Module 6: how drugs work: learner's workbook

Possible answers for writing exercise questions

Page last updated: 2004

Topic 2
Topic 4
Topic 5
Topic 6
Topic 7
Topic 8
Topic 9
Topic 10
Topic 11

Topic 2

2.2 Why is pharmacology important?

Question - Do you think all the young people in the case studies are experiencing AOD-related problems?

Answer - Your initial impression might lead you to guess that all the young people in the above case studies were under the influence of AOD which led to some problems. In fact, Kayla was the one exception to the rule. Her presentation after the accident seems to be consistent with being substance-affected. However, Kayla suffers from diabetes and had consumed too much sugar at lunch time.

While it is important to recognise the effects of drug use on young people's behaviour, it is also important not to assume that they are under the influence of a drug without gathering all the facts first.

Question - How do you think some knowledge of how drugs work could assist a police officer, teacher or youth worker to help young people like William, Uma, Matthew, Emily or Kayla?

Answer - An understanding of how drugs can affect a young person is important to know so that workers can:
  • provide accurate information to young people and parents who want to know more about drugs and drug use
  • build a better rapport and have more confidence when dealing with young people who use alcohol and other drugs
  • develop a better understanding of factors influencing the young person
  • take appropriate action in critical situations that may save a young person's life or reduce risk of harm.
  • provide emergency service workers with accurate information about the state of a young person should medical care be required (e.g. Ambulance Officer or 000 Operator)
  • meet their obligations in regard to duty of care to young people
  • provide a safe and healthy work environment and meet Occupational Health and Safety legislation requirements.Top of page

2.3 The limitations of pharmacological knowledge

Question - What other knowledge and skills might assist you to understand and work with young AOD users?

Possible answers include:

Knowledge of pharmacology is useful when dealing with young people. However, this needs to be supplemented by:
  • knowledge of the developmental processes that occur during adolescence
  • skills in communicating with young people
  • alcohol and other drug intervention skills and knowledge
  • an understanding of the social context of drug use, such as the influence of peers etc
  • an understanding of street terms and slang language associated with young people and AOD use.

Topic 4

4.1 The effect of drugs on the central nervous system (CNS)

Review quiz answers
  1. (b)
  2. (c)
  3. (c)
  4. (a)
  5. (b)
    • Group 1
      • Group name: depressant
      • Examples: alcohol; heroin
    • Group 2
      • Group name: stimulant
      • Examples: tobacco; cocaine
    • Group 3
      • Group name: hallucinogens
      • Examples: LSD; magic mushrooms

  6. Drugs classified as 'others' may not fit neatly into any one category. For example marijuana can be classified as a hallucinogen and/or a depressant. Ecstasy can be classified as either an hallucinogen or stimulant because of their properties and their effect on neurotransmitters.Top of page

Topic 5

5.1 Methods of drug administration

Question - What could be some of the advantages and disadvantages that young people might perceive for each of these methods of drug administration?

Answer - Method of administration:
  • swallowing:
    • advantages: easy
    • disadvantages: effects can be slow
  • smoking:
    • advantages: familiar can have rapid effect
    • disadvantages: can be detected easily
  • snorting:
    • advantages: rapid effect
    • disadvantages: can damage nostrils

Topic 6

6.2 How drugs affect young people differently

Question - What are some possible reasons why drugs might affect young people differently from adults?

Possible answers include:
  • smaller body size
  • placebo effect
  • poor judgement due to immaturity

Topic 7

7.2 The placebo effect

Question - Why might young people be particularly influenced by the placebo effect when they use psycho-active drugs?

Answer - Many young people are inexperienced users and therefore their expectations can influence the effect of psycho-active drugs.Top of page

Topic 8

8.1 Intoxication

Question - How would you define the term 'intoxication'?

Answer - Intoxication is the term used to describe any change in perception, mood, thinking processes and motor skills that results from the effect of a drug(s) on our central nervous system.

Often intoxication is thought of in extreme terms, when someone is 'drunk' or 'off their head' with drugs. In fact, some degree of intoxication occurs with any single dose of alcohol or other drugs. Risky activities of all sorts increase, even with low levels of intoxication.

Whatever problems and risks are associated with being intoxicated, there is also much pleasure to be gained. This is an important principle to remember in our work with young people, as it will help us to understand their motivation for drug use and intoxication.

Question - What are some of the changes in behaviour you might notice in a young person who is intoxicated with cannabis?

Possible answers include:
  • placid
  • talkative
  • hungry
Question - What are some of the changes in behaviour you might notice in a young person who is intoxicated with alcohol?

Possible answers include:

8.2 Tolerance

Question - What is your understanding of the term 'tolerance' in relation to AOD issues?

Answer - Tolerance occurs when a regular user of a drug gradually becomes less responsive to the drug. This can often lead to the person taking larger amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect.

A new user of a drug has no tolerance to it and will be affected more than an experienced user. For example, while a young person who has never consumed alcohol may become quite intoxicated from having one standard drink, another person of the same age and gender may require three or more drinks to experience the same effect.

Tolerance develops via two main mechanisms:
  1. The liver increases the level of enzymes to metabolise the drug, so it becomes more effective at eliminating the drug.
  2. The brain's receptors respond to the regular presence of the drug by becoming less sensitive to the drug's effects.
Question - Is the concept of tolerance relevant to young people? If so, how?

Answer - Young people will become tolerant to most drugs with regular use. However, tolerance can develop rapidly with regular use of some drugs such as amphetamines, ecstasy, heroin and benzodiazepines. Other drugs such as nicotine do not appear to demonstrate tolerance, except for the initial effects such as nausea and headache for na´ve users.

8.3 Physical and psychological dependence

Question - What do you understand by the term 'physical dependence'?

Answer - Physical dependence to a drug can be demonstrated by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken. That is, the person depends on the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms and to function normally. This is known as 'addiction', a term not so widely used in recent times. Physical dependence on a drug often follows heavy daily use over several weeks or longer.

Question - What do you understand by the term 'psychological dependence'?

Answer - Psychological dependence occurs when a drug becomes central to a person's thoughts, emotions and activities. It can be demonstrated by a strong urge to use the drug, despite being aware of its harmful effects. A preoccupation with acquiring the drug and/or compulsive use of the drug may also be evident. Another determining factor may be relapse or recurrent use of the drug.

While not all drugs are considered capable of leading to physical dependence, it is possible for any drug to lead to psychological dependence.

8.4 Drug interactions

Question - What is the relevance of knowing about drug interactions for workers?

Answer - Many heroin users who have died of drug overdoses had also consumed alcohol and/or prescription drugs in addition to heroin.Top of page

Topic 9

9.1 Overdose and identifying those who are at high risk

Question - What should you do if you suspect an overdose has occurred?

Possible answers include: Seek medical assistance then monitor the following indicators:
  • decreasing levels of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • abnormal pulse (irregular or below 60 bpm or above 120 bpm)
  • convulsions
  • increasing agitation
  • changing mental state – hallucinations, panic or deep depression.
Question - What factors might affect the seriousness of an overdose?

Possible answers include:
  • type of drug
  • amount used
  • how administered
  • poly-drug use
  • time consumed
  • tolerance level
  • mood
  • physical/psychological status
  • gender
  • age
  • weight
  • expectations.

Topic 10

10.1 Withdrawal symptoms and the rebound effect

Question - What are some reasons that might explain the differences in the withdrawal symptoms experienced by Branco and Robbie and Tara and Rebecca?

Possible answers include:
  • expectation - If someone expects to have a very severe withdrawal, it is more likely they will have one.
  • general physical health - A person who is less healthy is more likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms
  • general psychological health - Someone prone to anxiety or depression is more likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms.
  • social supports - that the person is able to rely upon.Top of page

Topic 11

11.1 Understanding drug-related harm

Question - What are some of the factors that may cause drugrelated harm?

Possible answers include:
  • The drug and type of drug used: Harms related to injecting drugs, overdose
  • The individual and individual factors: Aggressive behaviour, depression, money problems, dependency, tolerance
  • The environment (or context) in which drugs are used: Legal problems, friends using, problems with family, homelessness.