Table of Contents
Drugs and Alcohol Abuse – Effects of Drug/Alcohol Abuse – Prevention and Control.
Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
- The drugs, which are commonly abused are opioids, cannabinoids and coca alkaloids.
- Majority of these are obtained from flowering plants. Some are obtained from fungi.
- Opioids are the drugs, which bind to specific opioid receptors present in our central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract.
- Heroin, commonly called smack is chemically diacetylmorphine which is a white, odourless, bitter crystalline compound. This is obtained by acetylation of morphine, which is extracted from the latex of poppy plant Papaver somniferum. Generally taken by snorting and injection, heroin is a depressant and slows down body functions.
- Cannabinoids are a group of chemicals, which interact with cannabinoid receptors present principally in the brain.
- Natural cannabinoids are obtained from the inflorescences of the plant Cannabis sativa. The flower tops, leaves and the resin of cannabis plant are used in various combinations to produce marijuana, hashish, charas and ganja. Generally taken by inhalation and oral ingestion, these are known for their effects on cardiovascular system of the body.
- These days cannabinoids are also being abused by some sportspersons.
- Coca alkaloid or cocaine is obtained from coca plant Erythroxylum coca, native to South America. It interferes with the transport of the neuro-transmitter dopamine.
- Cocaine, commonly called coke or crack is usually snorted. It has a potent stimulating action on central nervous system, producing a sense of euphoria and increased energy. Excessive dosage of cocaine causes hallucinations.
- Other well-known plants with hallucinogenic properties are Atropa belladona and
- Drugs like barbiturates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, lysergic acid diethyl amides (LSD), and other similar drugs, that are normally used as medicines to help patients cope with mental illnesses like depression and insomnia, are often abused.
- Morphine is a very effective sedative and painkiller, and is very useful in patients who have undergone surgery.
- Several plants, fruits and seeds having hallucinogenic properties have been used for hundreds of years in folk-medicine, religious ceremonies and rituals all over the globe. When these are taken for a purpose other than medicinal use or in amounts/frequency that impairs one’s physical, physiological or psychological functions, it constitutes drug abuse.
- Smoking also paves the way to hard drugs. Tobacco has been used by human beings for more than 400 years. It is smoked, chewed or used as a snuff. Tobacco contains a large number of chemical substances including nicotine, an alkaloid.
- Nicotine stimulates adrenal gland to release adrenaline and nor-adrenaline into blood circulation, both of which raise blood pressure and increase heart rate.
- Smoking is associated with increased incidence of cancers of lung, urinary bladder and throat, bronchitis, emphysema, coronary heart disease, gastric ulcer, etc.
- Tobacco chewing is associated with increased risk of cancer of the oral cavity. Smoking increases carbon monoxide (CO) content in blood and reduces the concentration of haembound oxygen. This causes oxygen deficiency in the body.
- When one buys packets of cigarettes one cannot miss the statutory warning that is present on the packing which warns against smoking and says how it is injurious to health. Yet, smoking is very prevalent in society, both among young and old.
- Knowing the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco, and its addictive nature, the youth and old need to avoid these habits. Any addict requires counselling and medical help to get rid of the habit.
Pic Credits: Nwdrugtaskforce
Effects of Drug/Alcohol Abuse
- The immediate adverse effects of drugs and alcohol abuse are manifested in the form of reckless behavior, vandalism and violence.
- Excessive doses of drugs may lead to coma and death due to respiratory failure, heart failure or cerebral hemorrhage.
- A combination of drugs or their intake along with alcohol generally results in overdosing and even deaths.
- The most common warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse among youth include drop in academic performance, unexplained absence from school/college, lack of interest in personal hygiene, withdrawal, isolation, depression, fatigue, aggressive and rebellious behaviour, deteriorating relationships with family and friends, loss of interest in hobbies, change in sleeping and eating habits, fluctuations in weight, appetite, etc.
- There may even be some far-reaching implications of drug/alcohol abuse. If an abuser is unable to get money to buy drugs/alcohol he/she may turn to stealing.
- The adverse effects are just not restricted to the person who is using drugs or alcohol. At times, a drug/alcohol addict becomes the cause of mental and financial distress to his/her entire family and friends.
- Those who take drugs intravenously (direct injection into the vein using a needle and syringe), are much more likely to acquire serious infections like AIDS and hepatitis B.
- The viruses, which are responsible for these diseases, are transferred from one person to another by sharing of infected needles and syringes.
- Both AIDS and Hepatitis B infections are chronic infections and ultimately fatal. AIDS can be transmitted to one’s life partner through sexual contact while Hepatitis B is transmitted through infected blood .
- The use of alcohol during adolescence may also have long-term effects. It could lead to heavy drinking in adulthood. The chronic use of drugs and alcohol damages nervous system and liver (cirrhosis). The use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy is also known to adversely affect the foetus.
- Another misuse of drugs is what certain sportspersons do to enhance their performance. They (mis)use narcotic analgesics, anabolic steroids, diuretics and certain hormones in sports to increase muscle strength and bulk and to promote aggressiveness and as a result increase athletic performance.
- The side-effects of the use of anabolic steroids in females include masculinization (features like males), increased aggressiveness, mood swings, depression, abnormal menstrual cycles, excessive hair growth on the face and body, enlargement of clitoris, deepening of voice.
- In males it includes acne, increased aggressiveness, mood swings, depression, reduction of size of the testicles, decreased sperm production, potential for kidney and liver dysfunction, breast enlargement, premature baldness, enlargement of the prostate gland. These effects may be permanent with prolonged use.
- In the adolescent male or female, severe facial and body acne, and premature closure of the growth centers of the long bones may result in stunted growth.
Prevention and Control
- The age-old adage of ‘prevention is better than cure’ holds true here also. It is also true that habits such as smoking, taking drug or alcohol are more likely to be taken up at a young age, more during adolescence. Hence, it is best to identify the situations that may push an adolescent towards use of drugs or alcohol, and to take remedial measures well in time. In this regard, the parents and the teachers have a special responsibility.
- Parenting that combines with high levels of nurturance and consistent discipline, has been associated with lowered risk of substance (alcohol/drugs/tobacco) abuse. Some of the measures mentioned here would be particularly useful for prevention and control of alcohol and drugs abuse among adolescents
- Avoid undue peer pressure – Every child has his/her own choice and personality, which should be respected and nurtured. A child should not be pushed unduly to perform beyond his/her threshold limits; be it studies, sports or other activities.
- Education and counselling – Educating and counselling him/ her to face problems and stresses, and to accept disappointments and failures as a part of life. It would also be worthwhile to channelize the child’s energy into healthy pursuits like sports, reading, music, yoga and other extracurricular activities.
- Seeking help from parents and peers – Help from parents and peers should be sought immediately so that they can guide appropriately. Help may even be sought from close and trusted friends. Besides getting proper advise to sort out their problems, this would help young to vent their feelings of anxiety and guilt.
- Looking for danger signs – Alert parents and teachers need to look for and identify the danger signs discussed above. Even friends, if they find someone using drugs or alcohol, should not hesitate to bring this to the notice of parents or teacher in the best interests of the person concerned. Appropriate measures would then be required to diagnose the malady and the underlying causes. This would help in initiating proper remedial steps or treatment.
- Seeking professional and medical help – A lot of help is available in the form of highly qualified psychologists, psychiatrists, and de-addiction and rehabilitation programmes to help individuals who have unfortunately got in the quagmire of drug/alcohol abuse. With such help, the affected individual with sufficient efforts and will power, can get rid of the problem completely and lead a perfectly normal and healthy life.