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Health Implications of Drug Addiction

Health Implications of Drug Addiction

According to Ambassador Aminu Bashir Wali, Nigeria’s envoy to China, about 300 out of more than 400 Nigerians incarcerated in Chinese prisons are being held for drug-related offences. He said also that in many cases the identity of those jailed only become manifest after they must have been sentenced, as initially they may be entered the country with false identity showing that they are either “Ghanaians” or “Malawians”.

John Amaechi Eze, a 23 year-old Nigeria student in a private college in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was sentenced to death by hanging after he was found guilty of trafficking in 16, 936gm of Cannabis in 2011 as reported by New Straits Times, the judicial Commissioner Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab ruled that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against him.

A 45-year old  Obi Okonkwo, from Onitsha in Anambra State was freed from Nigeria’s Lagos prison after serving 10years for drug trafficking.  He was jailed for a year in Madrid, then deported to Nigeria where he served for 9 more years. What a wasted life!

Drugs are chemical substances used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of diseases or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.  Drug is also a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.  Although these drugs have appropriate medical uses, but are constantly abused by many underage and illegal users.

Abuse liability is the propensity of a particular psychoactive substance to be susceptible to abuse, defined in terms of the relative probability that use of the substance will result in social, psychological, or physical problems for an individual or for society. Repeated use of a  psychoactive substance(s) to the extent that  the user (referred to as an addict) is periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a compulsion to take the preferred substance(s) has great difficulty in voluntarily ceasing or modifying substance use, and exhibits determination to obtain psychoactive substances by almost any means.  Typically, tolerance is prominent and a withdrawal syndrome frequently occurs when substance use is interrupted.  The life of the addict may be dominated by substance use to the virtual exclusion of all other activities and responsibilities.  The term addiction also conveys the sense that such substance use has a detrimental effect on society as well as on the individual; when applied to the use of alcohol, it is equivalent to alcoholism.

Addiction is a term of long-standing and variable usage.  It is regarded by many as a discrete disease entity, a debilitating disorder rooted in the pharmacological effects of the drug, which is remorselessly progressive.  Between the 1920s and 1960s attempts were made to differentiate between addiction ad habituation, the later being a less severe form of psychological adaptation.

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication.  When a person is addicted to a drug or medication, he/she may not be able to control his drug use and may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes him/her.  Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug even when the addict may want to quit, most people find they cannot.

Dishearteningly, most youths are drug-users.  Usually, it starts casually due to peer pressure but graduates to drug addiction, giving rise a sheer number of other social vices in the world. Drug addiction can cause serious long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment and the Law.  The latter being the reason, for which many men and women have been outlawed, convicted, imprisoned and, even prosecuted.  When drug users act under the influence of such drugs, a lot of social vices are birthed murder, rape, robbery, cultism, violence and vandalization of public and privately owned properties to say the least.

Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.  It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and functionality.  These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to much harmful, often self-destructive behaviour.  When drug addiction is combined with the adverse effects of chronic drinking, the drugs being legal or illegal can create a wide variety of mental, and physical health problems.  Examples of such drugs are hallucinogens, Sedatives, Nicotine, Caffeine, Anabolic Steroids, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Cocaine, alcohol, Cannabis, Ketamine, MDMA, DMT, LSD, Mescaline, marijuana, inhalants, Psilocybin. These changes so caused by drugs in the brain lead t0 paranoia, depression, aggression, ad hallucinations.

Drugs are chemicals, and different drugs because of their chemical structures can affect the body in different ways.  Some drugs can do a  permanent change on a person’s body and brain in ways that last long after the person has stopped taking such drugs, or permanently.

Drugs can be taken in a number of ways, including injection, inhalation, and ingestion  hence the method through which the drug is introduced to the body determines how the drugs affect the person. For instance, injection takes the drug directly into the blood stream, providing more immediate effects; while ingestion requires the drug to pass through the digestive system, delaying the effects.

Most abused drugs directly or indirectly target the brain’s rewards 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.  When drugs enter the brain, they can change how the brain performs its job. These changes are what lead to compulsive drug use, the hallmark of addiction.

drugs The impact of drug abuse and dependence can be far reaching, affecting almost every organ in the human body.   Drug use can weaken the immune system, increasing an individual’s susceptibility to infections and diseases; it causes cardiovascular conditions ranging from abnormal heart rate to heart attacks.  Injected drugs can also lead to collapsed veins and infections of the blood vessels and heart valves; it causes nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, it causes the liver to have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure; it causes seizures, stroke and widespread brain damage that can impact all aspects of daily life by causing problems with memory, attention and decision-making, including sustained mental confusion and permanent brain damage.

Although initial drug use may be voluntary, drugs have been shown to alter brain chemistry, which inadvertently interferes with an individual’s ability to make decisions and can lead to compulsive craving, seeking and use. 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.  Drugs hijack this “reward” system, causing unusually large amounts of dopamine to flood the system. This flood of dopamine is what causes the “high” or euphoria associated with drug abuse.  Drug addiction causes impulsiveness, loss of self-control, impaired judgment, addiction, hallucinations, paranoia, birth defects.

Lastly, if you are an addict, you need help from your doctor, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program to overcome your drug addiction and stay drug free.  Addiction produces global body changes such as breast development in men, dramatic fluctuations in appetite and increase in body temperature which may impact a variety of health conditions negatively.

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