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Brain Power: Grades K-1


This module serves as an introduction to the concept of helpful medicines and harmful drugs. In this module, the helpful medicines discussed are acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), fluoride, immunizations, and antibiotics. These substances either cure illnesses or prevent problems from occurring. Nonetheless, even these substances must be used with care. In this module, students will learn that they 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. They will also learn that it is important to follow the dosage prescribed by the healthcare provider. Taking too much medicine or not enough can be dangerous.

The harmful drugs discussed in this module are nicotine and alcohol. Students will learn that, when used in excess, these substances can cause such problems as impaired concentration, slow reflexes, impaired reaction time, poor coordination, and drowsiness (alcohol), as well as a reduction of appetite, nausea, and vomiting (nicotine).

The following chart gives information about the substances studied in the module. Students will learn more about alcohol and illegal drugs in the Brain Power! Program for second- and third-grade students. If you feel that students are ready to learn about these other substances now, feel free to do so. Information about these illegal substances is included on the next page.
Drug Other Terms How It Is Used Effects on the Body How It Works
Aspirin or Tylenol Aspirin is also known as acetylsalicylic acid; Tylenol is made from acetaminophen Taken orally in 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 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 chemicals in the body
Fluoride 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; causes an increase in bone mineral density
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, cephalosporins, 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; the bacteria can’t reproduce, and they die out
Alcohol Ethyl alcohol or ethanol, beer, wine, and liquor 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
Nicotine Nicotine is 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, and Crack) Marijuana is referred to as grass, pot, reefer, and weed; cocaine is also called coke, snow, or blow; crack is a form of cocaine also called rock, rox, or base Marijuana is usually smoked but can be baked into brownies or cookies or brewed like tea; cocaine can be snorted; crack can be smoked Marijuana impairs memory, concentration, perception, and movement; cocaine stimulates the brain and spinal cord causing dizziness, headache, anxiety, insomnia, and depression when the person stops using the drug Marijuana acts on parts of the brain that control thinking, pain, and memory; cocaine effects the reward center of the brain disrupting the normal action of dopamine which is associated with feelings of pleasure

Facts About Cocaine

Cocaine affects the brain and the body in many ways. It makes a person’s heart beat faster and blood pressure rise. It can change the way someone feels and acts, making it harder to make wise decisions. Cocaine is a very addictive drug; when people use it, they find it really hard to stop.

Facts About Marijuana

Marijuana can make it harder for the brain to function properly. For example, marijuana can cause people to forget important information and lose the ability to think clearly and solve problems. Marijuana also can have negative effects on people’s health. Inhaling marijuana may increase the risk of harming the lungs and developing lung cancer. Finally, marijuana is an addictive drug that changes the way the brain functions.

This page was last updated September 2009