What you need to know about substance abuse?


Substance abuse also commonly referred to as drug abuse, is the excessive use of certain chemicals for the purpose of creating pleasurable effects on the brain. These include alcohol, pain medications or illegal drugs.  There are over 190 million drug users around the world and the incidence has been increasing at alarming rates, especially among young adults under the age of 30. These substances can lead to physical, social and even emotional harm.

You may be wondering, what are the reasons for substance abuse? Curiosity and peer pressure especially among school children and young adults is one of the leading causes of substance abuse. Other reasons include; recreational purposes, a means of obtaining creative inspiration as well as religious practices. Also, prescription drugs such as pain medications can turn into recreational use and become addictive.

Epidemiology of drug abuse

Cannabis, marijuana and hashish are the most widely abused drugs in the world. Around 141 million people worldwide consume cannabis. The use of stimulants such as amphetamine and ecstasy is also widespread, with nearly 30 million people abusing these drugs. Cocaine is used by around 13 million people across the globe, with the highest number of users in the United States. Abuse of heroin and other opioids is less common than with other drugs and is taken up by around 8 million people worldwide, mainly in South-East and South-West Asia and Europe.

Drug abuse is seen in various different age groups and in individuals from nearly all walks of life and socioeconomic strata. However, statistics has shown that men are more likely to abuse drugs than women, single people are more likely than married individuals and urban dwellers more likely than rural dwellers. Prisoners, street children and younger individuals are also more likely to abuse drugs.

Which takes us to the next question, what is substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder, commonly called drug addiction is a progressive disease and people with this disorder need treatment to stop taking drugs. When you’re addicted to harmful substances, you can’t resist the urge to use them, no matter how much harm they may cause. The earlier you get treatment for substance use disorder, the more likely you are to avoid some of the more dire consequences of the disease.

Substance use disorder isn’t about just heroin, cocaine, or other illegal substances. You can get addicted to alcohol, nicotine, sleep and anti-anxiety medications, and other legal substances. You can also get addicted to prescription or illegally obtained narcotic pain medications, or opioids.

At first, you may choose to take a substance because you like the way it makes you feel. You may think you can control how much and how often you use it. But over time, these substances change how your brain works. These physical changes can last a long time. They make you lose control and can lead to damaging behaviours.

The substances that may be addictive target your brain’s reward system. They flood your brain with a chemical called dopamine. This triggers a feeling of intense pleasure. You keep taking the drug to chase that high. Over time, your brain gets used to the extra dopamine. So you might need to take more of the substance to get the same good feeling. And other things you enjoyed, like food and hanging out with family, may give you less pleasure.

When you use these for a long time, it can cause changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well. They can affect your judgment, decision-making, memory and ability to learn. Together, these brain changes can drive you to seek out and take drugs in ways that are beyond your control.

Who’s most likely to become addicted?

Each person’s body and brain is different. People also react differently to substances. Some love the feeling the first time they try it and want more. Others hate it and never try again. Not everyone who uses these substances becomes addicted, but it can happen to anyone and at any age. Some things however, may raise your chances of addiction, which includes family history, early drug use, mental disorders, and troubled relationships.

Finally, if your substance use is out of control or causing problems, please seek help now. Recovering from substance use disorder can take time. Treatment can help you fight this addiction and these may include counselling, medicine, or both.  

At TGIF, we offer treatment to people struggling with substance use disorder or victims of substance abuse. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please endeavour to reach out to us.

You can beat this addiction! We are rooting for you! TGIF cares!

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