B1.3 The use and abuse of drugs

Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 summary


Learning objectives

Drugs affect our body chemistry.
Medical drugs are developed and tested before being used to relieve illness or disease.
Drugs may also be used recreationally as people like the effect on the body.
Some drugs are addictive.
Some athletes take drugs to improve performance.
People cannot make sensible decisions about drugs unless they know their full effects.


Performance-enhancing drugs used in the sports industry - There are several types of drug that an athlete can use to enhance performance. Some of these drugs are banned by law and some are legally available on prescription, but all are prohibited by sporting regulations. Examples include: stimulants that boost bodily functions such as heart rate anabolic steroids (e.g. testosterone injections) which stimulate muscle growth.   The most famous abuse of performance-enhancing drugs occurred in
Misuse of legal and illegal recreational drugs - Legal recreational drugs include alcohol and nicotine. Illegal recreational drugs include ecstasy, cannabis and heroin. Recreational drugs may have adverse effects on the heart and circulatory system. Cannabis smoke contains chemicals which may cause mental illness in some people. The overall impact of legal drugs (prescribed and non-prescribed) on health is much greater than the impact of illegal drugs because far more people use them. Many recreational drugs
Thalidomide: a drug that causes serious side effects to unborn babies - Thalidomide is a drug that was originally developed as a sleeping pill. It was also found to be effective in relieving morning sickness in pregnant women. The problems arose when thalidomide was used with pregnant women, because it had not been tested with women who were pregnant. Unfortunately, many babies born to mothers who took the drug were born with severe limb abnormalities. The
Statins: an effective modern day drug - There are two types of cholesterol in our blood: LDL: this can worsen coronary artery disease worse HDL: this can protect against coronary artery disease A high cholesterol level, especially LDL cholesterol, increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The cholesterol causes the formation of fatty deposits inside the walls of arteries, which narrows the inside lumen (opening)
Drug development and testing - Cells, tissues and animals are used as models to predict how the drugs may behave in humans Scientists are continually developing new drugs. When new medical drugs are devised, they have to be extensively tested and trialled before being used. Drugs are tested in a series of stages to find out if they are safe and effective. Choosing which drug to test may arise from observing


Candidates should use their skills, knowledge and understanding to:
evaluate the effect of statins in cardiovascular disease

evaluate different types of drugs and why some people use illegal drugs for recreation
evaluate claims made about the effect of prescribed and non-prescribed drugs on health
consider the possible progression from recreational drugs to hard drugs
evaluate the use of drugs to enhance performance in sport and to consider the ethical implications of their use.