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Grades 2-3


When we refer to "drugs" during this module, we divide them into two categories, helpful medicines and harmful drugs. These categories are based on the effect they have on the body. Medicines are helpful only when they are given at the right times in the right amounts by people who care about children - parents, doctors, dentists, and other caregivers. In this module, drugs classified as medicines include the following: aspirin or Tylenol, antibiotics, fluoride, and immunizations. With medicines, however, it is extremely important to follow the dosage prescribed by the health care provider. Taking too much medicine or not enough can be dangerous.

Some drugs may be helpful or harmful. Caffeine is one example. Although caffeine itself isn't a drug, it is an ingredient found in some medications. Caffeine in all forms should be used in moderation. Too much of these substances can make people feel uncomfortable and even sick. Nicotine is another substance that may fit into both categories. Nicotine itself is not harmful in the doses found in cigarettes, but it does produce addiction. This is a negative effect because addiction to nicotine causes people to use tobacco products, which can cause severe health problems with prolonged use. But nicotine is found in very small amounts in some medicines. Finally, some drugs have a harmful effect. These include alcohol and illegal drugs such as cocaine and marijuana.

Some substances that are acceptable for adults are not acceptable for children because their bodies are smaller and they are still growing. Many substances, however, should be used carefully by adults as well. For example, some people find that drinking a glass of wine with dinner is pleasurable, but drinking a whole bottle of wine could be dangerous.

Using the fact sheets at the back of this guide, students work either in small groups or as a class to identify drugs from riddles. After children guess the name of the substance, ask them whether they think its effect is helpful or harmful. Questions like these will help students better understand whether it is appropriate to take certain substances and, if so, how much is acceptable. They also will consider whether some substances are not good for them at all.

During the discussion portion of the module, you have the option of giving the students a second riddle, which explains how each drug affects the body. The trading cards reinforce the information in both riddles and are an effective way to convey complex, unfamiliar information.

Drug Other Terms How it is Used Effects on the Body How it Works
Aspirin or Tylenol Aspirin is also known as salicylic acid acetate and is found in Bayer, Anacin, and Bufferin; Tylenol is made from acetaminophen Taken orally as a liquid, pill or gum form Both aspirin and Tylenol reduce fever and ease aches and pains; aspirin can decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes Aspirin inhibits the production of some chemicals that play a role in blood clotting; aspirin also inhibits the production of certain types of enzymes that cause inflammation and pain; Tylenol raises the body’s threshold for pain by interacting with hormones
Flouride Sodium fluoride Available as tablets, drops, rinses, gels, and paste Prevents cavities and can also treat osteoporosis Hardens the enamel on teeth and reduces the harmful effects of plaque
Immunizations Vaccinations, inoculations Injected or taken orally Boosts the body’s resistance to specific diseases Causes the body to produce antibodies to fight diseases
Antibiotics Penicillin, cephalosporin, tetracycline Taken orally as a pill or liquid, or injected Fights diseases caused by bacteria Antibiotics kill bacteria by preventing them from constructing cell walls; then bacteria can’t reproduce, and die out
Drug Other Terms How it is Used Effects on the Body How it Works
Alcohol Ethyl alcohol or ethanol Consumed by drinking Impairs concentration, slows reflexes, impairs reaction time, reduces coordination, and causes drowsiness when used in excess Depresses the central nervous system and can kill brain cells when used in excess
Caffeine Found in coffee, tea, cocoa, soft drinks, and some medications Taken orally in pill form or consumed in food and drinks Increases alertness, reduces fine motor coordination, alters sleep patterns, and can cause headaches, nervousness, and dizziness Stimulates the central nervous system
Nicotine Tobacco; found in cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco Smoked or chewed Reduces appetite and can cause nausea and vomiting; increases alertness Acts as a stimulant, speeding up the heart and raising blood pressure
Illegal Drugs (marijuana & Cocaine) Marijuana is referred to as grass, pot, reefer, and weed; cocaine is also called crack Marijuana is usually smoked but can be baked into brownies or cookies or brewed like tea; cocaine or crack can be snorted, smoked, or injected Marijuana impairs memory, concentration, perception, and movement; cocaine causes dizziness, headache, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and increased heart rate Marijuana acts on receptors in the brain, causing decreased blood pressure, sleepiness, and disruption in attention; cocaine stimulates the brain and spinal cord


This page was last updated September 2012