Cannabis, Coca, & Poppy:
Nature’s Addictive Plants

Effects on the Body

Drug bottle

Good Effects of Opiates

No other substance has been found to be as effective as opiates for the management of extreme pain. In addition to its analgesic qualities, it is a very effective cough suppressant, anti-diarrhea medication, and sleep-inducer.


Bad Effects of Opiates

The major drawback of opiate use is the potential for abuse and addiction. Effects include drowsiness, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss, pupil constriction, dilation of the blood vessels causing increased pressure in the brain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, hallucinations, sexual dysfunction, convulsions, and respiratory depression. Effects from using non-sterile needles and adulterants mixed with opiates include skin, lung, and brain abscesses, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart), infected and collapsed veins, and diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

Heroin molecule model

The Heroin Molecule

Opium from poppy plants contains several natural alkaloids including morphine and codeine. All opiates share the same basic molecular structure, with just a slight change in the end molecules to differentiate heroin from morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and other varieties.

Dopamine brain scan

Heroin Changes the Brain

After heroin use is stopped, symptoms like depression, abnormal mood swings, insomnia, psychosis, and paranoia remain. These brain scans show a reduction in dopamine receptors which control judgment and behavior. This reduction is a result of regular heroin use. NIDA

Opioid Ligands image

How Heroin Works

Heroin binds to receptors in the brain and produces feelings of euphoria. Its structure mimics that of a natural neurotransmitter and taps into the brain’s communication system, interfering with the way nerve cells normally send, receive, and process information. This similarity in structure “fools” receptors and allows the drugs to lock onto and activate the nerve cells. Above is a model of an opiate chemical attaching to a receptor in the brain. NIDA, Courtesy: B.K. Madras