Drug Addiction

Drug Addiction Issues – Common Abused Substances

Substance abuse or drug abuse can be described in various ways. It can be the consumption of drugs which are illicit. It is also using prescription medicines in wrong ways other than the advised by the physician. Also taking drugs, though legal such as alcohol and tobacco in excess or in wrong ways is abuse of substances.

Substance abuse is different from addiction.  Many individuals who abuse drugs are able to stop or change their drug use behavior, whereas for addicted people to quitting calls for medical attention. Though the person may be willing to stop, it can be difficult due to the strong cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms. One can’t stop taking the substance despite how severe the effects could be on his/her health.

Common Abused Drugs

Though you can’t measure the extent of substance abuse, substances are being abused all over the world. People, regardless of age, are using drugs everywhere, in bathrooms, refrigerators, cars, street corners etc.  Today many drugs whether licit or illicit, are extremely being abused to an extent where not only are individuals getting addicted, but also it is causing serious health problems, overdosing, and worst of all it causing death.

Drugs contain chemicals that alter the function of the brain.  Many abused substances alter an individual’s way of thinking, judgment, decision making, leading to health risks. The following are the popularly abused drugs;

  • Tobacco or Nicotine

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in United States.  In the year 2012 69.5 million Americans were estimated to be currently smoking tobacco. It is one of the leading substances being abused around the globe.

Tobacco is dried leaves of a plant that grows in various parts of the world. It contains a variety of toxic chemicals including nicotine.  The abuse of tobacco in any form; cigars, cigarettes or pipe tobacco can lead to dependence, health complications or premature death.

Nicotine in the tobacco is a strong addictive substance with various physiological and psychological consequences. Once it is absorbed into the bloodstream or inhaled, it increases adrenaline levels.  Also, it triggers more secretion of the dopamine, also known as the brain’s “happy” substance.

Dopamine activates the part of brain that is responsible for pleasure and reward.  Tobacco use often starts during teenage or childhood.  Kids who are aged below 10years have been reported to experiment tobacco.  Annually in US and estimation of 1.4 million adolescents die from prematurely as a result of tobacco-related diseases.

Tobacco Abuse among Teenagers

Various factors influence teenagers to smoke such as peer pressure, parental influence/behavior, media, availability, genetic factors, and many others.  But where do they get the tobacco from? Good question. Children acquire it from various sources. Most get it through non-commercial sources such as friends, nannies, siblings, or even parents.

Although some just steal it from their parents or guardians, children obtain their first tobacco from a peer or sibling. After the first attempt, those who continue using may acquire it from older friends.  Although all countries have laws that prohibit the sale of any tobacco product to a person below 18years age, enforcement is very weak.  Many children purchase tobacco directly from the retailers, friends, relative or a person in school.  Few others are able to buy it online.

Tobacco also serves as a gateway substance to the abuse of other substances.  People who smoke are 3 more times likely to be using alcohol, 8 more times to consume marijuana, and 22 more times likely to take cocaine.

Effects of Tobacco abuse

Smoking tobacco affects almost every part of the body.  It causes multiple diseases, reduces the immune level of not only the smoker, but also the one who is exposed to the smoke. Tobacco has accounted for an estimated 438,000 deaths yearly in the US. Besides, many people are aware of the detrimental health impacts of tobacco, the rate at which cigarettes are sold is increasing each year.

Smoking affects the growth of the lungs hence reduced lung function.  A person who smokes has a resting heart-beat of 2-3 beats per minute quicker than a person who doesn’t smoke.  Moreover, people who smoke are more prone to coughing and respiratory complications. In teenagers, smoking tobacco increases the risk of contracting asthma. Asthma has been reported to be common between children of 11-16 years who are smokers.

Tobacco reduces physical body endurance. With even a light task one might experience shortness in breath.  Also, nicotine stains the teeth can lead to periodontal disease, leukoplakia, mouth cancer, and gum recession.  To women and girls, smoking tobacco puts them at a greater risk than men.  Women who are smokers increase their risk of getting other cancers such as uterine cancer, pharynx cancer, kidney cancer, and pancreas cancer.

Additionally, cigarette smoking increases infertility, low weight birth, stillbirth, or sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking has been for the longest time linked with high-risk behaviors such dangerous sexual behaviors like engaging in unprotected sex or having many sexual partners. Also, it is a large contributing factor for youth violence in the society.

  • Alcohol

This is the second most abused substance by people.  Although it is legal, consumption of alcohol is regulated.  Being legal doesn’t imply that it is harmful or it isn’t abused.  Since drinking alcohol is socially acceptable, many people feel more secure when drinking it.  Nevertheless, alcohol is highly addictive and has detrimental health effects.

People drink alcohol in social events, to celebrate or to relax after an involving day or week.  Americans often take a glass of beer or wine to wind up the day.  Alcohol impacts on people differently; some individuals can enjoy moderate amounts of beer in a party or a club without experiencing any problems. However, others can take a glass and experience dizziness.

Alcohol abuse manifests when your drinking behavior takes a priority over all other things in your life such as job, family, and friends.  Drinking too often or too much is a sign of a drinking problem.  But, what is too much? How can I know that I have crossed the line to alcohol use disorder?

Responsible drinking or drinking in moderation implies taking one or no drink in a day for women, and two or less for men. One drink of alcohol equals to 1.5 ounces of liquor such as tequila, 5 ounces of wine and 12 ounces of beer.  Another way in which you can measure your drinking is thinking how much you consume weekly.

Heavy drinking for women is taking more than seven drinks weekly or more than three in a day. As a man, your alcohol consumption is at risk if you take more than 14 drinks weekly or more than four in a day.  Being unable to regulate the amount of alcohol you take is a sign of a bigger problem.

Drinking too often or too much can result in two issues; alcohol abuse or alcoholism also referred to as alcohol dependency.  The two terms are most used interchangeably, but they are different.  Individuals who abuse alcohol consume too much on an event leading to risky behaviors and poor judgment.

On the other hand, alcoholism or alcohol dependency implies one always craving for alcohol and relying on it through the day. One can’t work unless they drink. You should note that alcohol abusers do not depend on alcohol.

Signs of Alcohol Use/Abuse/Alcoholism

There are various alerts that you or your loved one is abusing alcohol. If you find yourself not able to control your cravings or the amount of alcohol to drink, you are already having alcohol use disorder.  Also, some people always think about alcohol when not drinking like when you are at work.

Your drinking habit is interfering with your personal obligations such as work, family or communal.  Alcohol has become a big priority than anything else in your life.  A person continues to drink regardless of the problems that alcohol is causing to them.  Quitting doing important things, such as school or college, job and hobbies can be a sign of alcohol abuse. People who abuse alcohol drink in awkward situations like when they have lost a job or a loved one.

High concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream results to less concentration, slurred speech, risky behavior, minimal ability to control body movements, poor decision making capability, and black out or being conscious but lacking a memory of your actions.

Extreme concentrations of alcohol can result in breathing complications, coma, and worst it can cause death.  Most people drink alcohol but do not experience the harmful effects.   Drinking alcohol can lead to falls, accidents, or drowning. When people get drunk, they become violent and hence fighting and injuries are common things for individuals who abuse alcohol. Additionally, alcohol abuse causes or intensifies suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of alcoholism include strong urge to drink alcohol and the inability to quit drinking. Also, with time one develops tolerance to drinking. This implies the need to drink more and more in order to experience the same affects you would experience with small quantities of alcohol.

People who are dependent on alcohol do all it takes to get alcohol including lying about their behavior and stealing to get money to buy alcohol. People, who abuse alcohol, normally do it occasionally either to relax or to help them deal with problems.  These are clear alerts that you are abusing alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Despite the amount of alcohol one takes, it can cause physical and mental damage to your body.  Short term effects of alcohol abuse include black outs, loss of memory, and painful hangovers which are usually accompanied by painful headaches.  Abusing alcohol for a long time can lead to stomach complications and heart problems.

Additionally, alcohol can damage the brain, especially when taken when young. This is because the brain is still developing.  It interferes with the neurons that transmit signals from the brain to other parts of the body. The disruption of the functioning of the brain alters your mood, behavior and can make it very difficult to think clearly or coordinate body movements.

High blood pressure and stroke are some of the heart complications that you may expect due to alcohol consumption. Constant use of alcohol causes the pancreas to secrete toxic substances that with time result to pancreatitis or inflammation of the blood vessels in the pancreas inhibiting proper digestion.

Liver cirrhosis and permanent memory loss are some of the long term impacts of alcohol consumption.  Moreover, scientists have claimed that there is a connection between alcohol abuse and various types of cancer.  Some alcohol related cancers include head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Drinking too much alcohol weakens the immune system, making it easier for attack by disease causing organisms. Alcohol use disorder doesn’t affect the user alone, but also any other person that is around them

Relationships are lost due to violence, anger problems, neglect and irresponsibility caused by alcohol abuse. Women who abuse alcohol while pregnant risk having a miscarriage or giving birth to an underweight baby.

  1. Prescription Drugs

Recreational use of prescription medicine is becoming a serious problem among teenagers and young adults. Many people think that, since it was recommended by a doctor, it is always safe for consumption. However, when you take them for non-medical reasons either to get high or to relax, it can be as dangerous as abusing other illegal drugs such as heroin.

There are multiple health effects of all drugs, the reason why they are only taken as per the doctor’s instructions.  Moreover, close supervision is advised to ensure that they will not cause harmful side effects or lead to addiction. Many pills appear the same, but each is formulated for a specific use. Don’t swallow any pill unless you are sure of its use or it has been recommended to you by a doctor.

Patients are given prescription drugs according to their body chemistry and each person reacts differently to all drugs.  A drug that was effectual for your pal doesn’t imply that it will work for you. It can be risky or cause death. Prescription drugs should only be used by people who have the prescriptions and nobody else.

Ideally, taking medicine differently from the way it was prescribed by a doctor that is abuse. Additionally, consuming a larger dose than the prescribed one, taking the drug in a different way than the advised one by the physician such as crushing capsules and then injecting them, and using medicine for different purposes such as to sleep is an abuse of drugs.

Common Abused Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are abused all over the world. It is an increasing problem across all ages including adults.  It is illegal to abuse prescription drugs, just like abusing other street drugs.  The following are some popularly abused prescription drugs;

  • Opioids

They are prescribed to relieve pain and include; fentanyl, codeine, morphine, Hydromorphone, Hydrocodone, oxycodone, naloxone, and Meperidine. Their prescriptions have increased regularly in recent years due to an attributed increase in the aging population and more chronic pains.

If opioids are consumed as per the doctor’s instructions they help in controlling pain. They make life comfortable for those who experience chronic pains.  As a fact, taking opioids as prescribed for a short term can rarely become addictive. However, if you use them for a long period, you might develop physical dependence.

Consuming large quantities of prescription drugs or overdosing can be life threatening.  If taken with depressants such as alcohol, benzos, or barbiturates, they can cause respiratory complications or lead to death. Opioids work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, thus inhibiting the brain from receiving any pain signals. They cause a joyful feeling but, some people take them in excess to enhance the feeling.

Some signs of opioid abuse include decreased breathing rate, feeling high, poor coordination, confusion, and nausea. Also, one can require more dosage in order to relieve the pain or an increased sensitivity to the pain.

  • Stimulants

Just from the name, stimulants stimulate the function of the body.  They give the body a jump-start, thus enhancing alertness, concentration, and energy.  Prescription stimulants include Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Concerta.  They are made from amphetamines and amphetamine derivatives.

Stimulants increase heart rate, blood sugar level, and blood pressure.  They constrict the blood vessels and dilate the pathways of the respiratory system.  In the past, they were prescribed to manage weight and treat asthma.  Nowadays they are widely used to manage Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and Narcolepsy.

Consuming stimulants in the right way is safe and effective. However, when they are abused like taking high doses, it can cause addiction.  Signs of stimulant abuse are increased alertness, high body temperature, reduced appetite, paranoia, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, and many others.

  • Central Nervous System(CNS) Depressants

They include benzos such as valium, Ativan and sodium.  The depressants are prescribed to treat panic attacks, anxiety, and sleep disorders.  They depress the central nervous system and many people use them to treat insomnia. CNS depressants impact on the brain neurotransmitter GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid)

GABA reduces the brain activity, making one more relaxed or drowsy.  Barbiturates such as amobarbital and secobarbital are also CNS depressants that are prescribed by physicians to treat seizures and for anesthetic purposes. Consuming these depressants for a short time can help you in relaxing and getting enough sleep.

Nevertheless, after some days or weeks, you might require more dosages to achieve the same calmness and sleep.  Taking CNS depressants with alcohol can reduce the heart and breathing rate, or even lead to death. After a long dependence on them, quitting can have painful withdrawal symptoms such as withdrawal seizures.

Symptoms of abuse of depressants are slurred speech, memory problems, unsteady waking, dizziness, and confusion. Feel free to talk to a medical practitioner if you suspect that you have a problem with prescription drugs. It might feel awkward, but remember they are well trained to assist you and they will not judge you.  It will be easier to deal with the abuse than addiction.

Reasons why People Abuse Prescription Drugs

Both young people and adults abuse prescription drugs for various reasons. Mostly people take them to feel high or to help them relax.  Prescription drugs are known to increase appetite and hence people who have problems with eating usually turn to them.  Others want to experiment with how they affect the mental capability of a person.

Once you get into drug abuse, quitting can hard due to the painful withdrawal symptoms, hence people will take them to avoid them. Students and adolescents abuse prescriptions drugs to boost their concentration in the academics. Also, other are dragged by peers or consume to fit in.

Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse

People who use pain relievers, sedatives or stimulants to manage a medical condition are at higher risk of abusing prescription drugs.  The following are some of the ways in which you can lower the risk;

  • Get the right medication. Ensure the doctor evaluates you properly and clearly understands the conditions and the symptoms. Be honest with your doctor; tell him or her all the prescriptions and any other over-the-counter drugs or herbs.  Enquire from the physician if there are other alternatives which are less addictive.
  • Check with the doctor constantly to ensure that the drug is effective and that you are using it properly.
  • Follow the instructions keenly. Take the medication as per the directions from the doctor.  Never change the dosage or stop on your own when it seems not to be working without consulting your doctor.  For instance, if you are taking pain killers and they are not relieving the pain, don’t increase the dosage or rather seek medical advice.
  • Get to know how the medicine works. Ask the pharmacist or the doctor about all the side effects that you might experience.  Know all the things that should be avoided when taking the drug.
  • Never consume another person’s medication. Every person is different, though you might be having the same medical condition. Her/his medication maybe not the right dosage or medicine for you.
  • Don’t purchase prescriptions online unless the pharmacy is trustworthy. Some websites sell non-prescription drugs and counterfeit medicines that can be very harmful.

Apart from tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs, there are other common abused substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, methamphetamine ecstasy, steroids, and inhalants.  The rate at which people are abusing substances is increasing gradually. Millions of people are abusing drugs, but millions are also recovering from substance abuse.

Many people abuse drugs to help them deal with problems, to make them relax or due to peer pressure.  Abusing of substances whether legal or illegal can lead to addiction and has potentially harmful effects to your health. Once you notice any signs of substance abuse seek medical attention. It is better to treat abuse than addiction.