These are chemical substances which alter the chemical composition of the cells in the body and brain, and in so doing, affect the way the cells function.
Drugs fall under many categories but on medicinal value, they can either be prescription medication or recreational drugs. The former are chemical substances which are made for the purposes of treating/ curing illnesses and are given with intake instructions (the amount to be taken and for how long). The latter (recreational drugs) are taken for leisure and they include drugs which are legally available and have only few legal restrictions such as alcohol and cigarettes and illegal and banned drugs by many authorities such as marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin and many others.
General drug classification
Drugs fall under any of the three categories of psychoactive drugs, which are those chemical substances which affect the functioning of the central nervous system and brain. The categories are: hallucinogens, stimulants and depressants.
Stimulants and their abuse
Stimulants are chemical substances, which when taken into the body, speed the functioning of the brain and CNS. This increases blood pressure, body temperature, bodily energy, mental alertness and sensitivity as well as hallucinations. Prescription stimulant drugs are used to treat attention deficit disorders, asthma and obesity among other dysfunctions and are abused for their effects of increasing energy levels, hallucinations and the body’s internal temperature.
Depressants and their abuse
These drugs slow the functioning of the body and brain and their prescription (for legal prescription drugs such as morphine, suboxone, oxycodone etc.) are used to treat brain and body hyperactivity, numb pain, induce a state of stupor in the mind etc., so that the body and mind can have slowed functions. Depressant recreational drugs such as heroin and other prescription drugs are abused for their ability to slow the body and mind’s functions, the pain numbing and drunkenness they induce.
Hallucinogens and their abuse
These are drugs which alter thinking such as marijuana and LSD and their abuse consists of too much intake of these drugs.
Drug abuse and addiction
Drug abuse is the intake of prescription drugs against prescription or intake of recreational drugs in excessive quantities. Addiction is a state of physical and mental compulsion for the drug which is perpetuated by withdrawal symptoms if the drug intake should be reduced or stopped.
Addiction develops fast from substance/ drug abuse because the cells’ chemical composition gets altered so much that they develop tolerance. Increased tolerance is reduced action of both the body and mind’s cells to the effects of the drug due to prolonged intake (use and abuse) and leads to physical dependence; if there is no intervention, addiction develops.
Interventions, in substance abuse and addiction, are the efforts put in place to prevent any of the stages of drug abuse from getting worse. The efforts include withdrawing of the abused substance and offering counseling that help the abusers/ addicts understand their situation, overcome the withdrawals and stay off the drug after treatment.
Intervention during abuse stages
Intervention during the drug abuse stage (whether prescription drugs being abused, recreational soft drugs or hard illegal drugs) comprise of sensitizing the abusers of the negative effects the substance abuse has on their mental and physical health as well as on their loved one and society. It is also important to limit the availability of the abused drug as much as possible (for instance keeping prescription medication under key and lock to avoid unauthorized access) as well as try to get into the core of the problem (why they are abusing the drugs in the first place).
Intervention during addiction
Addiction of any type of substance ruins the mental and physical health of the addict as well as their social relationships. There is also the danger of overdosing if too much of the drug gets into the system causing permanent organ damage or even death. To avoid the occurrence of all the above, it is important to get the addict into a treatment program which can be availed at home or at a rehabilitation center.
Addiction treatment is availed in public and private centers/ facilities which should comprise of:
- Qualified detox personnel
- A substance abuse counselor who is qualified and experienced
- A non- judgmental environment
- As much counseling for the addicts (as an individual and in groups) as possible
The treatment process
Substance abuse treatment, whether carried out in private or public institution/ facility is carried out in two main phases: therapy and detoxification. Detoxification is the process of cleansing the body of the drug by stopping further intake of the substance and treating the resulting withdrawal symptoms, often with a medication that works in similar mechanism as the abused drug; so that the body and the mind are blinded of the absence of the drug.
Therapy is counseling given on a one-on-one basis or in groups before, during and after the detoxification program. Counseling is as important as detoxification (the medical treatment of addiction) as it helps the counselor and doctor (helping the addict off the drug) identify the specific needs of the addict that need to be addressed as well as helping the addict understand their predicament and have enough will power to overcome the withdrawal symptoms of the drug they are withdrawing from.