Drug Use and Addiction
The abuse of narcotics is a growing concern for many nations acrossthe globe. Drug menace threatens the society and the futuregenerations. People turn to drug use for varied reasons, for example,for comfort against trauma and life challenges. The most abused drugsare alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin,and methamphetamine (Saitz, Palfai, Cheng, Alford et.al, 2014). Mostof the drugs on the list are illegal. Illicit trade in drugsthreatens the national security and therefore the need to investigateand cut the ring of drug dealers. In many instances, drug baronsoperate in a sophisticated structural organization to mask theiractivities from the authorities. In addition, narcotics dealers leadextravagant lifestyles while the victim`s life is turned upside down.The paper will discuss the effects of drug use and addiction.
Drug use is defined as the application of a chemical substance toevoke desired response in the recipient body. On the other hand,substance abuse is the misuse of chemicals. Both drug use and abusecan lead to addiction. If an individual becomes addicted to aparticular drug, they rely on it for their physical and emotionalwelfare (Abuse, 2013). In other words, it becomes an important partof the day-to-day life of an individual. Mainly, the moods of theperson are influenced by the use of the particular substance. Addiction is an undesirable effect of the drug use.
Reasons Why People Take Drugs
People give varied reasons why they consume drugs. For example, themajority of the abused drugs produce strong feelings of pleasure inthe individuals. Consequently, people cite the feel good effect asthe reason why they try drugs. Typically, the pleasure does not lastfor long and is followed by other undesirable effects like drowsinessand lack of coordination.
Individuals are faced with a myriad of life challenges, includingloss of the loved ones, homelessness, and rejection among others.People turn to the drug to nurse their emotional wounds. Therefore,the second reason why people try drug is to feel better. The studyshow, stress plays a significant role in influencing decisions ofindividuals to seek drug, relapses, and recovery from addiction (Wise& Koob, 2014).
Some other people use a drug to enhance their physical look orperformance. For example, steroids are taken with the aim ofimproving the physique of an individual. On the other hand,performance drugs are taken by athletes to enhance their strength incompetitions. People also use drugs to improve their cognitiveabilities (Wise & Koob, 2014). Therefore, people try drugs to dobetter. One leading factor in all types of substance abuse isinfluence from the peers. Initially, people just want to experimentwith the drug. In addition, they are trying to fit into their peergroups.
If the respondents in the survey were equivocal that drugs make themfeel better, it would appear there is no problem allowing drug use.In reality, the temporary euphoric effects of a drug blind people,once the feel good disappears the drugs get hold of a person`s life(Saitz, Palfai, Cheng, Alford et.al, 2014). As time goes, thepleasurable implications of the drug become mild, and the personconsumes drug just to be normal. At this point, the drug becomes anessential part of an individual life.
Mainly, the first decision to try drugs is voluntary. However, asthe dependency on substances increases the ability of a person tomake decisions is impaired. The inability of people to quit drugs isthe hallmark of drug addiction. Brain scans of individuals addictedto drugs show a reduced size of the regions of the brains chargedwith making judgment, behavior, and decision-making. Researchersbelieve changes in the scale of these sections of the brain mayexplain the destructive and impulsive behaviors of people addicted todrugs (Abuse, 2013).
Addiction is a disease just like any other. The abilities ofindividuals to handle or withstand impacts of an illness differ.Equally, people do not experience similar levels of addiction. Inother words, no threshold to which a person can become addicted to adrug. Some people may require subtle doses to get addicted to acertain drug (Wise & Koob, 2014). Others may need higher doses.The variance in addiction is attributed to the genetic make-up ofindividuals. Genes found in some people give them a comparativeadvantage. Typically, the higher the individual risks, the morelikely to fall into addiction.
The two important environmental factors that influence the chancesof a person to use a drug are family and peers. If the adults do notuse a drug or engage in violent activities, the likelihood of a childusing drugs is small. On the other hand, a child raised in a familywhere substance abuse and violence is a common practice developsinherent drug problems. The school environment especially the peersalso play a significant role in influencing a child to consume drugs.Friends and acquaintances can push people to try substances. Pooracademic performance and lack of social skills raise the odds of thechild leading to drug addiction (Wise & Koob, 2014).
According to studies, biological factors constitute 40% to 60%chances of an individual falling into drug addiction (Abuse, 2013).The factors include the environment, which influences the expressionof specific genes. The stage of development and other health issuesalso contribute to substance abuse. For example, adolescence andmental illness increases the chances of a person to abuse and getaddicted to drugs.
Other significant factors concern the method of administration andthe early use of narcotics. Research shows, the earlier a personstart to use a drug, the higher their chances of developing anaddiction. The findings illustrate the adverse effects of the drugson a developing brain. The route of administration also influencesthe level of dependency (Wise & Koob, 2014). Drugs that aresmoked or injected increase the risks of addiction.
The increased risks of substance abuse and addiction in adolescencecan be traced back to the stages of the brain development. Thepre-frontal cortex, which is charged with making decisions andkeeping the body emotions under control, is still developing duringadolescence. In fact, scientists believe the pre-frontal lobes onlystop developing at the age of 21 (Conrad, Bradley, Broz, Buddhaet.al, 2015). Unfortunately, lack of proper development in thiscritical part of the brain puts teenagers at the risks of makingwrong judgments. Consequently, they fall into drug use and eventualaddiction.
The risks of drug use considerably increase during the times oftransition. For example, in adults, divorce or lack of money canlead to drug use. For the teenagers, things like changing schools mayresult in substance abuse. Moreover, when children transition fromelementary school to high school, they face a new challenging life(Dietz, Striegel, Franke, Lieb et.al, 2013). The new social andacademic challenge may push adolescents to try drugs. Furthermore, inhigh school, drugs are more available which increases the risks ofuse and addiction.
Using drugs at teenage can have an adverse impact on the developmentof the brain. Notably, some sections of the brain are stilldeveloping at this stage. Drug use at teenage interferes with areasof the brain involved in motivation, memory, learning and judgment.Consequently, teens who abuse drug have poor academic performance andhealth.
Evidence-Based Management of Drug Addiction
The method relies on data provided by current research to manage andtreat cases of addiction. Notably, the methods have been rigorouslytested and proved to produce desirable results. Years of researchhave helped scientists to develop programs that balance the risks andprotective measures of drug abuse (Dart, Surratt, Cicero, Parrinoet.al, 2015).
The method boosts protective measures of drug addiction and triesto eliminate the risk factors. The programs are designed fordifferent ages, so that specific risks factors of a group areidentified and addressed. The programs are grouped into threecategories. First, is the universal plan, which is designed to reducethe risks factors of any child at a particular setting. On the otherhand, selective strategies focus on groups of teens who are atincreased rate of risks (Abuse, 2013). Lastly, programs that aredesigned for youths already using drugs are called indicatedprograms.
A study shows effective use of research-based programs can reduceinstances of tobacco and alcohol consumption among the young people.Furthermore, the plans help teachers and parents influence theperception of the youth on substance abuse. Typically, if the youthperceive drug use to be harmful, they avoid them.
How Drugs Work
The brain communicates through neurons, which are distributedthroughout the body. The communication between neurons is throughchemicals called neurotransmitters. Any interference on the chemicaltransmitter can affect the brain communication system (Dietz,Striegel, Franke, Lieb et.al, 2013). Drugs target these chemicals toeither enhance or reduce their impacts on the brain. For example,some chemicals found in marijuana and heroin mimics the structure ofnatural neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The analogs act byfooling the receptors. Once they bind to the receptors, they activateit and triggers nerve impulses. Since the messenger is not thenatural neurotransmitter, the messages sent across the network areabnormal and evoke unusual behaviors in the individual. Furthermore,the signals are over amplified leading to overstimulation of thenerves.
Dopamine is a hormone produced within the brain reward regions andwhich gives a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. Most drugs targetthe reward centers of the brain to exert their impact. The drugfloods the regions and stimulates overproduction of dopamine.Consequently, the individual gets pleasurable feelings (Abuse, 2013).If the drug is overused, it causes euphoric effects, which encouragesdrug use. The user is influenced to repeat the utilization of thedrug. Therefore, addiction develops from increased drug dosage toachieve the euphoric feel.
The brain is wired to store and remember activities that attractrewards. Therefore, when dopamine is released, it reminds the body toundertake other activities that bring joy. Consider for example asituation where somebody wins a promotion, immediately, the personwants to celebrate with friends. The process occurs whenever rewardis received. The similar process appears with the drug. The brain istaught to remember the process again leading to addiction (Wise &Koob, 2014).
Classes of Abused Drugs
Anabolic steroids are a class of medications that are often used toenhance muscle building. Steroids are dangerous and are rarelyprescribed to pregnant women due to the possibility of intoxicatingthe fetus. Steroids interact freely with the cell membrane and gainentrance into the cell nuclear. If the chemicals contained in thesteroids interact with the chromosomes, it can lead to mutation andcancers in the individuals (Abuse, 2013). Steroids can also directly,affect body hormones such as testosterone. For example, the hormoneis responsible for the rough voice in men. However, people who usesteroids for muscle building develop a soft feminine voice.
Another class is amphetamines. The drugs appear in many forms bothlegal and illegal. The prescription form of amphetamines includesRitalin, which is a central nervous stimulant. The drug can be usedto treat people with hyperactive nerve impulses (Wise & Koob,2014). The illegal forms of the drugs are crystal meth. Notably, anoverdose of amphetamines may lead to seizures and death.
Caffeine is an addictive drug found in tea and coffee and which issubconsciously abused. Caffeine is a stimulant drug meaning it firesup the brain. People who use caffeine display characters of alertnessand self-awareness. Obviously, such effects are desirable. However,heavy consumption of caffeine can lead to habit-forming (Dart,Surratt, Cicero, Parrino et.al, 2015). In addition, it causes anxietyand irritability in individuals. Importantly, it causes palpitationsand body tremors, which may cause heart failure.
Cocaine forms another class of illegally abused drug. Cocaine can besniffed, smoked or injected. The primary target of cocaine is thenervous system. The user gets a feeling of excitement and joy byusing cocaine. The drug is highly addictive, and individuals would doanything just to get cocaine. In some instances, one person injectsthe drug in high doses into the bloodstream. Others then draw bloodfrom him/her and inject themselves. Sadly, the practice exposes theuser to contraction of diseases such as HIV because of sharingcontaminated needles (Conrad, Bradley, Broz, Buddha et.al, 2015).Notably, an overdose of cocaine can lead to death.
Among the most abused class of drugs is marijuana. In Canada, 55% ofthe teens say they have used marijuana at some point in their life(Abuse, 2013). In the United States, the figures stand at 29 millionpeople. Research on the health benefits of marijuana has been goingon for several decades. Scientists agree that some chemicals such astetrahydrocannabinol have therapeutic effects on some mentally illpatient. However, other chemicals not well studied may negativelyaffect the health of the individual. Despite the government of theUnited States illegalizing marijuana in the early 1940s, it continuedcarrying out secret research on the therapeutic use of the drug.
In the United States, medical marijuana is legal in nearly half ofthe states. However, access differs from one state to the other. Theonerous regulations set by each state are meant to curb instances ofabuse. Marijuana can have negative impacts on the health and mentalwellbeing of an individual (Dart, Surratt, Cicero, Parrino et.al,2015). For example, it can lead to irritability and anxiety. Theusers also become increasingly violent. A study shows many violentconfrontations involve some level of marijuana abuse.
Other drugs that are becoming popular are ecstasy medications.Ecstasy drugs stimulate a feeling of love for others and care. Ifused correctly, they can help individuals cope with negative impactsof stress and other mood disorders. However, heavy use of the drugcan lead to elevated body temperatures to a point where an individualmay fall into a comma or die.
One scariest class of commonly abused drugs is hallucinogens. Peoplewho take the drugs experience a twisted reality. For example, peoplemay perceive precarious situations as safe and reasonable. On theother hand, activities that do not pose any danger to the people areseen to be very perilous (Volkow, Baler, Compton & Weiss, 2014).A person high in hallucinogens may jump from the top of a building.They perceive they have wings and can therefore fly. If there are nopeople around, the user may end up losing his/her life or causingharm to others. Examples of hallucinogens include marijuana andcocaine.
Opiates are a class of narcotics that suppresses an individualnervous system. Examples of the opiates include heroin, morphineamong others. The effective dose increases with each instance ofabuse to the point where it reaches the lethal dose (Volkow, Baler,Compton & Weiss, 2014). At this stage, the amount of the drug aperson needs to get high is equal to the dose that can cause death.Therefore, addiction to opiates can lead to death.
The use of sedative and hypnotic drugs is a growing concern in theUnited States. Hypnotics substantially depress the nervous system toa point where the brain almost ceases functioning. The braincontrols vital body processes such as breathing and heartbeat(Volkow, Baler, Compton & Weiss, 2014). If the brain gets overdepressed, breathing may stop resulting in the death of anindividual.
Examples of Addictive Drugs
More than halfof the population (53%) of the citizens identify as alcoholics(Dart,Surratt, Cicero, Parrino et.al, 2015). Therefore, roughly 159 millionpeople in America identify as drinkers. The figures are worrying forpolicymakers and agencies charged with combating drug abuse such asDrug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Scholars regardalcoholism, which is excessive use of alcohol as a disease.Importantly, there is a genetic link between alcohol consumption andaddiction. The environment influences the expression of the genes. Inother words, the presence of certain environmental factors stimulatesthe expression of alcoholic genes. One such environmental factor thathas been widely studied is the exposure to alcohol at the early age.Research shows, almost half of alcoholics took alcohol before thelegal age (Conrad, Bradley, Broz, Buddha et.al, 2015).
Heavy drinkingputs people at the risk of various health problems includingaddiction, liver damage, and cancers. The effects of alcohol varywith individuals such that some people are at greater risks thanothers are. The underlying cause of differences in the influence ofalcohol is the variations in the rate of metabolism (Volkow, Baler,Compton & Weiss, 2014). Like alluded earlier, alcoholism issuspected to be affected by genes. The genetic factors leading toaddiction seems to affect the enzymes that are involved in thecatabolism of alcohol (Ersche, Jones, Williams, Smith et. al, 2013).Some people express high levels of alcohol dehydrogenase compared toothers. Nutrition and the amount of alcohol drunk by a person(environmental factors) also influence the effects of alcohol on anindividual.
Alcohol isregarded as ethanol. The metabolism of ethanol involves an enzymecalled alcohol dehydrogenase that catalyzes the conversion of ethanolto acetaldehyde. The latter is acted upon by another enzyme calledaldehyde dehydrogenase and converted to acetate. The final product(acetate) joins the Krebs cycle where it is converted into energy(Hogarth, Balleine, Corbit & Killcross, 2013). Therefore, thebody can make energy by breaking down alcohol. The problem occurswhen there is excess consumption. In the instance of intoxication,the two enzymes (alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde) areoverworked (Dart, Surratt, Cicero, Parrino et.al, 2015).Consequently, harmful intermediate products accumulate in the body.An example of such intermediate product is acetaldehyde, which istoxic to the liver and the brain. The free electrons makeacetaldehyde very reactive. If it combines with other free radicalsin the cell, it may cause mutation and eventually cancer.
Notably, smallbreakdowns of alcohol occur in the muscles and the gastrointestinaltract in the cases of excessive consumption. Accumulation of theacetaldehyde in the liver and the muscles can lead to considerabledamages (Hogarth, Balleine, Corbit & Killcross, 2013). Mainly,it may cause the death of liver cells. Alcohol is associated withliver failure.
Researchers alsobelieve acetaldehyde is responsible for some errant behaviorsdisplayed by the alcoholics. For example, when acetaldehyde isadministered to the lab animals, they show impairment incoordination, memory loss, and sleepiness. Primarily, acetaldehydeaccumulates in the blood and reaches the brain (Behnke, Smith, &Committee on Substance Abuse, 2013). It can be deduced that once inthe brain, it exerts its negative impacts. Use of alcohol bypregnant women is of particular concern to healthcare officials. Lackof proper diet may lead to slow metabolism of alcohol in pregnantwomen and cause its accumulation (Dart, Surratt, Cicero, Parrinoet.al, 2015). The accumulation of alcohol in the maternal blood canimpede the fetus access to nutrients. The abuse of alcohol bypregnant women leads to slow fetal growth.
Several socialproblems occur because of alcohol abuse. For example, women who drinkexcessively become victims of alcohol-related violence. In addition,married couples may exhibit violent behaviors due to alcoholintoxication (Hogarth, Balleine, Corbit & Killcross, 2013). Children are also subjected to violence when a couple drinksexcessively. Notably, the emotional status of the children becomesnegatively affected, and they develop mistrust, ambivalence, fear andinsecurity.
The abuse ofalcohol may also lead to loss of productivity and dismissal from thejob. In 2010, alcohol abuse cost the United States government $ 249billion (Dietz, Striegel, Franke, Lieb et.al, 2013). In addition,alcoholism is the leading cause of homelessness. Tackling the problemis central to safeguarding the interests of the future generations.
Lastly, tobaccois a legal drug that is also widely abused. In 2012, 69.5 millionAmericans aged 12 years and above were active users of tobacco. Therate of use is highest in the 21-25 age brackets (Ersche, Jones,Williams, Smith et. al, 2013). The primary chemical in tobacco isnicotine. In the body, there are two types of receptors, nicotinicand muscarinic. The effects of nicotine are felt in the nicotinicreceptors. Nicotine triggers continuous activation of the neurons.Consequently, the brain of the individual becomes hyperactive.Tobacco is considered a stimulant drug due to its impacts on thenerve cells.
Adverse effectsof tobacco abuse are felt at the personal level and relate to thehealth of the smoker. Tobacco is the leading cause of lung and throatcancers. Other problems relate to the withdrawal effects of smoking,which are extremely harsh.
It is no secretthat the United States is the target market for many drug dealers.The government through agencies such as DEA has taken bold steps toarrest drug baron and end the cycle of suffering. Two schools ofthoughts exist concerning the efforts of the government to tackle thenarcotic problem (Volkow, Baler, Compton & Weiss, 2014). Onegroup holds that drug use is a personal decision of an individual andthe government should not interfere in such judgments. The othergroup strongly advocates the participation of the government toarrest and charge drug lords.
The substantialargument advanced by the latter is that drugs are the primary causeof violence in the streets and neighborhoods. If the government doesnothing to arrest the problem, the drug barons will overrun thecountry leading to anarchy. Primarily, the group looks at substanceabuse as an existential threat to the national security. People whosupport freedoms to use drug cite privacy and personal rights.Simply, each citizen should be free to make independent decisionswithout undue influence from the state (Ersche, Jones, Williams,Smith et. al, 2013). Regardless of the side of the discussion,everybody agrees drug addiction is a problem that requires urgentattention. The disagreement occurs on how it should be approached.Some people advocate for illegal drugs to become legal while othersemphasize on the need to criminalize legal drugs such as alcohol andtobacco.
In conclusion,drug addiction is a disease. Protective measures that reduce therisks of drug use are the best approaches to combating the problem ofdrug dependency. Adolescence is the stage in which young people arelikely to take drugs. However, evidence-based management systems canbe employed to develop programs that prevent the teenagers from usingdrugs. Apart, from the age, biological and environmental factorsinfluence the rate of drug use. The environmental factors includefamily and peer groups in school. Parents and teachers should takesteps to ensure the environment is safe for the child.
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