Drug Abuse: Causes, Effects & Solutions

There are several reasons why drug usage soon gets changed to drug abuse. At a very basic level this happens because the person concerned feels a desperate need to deal with stress, to get a momentary high or to just ‘fit in’ with his or her peers, as happens in the case of youngsters. It soon reaches a stage where this need becomes much more than other needs in life and the person begins to believe their survival depends on those drugs.

One of the major reasons for drug abuse – and this is specially applicable for youngsters doing drugs – is its presence, and at times glorification, in popular media such as television series and films. Quite often it so happens that doing drugs is romanticized and some fictional positive aspects of the same are shown. Thus it becomes a thrilling and seductive affair for youngsters who can be misguided easily because of their relative lack of experience in life. At times, the knowledge of risk factors related to drug abuse can also lure people into using these harmful substances. In certain instances people gain this knowledge from their own families or immediate surroundings and are obviously driven – due to some reason or the other – to give it a try and before they know it, it becomes an addiction.

Effects of drug abuse

The most major impact of drug abuse is on the brain, which consequentially affects every other aspect of life of the person addicted to drugs. Drugs are primarily chemicals that affect the communication system of the human brain. They disturb the ways in which nerve cells send, process and receive information. There are a couple of ways in which drugs achieve this – they copy the natural chemical messengers of the human brain and they overstimulate the brain’s reward circuit. Drugs such as heroin and marijuana are structured in the same way as chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.

These neurotransmitters are produced naturally by the human brain. As a result of this similarity, the drugs can fool the receptors of human brain and activate the nerve cells in such a way that they send some abnormal messages. In case of drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine, the nerve cells get activated and they release extraordinarily large volumes of neurotransmitters. They are also capable of preventing the brain from recycling these chemicals in a normal manner. A normal level of production is necessary in order to end the signal between neurons.

This disruption leads to a message that is highly amplified and this in turn disrupts the normal ways in which the brain communicates. Almost all the drugs use dopamine in order to target the reward system of the brain. Dopamine can be defined as a neurotransmitter that can be found in the areas of brain that control phenomena such as movement, motivation, emotion and various feelings such as pleasure. A most famous example of eating disorder owing to drug abuse is that of Diego Maradona, who had gained weight before the 1994 World Cup because of his drug abuse. He was weighing in the region of 94 kilos but soon reduced it to 77 kilos through hard work and determination and played an important role in the team’s qualification for the tournament proper.

Drug abuse manifests itself in euphoric behaviour by the user – and at most times unnaturally so. This leads to a sequence where the users keep on repeating the same action of drug abuse. When this pattern continues the brain tries to adapt to the usage by reducing its own dopamine production as well as dopamine receptors. The user tries to adapt to this through drug abuse so that his or her dopamine production level can be brought back to a level that seems normal to him or her.

Solution to drug abuse

Prevention is one of the ways in which drug abuse can be dealt with. In fact it is one affliction that can be easily prevented according to medical experts and practitioners. Prevention programmes involving entities such as families, schools and the immediate communities are important in this regard. Media – especially the entertainment segment – also needs to understand its role in this context and play a positive role by resisting the urge to earn millions by romanticizing and glorifying drug abuse. It needs to highlight the damning consequences of drug abuse. It is important that the youth are made to feel that drug usage itself is harmful in every conceivable way and only then will they stop using them and prevent others in their peer group from doing the same.

Sustained treatment is the only option for people who have already gone down the road of drug abuse and are highly into it. The treatment for a drug abuser normally depends on the kind of drug that the person has been using. It is said that the best treatments normally emphasize on phenomena related to the individual’s life. This includes areas such as medical, psychological and work-related needs as well as issues in relationships with other people in the person’s life. The treatment sessions combine medication and behavioural therapy so that the victim of drug abuse gradually stops feeling the urge to do drugs. These treatment programmes also impart the skills and capability required in order to say no to drugs in the future, which is highly critical for a complete cure to drug abuse.

Studies stating 90 % of the Delhi street children are addicted to drugs

According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, 46,410 cases of substance abuse by street children were reported in Delhi last year. The cases of consumption of drug substances during the year were-heroin (840), opium (420), pharmaceutical opioids (210), and sedatives (210). These figures were based on a recent study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The NGO ‘Save the Children’ stated that about 50,923 children live on the streets of Delhi in 2011. Out of these, 46,411 children were addicted to drugs.

As per the records of the National Crime Records Bureau, 53 and 34 unnatural deaths of children below 18 years were recorded due to a drug overdose during 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Initiatives to fight against Drug Abuse

  • The Haryana Government implemented a scheme titled ‘Central Sector Scheme of Assistance for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse’ to curb the issue of drug abuse. Under this scheme, a financial assistance was given to the eligible NGOs, Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies by the government, which in turn will provide integrated services for the rehabilitation of addicts. An advisory was issued by the government to all states and UTs asking them to take measures for the prevention of substance abuse among children.
  • Charitar Nirman Sewadar Trust, an NGO engaged in de-addiction and social reformation stated that about 80 percent of the prisoners in Tihar are addicted to either tobacco, ganja, smack or alcohol. It suggested that there is a need for more counselors in the jail to tackle depression among the prisoners who consorted to drugs because of it.
  • CHETNA is an NGO which runs an unofficial recreation center for children inside the Nizamuddin Police Station. They mainly focus on developing friendly relations between the police and street children who are more susceptible to drugs and crime.
  • The Delhi AIDS Control Society (DACS) suggested a plan in which more than 400 medical officers working in 260 Delhi government dispensaries and 150 specialists working in 32 Delhi government hospitals will be trained on a long-term basis at the Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS) as there was a scarcity of psychiatrists and trained manpower to tackle patients of drug abuse. They also advised keeping a strict check on the sale and purchase of addictive medicines available in pharmacies. The licenses of 20 shops had been canceled in 2016 who sold such harmful drugs.
    The Delhi Zonal Unit of the Narcotics Control Bureau suggested to utilize stakeholders like the Police, Excise, Customs, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in the fight against grug abuse who have the equal power as per the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The body also stressed on the need to implement Section 64 of the NDPS Act, which states: ‘Immunity from prosecution to addicts volunteering for treatment, provided that the said immunity from prosecution may be withdrawn if the addict does not undergo the complete treatment for de-addiction’.

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Please note: This article has been written by Samudranil on June 19, 2017 The information contained in this article has been recently updated.

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Drug Abuse: Causes and Solutions
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One of the major reasons for drug abuse – and this is specially applicable for youngsters doing drugs – is its presence, and at times glorification, in popular media such as television series and films.