For the World Health Organisation, WHO, Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs like tobacco, marijuana, inhalants (volatile solvents including among other things glue, gasoline, aerosols, fumes from correction fluid and markers) and several others.
Psychoactive substances are such that, when taken in or administered into the body, they alter brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour.
Some people use substances recreationally to purposefully alter one’s consciousness (such as coffee, alcohol or cannabis), as entheogens for spiritual purposes (such as the mescaline-containing peyote cactus or psilocybin-containing mushrooms), and also as medication (such as the use of narcotics in controlling pain, stimulants to treat narcolepsy and attention disorders, as well as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics for treating neurological and psychiatric illnesses).
Conversely, others (namely the psychedelics) can, in certain circumstances, help to treat and even cure such addictions.
Many of these substances experts argue can be habit-forming, causing chemical dependency and may lead to substance abuse. This means that Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome – a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include
– a strong desire to take the drug,
– difficulties in controlling its use,
– persisting in its use despite harmful consequences
– a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations,
– increased tolerance, and
– sometimes a physical withdrawal state.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild anxiety to seizures and hallucinations. Drug overdose may also cause death.
These days when the world talks about Substance Abuse it adds the abuse of legal drugs and/or the misuse of prescription medications.
Substance Abuse impact
The society pays a significant cost for substance abuse. The toll can be seen in our streets and Neuro-psychiatric hospitals, regular hospitals and emergency departments both through direct damage to health by substance abuse and its link to physical trauma.
Jails and prisons tally daily the strong connection between crime and drug dependence and abuse.
Finding effective treatment for and prevention of substance abuse and substance dependence, now both included under the diagnosis of substance use disorder, has been difficult.
Through research, the world now have a better understanding of this behaviour. Studies have made it clear that substance or drug education and prevention aimed at children and teens offers the best chance to curb abuse globally.
Commonly abused drugs include the following:
Marijuana comes from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It has an active ingredient called THC that makes you feel high. THC and other compounds in marijuana can also affect the way your body works. Most people smoke the plant’s dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds. But marijuana can also be mixed into food, brewed as a tea, or inhaled with a vaporizer.
No matter how it gets into your system, it affects almost every organ in your body, and your nervous system and immune system, too. When you smoke marijuana, your body absorbs THC right away. (If you eat a baked good or another item, it may take much longer for your body to absorb THC, because it has to break down in your stomach before it enters your bloodstream). You may notice changes in your body right after you smoke. The effects usually stop after 3 or 4 hours.
Smoking it can increase your rate by as much as two times for up to 3 hours. That’s why some people have a heart attack right after they use marijuana. It can increase bleeding, lower blood pressure, and affect your blood sugar, too.
You are also more likely to have an ongoing cough and to have lung-related health problems like chest colds and lung infections.
Red eyes and dilated pupils
Slowed reaction time (If you drive after using marijuana, your risk of being in a car accident more than doubles.)
Most people use marijuana because the high makes them feel happy, relaxed, or detached from reality.
It can also have less-pleasant effects on your mind and mood, too. You might have:
A distorted sense of time
These effects usually ease up a few hours after you’ve used the drug
If you’re a man, heavy use could lower your testosterone levels, and your sperm count and quality. That, in turn, can zap your libido and fertility.
Research shows a link between marijuana use and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, short-term psychosis, and schizophrenia. While it’s not clear if marijuana causes these conditions, it can make them worse.
People cite many reasons for using tobacco, including pleasure, improved performance and vigilance, relief of depression, curbing hunger, and weight control.
The primary addicting substance in cigarettes is nicotine. But cigarette smoke contains thousands of other chemicals that also damage health both to the smoker and to those around them. Hazards include heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema, peptic ulcer disease, and stroke. Withdrawal symptoms of smoking include anxiety, hunger, sleep disturbances, and depression.
Although many people have a drink as a “pick me up,” alcohol actually depresses the brain. Alcohol lessens your inhibitions, slurs speech, and decreases muscle control and coordination, and prolonged use may lead to alcoholism.
Withdrawal from alcohol can cause anxiety, irregular heartbeat, tremor, seizures, and hallucinations. In its severest form, withdrawal combined with malnutrition can lead to a life-threatening condition called delirium tremens (DTs). Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of liver failure. The drug can cause heart enlargement and cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.
In addition to its direct health effects, officials associate alcohol abuse with nearly half of all fatal motor-vehicle accidents in Nigeria.
This group of substances includes solvents that emit vapours, causing intoxication when breathed in (inhaled). Individuals who abuse inhalants intentionally breathe in the vapours, either directly from a container, from a bag in which such a substance is in, or from a rag soaked with the substance and then placed over the mouth or nose. Inhalant intoxication happens quickly and doesn’t last long.
Abuse of inhalants is also called “huffing.”
Symptoms of inhalant intoxication are very similar to those seen with intoxication with alcohol, including dizziness, clumsiness, slurred speech, elation, tiredness, slowed reflexes, thinking and movement, shaking, blurred vision, stupor or coma, and/or weakness. It can also result in chemical and temperature burns, as well as withdrawal symptoms, chronic mental illness, and even sudden death.
Long-term damage associated with inhalant use includes brain and nerve damage as well as heart, liver, or kidney failure.
For us at SAPAARC, Substance Abuse Prevention is a process that seeks to prevent the onset of substance use by minors – children and teens.
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