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Substance abuse: An overview

Globally, Substance abuse kills 11.8 million people each year. This is more than the number of deaths from all cancers. according to the latest World Drug Report, released recently by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The higher estimates for 2017 are the result of improved knowledge of the extent of Substance abuse from new surveys conducted in India and Nigeria, both among the ten most populous countries in the world. The report also estimates the number of opioid users at 53 million, up 56 per cent from previous estimates, and that opioid is responsible for two-thirds of the 585,000 people who died as a result of drug use in 2017. Globally, 11 million people injected drugs in 2017, of whom 1.4 million live with HIV and 5.6 million with hepatitis C.

Definition

Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. 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.
Frequently abused substances:
Beer or wine use;
Hard liquor or cigarette use;
Marijuana Abuse;
Alcohol abuse;
Cocaine abuse;
Valium abuse;
Heroin abuse;
Prescribed drug abuse;
Opiates and other illegal drugs

Causes of Substance abuse

Abused substances are usually psychoactive drugs that are used by people for various different reasons which may include:
Curiosity and peer pressure, especially among school children and young adults
The use of prescription drugs that were originally intended to target pain relief may have turned into recreational use and become addictive
Chemicals may be used as part of religious practices or rituals;
Recreational purposes, as a means of obtaining creative inspiration.

How Substance Abuse Starts
For many people, risky behaviours that lead to substance abuse or addiction start during early adolescence. Most of these children do not progress in their substance use, but the ones who do are often associated with one or more risk factors for drug abuse, including:
Aggressive behaviour.
Inadequate parental supervision.
Easy access to drugs.
Living at or below the poverty level.

Signs and Symptoms of substance abuse

When someone is abusing a particular substance, there are often telltale signs and symptoms that are both physical and behavioural, including:
Sudden mood swings.
Changes in normal behaviour.
Lack of hygiene and grooming.
Withdrawal from friends and family.
Loss of interest in normal social activities and hobbies.
Changes in sleeping patterns.
Bloodshot or glassy eyes.
Constant sniffles or runny nose

Medical Consequences of substance abuse

Substance abuse is a disease that can also lead to other diseases.
Here are some of the most common:
HIV, Hepatitis, and other infectious diseases. The immune system is lowered by all form of drugs addiction but the use of needles and the increased rate of unprotected sex under the influence can increase the chances of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases.
Cardiovascular system. Abnormal heart rate, arrhythmia, heart attack, heart disease – all of these can be traced back to drugs of abuse. When needles are the method of injection, issues like collapsed veins and bacterial infections that affect the heart are a risk as well.
Respiratory system. Bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and an increase in asthma symptoms are all related to drugs that are smoked, including crack, marijuana, and heroin.
Gastrointestinal system. Nausea and vomiting can be an issue during the abuse of different substances while others cause significant cramping and abdominal pain.
Musculoskeletal effects. The largest risk for musculoskeletal issues occurs when those under the age of 18 abuse drugs and alcohol. Muscle weakness and muscle cramps are associated with a number of different drugs at all ages.
Kidney damage. Increased body temperature and muscle breakdown caused by different drugs can lead to kidney problems and kidney failure.
Physical and psychological effects of Substance abuse?
While the specific physical and psychological effects of Substance abuse disorders tend to vary based on the particular substance involved, the general effects of addiction to any drug can be devastating. Psychologically, intoxication with or withdrawal from a substance can cause everything from euphoria as with alcohol, Ecstasy, or inhalant intoxication, to paranoia with marijuana or steroid intoxication, to severe depression or suicidal thoughts with cocaine or amphetamine withdrawal. In terms of effects on the body, intoxication with a drug can cause physical effects that range from marked sleepiness and slowed breathing as with intoxication with heroin or sedative-hypnotic drugs, to the rapid heart rate of cocaine intoxication, or the tremors to seizures of alcohol withdrawal

Treatment of Substance abuse

An unfortunate fact about the treatment of Substance abuse is that it remains largely underutilized by most sufferers. Facts about the use of Substance abuse treatment include that less than 10% of people with a milder substance-use disorder and less than 40% of those with a more entrenched substance-use disorder seek professional help. Those statistics do not seem to be associated with socioeconomic or other demographic traits but do seem to be associated with the presence of other mental health problems (co-morbidity).
The primary goals of Substance abuse disorder treatment (also called recovery) are abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation. During the initial stage of abstinence, an individual who suffers from chemical dependency may need help avoiding or decreasing the effects of withdrawal. That process is detoxification or “detox.” Medical professionals primarily perform that part of other inpatient settings, where medications used to lessen withdrawal symptoms and close medical monitoring can be performed. The medications used for detox depend on the drug the person is dependent upon. For example, people with alcohol use disorder might receive medications like sedatives (benzodiazepines) or blood pressure medications to decrease palpitations and blood pressure, or seizure medications to prevent seizures during the detoxification process.
For many substances of abuse, the detox process is the most difficult part of dealing with the physical symptoms of addiction and tends to be short term, lasting days to a few weeks. Physicians sometimes use medications to help addicted individuals abstain from drug use on a long-term basis also depend on the specific drug of addiction treatment of Substance abuse
An unfortunate fact about the treatment of Substance abuse is that it remains largely underutilized by most sufferers. Facts about the use of Substance abuse treatment include that less than 10% of people with a milder substance-use disorder and less than 40% of those with a more entrenched substance-use disorder seek professional help. Those statistics do not seem to be associated with socioeconomic or other demographic traits but do seem to be associated with the presence of other mental health problems (co-morbidity).
The primary goals of substance abuse disorder treatment (also called recovery) are abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation. During the initial stage of abstinence, an individual who suffers from chemical dependency may need help avoiding or decreasing the effects of withdrawal. That process is detoxification or “detox.” Medical professionals primarily perform that part of substance abuse treatment in a hospital or other inpatient setting, where medications used to lessen withdrawal symptoms and close medical monitoring can be performed. The medications used for detox depend on the drug the person is dependent upon. For example, people with alcohol use disorder might receive medications like sedatives (benzodiazepines) or blood pressure medications to decrease palpitations and blood pressure, or seizure medications to prevent seizures during the detoxification process.
For many substances of abuse, the detox process is the most difficult part of dealing with the physical symptoms of addiction and tends to be short term, lasting days to a few weeks. Physicians sometimes use medications to help addicted individuals abstain from substance abuse on a long-term basis also depend on the specific Substance been abuse.

Also click here to watch a short video to mark the Intentional Day Against Drug Abuse.

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