NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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The student will learn the way in which opiates alter the function of nerve cells.


Remind students that long-term abuse of opiates, such as heroin, changes the way nerve cells in the brain work. These cells become so used to having the heroin present that they need it to work normally. This, in turn, leads to addiction. If opiates are taken away from dependent nerve cells, these cells become overactive. Eventually, they will work normally again, but in the meantime, they create a range of symptoms known as withdrawal. Have students create visual representations of normal nerve cells, dependent nerve cells, overactive nerve cells, and an opiate. Then have the students use these representations to develop, in comic art format, the process by which opiates change the normal functioning of neurons.