Updated: May 24, 2021
Drug Addiction Vs. Drug Abuse
Drug addiction is defined as a disease that hinders an individual’s ability to control the use of a legal drug or substance. In most cases, the morbidity influences the person to such an extent such that the person often fails to draw instinct and perform even diurnal activities. The urge to use the substance overrides the competency to protect themselves from harm. Addiction does not only include the use of substances like heroine, cocaine or marijuana. Drug addiction also includes alcohol, nicotine or opioid painkillers. Nevertheless, some drugs cause addiction more rapidly than others.
Drug abuse is the excessive and addictive use of non-medical or illegal substances. It also includes the use of legal substances in quantities or ways that are harmful and not permitted. Abuse isn’t necessarily associated with withdrawal symptoms. People may abuse substances intermittently without developing physical dependence on them.
To sum it up, addiction is the final stage in the progression from substance abuse to dependence.
Causes leading to Drug Addiction
Escape from emotional pain
Psychological conditions like depression, loneliness and anxiety are the ubiquitous causes leading to drug addiction. People resort to drugs as a means to an escape from emotional pain. Although drugs usually assuage the mind temporarily, their addiction leads to more complex physical and psychological problems in the long run.
This is especially true for teenagers and adolescents. They are easily enticed by the allure of drugs or give in to peer pressure to be accepted and validated amongst their friends and peers. This makes for an environment that is constantly favorable for substance addiction. The malleable minds of these youngsters, in order to look cool, make life altering decisions that may adversely affect their future.
Addiction is a medical condition and can also be genetically passed on by the child’s parents. Children who have been exposed to the use of drugs in their own home are prone to addiction in the future. The constant use of drugs by their role models might be considered by the children as a ‘way of life’. Hence, they fail to reason their actions and its repercussions.
Stress & Trauma
Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life, whether it is mental or physical, personal or professional. In such cases, people are overwhelmed by stress and may tread on the path to addiction. Drugs help them alleviate the stress and helps them deal with it on a daily basis.
Individuals who may have experienced mental or physical trauma may experience anxiety and panic in their daily lives. This is called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Victims of harassment and abuse fall into the clutches of drugs as a coping mechanism to ease the physical or emotional pain.
People who intake prescribed pills initially to treat physical or mental illnesses often find themselves dependent on the drugs for relief. A popular example of this is the addiction of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills are often prescribed as a remedy for insomnia. Yet, even after the completion of the treatment, they are unable to sleep without the help of sleeping pills. As tolerance increases, many find that they need to take larger dosages to obtain the desired effect.
Effect on Brain
Our brains are wired to increase the possibilities of experiences it finds pleasurable, such as socializing, eating and sex. The brain remembers these as pleasurable activities. Drugs flood our brain with a chemical called dopamine that triggers immense pleasure, so we use the drug repetitively to attain that state of euphoria, or what some people might call a “high”.
Over time, the brain gets used to these extra quantities of dopamine and thus, people tend to increase the doses to get that same feeling. And other things that we used to enjoy such as eating, spending time with family and friends may not seem very exciting.
Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Although different drugs have a different effect on the brain, they basically affect parts of the brain that are vital for life-sustaining functions and drive the brain into compulsive drug use i.e. addiction.
Continued use of drugs may have a permanent effect on the brain that may hamper basic functions of the brain.
Incapable of proper Decision making
Paranoia and anxiety
Degeneration of will power
Loss of morals
Loss of mind and body co-ordination
The risks are idiosyncratic to the type of drug. Here, we will discuss the health risks corresponding to the most common, addictive drugs.
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Decline of appetite
Hypothermia, convulsions and tremors
Sounds and colors seem intense
Overheating and dehydration
Fluid retention in the body
Reduced pain perception
Increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and body temperature
Over-stimulation of the nervous system that may lead to seizure, stroke, brain hemorrhage or heart attack
Overcoming drug addiction
The most challenging stage of overcoming drug addiction is recognizing it and making a decision to deal with it. Committing to sobriety is a huge step in itself. It is okay to feel uncertain and it is okay to feel vulnerable. If you are not sure where to start, seek the guidance, motivation and support of your loved ones and people you trust. While preparing yourself for treatment, you must keep the following things in mind:
Keep reminding yourself why you want to change.
Inform friends and family members and seek their support
Set sustainable goals for yourself
Try to eliminate any and all reminders or causes of your addiction
Find a treatment that works for you - Choosing the right treatment for yourself is a very important step on your road to recovery. The treatment program that worked for one of your peers might not necessarily work for you. Furthermore, treatments differ for each type of drug and your level of addiction.
Residential/Inpatient treatment – Residential treatment means living at a facility and abandoning family, friends and any triggers of addiction while undergoing treatment. Although, you are almost completely isolated from the outside world, you may seek the guidance of the staff, which includes physicians, psychiatrists and counselors.
Day treatment/Partial hospitalization – Partial hospitalization is less intensive than inpatient treatment. It is for individuals who need medical supervision but wish to still live at home. These treatment programs usually include meetings and counseling sessions for a few hours during the day, then you return home at night.
Outpatient treatment – The outpatient programs can be scheduled at your convenience. It is not a live-in program. It is suitable for people who realize they need help, but cannot miss work or school for the same. The main objective of this treatment is the prevention of a drug relapse.
Sober living communities – Living in a sober house normally is similar to the residential treatment program. It brings together recovering addicts at various strategies of remission. These halfway houses are practical if you’re worried that going home will result in relapse.
A drug relapse is the recurrence of the pattern of drug addiction during remission or recovery. This is a common phenomenon in people who are on their road to sobriety. Statistics show that more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within the year following treatment. Hence, you need to ensure that you have a solid plan for the prevention of a relapse. The cognizance of warning signs leading to the relapse is essential and should not be ignored. The relapse can be categorized by three stages - emotional, mental or physical. In an emotional relapse, the victim is in denial of the warning signs and consumed by their emotions. In a mental relapse, there is an internal conflict within the person, such as an ethical debate with oneself, on whether to use the drugs again or not. Eventually, they lose this struggle with themselves. Physical relapse is where the person finally gives in and starts using.
If you are experiencing any of these signs on your way to remission, do not be afraid to ask for help. Contact someone you trust- a peer in recovery with you, a family member, or reach out to a helpline. Seek the guidance of an addiction counsellor. Studies show that cognitive-behavioral is the most effective treatment to help break recurring patterns and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Most importantly, do not give up on yourself and circle in negative thinking patterns. Seek help as soon as you can.
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985)
The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (1985) formulated by the government of India with the aim to restrict drugs of abuse and forbid its disbandment, distribution, usage, manufacture, and trade. The act also has contingency for the cultivation of poppy, cannabis or coca plants and fabrication of any psychotropic substances dealing with medicinal application. Fundamental objective of the law is to have a control on manufacture, possession, sale and transport of such narcotic and psychotropic substances. The act bans around 200 psychotropic substances resultant upon these drugs are not available over the counter for any individual. These drugs are on sale only when a prescription is available.
Malefaction of this ordinance may result in punishment which includes austere imprisonment or a penalty or both. The degree of castigation relies upon the acuteness of the case being dealt with. The punishment may be less severe if the substances are used for personal use. There have been multiple amendments made to the law over time. But due to the accessibility of synthetic drugs and issues associated with street drugs and designer drugs, the problem in dealing with new drugs having the nature of substance of abuse is an arduous task.
While drug addiction is defined as a medical condition, its life altering effects in personal, professional and social aspects cannot be ignored. We must, as a society, fight the stigma against drug addiction and support everyone on their path to recovery. It is the societal stigma that threatens addicts to acknowledge the problem and deal with it. It is our responsibility to provide a hospitable environment to help them share their struggles and even motivate those in recovery. Do not give up on them. Maybe then, people might turn to love to relieve their pain instead of drugs.