Comparison of Major Classifications of Drug Actions on the Human Body

Pharmacology Research Paper Instructions

Write a paper comparing and contrasting the four major classifications of drug actions on the human body (stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and narcotics). Select one drug from each classification for an in-depth analysis, which should include at least:

  • the effects of those drugs on the human body,
  • a discussion of the dependence aspects of the drugs, and
  • their interactions with other drugs
  • how this drug impacts crime in the US

Comparison of Major Classifications of Drug Actions on the Human Body – Sample Research Paper

Drugs are chemicals that have a marked effect on living processes in the human body. Those with a significant positive impact are considered medicine. However, using drugs for recreational purposes may pose a threat to an individual’s health and often results in antisocial behavior. According to Malangu (2018), drug actions are all biochemical and physiological mechanisms by which a compound elicits a response in the human body (p.56).

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Although most drugs aim to provide salutary effects, broad-spectrum secondary properties may result in harmful effects commonly occasioned by the scourge of dependence. It was this realization that led to the United States to acknowledge the war it had to wage on drugs to save the nation from social strife. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, and the Boggs Act of 1951 are early indicators of this realization. Drugs and substances are now categorized into distinct schedules based on their potency and effect on the human body. Stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and narcotics are the more common classifications of drugs based on their potential action. 3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), alcohol, ketamine, and heroine will thus be evaluated in this in-depth analysis as representatives of the respective categories above.

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3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA)

 Stimulants are a category of drugs characterized by a distinctive surge in central nervous activity. The resultant effect is that the individual experiences an increase in attentiveness, energy, and alertness, which are the primary reasons why they are frequently abused. 3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, commonly referred to as MDMA, is one such drug. It first appeared in the mid-1980s and was subsequently made famous by clubbers who reported an enhanced dance party experience. A comprehension of the drug’s effect on the human body offers a window of understanding into the pharmacodynamics of the drug. The ingestion of MDMA capsules results in its presynaptic go-between action for neurotransmitters in the brain.  Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin considerably increase in concentration, which explains the so-called “ecstasy” experienced by users. Dopamine causes increased vigor, while norepinephrine intensifies user’s heart rate.  Serotonin causes an elevation in mood and is responsible for the emotional closeness felt by consumers. Since MDMA affects the normal functioning of these receptors, it has a very high addictive potential. Persons addicted to the drug often report severe withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which may last for days on end. MDMA interaction with serotonergic drugs such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine and dextromethorphan has been a source of worry for medical practitioners owing to the high rate of fatalities related to contemporaneous use. Similarly, concurrent use with monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as selegiline (Zelapar) and tranylcypromine (Parnate) may result in death. MDMA use has been on the rise in the United States and blamed for an increase in crime. According to Chandra, Yu, & Bihani (2016), MDMA is directly linked to participation in the drug market with longitudinal studies suggesting its role as a catalyst for violent crime. MDMA users are commonly arrested for property offenses, muggings, and violent crime in the United States, which is why its detractors view it as a pathway to crime.


Ethyl Alcohol

 Depressants generally function by obstructing the central nervous system (CNS) and its neurons. The result of this inhibition is a sense of relaxation, stupor, and anesthesia. Alcohol is one of the most readily available legal depressants. Its high potential for abuse is the primary reason why the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration strives to raise awareness regarding its effects. The agency’s current survey indicates that close to 61 million individuals in the United States alone exhibit symptoms of alcohol use disorder (Monico, 2019). Alcohol affects the body by targeting specific neurotransmitters, receptors, and the neuropeptide system resulting in the drug’s special effects. Chronic alcohol users often experience weight gain, mental health problems, hypertension, and liver cirrhosis. Roughly 14.4 million Americans are currently receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder, which is an indication of its dependence potential (Monico, 2019). Alcoholics typically overindulge in consumption and have a difficult time cutting down. The development of tolerance and frequent withdrawal effects marks the beginning of dependence in an alcoholic’s life. Furthermore, it is fundamental to acknowledge that drug interactions frequently occur. Drug-alcohol interactions inhibit the gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitter posing severe health risks. Also, certain medications, such as cold syrups contain alcohol as an inactive ingredient. A drug-alcohol interaction of this kind may result in the compounding of the element’s effect and further worsening of side effects.  Prolonged drinking has also been linked to crime in the United States. Alcohol impairs judgment in users, which makes them prone to engaging in crime and exhibiting violent tendencies.  It is even estimated that 40 % of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons on robbery, sexual assault, child abuse, and homicide charges were under the influence of alcohol when committing their crime (Galbicsek, 2017). A blood alcohol content (BAC) content above the permitted limit is, therefore, part of the reason why the United States is still grappling with criminal behavior.



 Hallucinogens are a mixed assemblage of drugs known for their ability to alter the user’s thoughts, awareness, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, with some users even reporting sensations of dissociation within their immediate environment. It is this particular property that made these drugs a common feature in ancient healing rituals, although contemporary users use them for recreational purposes. Ketamine is a dissociative hallucinogen that is now classified as a controlled substance for its potential to cause dependency.  Its powdery elements are consumed through swallowing, sniffing, or injection. Users report an increase in their blood pressure and throbbing palpitations after occurring as a result of the drug’s selective action on the NMDA receptor (Copeland & Dillon, 2014, p. 772). As a result, hallucinations and dissociation become evident in users. Additionally, it interferes with the spinal cord’s pain transmission system, which contributes to its analgesic effect. Common side effects include high blood pressure, drowsiness, and disorientation that often lead to a terrifying detachment from reality. The analgesic effect also poses the risk of extreme injury since users cannot perceive pain. Ketamine is highly addictive and can result in both physical and psychological dependence.  The lives of many users often revolve around obtaining and ingesting the drug, which leads to extreme financial difficulties and antisocial behavior. Mixing ketamine with amphetamines, Carbinoxamine (Pelagic), and opioids may cause life-threatening interactions. It also heightens the effects of sedatives and may increase blood pressure when mixed with alcohol. In recent times, authorities have blamed ketamine for the rise of juvenile crime in the United States. Ketamine is often sold in parties and nightclubs, which is why minors use fake identification cards (IDs) to gain entrance to these premises.



Narcotics are a group of drugs responsible for their analgesic effect and the stupor they induce in users. Heroin is the most common narcotic drug which is heavily regulated by the federal government. Users snort the powder or administer it intravenously, after which it reaches the bloodstream before traveling to the brain. It targets the mu-opioid receptors, where it stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Users report heightened levels of euphoria, pain relief, reduced coordination, nausea, and constricted pupils. Higher doses of heroin may lead to an irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing, impaired judgment, and even death. It is a highly addictive drug, for it binds with brain receptors with the sole aim of producing dopamine.

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Regular ingestion of heroin may result in injuries that may be caused by a lack of perception. Heroin is highly addictive, with users expressing clear signs of dependence. Failure to obtain the drug results in slurred speech, depression, changes in appetite and memory problems. Heroin addicts usually acknowledge the negative consequences of using the drug but are unable to stop using it. Heroin’s interaction with benzodiazepines is dangerous and commonly causes an overdose (Darke, 2016). A combination of the two slows the respiratory rate and brain activity, which may eventually result in death. Similarly, addiction to heroin is a significant cause of criminal engagements in the United States. Users often end up in the streets where they engage in crime to feed their drug habit. Heroin addicts engage in a wide range of criminal activity, ranging from prostitution, drug sales, robbery to homicides.

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