduce brain activity (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC], 2019). It means that these drugs are primarily used in order to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, and chronic pain, prevent seizures, and help people sleep.
Depressants are generally divided into such classes as opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics (UNODC, 2019). Hence, when speaking of morphine as a depressant drug, it is necessary to outline that morphine is considered an opioid. More specifically, morphine is classified as a natural opiate alkaloid derived from opium poppies (Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA], 2020c). As it is derived directly from opium, this drug is commonly used through injections. Modern innovations also present tablet and oral solutions, but they are less common because they tend to slow down the process of drugs entering the bloodstream.
The next category is called stimulants, and this title provides an explicit explanation of its primary purpose. Indeed, stimulants are aimed at acting on the nervous system by increasing alertness and behavioral excitement caused by the stimulation of such major neurotransmitters as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (UNODC, 2019). Cocaine, as one of the most widespread representatives of stimulants, is a natural plant-based drug extracted from coca leaves.
The leaves, in their turn, are cultivated through a system of coca bush cultivation, rapidly increasing all over the world (UNODC, 2019). Cocaine comes in various forms, but its primary usage pattern is snorting white crystalline powder, which often includes a mixture of pure cocaine and sugars or local anesthetics (DEA, 2020a). Pure cocaine or the so-called cocaine base obtains the form of blocks or chunks of whitish solid, which is mostly used for smoking.
Finally, hallucinogens as a drug type are used in order to distort one’s perception of reality and overall consciousness through various types of visual and auditory hallucinations (UNODC, 2019). LSD, being one of the most widespread psychedelic drugs, is a semi-synthetic substance derived from lysergic acid – alkaloid found in fungus (UNODC, 2019). The drug is produced in covert laboratories across the state. When it comes to drug usage, LSD is a complex substance that has no specific color or odor, which makes it complex to define a specific means of consumption (DEA, 2020b). Most commonly, LSD is used with the help of saturated absorbent paper, tablets, saturated sugar cubes, or in a liquid form.
Having examined the composition and use of every drug, it may be concluded that among them, only LSD is half-synthetic, whereas the two other drugs are naturally extracted substances. When it comes to function, all of them are aimed at fulfilling different functions, whether it is to calm one’s brain function, stimulate brain activity, or meddle with neurotransmitters. The ways of drug intake also vary, but all of them may be transformed in order to create a liquid substance.
Effects on Mind and Body
As far as drug intake is concerned, it is implicitly understood that the major motivation behind abuse is the effect the drug has on one’s physical and psychological condition combined with the body’s addiction to the substance. Thus, when speaking of morphine, the physical effects include relief of physical pain and a decrease in hunger (DEA, 2020c). The psychological impact comprises the feeling of euphoria and pain relief. When used chronically, the drug encourages cognitive and physical dependence that results in addiction and dependence in terms of pain relief.
In the case of cocaine intake, physical effects concern increased blood pressure and heart rate, dilated pupils, appetite loss, and inability to fall asleep (DEA, 2020a). The psychological impact of cocaine is primarily characterized by intense euphoria, restlessness, anxiety, and extreme alertness. The tolerance to the drug emerges promptly, causing a person to increase the intake dosage every time. Once euphoria is followed by depression, cocaine abusers tend to mix the drug with hallucinogens to trigger dopamine and serotonin release (UNODC, 2019).
The physical outcomes of LSD intake include symptoms similar to cocaine, such as dilated pupils, insomnia, increased blood pressure, and heart rate, with other effects like sweating and tremor (DEA, 2020b). However, the psychological effects differ greatly, as LSD disrupts one’s perception of reality with severe hallucinations. During the “trip,” LSD users are incapable of sound judgment, and their distorted perception of reality causes them to make unreasonable and possibly self-harming decisions. Moreover, LSD may result in Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, which stands for experiencing trip flashbacks later in life (DEA, 2020b). Similar to cocaine, tolerance to LSD could be achieved rapidly, which means that consistent use of the drug quickly requires a higher dosage to achieve the desired sense of distortion (UNODC, 2019). For this reason, LSD users tend to avoid frequent drug abuse in order to obtain quality trip experiences afterward.
Speaking of the aforementioned drugs, it is necessary to mention that LSD, although extremely dangerous when used, is not as harmful as the other drugs in terms of withdrawal. In fact, people may refuse LSD with minimum effort because it does not develop physical and psychological dependence (DEA, 2020b). Still, some withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, or depression. As far as morphine and cocaine are concerned, some common symptoms concern depression, anxiety, chills or goosebumps, muscle aches, and restlessness (DEA, 2020a; DEA, 2020c). However, while cocaine withdrawal is primarily accompanied by cognitive factors such as slowed thinking, morphine withdrawal mostly affects one’s physical state, causing seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
LSD is the only substance with no justified medical use and high abuse potential among the aforementioned drugs, and it is placed in Schedule I (DEA, 2020b). Both morphine and cocaine are placed in the Schedule II section due to their high abuse and addiction risks combined with registered medical use (DEA, 2020a; DEA, 2020c). Morphine is widely used as a painkiller, whereas cocaine is a local anesthetic during nasal and oral surgeries.
Considering morphine, cocaine, and LSD as major representatives of depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens, it may be concluded that despite their common feature of poor influence on the human body and mind, these drugs differ significantly in their nature. All of them are abused for different reasons related to slowing, stimulating, and distorting brain activity. Similarly, these drugs have different patterns of dependence and tolerance, with LSD being the least dangerous drug in terms of physical addiction and subsequent disorder.
Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA]. (2020a). Drug fact sheet: Cocaine. Web.
Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA]. (2020b). Drug fact sheet: LSD. Web.
Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA]. (2020c). Drug fact sheet: Morphine. Web.
NicDaéid, N., & McKenzie, C. (2019). Drugs of abuse. In Encyclopedia of Analytical Science (pp. 253-258). Elsevier.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC]. (2019). World drug report 2019. Web.