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Drug Abuse and Its Adverse Effect on Your Health.

Updated on November 15, 2017
Odewoye Francis profile image

Odewoye,Graduate Electrical Engineering,Registered member, Engineering Council U.K,Registered member(COREN) Nigeria. Professional Engineer.


Excessive use of a medication or substance is what we identified as drug abuse. A person uses these medications or substance to obtain a certain feeling or effect. For example, a person may feel a rush of energy or have a sense of euphoria after using a certain type of drugs. Another type of drug may make a person feel calmer or even dull as the case may be. Often, people think of drug abuse in terms of illegal substances. However, many people also abuse drugs that have been prescribed to them by a doctor.Most abused drugs directly or indirectly target the brain's reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The drug can actually change the performances of the brain when it enters the brain. These changes are what lead to compulsive drug use, the hallmark of addiction

1. Difference between Medications and Drugs:

There are two terms that are being used to mean the other and both are used wrongly. There is a big difference between these two words and the two are very technical words that are used on the daily basis. They are Medications and Drugs.

1. Medications:

A medication is that which is used to treat medical condition under the recommendations of a qualified medical officer. Medication is meant for the purpose of treatment or prevention of a disease or cures a disease. For example, antibiotics are given to cure an infection. Medications are also given to treat a medical condition.

2. Drugs:

A drug may be defined as any substance, natural or synthetic (man-made), that affects how the body functions and is usually administered for its effect(s). This broad definition includes medications as well as recreational or street drugs. A medication is a drug used in the management of the disease. Medications are drugs but not all drugs are medications.

2. .Drug dependence

Drug dependence is characterized by a compulsion to use a drug to experience psychological or physical effects. Drug dependence takes several forms: Tolerance, Habituation and Addiction.

Forms of Drug Dependence:

i. Tolerance:

Tolerance, a form of physical dependence, occurs when the body becomes accustomed to a drug and requires ever-increasing amounts of it to achieve the same pharmacological effects. This condition is worsened when certain drugs are used at high doses for long periods (weeks or months) and may lead to the more frequent use of the drug.

However, when the use of the drug is stopped, drug withdrawal may result, which is characterised by nausea, headaches, restlessness, sweating, and difficulty sleeping. The severity of drug withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the drug involved.

ii. Habituation:

Habituation, a form of psychological dependence, is characterised by the continued desire for a drug, even after physical dependence is gone. A drug often produces an elated emotional state, and a person abusing drugs soon believes the drug is needed to function at work of the home.

iii. Addiction:

Addiction is a severe craving for the substance and interferes with a person’s ability to function normally. It may also involve physical dependence.

3. Classes of the drugs that commonly abused:

This class includes drugs derived from opium, such as morphine and heroin and synthetic substitutes such as methadone. Medically, morphine is a potent pain reliever; indeed, it is the standard by which other pain-relieving drugs are measured.

Morphine and other opium derivatives reduce movements of the intestine also suppress coughing, and state of psychological indifference was induced. Heroin, a preparation synthesised from morphine, was introduced in 1988 as a cough suppressant and nonaddictive substitute for morphine.

The addictive potential of heroin, however, was soon recognised, and its use was prohibited in the United States and some other countries of the world, even in medical practice. Users report that heroin produces a state of profound indifference and may increase energy.

The drugs that are commonly abused, except alcohol and tobacco, can be grouped into five classes:

i. The opioids,

ii. The sedative-hypnotics,

iii. The stimulants,

iv. The cannabis

v. The inhalants.

i. The Opioids:

The Opioids produce different effects under different circumstances. The drug user’s past experience and expectations have some influence, as does the method of administering the drug (by injection, ingestion, or inhalation). Symptoms of withdrawal from the opioids include kicking movements in the legs.

Some side effects typical of opiates include:

  • Euphoria followed by apathy.
  • Dysphoria, or unease.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Pinpoint pupils.
  • Itching skin.
  • Inattention to the environment.
  • Slowed thinking and movements.
  • Attention problems.
  • Memory impairments.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Coma.

ii. The Sedative-hypnotics:

The drugs most commonly abused in this class are the barbiturates, which have been used since the early 1900s to relieve anxiety and induce sleep. They are also used medically in the treatment of epilepsy. Some people who abuse barbiturates ingest large amount daily but never appear intoxicated.

Others use the drugs for binges of intoxication, and still, others use them to boost the effects of heroin. Many people who abuse these drugs, especially those who do so daily, routinely obtain the drugs from physicians. Barbiturates produce severe physical dependence, closely resembling the dependence and effects produced by alcohol. Abrupt withdrawal results in similar symptoms: shaking, insomnia, anxiety and sometimes, after a day, convulsions and delirium. Death can occur when the use of barbiturates is suddenly discontinued.

Other sedative-hypnotics include the benzodiazepines, which are marketed under such trade names as Valium and Librium. These are the so- called minor tranquillizer used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and epilepsy. They are generally safer than the barbiturates and are now the preferred drug for treatment of these conditions. Consequently, tranquillizer addiction has become a problem.

Cocaine Powder.
Cocaine Powder.

iii. The Stimulants:

Cocaine and drugs of the amphetamine family have commonly abused stimulants. , A white, crystalline powder with a bitter taste, extracted from the leaves of the South American coca bush is what we refer to as Cocaine. Abuse of cocaine, which increased considerably in the late 1970s, can lead to severe physiological and psychological problems.

A smokable form of cocaine called “crack” which appeared in the 1980s is highly addictive. Amphetamines, introduced in the 1930s for the treatment of colds and hay fever, were later found to affect the nervous system. For a while people trying to lose weight commonly used them as appetite suppressants.

Today, use is restricted primarily to the treatment of narcolepsy, the sleep disorder characterised by sudden sleep attacks during the day, and hyperactivity in children, for whom amphetamines produce a calming effect. For adults, however, amphetamines rightfully earn the street name “speed”.


iv. The Cannabis :

The plant Cannabis sativa is the source of both marijuana and hashish. The flowering tops of the Cannabis plant secrete a sticky resin that contains the active ingredient of marijuana and hashish. Hashish is comprised of only the flowering tops of the plant, whereas marijuana is made up of flowering tops and leaves. Both drugs are usually smoked.

Their effects are similar; a state of relaxation, accelerated heart rate, perceived slowing of time, and a sense of heightened hearing, taste, touch, and smell. These effects can differ, however, depending on the amount of drug consumed and the circumstances under which it is taking. Marijuana and hashish do not produce psychological dependence except when taken in large daily doses.

The drugs can be dangerous, however, especially when smoked before driving. Although the chronic effects have not been clearly determined, marijuana is probably injurious to the lungs in much the same way as tobacco. A cause for concern is the regular use by children and teenagers because intoxication markedly alters thinking and interferes with learning. A consensus exists among physicians and others who work with children and adolescents that use of marijuana and hashish is undesirable and may interfere with psychological and possibly physical maturation.


v. The Inhalants:

Cleaning fluids, spray paint, glue, and markers are examples of Inhalants they are everyday household products. Users typically inhale the chemicals in through the mouth or nose, either directly or from a soaked rag.Sometimes individuals inhale the chemical from a plastic bag or balloon. These drugs are often abused by children or adolescents because they are so easily accessible.

The short-term effects of inhalants are short-lived, only lasting a few minutes.This class includes substances that are usually not considered drugs, such as glue, gasoline and aerosols like nasal sprays. Most of such substances sniffed for their psychological effects depress the central nervous system. Low doses can produce slight stimulation, but higher amounts cause users to lose control or lapse into unconsciousness.

The effects are a headache, nausea, and drowsiness follow. Impair vision, judgement, muscle and reflex control which can be caused as a result of Sniffing inhalants. Permanent damage can result from prolonged use, and death can result from sniffing highly concentrated aerosol sprays.

The possible side effects of inhalant abuse include:

i. Euphoria.
ii. Apathy.
iii. Lethargy.
iv. Poor judgment.
v. Dizziness.
vi. Nausea or vomiting.
vii. Hallucinations.
viii. Delusions.
ix. Blurred vision.
x. Slurred speech.
xi. Impaired coordination.
xii. Muscle weakness.
xiii. Slowed or delayed reflexes.
xiv. Slow movement and thought.
xv. Tremors.
xvi. Stupor.
xvii. Coma.

For those who inhale from a closed container, such as a plastic bag, may experience unconsciousness, coma, and death. There is also a condition called “sudden sniffing death” that may occur shortly after inhalant use that is likely due to resulting irregular heartbeats or a heart attack.

This book explain this topic further.

Karch's Pathology of Drug Abuse, Fourth Edition
Karch's Pathology of Drug Abuse, Fourth Edition

Karch's Pathology of Drug Abuse, Fourth Edition 4th Edition

by Steven B. Karch MD (Author), Olaf Drummer (Author)


4. Adverse Effect of Drug Abuse on your Health.

Drugs abuse often affects a person’s health. While the effects depend on the type of drug the person abuses.

1. Some of the common effects of drugs abuse include:

1.heart attacks,

2. kidney damage and comas.

3.The abuse of drugs may lead to seizures and disorientation.

4.It may cause a person to have difficulty breathing and lose consciousness.

5. Worst of all, drug abuse can ever lead to sudden death.

6. Weaken the immune system, increasing susceptibility to infections.

7. Cause the liver to have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure.

2. Effects on the Brain:

With an individual's ability to make decisions and can lead to compulsive craving and seeking, this can be interfered by drugs which have been shown to alter brain chemistry. This then becomes a substance dependency.

• All drugs of abuse - nicotine, cocaine, marijuana, and others - affect the brain's "reward" circuit, which is part of the limbic system.

• Causing unusually large amounts of dopamine to flood the system, Drugs hijack this "reward" circuit.
• This flood of dopamine is what causes the "high" or euphoria associated with drug abuse.

3. Some of the common effects of taking Cannabis:

Taking cannabis, It is an antisocial act that spreads so fast.

1. It can lead to serious psychological or mental breakdown due to sudden withdrawal.

2. It could lead to cultism and arm robbery.

3. It could cause the serious medical condition.

4. Drug abuse or dependence can cause biochemical imbalances.

4. Behavioral Problems:

• Paranoia
• Aggressiveness
• Hallucinations
• Addiction
• Impaired Judgment
• Impulsiveness
• Loss of Self-Control

5. Birth Defects:

Pregnant women who use illicit drugs may engage in other unhealthy behaviours that place their pregnancy at risk, such as having extremely poor nutrition or developing sexually transmitted infections.

Adverse effect of drug abuse.Anxiety disorder
Adverse effect of drug abuse.Anxiety disorder

5. Effective Treatment Approaches:

The important elements of an overall therapeutic process that often begins with detoxification, followed by treatment and relapse prevention are medication and behavioural therapy, especially when combined.In the initiation of treatment easing withdrawal symptoms can be important; preventing relapse is necessary for maintaining its effects. Sometimes as with other chronic conditions, a return to prior treatment components may be required for episodes of relapse.

A continuum of care that includes a customised treatment regimen-addressing all aspects of an individual’s life, including medical and mental health services and follows up options (e.g. Community of family-based recovery support systems) can be crucial to a person’s success in achieving and maintaining a drug-free lifestyle.

6. Treatments of Drug Abusers:

Medications can be used to help in different aspects of the treatment process of drug abuse.

1. Withdrawal Treatment:

Medications offer help in suppressing withdrawal symptoms during detoxification, However, medically assisted detoxification is not in itself “treatment” it is only the first step in the treatment process. Patients will show drug abuse patterns similar to those who were never treated even if he or she go through medically assisted withdrawal treatment and do not receive any further treatment.

Medications can be used to help reestablish normal brain function and to prevent relapse and diminish cravings. Currently, we have medications for opioids (heroin, morphine), tobacco (nicotine) and alcohol addiction and are developing others for treating stimulant (cocaine, methamphetamine) and cannabis (marijuana) addiction.

Most people with severe addiction problems, however, are poly-drug users (users of more than one drug) and will require treatment for all of the substances that they abuse.

2. Behavioural Treatments:

The behaviours and attitudes related to drug abuse and increase healthy life skills can be modified by the behavioural treatments. These treatments can also enhance the effectiveness of medications and help people stay in treatment longer.

Using many different settings using a variety of behavioural approaches.Drug abuse and addiction treatment for can be delivered.

3. Outpatient Behavioral Treatment:

It comprises a wide variety of programs for patients who visit a clinic at regular intervals. Most of the programs involve individual or group drug counselling. Some programs also offer other forms of behavioural treatment such as:-

i. Cognitive behavioural therapy: which seeks to help patients recognise, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to abuse drugs.

ii. Multidimensional family therapy: Which is designed to improve overall family functioning, was developed for adolescents with drug abuse problems as well as their families addresses a range of influences on their drug abuse patterns.

iii. Motivational interviewing: Which capitalises on the readiness of individuals to change their behaviour and enter treatment.

iv. Motivational incentives (contingency management), which uses positive reinforcement to encourage abstinence from drugs.

4. Residential Treatment:

Programs can also be very effective, especially for those with more severe problems. For example, therapeutic communities (TCs) are highly structured programs in which patients remain at a residence, typically for 6 to 12 months.

Therapeutic Communities (TCS) treatment is quite different from the treatment approaches in the use of the community treatment staff and those in recovery as a key agent of change to influence patient attitudes, perceptions and behaviours associated with drug abuse.Patients with relatively long histories of drug addiction, involvement in serious criminal activities and seriously impaired social functioning may be included therapeutic communities.

Therapeutic Communities (TCS) are now also being designed to accommodate the needs of the woman who are pregnant or have children. The focus of the therapeutic communities is on the resocialization of the patient to a drug- free, crime –free lifestyle.


It must be noted however that if you abuse drugs or someone around you abuse drugs, you need to refer such person to a psychologist, counsellor or mental health practitioner for examination and assessment. It is necessary before is become a serious clinical or psychiatry case.

Note that you can become addicted to any drink or substance. Addiction or abuse, in essence, means you are over dependence on such drinks or drugs to live a self-perceived normal life style. You are feeling addicted or have been abusing some drugs; seek help while it may still be found.



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