Compare and Contrast How Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin and Cannabis Work in the Brain

1243 Words Dec 6th, 2014 5 Pages
Compare and Contrast how Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin and Cannabis Work in the Brain

Drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and cannabis, are of natural or synthetic origin, which can alter the emotional state, perception, body functioning and behaviour of an individual. Drugs are known to work in the brain by activating certain brain circuits via different mechanisms, and stimulate or inhibit different neurons in the pathway. However, due to the effects of each drug being different, a drug will affect either different pathways and neurons in the brain to that of another, or through a different process, i.e. direct or indirect activity. This essay will discuss the different mechanisms of action that cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and
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Cocaine, on the other hand, has been found to have a profound effect on increased dopamine activity. Kennedy & Hanbauer (1983; cited in Karch, 2007) found a strong correlation between cocaine binding and the inhibition of dopamine uptake, and therefore proposed that dopamine transporters are binding sites for cocaine. Such research, which correlates strong reinforcing properties of cocaine with inhibition of dopamine transporters, suggests that cocaine has a more significant affect upon dopamine, than than it has upon serotonin and noradrenaline. The excessive role of dopamine can explain the high degree of pleasure that users of cocaine experience, as well as depression and cravings, which follow.
In contrast to ecstasy and cocaine, which increase the secretion of natural neurotransmitters by blocking transporters, ‘direct agonists’ imitate natural endogenous neuromediators and bind to their receptors. Heroin and cannabis are both examples of direct agonists.
Many regions of the brain contain cannabinoid receptors, of which anandamide molecules, concerned with regulating mood, appetite and emotions, naturally bind to. Cannabis contains an active ingredient known as ‘delta-9-tetrahydrocannabonic’ (THC), and when smoked or eaten, the THC imitates the activity of anandamide by binding to cannabinoid receptors on nerve cells, and therefore influences
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