Growing menace of substance/drug abuse

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By Ejenike Austin

THE abuse of supplement and substances has become a habitual conduct and basically a conventional behavior for the young/youth and some adults also indulge in this escapade.

There’s a fine line between regular drug use and drug abuse, While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed do not necessarily constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.

Very few drugs abusers or addict are able to recognize when they’ve crossed that line. If the drug fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. You may take illegal drugs to calm or energize yourself or make you more confident. You may start abusing prescription drugs to relieve pain, cope with panic attacks, or improve concentration at school or work.

If you are using drugs to fill a void in your life, you’re more at risk of crossing the line from casual drug use to drug abuse and addiction. To maintain a healthy balance in your life, you need to have positive experiences and feel good about your life without any drug use.

People often try drugs for the first time in social situations with friends and acquaintances. A strong desire to fit in to the group can make you feel like doing the drugs with them is the only option, but your drug use gradually increases over time. Smoking at a joint with friends over the weekend, or taking ecstasy at a rave, or painkillers when your back aches, for example, can change from using drugs a couple of days a week to using them every day. Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you.

You may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you may start to neglect social or family responsibilities. Your ability to stop using drugs is eventually compromised.

For instance, a medical student, Anthony Ani James, who lost his scholarship and the opportunity of becoming a medical practitioner, shares his story.

What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need for him.

“A mistake I would never forget, even in my grave,” he said. At the age of 21, he won a full scholarship to study medicine in the university, he indulged in this unconventional escapade of substance (marijuana) addiction/abuse peer group influence because friends are doing it, so he did same out of curiosity, not all favorable at first, but letter liked the feeling he got after, was no problem of addiction initially, because he only took a joint or two only when his friends called and wanted him to join them, saying it always makes him feel confident most times, also helps him sleep, makes him have this unknown motivation to be able to do anything he possibly could think of in those moments, helps him focus on anything he sets his mind on.

It all became more of an addiction when his group of friends then made it a sort of competition on who could take more dose and still be able to engage in reasonable conversation without acting funny, which he seemed to have perfected.

James became so addicted that he practically used it in his everyday lifestyle, he could consume half a bag of what is “commonly known/called the bible for those who know it” in most local areas in Nigeria. “It was one of the biggest deal for any one back then in 2012 to be able to take down the bible”, he said.

Becoming so addicted to marijuana that he used it in everything he eats and He cooks with it, puts it in his tea, even chews the seeds while he walks on the road, he was way too deep in the world of addiction. Before an examination, he takes them and most often during the examinations, he chews the seeds because it’s always in the front pocket of his shirt. “It helps him focus and recall,” he says.

James was about to write his MBBS examination then he arrived late to the examination hall, because he had to do just to his new inherent tradition (taking marijuana). He was being observed by an examiner as he entered the hall. While noticing the slight unconventional behavior, he was called out of the hall and asked series of questions before taking him to the school’s lab for drug test since the school has zero tolerance for drugs abuse.

While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain functions. This includes commonly abused prescription medications as well as recreational drugs.

Taking the drug causes a rush of the hormone dopamine in your brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.

When you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.

Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs.

No matter which drug you’re addicted to, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career and even your own health and happiness.

The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you’re taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.

With the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of drug use and regain control of your life. The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem, or listen to loved ones, who are often better able to see the negative effects drug use is having on your life.

Signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction

Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are similar. If you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, talk to someone about your drug use.

Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children).

Using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.

Experiencing legal trouble such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence or stealing to support a drug habit.

Problems in your relationships, such as fighting your partner or family members, unhappy boss or the loss of friends.

You’ve built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same affects you used to attain with smaller amounts.

You use to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.

Loss of control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.

Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, or recovering from the drug’s effects.

You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports and socializing because of your drug use.

You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life -blackouts, financial issues, infections, mood swings, depression, and paranoia-but you use anyway.

Physical signs

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral signs

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained financial problems; borrowing or stealing
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological signs

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

Signs of substance/drugs abuse

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.

Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.

Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.

Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior, including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.

Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Opioid painkillers (including OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco): Drooping eyes, constricted pupils even in dim light, sudden itching or flushing, slurred speech; drowsiness, lack of energy; inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, decline in performance at work or school; neglecting friendships and social activities.

Anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and hypnotics (including Xanax, Valium, Ambien): Contracted pupils; drunk-like, slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, clumsiness; poor judgment, drowsiness, slowed breathing.

Stimulants (including Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Dexedrine): Dilated pupils, reduced appetite; agitation, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature; insomnia, paranoia.

In recent years, prescription drug abuse has become an escalating problem, most commonly involving opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and stimulants. Many people start taking these drugs to cope with a specific medical problem—taking painkillers following injury or surgery, for example. However, over time, increased doses are needed to achieve the same level of pain relief and some users can become physically dependent, experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. One of the earliest warning signs of a developing problem is going through the medication at a faster-than-expected rate. In other cases, people start abusing medication not prescribed for them in order to experience a high, relieve tension, increase alertness, or improve concentration.

As with adults, teenage drug abuse isn’t limited to illegal drugs. In fact, teens are more likely to abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including painkillers, stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. In many cases, these drugs are much easier for teens to procure, yet they can have dangerous, even lethal, side effects.

While experimenting with any kind of drug doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction down the road. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse.

These include: To avoid developing problems with a prescription medication, it’s important to take it only as directed, use the lowest dose for the shortest period possible, and to talk to your doctor about other methods of treating the problem. Being aware of any signs of dependency can help identify prescription drug problems at an early stage and help to prevent them progressing into an addiction. This has always been and still is a public health issue of concern requiring urgent proactive measures to halt the increasing consequences on the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.

This article was reviewed by Dr. S. O. Ebede. Consultant Clinical Microbiologist/ Lecturer, Dept of Medical Microbiology, UNTH, Enugu.

_AUG 10, 2019 @16:33 GMT |

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