You Ought To Know
· Drug is a substance that modifies one or more of the living functions.
· “Drug Addiction” is a stage of periodic and chronic intoxication produced by the repeated consumption of a drug.
· Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, alcohol, heroin are commonly used drugs.
· Drugs affect the well being of an individual both physically and mentally.
· Loss of motivation, moodiness, and paranoid behaviour may be a few manifestations of addiction.
· Drugs that are used to start with before moving on to more severe substances are called ‘gateway drugs’.
· Medical care followed by the changes in environment is step towards treatment.
What is a drug?
What is addiction?
What are the common causes of drug use during adolescence?
How to identify a young person who he is addicted to drugs?
Is drug de-addiction possible?
What is a drug?
A person who is sick takes drugs to recover from illness. According to the World Health Organisation, drug is any substance which when taken into the living organism may modify one or more of its functions.
What is Addiction?
Addiction or dependence is defined as a "cluster of three or more symptoms listed below occurring at any time in the same 12 month period "(American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p.176). Those symptoms are:
- Tolerance or needing more & more of a substance to achieve the same effect
- Withdrawal, which involves unpleasant symptoms when the body is deprived of the substance
- Taking the substance for a longer period of time or in larger amounts than originally intended
- Unsuccessful desire to minimize use of the substance vis-à-vis much time spent to obtain, use or recover from the effects of the substance
- Social, occupational, or recreational activities are missed
- Substance use in continued despite knowledge that it is causing problems
WHO defines “Drug Addiction” as a stage of periodic and chronic intoxication detrimental to the individual and to society, produced by the repeated consumption of a drug (natural or synthetic). Its characteristics include:
- An overpowering desire, a need (compulsion) to continue taking drugs and to obtain it by any means.
- A tendency to increase the dose.
- A psychic (psychological) and sometimes a physical dependence on the effects of the drugs.
What are the common causes of drug use during adolescence?
Friends tend to influence in the intake of drugs as several studies in Delhi done among young drug users have shown that peer influence, curiosity and experimentation with the substance, together constitute the cause of the beginning of drug usage among more than 60 per cent of the young drug user who had no family history of drug abuse.
While there is a strong positive correlation between the family history of drug abuse and the individual drug use pattern, most of the adolescents, however, initiate their drug using habits due to external factors. These factors are as follows:
- Experimental use: This kind of use typically starts with an exploratory or experimental use of the drug, out of sheer curiosity, i.e., just to know how it tastes or how does one feel after taking it. Influence of friends and peers may or may not play a role for initiation into drug using habits.
- Peer Influence: This kind of use typically involves a peer group that is involved with drugs. An adolescent may be pressurised to use a drug to maintain peer group norms, or in order to prove himself or herself, or to show that s/he is not different from the rest of the peer group members, or in order to achieve a sense of recognition and status among the group members.
- Recreational use: In some cases, young people get introduced to gateway drugs, especially alcohol, on a festival, or a celebration of a special occasion. This kind of initiation might be a standard norm for many peer groups, especially those students living in hostels, away from their families. Once they are initiated into the gateway drugs, their vulnerability of moving towards dangerous substances increases. They are also called casual or occasional users, social and chance factors are still predominant.
- Drug use due to negative emotions: A person may start taking drugs in order to counter the negative feelings, like depression, frustration and sadness. Many young people report that they started taking drugs after being rejected in love. These are similar to compulsive users-they are often described as immature, as suffering from various kinds and degrees of psychopathology, as unwilling to face and seek solutions to problems that other people solve, as alienated, as suffering from character disorders. Thus they are people with problems that they seek to respond to through the use of drugs.
Which are some of the commonly used drugs?
Some of the commonly used drugs include:
- Amphetamines and cocaine- Amphetamines are synthetic drugs that are medically used to treat obesity, mild depression and certain behaviour disorders in children. They produce mood elevation, elation, a feeling of well-being and increased alertness and a sense of heightened awareness. Cocaine is derived from the leaves of the cocoa plant and produces a sense of excitement, heightened and distorted awareness and hallucinations.
- Barbiturates- These are major ingredients in sleeping pills as they have sedative properties. The addiction to barbiturates is one of the worst forms of suffering as it leaves to craving and both physical and psychological dependence.
- Cannabis- Perhaps the most widely used form of drugs today is cannabis and their most common reaction is the development of a dreamy state of altered consciousness. In U.S.A the term marijuana is used to refer to any part of the plant, which induces somatic and psychic changes in an individual. Relaxation, euphoria, and an increased tendency to laugh, greater awareness of colours and sounds, interference with perception of both time and space, and paranoia are among the psychological effects reported by marijuana users.
- Heroin- Addiction to heroin produces craving. To narcotics like this tolerance occurs rapidly, making it necessary to take increasing doses of the drug to achieve the same effect.
- LSD- Lycergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a potent psychotogenic agent that alters the normal structuring of perception. There is intensification of colour perception and auditory acuity, body image distortions, visual illusions, fantasies, pseudo hallucinations. Colours are heard and music becomes palpable. Subjective time is deranged so that seconds seem to be minutes and minutes pass as slowly as hours.
- Alcohol- Alcohol has a marked effect on the central nervous system. It is not a “stimulant” as long believed, but a primary and continuous depressant. Alcohol produces psychic dependence of varying degrees from mild to strong. Physical dependence develops slowly. Evidence shows that alcohol causes acute intoxication, and is an important etiologic factor in suicide, automobile and other accidents and injuries and deaths due to violence.
- Tobacco- Use of tobacco in public places has been banned in many countries, yet there are people who openly defy the ban by regular usage in public. Tobacco causes far more deaths than all other psychoactive substances. Young people who take to smoking have a greater risk of life threatening diseases like chronic bronchitis, cough, shortness of breath, heart diseases and lung cancer. The withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, and craving, sleep problems, headache, tremors and lethargy. These may continue for 4-6 weeks.
- Volatile solvents- In a number of countries, the sniffing of substances such as glue, petrol, paint thinner, cleaning fluids, typewriter correction fluid etc. is causing increasing concern, as it can result in death, even on the first occasion. There may be initial euphoria and exhilaration, followed by confusion, disorientation and ataxia (loss of balance during walking).
- Caffeine- Caffeine is one of the most commonly used drug worldwide. Tea, cocoa and cola drinks also contribute to an intake of caffeine that is often very high in a large number of people. Symptoms of caffeinism include anxiety, agitation, restlessness, insomnia and somatic symptoms referable to the heart and gastrointestinal tract. Withdrawal from caffeine can produce headache, irritability, lethargy and occasional nausea.
How to identify a young person who he is addicted to drugs?
As a person starts taking drugs, certain behavioral changes can be noticed. Parents, family members and friends should be alert to notice the changes in the behaviour in order to tackle the problem effectively. Certain common behaviour changes are as follows:
- An addict may begin to isolate himself/herself from friends and family. There is a change in overall attitude/personality with no other identifiable causes. Changes in friends, new hangouts, and sudden avoidance of old friends, maybe due to changed peer group to one that includes regular drug users and takes pride in noting increased tolerance and ability to handle the drug.
- A loss of motivation manifested by indifference towards school and work. There maybe a sudden drop in grades at school or performance at work. There is a tendency to skip school/college/work. S/he may also be less attentive at work. Forgetfulness also increases.
- Sudden over-sensitivity, temperamental or resentful behaviour. Moodiness, irritability, or nervousness.
- Secretive or suspicious behaviour increases. A lot of time maybe spent in the bathroom. Excessive need for privacy. Change in activities and hobbies.
- Paranoia increases - cannot face daily routine without aid of drugs.
- Continued denial of the addiction, often even to oneself.
- Deteriorating physical condition- especially loss of weight becomes prominent.
It is important to keep in mind that if a person shows any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that s/he is using drugs. The presence of some of these behaviors could be the product of normal adolescent stress. Others maybe symptoms of depression or other such problems. Whatever the cause, they warrant attention, especially if they occur in a cluster or persist.
What are Gateway Drugs?
Gateway drugs are those, which are used to start with, before moving on to use increasingly dangerous substances. For example, an adolescent might start with cigarettes and other tobacco products, go on to alcohol and marijuana, and finally to other more dangerous and addictive drugs. When teens start to use nicotine, alcohol and marijuana, one cannot predict who will go on to use the other more dangerous drugs.
Two important conclusions have been drawn about adolescent substance abuse pattern
· First, the earlier a teen starts using cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, the greater the likelihood that s/he will use other illicit drugs.
· Second, the more frequently a teen uses cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, the greater the likelihood that the teen will use the other drugs.
In general, it is found that teens that used all the three substances were over 30 percent more likely to use other illicit drugs as compared to teens that reported using none of these substances. For these reasons, alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are referred to as gateway drugs to other illicit drug use.
Is drug deaddiction possible? Can a person overcome this habit?
Yes! Drug addiction is a serious and complicated health condition that requires both physiological and psychological treatment and support. Success in becoming drug free is best achieved through formal programs in conjunction with community-based support programs offered by many NGOs in different cities, such as Sharan, Sahara, and Navjyoti, in Delhi. There are many other NGO initiatives in Mumbai, kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Shillong. These centres offer a residential drug substitution programme (such as Brupenorphine or Methadone substitution). These treatment programs usually monitor and address the withdrawal symptoms/behaviors, such as, severe pain. They also include psychotherapeutic treatments for the affected person (and perhaps family) and in-group settings; have a prolonged after-care component; and facilitate peer support.
Treatment cannot take place unless the individual attends for treatment. He or she must come to terms with the possibility of a life without drug taking. Unfortunately, drug takers, as a rule, have little or no motivation to undergo treatment. They usually openly defend their habits. Long-term treatment is not only a medical problem but needs the cooperation of psychologists and sociologists.
Though drug addiction may be considered as a social problem, the first step in its management is medical care, which includes:
· Identification of drug addicts and their motivation for detoxication
· Detoxication (requires hospitalization)
· Post detoxication counseling and follow up (based on clinic and home visits) and
Simultaneously with medical treatment, changes in environment (home, school, college, social circles) are important. The patient must affect a complete break with this group, otherwise the chances of relapse are 100 percent. Psychotherapy has a valuable place in the management of an addict.
Rehabilitation- The rehabilitation of former drug user, regardless of age, is in most frequent cases a long and difficult process. Relapses are very frequent. Success of the treatment necessitates the adoption of mature and realistic attitude by the local community and the avoidance of panic, moral condemnation and discrimination. Facilities for vocational training and sometimes the provision of sheltered work opportunities are useful in rehabilitation and help to prevent relapse.