Alcohol and Drug
H.E.L.P. for Kids 2004-2005
The Nervous System
1. The nervous system is the command control of our body. It communicates, regulates,
coordinates, detects, and responds.
2. The functional cell type in our nervous system is the neuron.
Neurons receive and transmit messages through neurotransmitters and receptors. 3.
4. Neurons in the brain do not divide during their lifetime. Thus, damage to these cells is
Alcohol gets into the blood through the gastrointestinal tract. 1.
2. Alcohol affects the nervous system. It slows down the transmission of messages leading
to a variety of behavioral changes.
3. Alcohol slows down the time for the body to react. Thus, drivers who drink are more
likely to cause accidents.
4. Alcohol abuse could cause serious social problems including loss of family, friends, and
1. Most recreational drugs act on the nervous system, affecting how one feels and acts, what
one thinks and sees. They act through neurotransmitters and/or receptors. 2. Marijuana is one of the most common recreational drugs that young people encounter. It
is a relaxant and a depressant. It can affect memory, sense of time, and coordination. 3. Inhalants act on the nervous system to produce a number of effects on sensory and motor
activities. High doses and long-time use could cause death.
4. Cocaine speeds up the activity in the central nervous system, referred to as a CNS
stimulant. The euphoric feeling it produces is short-lived, to be replaced by irritability
and depression. It is extremely addictive and can cause sudden death. 5. It is against the law to use recreational drugs.
Transparencies or posters
； The nervous system
； Diagram showing neurotransmitter and receptor - neuron-neuron or neuron-muscle
； Digestive system if necessary
Human Brain, if possible – fixed, from Pathology Department in the Medical School
Drunken goggles (Get from Vaden Health Center)
Student Hand-out Packet
； Take Home Messages
； Neuron WS
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
Teaching Message 1: The nervous system is the command control of our body.
It communicates, regulates, coordinates, detects, and responds.
Class Activity #1: The clapping experiment. To kids, when I say start, you clap your hands 5
times, hard. (Demonstrate if necessary.) Now, what makes it possible for you to do that? Let’s
analyse this simple experiment.
1. First, you heard what I said, i.e., to clap your hands. What do we use to hear? (Call on kids
to respond.) Yes, our ears! Hearing is an important part of our brain.
2. Second, you understood what we said, thought about it, and decided to do what we had asked.
What abilities would you need to have to carry out these? Call on kids. To understand what
was said? Yes, learning! To decide what to do? Yes, thinking, and remembering.
3. Third, you clapped your hands. Once you decided what to do, you did it. That involved
movement. That is, your brain told your hands to clap.
4. Four, you felt the sting. What did that involve? Yes, feeling pain. Your palms told your
brain that there was a little stinging or pain.
These are all examples of senses and movements coordinated by the nervous system. There were all sorts of messages going back and forth between the nervous system and other parts of your body in that simple experiment.
Now you know that even a simple activity that can be done in fraction of a second takes a series of well-coordinated activities – all carried out by different cells in our body. Our nervous system acts as a big communicating system among these cells. It regulates and coordinates the activities our body does by detecting what is going on in our outside environment, inside our body, and coordinate our respones accordingly.
So, if our nervous system breaks down or does not function properly, we could be in deep trouble!
Teaching Message 2: The functional cell type in our nervous system is the neuron.
; If our nervous system is a communicating system, how does it send and receive messages throughout our body?
The special functional cell type in our nervous system, such as in our brain, is the nerve cell, the
neuron. (Ask kids what they remember from having looked at neurons with the slide viewer in the Cell session.) These cells look quite different from other cell types such as the blood cells you saw under the microscope before. They come in different sizes and could reach several feet
long. However, they all have a similar basic structure. Show Figure, pointing out the dendrites,
cell body, and axon. Dendrites receive messages and axons send out messages. These messages
move through the cell as an electrical impulse. The messages of one neuron could be sent to
another neuron, then another neuron, and so on to start a chain reaction. Or, they could be sent to the target such as muscle.
Teaching Message 3: Neurons receive and transmit messages through neurotransmitters and receptors. .
; What is a neurotransmitter?
A neurotransmitter is a chemical that allows the neurons to communicate with each other. A neurotransmitter going from one neuron attaches to a receptor on another neuron. A receptor is
an opening on the surface of the neuron that takes in chemical signals.
Show and explain Figure.
Class Activity #2: Chain reaction along the neuronal pathway. Have students stand in a
circle with one person’s left hand over the other person’s right. Have someone begin by clapping the hand of the person adjacent to her/him. Explain that the neuronal pathway works in much the same way as one neuron responds to the other.
Take-home Message 4: Neurons in the brain do not divide during their lifetime.
Thus, damage to these cells is often irreversible.
; What do you think would happen if we damaged our brain in some way?
Demonstrate using the volunteers from Activity #2. Show damage to the first neuron in the pathway by having the second and third students sit back down.
Damage to the brain is often irreversible. Irreversibility means that it will not heal if it gets
damaged. Show the first neuron degenerate by having the first student sit down as well. Not
only that, our neurons in the brain do not divide during our lifetime as most of our other cells do. So we have only what we were born with. We do not get any new ones. So, if they are damaged, they are damaged or gone forever. These damages can be caused by accidents, injuries, diseases, and alcohol or drugs. Imagine not being able to move your arms or your legs, or to feel, see, or think normally. Since our nervous system controls everything we do, we must protect it and not damage it.
; Do you know people who always drink alcohol on social occasions?
About 80% of adults in this country drink alcohol, ranging from those who drink socially to those who ABUSE alcohol (Make sure to distinguish between “use” and “abuse”). Abuse of
alcohol or any drug means that the drugs are used to the extent that they cause physical damage to the users, behavior harmful to themselves and to others, and impairment of the users’ ability to function socially in the family, in school, with friends, or on the job.
Today, alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death, trailing only behind tobacco and obesity. It is important to understand how this common and popular beverage can have such damaging effects, especially on the nervous system.
Teaching Message 1: Alcohol gets into the blood through the gastrointestinal
tract. It is broken down by the liver.
; If alcohol is a beverage and goes through our digestive system, how do you think it gets into our blood? Review the digestive system if necessary.
It gets into our blood mostly at the small intestines in the same way as our food, and can be transported throughout our body. The first place alcohol goes once it is absorbed into the blood is the liver (Figure). The liver is an organ in our body which helps us get rid of many toxic materials. It also breaks down alcohol.
Teaching Message 2: Alcohol affects the nervous system. It slows down the transmission of messages leading to a variety of behavioral changes.
; How does someone who has drunk too much behave? Call on kids to answer and write on board or paper. Staggering, loss of many motor skills, speech slurring, etc.
They act this way because alcohol has affected their nervous system. Alcohol binds to receptors on neurons that interfere with the action of neurotransmitters. This results in a loss of coordination, balance, and motor skills. Heavy drinkers stagger when they walk, have slurred speech, fall over things, and cannot control when they urinate.
Class Activity #3: Effect of alcohol on vision. Have some volunteers come over and put on the
drunken goggles. Now have them try to do simple tasks such as walking in a straight line or try to shoot a paper wad into the wastebasket. This is because alcohol can make vision unclear and thus harder to do certain activities that need concentration and clear vision. What are some of these activities?
; Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the nervous system, i.e. the transmission of messages. Mentally, alcohol reduces inhibition, because it affects the neurons in the part of the brain that controls inhibition. When people are drunk, they may also talk a lot, much of which do not make sense. In addition, their sense of judgment is damaged, so it is difficult for them to judge what is right and what is wrong.
Teaching Message 3: Alcohol slows down the time for the body to react. Thus, drivers who drink are more likely to cause accidents.
Because messages are traveling more slowly, it also slows down our reaction time. We will demonstrate this with an activity.
Class Activity #4: Effect of alcohol on reaction time. Need two students. Have one standing
with his or her back against the wall. The other should stand about 7 or 8 ft. away with a Nerf ball. Instruct the person with the ball to throw it at the person at the wall. Instruct the person at the wall to get out of the way so she/he doesn’t get hit. Now, instruct the receiver to count 2
seconds before moving when the ball gets thrown at her/him. She/he would get hit. This is what would happen when the person’ reaction time is slowed down by a couple of seconds because of drinking.
; Why is it dangerous to get into a car with somebody who has been drinking?
What if the ball was a car? Drivers with alcohol in their blood are more likely to have accidents because it takes them longer to react to dangerous situations. They could hurt not only themselves but also other people. In 1996 in this country, one person died every 32 minutes in alcohol-related traffic crashes, and one person injured every 30 seconds. About 40 percent of all deaths from car crashes were alcohol-related.
Teaching Message 4: Alcohol abuse could cause serious social problems including loss of family, friends, and jobs.
; What other types of serious problems could be caused by alcohol abuse?
The social consequences of alcohol could be serious, affecting a large population of people. Because of what alcohol could do to the nervous system of the drinkers, their behavior under the influence of alcohol could be out of control, unreasonable, violent, depressive, and generally difficult to deal with for others around them, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Oftentimes, they could not hold on to the jobs.
Discuss in small groups the following:
1) Discuss personal experiences. Encourage the kids to talk about what they think or have experienced with alcohol, not only with themselves but with their friends and family.
2) Discuss the pros and cons of drinking. . It is important to distinguish between alcohol use
versus abuse. At some point, the majority of people will try out alcohol. This does not mean that drinking alcohol is an absolute drawback. For example, there is in fact strong evidence that drinking a little bit of red wine can reduce the risk of having heart disease. It will be your choice whether you want to drink alcohol or not. How much is also another issue.
Most people who do drink alcohol are aware of the amount that they take in. People who drink a modest amount of alcohol at a sitting are known as social drinkers. They drink for the alcoholic
effects that can mentally lessen the pressures that might be going on during their lives. But at the same time, they know when to stop. If they have taken in too much, they make sure never to drive (imagine driving with drunken goggles on!) and will wait until they have sobered up (Discussion question: What’s happening in the body to cause people to sober up? Answer: The liver is slowly breaking down the alcohol.)
But it is when you drink too much, or come to depend on it to “feel good,” that problems can
Teaching Message 1: Most recreational drugs act on the nervous system,
affecting how one feels and acts, what one thinks and sees.
; What are some slang or nicknames for recreational drugs that you have heard of?
Write list of responses on the board.
Unlike drugs prescribed by your doctor, recreational drugs are those which people take for fun
and are not usually used to treat illnesses. In fact, most are illegal to use. These drugs can act on the nervous system to change a person’s sensations, feelings, thoughts, and so on.
Teaching Message 2: Marijuana is one of the most common recreational drugs that young people encounter.
; What do you think is one of the most common drugs that young people encounter?
Marijuana is made from dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis hemp plant.
; Do you know how many kids your age are actually using marijuana?
Unlike what most kids believe, very few kids your age have ever used marijuana. So even though you may see marijuana being used in the movies or written about in songs, or even represented on T-shirts, it is not as commonly used by kids your age as you might have imagined.
. Teaching Message 3: Marijuana acts as a relaxant and a depressant
; It acts as a relaxant and is a depressant.
It relaxes the tension in the muscles and also slows down the reaction time as alcohol does. The pleasant feelings of relaxation could be followed by drowsiness, impaired coordination, impaired memory function, lapses of attention, disturbed thought patterns. At high doses, feelings of body-mind separation and sensory distortion could occur.
Discuss with kids their personal feelings and experiences about marijuana use such as by relatives, friends.
(This is for instructors’ information. 1. Marijuana also increases the heart rate, causes dilation of the blood vessels, and causes damage to the respiratory system if smoked. It could also affect
the reproductive system. 2. Marijuana is not considered to be addictive. 3. It does not appear to cause permanent damages.)
Teaching Message 4: Cocaine is an extremely addictive drug which speeds up the activity in the central nervous system.
Cocaine or crack comes from coca leaves in Peru and Colombia. It is extremely addictive. That is, the user becomes dependent on it.
Cocaine speeds up the activities in the brain. It makes the user feel euphoric, energetic, talkative, and mentally alert - especially to the sensations of sight, sound, and touch. It can also temporarily stop the need for food and sleep. It can make some people feel contemplative, anxious, or even panic-stricken. Physical symptoms include faster heartbeat and breathing, and higher blood pressure and body temperature.
Cocaine can cause sudden death in healthy young people.
Discuss with kids their personal feelings and understanding about cocaine/crack use.
Teaching Message 5: Inhalants act on the nervous system to produce a number of effects on sensory and motor activities. High doses and long-time use could cause death.
; What are inhalants?
Inhalants are substances which produce gas vapors that can easily be inhaled through the nose. Inhaling vapors to change one’s state of mind dates back to the times of the ancient Greeks.
; Can you name some inhalants?
Common chemical inhalants include paint solvents, glues, gasoline, white out, and aerosol sprays.
; What population are most at risk of using inhalants and why?
Young people are most at risk because these substances are readily available around the house and they do not have money to buy other drugs. Because they are so readily accessible, kids often do not think that there is any harm in using products that are legal to begin with. Teaching Message 6: It is against the law to use recreational drugs.