Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I forgot today's topic because the Portal 2 DLC came out and I got distracted...

That's a lie. It's amphetamines.

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs which work by modulating the effects of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, especially in the brain's reward pathways. One such amphetamine is Methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin.

To understand the special relationship between those that grew up during and after the 1990s and amphetamines. It is important to examine both the social factors, as well as the drug itself, so let's begin with the latter.

Under normal conditions, dopamine is usually only released when needed (See "How Weed Works"). Before now, we haven't discussed what happens AFTER the dopamine reaches its destination.

After the neurotransmitters have completed their function (by attaching to the dopamine receptors and triggering the appropriate neurological reaction) the remaining dopamine is removed from the synaptic cleft by dopamine transporters so the brain may return to normal.

Those yellow guys are the dopamine transporters, their job is to remove the excess neurotransmitters from the synapse and put them back where they came from. They "eat" the remaining dopamine, and "poop" it back into the presynaptic cell so it can be used later.

However, when amphetamines (here represented by the parakeets) enter the brain, they too are taken up into the pre-synaptic cell by the dopamine transporters. The transporters move them just as they would real dopamine. (This is due to the structural similarity of amphetamines to dopamine.) Once inside the cell, amphetamines move into the dopamine vesicles, forcing dopamine out.

The transporters ate too much and started puking up dopamine.
Now overfull, the dopamine transporters begin to work backwards to force the "excess" dopamine out. In reality, there is no excess of the neurotransmitter, just a lack of space. Having no where else to go, the dopamine binds with the dopamine receptors on the post-synaptic cell. Without any space in the pre-synaptic cell, the neurotransmitters are stuck in the synapse. This causes the dopamine pathways to fire repeatedly. Over-and-over-and-over again.

Bind-release, bounce off the presynaptic cell, bind again.

The result: You get a dopamine high, similar to what one might experience after smoking pot, and it is the calm from this high that "brings down" kids with ADD.

Efficacy: While amphetamines have been shown to improve classroom behavior, there is no evidence to support the claim that Ritalin use improved long-term academic performance, and there are serious concerns about the validity of existing evidence supporting methylphenidate use.

Risks: Commonly noted side effects of Ritalin use include nervousness, interrupted sleep patterns, digestion issues and headaches, but there are other issues currently being studied. Among these, the possibility of stunted growth, and the development of cross-tolerances to drugs like cocaine.
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  1. Steve FlintJanuary 16, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Man, I like the way you put this together. I'm gonna share this with my Drug Addiction Intervention team. Thanks!