Drugs, Brains, aand Behavior: The Science of Addiction

The Drug in Question

The drug in question is most likely heroin. This is due to the fact that heroin is an opiate derivative that can be used to treat chronic pain. Gretchen has a history of persistent pain, so this may be what she chose. Similarly, it is mostly provided through injections, and the presence of a syringe is a significant clue. The inability to manage use (addiction), difficulty meeting social and work-related duties, legal concerns, spending more time and money to obtain the opiates, growing tolerance, and the development of withdrawal symptoms, analgesia, and sleepiness are all signs and symptoms of heroin (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Gretchen shows several of these indicators including failure to keep up with class, spending her rent on drug acquisition lack of pain and sedation.

Receptors, Transporters, and Neurotransmitters Involved

Specifically, both prescribed opioids and heroin tend to produce effects that are significantly similar to those initiated by endorphins and encephalin neurotransmitters albeit in a more pronounced manner. These effects include increased analgesia, reduced alertness, and respiration. Heroin is capable of engaging and stimulating the specialized receptors for endorphins and encephalin among many other receptors hence leading to high intensification of the opioid receptor activity. Mu opioid receptors are responsible for pleasure effects, pain relief and addiction, kappa receptors for anxiolytic effects and addiction while delta opioid receptors are for mood modulation, and pain relief (Sherman, 2017).

Addictiveness and Effects of Continued Use

The drug is very addictive, and continued use is associated with adverse health, social and economic implications to the users, their families, and the society as a whole. Medical complications range from insomnia, constipation, lung complications and respiration to mental disorders like depression and antisocial disorders, sexual dysfunction and irregular menstrual cycles among other problems. Sometimes, veins can collapse, increased bacterial infections, liver and kidney damage as well as addiction and withdrawal symptoms (Sherman, 2017). Heroin use also predisposes the users to other communicable diseases like HIV and hepatitis due to needle sharing and indiscriminate sexual practices.

Professional Advice

Recommend the use of methadone for treatment, undergoing HIV tests and tests for other possible complications. Detox therapy using methadone or buprenorphine can be useful. Cognitive behavioural therapy and contingency management therapy also work in the process of recovery for heroin users. Support groups, for instance, the Narcotics Anonymous provide a platform for guidance and learning by supplementing the mentioned treatment methods (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Family and community support, diet, exercise and financial empowerment (e.g. through employment) can be applied as well.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, July). Drugs, Brains, aand Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

Sherman, C. (2017, March 9). Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission. Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2017/03/impacts-drugs-neurotransmission

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