In both cities and rural areas, young people and adults can be seen who have unsound minds. They wander about, sometimes begging for food or money. As they talk to themselves or to others, it can be noticed that they are mentally ill. In the neighborhood where they live, those who know them well can trace their problems back to excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages, smoking and use of drugs such as marijuana.
Unfortunately, in spite of such evidence of the harmful effects of drugs, healthy people still join in taking drugs. Drug abuse is not limited to any one country. All over the world, the control of illegal trafficking in drugs is a hard task for governments. Those who engage in illegal trade in drugs are determined to continue because they make big profit.
In this article drugs are described and classified. The harmful effects of drug and substance abuse are discussed.
A drug any substance, other than food, that chemical or physical nature, can affect the structure or functions in a living organism.
When drugs are administered under proper medical supervision they can serve three objectives, namely
i) to relieve suffering,
minds. They wander about, sometimes
ii) to combat disease, and
begging for food or money. As they talk to
iii) to save life.
themselves or to others, it can be noticed that However, when drugs are misused or abused, they can be harmful to the human body or even cause death.
Drug and substance
Drug misuse means
i) the use of a drug for a purpose or condition for which it is not suited; or
ii) the use of a drug for an appropriate purpose but in improper dosage.
Drug abuse on the other hand, means the excessive or persistent use of a drug without regard to accepted medical practice.
The term substance abuse is more inclusive than drug abuse and is used to cover the abuse of all substances, whether they are drugs or not.
Substances which are abused include sugar and soft drinks.
Causes of Drug Abuse
There are several causes of drug abuse. The most important cause varies from one person to another. Some of the common causes are briefly described below.
Some young people start taking drugs as a result of a desire to find out how it feels to take drugs. Curiosity leads them to experiment. From repeated experiments, they become drug abusers.
Lack of self-confidence
A teenage boy may identify a teenage girl that he likes and wishes to befriend. However, he is shy, and lacks confidence in himself to talk with her and tell her how he feels about her.
To boost his self-confidence, the teenage boy decides to take some alcohol before each visit to the girl. This may lead to habitual taking of alcohol
Trying to fit in a peer group
A teenager may start smoking, taking alcohol or drugs in order to fit in with his peer group. Young people like to do what other persons of their age group do.
Search for excitement
Some people take drugs because it feels good and gives them some excitement.
Trying to have a grown-up feeling some youths take drugs because it gives them a feeling of being grown up.
Reduction of stress and frustration
Some persons start taking drugs when they are under stress or feel frustrated. Stress and frustration may arise from a broken marriage, a failed business including bankrupcy, death of a loved one, a quarrel between a teenager and his parents leading to the teenager’s fleeing from the home, maltreatment by a
stepmother, breakdown in health and other causes.
Classification of drugs
All drugs that affect the mind fall into
the following five groups: narcotics, seda
tranqulisers, stimulants and hallucino
fall into one of hallucinogens.
Narcotics are drugs that often blunt the sense. They also make people sleep and relieve pain. Narcotics which usually refer to opium and its derivatives, in large doses may cause a complete loss of the senses. Narcotics act as depressants to certain areas of the brain and parts of the nervous system. They can also reduce hunger, thirst sex drive in addition to pain.
In medicine, opium is used primarily as a
source of the drug morphine, Morphine is
used mainly to kill pain arising from accident or disease. It also controls coughing in diseases of the respiratory organs and induces a feeling
of euphoria or well being. It is the only narcotic drug that relieves pain in reasonably safe doses.
Side effects and abuse of opium
Much opium is grown commercially for sale to drug users. In 2005 Afghanistan produced about 87% of the opium in the world’s illegal drug market. When inhaled in smoke, it causes a drowsy loss of the senses. The addict first enjoys pleasant hallucinations, but later is rendered helpless for many hours.
Sedatives are a group of drugs used to relax the central nervous system and induce sleep.
When taken in small doses, they can redu
day-time tension and anxiety, Barbiturates are the largest subgroup of sedatives. Some of the barbiturates are short-acting and fast starting while some are slow-starting and long acum. These slow starting and long-acting sedative are the most abused.
Medically recommended doses of barbiturates are used to induce sleep, relieve tension, treat hypertenston, insomnia, convulsion, epilepsy and a variety of mental disorders.
They can be used as pre-surgery medication to calm patients whose mental or logical condition may be adversely affected by lears of surgery.
Excess doses taken over an extended period cause physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Sudden withdrawal of barbiturates from an abuser may cause some
of the following: weakness, tremors,
convulsion, hallucinations, delusions,
disorientation, confusion and other effects.
Stimulants are a group of drugs that excite the central nervous system. They include caffeine (present in coffee, tea and some soft drinks).
The effects of caffeine are mild. Strong
stimulants are amphetamine and cocaine.
Medically supervised doses of amphetamine are used to reduce fatigue, sleepiness, weight in weight reduction programmes. It is used to relieve a mild depression that sometimes accompanies menopause, convalescence, grief
Abuse of amphetamine may make individuals overactive, irritable, talkative, suspicious, withdrawn and unable to organise their
thinking. It may make one violent and
impulsive. Amphetamine abuse may have the following effects on body functions: increase heartbeat elevation of blood pressure, palpitations of the heart, dilation of the pupils,
profuse sweating and headache.
Cocaine is the only widely used local antaesthetic of plant origin, the
several syntheticons. An injection of cocaine deadens the response of nerve in small areas of the body to pain for a period up to one hour.
It is widely used in dentistry. Today Cocaine has been largely replaced by synthetic compounds which have a similar composition but are safe.
Side effects and abuse of cocaine
Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system to make the abuser excitable and talkative. It reduces fatigue, dialates the pupils, increases heart beat and blood pressure. Stimulation is usually followed by depression. Overdose causes death.
Indians in the high Andes chew coca
leaves. In small amounts, the drug is a
stimulant and improves the capacity for work.
When used constantly in this way, cocaine becomes addictive.
Tranquilisers are drugs that change or modify an individual’s emotional state or mood.
Tranquilisers are used to treat such conditions as anxiety, tension, alcoholism. Major trianquilisers are used to reduce symptoms of serious mental illness. Minor tranquilisers, such as valitan and librum are used to reduce tension and help individuals suffering from sleeplessness to sleep.
Hallucinogens are drugs capable of provoking changes of sensation, thinking, distorted perceptions, self awareness and emotions. They alter the user’s ability to separate fact from fantasy. The degree to which the user suffers from distorted perceptions, illusion, delusions and hallucinations depends on the dose of the drug taken. Examples of hallucinogens include LSD (Lysergic acid
diethyamide) and marijuana.
A person who uses a drug tends to use it again. After a long period of repeated use, the person not only uses it again and again, but becomes unable to do without it. The terms habituation, addiction and dependence are all used to describe this situation. The World Health Organisation and medical doctors prefer the word ‘dependence’ because it is more
inclusive than habituation or addiction, but legislative and legal authorities prefer the terms habituation and addiction which are terms used in laws.
One of the dangers in using drugs is therefore that while a person is being harmed by drug abuse, still the person cannot easily stop using the drug. Treatment of drug abuse therefore requires time, knowledge and skill.