People do misuse drugs and medications. Drug abuse occurs when an individual excessively exploits a drug or medication outside of its original function, which could result in harm to the user, their families, and even their community (Huffman & Dowdell, 2015). Abusing drugs can cause hazardous consequences that will affect a person from a biological, psychological, and social standpoint. Fortunately, drug abuse can be prevented and treated.
The Foundation Recovery Network (2018) expresses that drug abuse and drug addiction are not the same thing, but they are connected. As stated earlier, substance abuse is when an individual excessively exploits a drug or medication outside of its original function (Huffman & Dowdell, 2015). Drug addiction is an unrelenting disease in which the user is dependent upon a particular substance (FRN, 2018). Drug abuse is less devastating than drug addiction; however, it can lead to addiction if it is continued for a prolonged amount of time. After all, becoming addicted to a particular substance is not instantaneous (FRN, 2018).
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According to Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jennifer Shubin (2018), not many people realize when they have crossed the line between drug use and drug abuse. There are indicators of drug related problems that could lead to drug abuse. For starters, some people seek a drugs affect when they desire to fill a void in their life; therefore, these individuals are at a higher risk of abusing drugs and becoming addicted. Individuals start using and abusing substances for many different reasons. Some people will tryout and investigate drugs out of simple curiosity. Others may take drugs because they feel as if they need them in order to have a good time. In addition, individuals will take drugs in order to fit in, and some are pressured into taking them from their fellow peers. To some people, drugs may seem to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Eventually, these small sparks can lead to a destructive explosion if drug use becomes drug abuse. Partaking of substance use, such as smoking weed with buddies, taking ecstasy at parties, and painkillers for physical aches every now and then, can lead to doing it every day.
Substance abuse alters the user’s brain structure and function. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018), some drugs can trigger the brain to release an abnormally substantial amount of neurotransmitters or hormones and cause the neurons to send irregular messages. In addition, drugs affect the brain’s reward system, which produces what is known as a high.? The high is a result from a release of a large quantity of endorphins and dopamine. An individual can also develop tolerance from frequent exposure of a particular substance, because the part of the brain responsible for the reward system, the basal ganglia, becomes immune to the drugs affects. As a result of drug abuse, the basal ganglia will also reduce the amount of receptors that receive singles, making it challenging for the user to experience enjoyment from naturally gratifying activities. Furthermore, drugs can affect the amygdala, which is responsible for anxiety, irritability, and uneasiness. This brain structure would increase in sensitivity with repeated contact to a specific drug. Also, drugs can affect the prefrontal cortex, which is in control of a person’s capability to think, plan, solve problems, make decisions, and exert self-control over impulses? (NIDA, 2018 p. 2). If this structure of the brain was altered by drugs, a person would have a compulsive desire to partake of a particular substance and have trouble thinking clearing (NIDA, 2018).
In addition to brain alterations, drug abuse can damage an individual’s psychological health. According to Robinson, Smith, and Shubin (2018), drugs interfere with the chemical messengers of the brain, which change an individual’s mood, outlook, and behavior. People who abuse drugs will often have a sudden change in character. For example, these individuals will often have frequent mood swings, moments of irritability, and sudden heated outburst. They will also have periods of abnormal hyperactivity. It may seem as if they cannot sit still or that they are jumpy, which could be a result from anxiety or paranoia. Also, they may seem to lack inspiration or motivation. They may have periods of being spaced out, sluggish, or listless. A person in school will often have a steep decline in attendance as well as performance. A person abusing drugs will most-likely have financial hardships, which could be a result of spending every dollar that they make on certain substances. These financial hardships could lead to stealing and selling stolen property. Most people who abuse drugs will often have secretive or suspicious behaviors and frequently find themselves in troubling dilemmas (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018).
Drug abuse can also alter an individual’s physical appearance. According to Robinson, Smith, and Shubin (2018), an individual using drugs may have bloodshot eyes. The pupils of their eyes may appear larger or smaller than usual. They may also have a change in appetite and eating habits, which could result in weight loss or weight gain. In addition, people may have a change in their sleep cycle, which is a result of the chemicals in the brain being altered. Drug abuser will often spend less and less time on personal hygiene. This could lead to decline of their physical appearance and health (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018). For example, many individuals taking destructive drugs such as methamphetamine, can lead to a deterioration of the teeth. Also, a decline in grooming habits and the use of a substance with an aroma, can cause one’s breath, body, and clothing to smell (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018). Drugs can also cause an individual to have tremors, incoherent speech, and impaired coordination (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018).
Robinson, Smith, and Shubin (2018) also report on the most common abused drugs and prescriptions. The most common abused drugs include: marijuana, stimulants, inhalants, hallucinogens, and heroin. Marijuana causes glazed, bloodshot eyes, loud talking, goofiness, sleepiness, loss of interest and motivation, and an increased appetite. Stimulants increase brain activity. For example, amphetamines, cocaine, and crystal meth. Stimulants can cause enlarged pupils, hyperactivity, elation, petulance, nervousness, excessive talking, depression, excessive sleeping, weight loss, and dry mouth and nose. In addition, stimulants one may go without eating for a lengthy amount of time. Inhalants are fumes that are inhaled from ordinary household items that produce a high. They may cause eyes to water. They may also cause impaired vision, memory, and thought. Secretions from the nose or rashes around the mouth might occur if an individual is using inhalants. Many experience headaches, queasiness, intoxication, drowsiness, loss of muscle control, change in appetite, anxiety, irritability. Also, evidence of inhalants, such as aerosol cans, can be located around their living quarters. Hallucinogens heighten sensations and distort what an individual sees and hears. Hallucinogens, such as LSD and PCP, can cause enlarged pupils, strange and unreasonable behavior, paranoia, belligerence, hallucinations, mood swings, muddled speech, and disorientation. Also, hallucinogens can cause one to become disconnected with those around him or her. They may also be self-absorbed with themselves, others, or objects. Heroin causes contracted pupils, which do not respond to light changes. Needle marks are often left as evidence of heroin use. In addition, heroin can cause sweating, vomiting, coughing, sniffling, tremors, and loss of appetite (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018).
The most common abused prescriptions include: opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, and stimulants (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018). Opioid painkillers reduce one’s ability to feel emotions and physical pain. Some may produce feelings of warmth and satisfaction. Opioid painkillers, such as OsyContin, Vicodin, and Norco, may cause droopy eyes, contracted pupils, itchiness, flushness, slurred speech, apathy, inability to concentrate, and lack of encouragement. It will also cause one to start neglecting responsibilities, leading to a decline in school and work performance. Anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax, Valium, Ambien, may cause constricted pupils, intoxication, muddled speech, trouble concentrating, clumsiness, poor judgment, sleepiness, and slowed breathing. Stimulants may include: Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, and Dexedrine. These stimulants can cause dilated pupils, loss of appetite, agitation, nervousness, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature, insomnia, and paranoia (Robinson, Smith, & Shubin, 2018).
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014), treatment for substance abuse may include: Individual counseling, group counseling, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, hospital programs, care management, medication, recovery support services, twelve-step programs, and peer support. Individual counseling emphasizes on decreasing and stopping drug abuse. To do this, the counselor will focus on building the individual’s skill by adhering to a recovery plan, which aim for improved outcomes. Group counseling is used to offer social support in pursuit of advancement toward recovery. Counselors offer a many different types of therapies. Conventional therapies can include: cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational enhancement, and twelve-step facilitation. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is focused on recognizing and stopping pessimistic thoughts and behavior. This type of therapy can help an individual identify stressors, circumstances, and emotions that precede the use of substances. Contingency management is based on rewards for abstaining from drug use, which reinforce constructive behavior. Motivational enhancement therapy encourages those struggling with drug abuse to commit to recovery. Twelve-step facilitation therapy guides an individual toward recovery through a twelve-step process. Also, some counseling is designed for specific ages, such as teen counseling, which would most-likely require a different set of guidelines and programs for recovery (SAMHSA, 2014).
In addition to counseling, medication is a common way to treat drug abuse. Medications can decrease an individual’s desire for substances. Medication can also help with symptoms such as withdrawals. Medications have this affect by interfering with the receptors of the brain that are linked to particular substances. Also, medications can obstruct the rewarding feeling associated with the using drugs. Also, they can produce unpleasant emotions when drugs have been taken (SAMHSA, 2014).
Recovery support services and peer support groups are used to treat drug abuse by supporting individuals in the recovery process (SAMHSA, 2014). These services are nonclinical and are more than likely made available by peers and fellow recovering drug abusers and addicts. The service may support an individual by providing transportation to and from treatment facilities or activities. They may offer mentoring, coaching, spiritual support, education, self-help and peer groups. Peer support groups play a major role in the recovery process. These groups are filled with people who testify their own experiences to others in order to help them toward recover. These groups allow the recovering drug abuser and addict to see that many others are struggling with the same battles. It also gives them more encouragement if they know that they are not alone (SAMHSA, 2014).
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