According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a disorder or a mental disease in which the person is fixated using a certain substance such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sedatives, tobacco, etc. And the person has no control over it despite being aware of the severe repercussions on physical as well as mental health. A person gets addicted to consuming these substances to a point that the brain starts releasing hormones which make it a need to consume it more and more, and hence it becomes a part of his/her daily routine. In a short period of time, strong cravings are experienced which makes it even more difficult for the brain and the body to function unless the substance is ingested. It makes it difficult to follow the prevention of drug addiction.
Every body functions differently and hence react differently to the consumption of addictive substances. Some people get addicted in a very short duration, while others may take comparatively a longer period of time. Initially what happens is when you take drugs, you might like how it makes you feel. But the bad part comes later when it becomes the need and you start feeling uneasy, restless if not taken on time. Drugs function in such a way that they mutate the way the brain works and “take away the person’s control”. You might start feeling that the state drugs make you attain is the normal one, while otherwise, you remain anxious. To reach the same state of ‘normalcy’ you would want to consume it again and again and that’s how you develop an addiction.
As per medical science, “All drugs–nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and others–affect the brain’s “reward” circuit, which is part of the limbic system. This area of the brain affects instinct and mood. Drugs target this system, which causes large amounts of dopamine—a brain chemical that helps regulate emotions and feelings of pleasure—to flood the brain. This flood of dopamine is what causes a “high.” It’s one of the main causes of drug addiction“.
You would spend more of your time thinking about the procurement of drugs, instead of doing what your normal schedule demands. Drugs ultimately become life. Food, sleep, work become secondary. Whatever you think or do may be the outcome of some of the effects of drugs on your brain. And finally, you reach a state of helplessness when you can’t stop it yourself even after you start experiencing it has harmful consequences.
Since drugs are chemical compounds, they can cause serious short term and long term health consequences. Now, these consequences depend on the way the drugs are consumed. Some of the known primary ways are injection, inhalation, or ingestion. Injection of drugs directly into the veins can have immediate action. But on the other hand inhalation and ingestion take time to have an effect on both mind and body.
As per a medical survey by ‘Gateway foundation’, some of the prominent effects of drugs are:
- Immunity weakens which increases the chances of falling ill and contracting infections
- Increased chances of heart attacks because of injecting drugs into blood vessels
- Changes in appetite and weight loss
- Feeling nauseated
- Abdominal pain
- liver dysfunction
- stroke, mental confusion, and brain damage
- Lung disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- memory loss, attention and decision-making, which make daily living more difficult
- Loss of control over body movements
Now let us look at the facts and figure surrounding the issue of drug and alcohol addiction all over the world. According to the World Health Organisation’s report:
- 31 million persons have drug use disorders
- Almost 11 million people inject drugs
- 38.3% actually drink alcohol, this means that those who do drink consume on average 17 liters of pure alcohol annually.
- On average every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per year.
It is important to note that the consumption of drugs or alcohol not only causes physical and mental problems but can also lead to death if not taken care of on time. So, it is important to focus on the prevention of drug addiction. The data on the total number of deaths as a result of alcohol or drug addiction will leave you speechless:
- Drug use is responsible for 11.8 million deaths each year.
- 11.4 million die a premature death as a result of smoking, alcohol, and drug addiction. Every year over 350,000 die because of overdoses.
- opioid overdoses have increased the death rate significantly in recent years and now it exceeds 100,000 globally.
I would also like to bring to your notice that the cultural (mis)representation and romanticization of drug consumption are influencing the youth to a great extent. In the book Social Psychiatry: Principles & Clinical Perspectives, it is well articulated that: “substance abuse depiction in movies and media, in contrary, suffers from overt normalization which minimizes the harm caused by drugs. Non-problematic drug use in the foreground, characters are often depicted as positive attributes, and imbibing character with vitality, vigor, and life. Characters having significant drug dependence fall into the stereotypes of being a either tragic hero, a rebellious free spirit, a demonized addict, or a comedic user.”. Some of the popular Bollywood movies which romanticize the drug use are ‘Fashion’, ‘DevD’, ‘Shaitan’, ‘Malang’, ‘Revolver Rani’, ‘Heroine’, etc, and many more. In today’s world of the internet, people consume more media updates than any other matter. And the same media is flooded with such misrepresentation of addiction issues, which in turn shapes people’s mindset and their decisions. Producers and directors should produce more movies that depict the awareness surrounding addiction and its severe repercussions.
However, the good news is that addiction is treatable. There are ways for the prevention of drug addiction. There is a large number of people who are struggling to get over their addiction issues. According to the Science of addiction and the treatment of substance use disorders, there are certain research-based methods that have been developed over the years that help people to stop using drugs and resume their normal lives. National Institute on Drug Abuse has published an article according to which there are some of the principle methods for prevention of drug addiction:
- When a person stops using drugs, he might experience various symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, etc which can be minimized and controlled using certain medical treatment prescribed by the doctor. So, medical treatment should be the first step in withdrawing addiction.
- Along with medical treatment, there is Cognitive behavioral therapy that helps the patient to overcome, accept, and deal with the situation post abandonment of drugs.
- There is Motivational enhancement therapy that motivates the person and boosts his energy to go through the treatment.
- Family therapy helps young people to deal with the trauma and beat the addiction with the help of family love and support.
- Twelve-step facilitation (TSF) is a 12 step program that provides social and complementary support to medical treatment. It helps the individual to “surrender, accept and actively participate in the recovery process”.
These are some of the primary methods which will help the patient to win over his/her addiction problem and will help him to stay on the path of prevention of drug addiction. But it is important to note that giving up on the use of drugs is just the first step of the entire process of recovery. Addiction brings about an entire change in personality, demeanour, life decisions and everything associated with the addict. So for the overall process of bringing the individual back to the normal self requires the efforts put in not only by the individual but also by the family members, friends, and counsellors. Since there is a stigma surrounding addiction, people should be made aware that an addict is not a ‘bad’ person and that he is trying to better himself through recovery. So the mental support and not the judgements by the people would definitely help the person in the faster recovery. Thus, one needs to know that even if one becomes an addict, there are plenty of ways to come out of that bleak phase with the help of self will, counsellors, doctors, family, and friends. Don’t lose hope!!