Lesson: Drugs + Your Body

First published 2012. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.

Use the lesson and student work sheet below to reinforce comprehension of key facts and concepts in the student article “Drugs + Your Body.”

Dear Teacher: 

“Drugs + Your Body”—the latest installment in our series on the health effects of drugs—provides students with important factual information about the devastating effects drugs can have on their bodies.

As a complement to the poster/teaching guide “Drugs + Your Body: It Isn’t Pretty,” this new article provides students with additional information about the effects of drugs on the body—inside and out. The corresponding reproducible work sheet further explains how alcohol magnifies the effects of some drugs, which can lead to deadly consequences.

By sharing this article with your students, you are providing them with not only important facts about the science of drug abuse but also valuable information to help them make smart decisions and choose healthy, drug-free lifestyles.

In This Installment:

  • Student article: Facts about the health effects of drugs on teens, with an emphasis on organs and major body systems.
  • Student work sheet: Facts about how alcohol magnifies the effects of some drugs.

Alignment With National Standards: 

  • Science (NSES): Life Science: Structure and Function in Living Systems; Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and Community Health
  • Life Skills (McREL): Self-Regulation; Thinking and Reasoning 

Lesson Plan
Before-Reading Questions:

  • What do you know about how the brain, heart, and lungs work together in a healthy person?
  • What do you know about the effects of different drugs on the  heart and lungs? 

After-Reading Questions (factual responses in italics):

  1. What can drugs do to a person’s physical appearance? (Male steroid abusers can experience shrunken testicles, baldness, and breast formation. Female steroid abusers can experience facial hair growth and male-pattern baldness. Meth abusers can have skin sores from excessive picking. Smokers often have discolored teeth, gum disease, and tooth loss.)
  2. Drugs can affect the body both directly and indirectly. A direct effect is one where one factor directly affects another. (For example, hitting a baseball with a bat has a direct effect—the bat directly affects the location of the ball.) When a drug acts indirectly, it produces some change in your body, and it is this change that directly causes harm.
  • Provide one example where a drug can directly cause harm to an organ in your body. (Examples: Anabolic androgenic steroids act directly to cause breast development in males or facial hair growth in females. Cocaine chemically damages the tissues in the nasal septum, which eventually results in a hole in this tissue.)
  • Provide one example where a drug can indirectly harm an organ in your body. (Examples: Methamphetamine raises body temperature and causes dehydration. Dehydration, in turn, lowers blood volume, which reduces blood flow through the kidneys, damaging them. Methamphetamine can cause individuals to hallucinate that insects are crawling on their skin [a direct effect]. It is the hallucinations that cause people to pick at their skin causing sores [an indirect effect].)

Student Work Sheet 
Have each student use the information on the work sheet, as well as in the article, to answer the work sheet questions. As a class, discuss the dangers of using alcohol and how combining alcohol with drugs can make a dangerous practice even riskier.
View the Student Work Sheet online (HTML).
Download and print the Student Work Sheet (PDF).
Answer Key:

  1. Prescription sedatives and opioids each slow breathing. Combining them with alcohol can further slow breathing to such low levels that a person could become comatose and/or die.  
  2. Doctors prescribe medications based on a person’s age, weight, and specific illness so that only the required dosage is used. Abusing prescription drugs exposes the body to unsafe doses that can cause harm. 
  3. Impaired driving, poor sports performance, poor academic performance, etc. 
  4. Alcohol can cause the heart to beat rapidly or irregularly, damaging the heart muscle. Combining alcohol with drugs that also increase heart rate, for example, magnifies the effects and the risks.

More Information

For printable past and current articles in the HEADS UP series, go to scholastic.com/headsup/teachers. For other activities and teaching support, go to drugabuse.gov/parents-teachers.


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