Monday, 11 July 2016

Smoking, Drug Abuse: causes, effects, ways out

By Okechukwu Onuegbu

Although the word ‘Drug’ has several definitions, in this context, it means a substance with the potential to prevent/diagnose and treat diseases or to enhance physical or mental well being. This can be naturally occurring or synthetic.
Ideally, drug is to be used for medicinal or licit purposes and not otherwise (or what is known as illicit use). It is therefore worth noting that drug may be legal or illegal depending on the circumstances surrounding its use.
Therefore, drug could be classified as legal if prescribed by physicians, and this include antibiotics used for treating various infections; analgesics otherwise known as pain relievers; sedatives applies for treating insomnia, and antihypertensives which lowers blood pressure, among others.
Similarly, drug becomes illegal, abuse or misuse if administered without prescription from authorized medical practitioners or taking inappropriately such as overdose or underdose mostly practiced by ‘self medicated individuals’. They include;
Some of the paracetamol popular brand names are panadol, boska and M&B. Due to its analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties, paracetamol is widely used, and frequently abused for the treatment of fever, headache as well as mild to moderate body aches. Unfortunately, its adverse effect when taking in excess or inappropriately are hepatotoxicity (liver damage) which may result after the maximum recommended dose of 4g (8 tablets) is exceeded per day, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and rashes.
Aspirin, whose popular brands include Alabukun and Phensic, belongs to the group of drugs called Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) often employed in the treatment of severe headaches (migraine), dysmenorrhoea (menstrual pain), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other causes of pain. Other NSAIDs include ibuprofen, diclofenac, piroxicam (feldene), indometacin and so on. Its most common adverse effect when abused is peptic ulceration. Also, it is contraindicated in children less than 16 years as it can lead to Reye syndrome in them (characterized by liver damage and encephalopathy).
Codeine is an opioid analgesic also used in the management of pain and diarrhoea. Like other opioids, it is widely abused because of its potential to produce euphoria (high mood) when consumed in large quantities. Large quantities of codeine-containing cough syrups lead to adverse effects like dependence, tolerance, sedation, euphoria, constipation following prolonged use, dizziness, vomiting, headaches and dry mouth just to mention a few. Other opioid analgesics sometimes abused include morphine, pentazocine (fortwin), tramadol and pethidine.
Antibiotics such as tetracycline, metronidazole, (flagyl) and ciprofloxacin (ciprotab), which are variously used in the treatment of gastroenteritis (cholera and dysentery), typhoid, sexually transmitted infections (gonorrhoea and chancroid), skin infections and urinary tract infections, leads to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, dizziness, seizures, tremors and slurred speech, and rashes, etc. when addicted to. More so, it is not advisable to be used in treating children, pregnant or breastfeeding women because of the risk of osteoarthropathy in the weight-bearing joints, tooth discoloration.
These refer to drugs commonly used for treatment of sleep and anxiety disorders. Some of its examples are diazepam (valium), bromazepam (lexotan) and lorazepam. However, prolonged use of these medications is not without adverse effects such as respiratory depression, confusion, tolerance, dependence, visual disturbances, reduced libido (sexual drive) and headache. Thus, it is better to identify and treat the underlying cause of insomnia rather than taking these sleeping pills.
Pentazocin injection
This drug is a powerful but potentially additive analgesic which is used for severe pains resulting from conditions like sickle cell crisis, post surgical procedures, etc. Although, strictly controlled drug, Sicklers who “self medicate” are potential addicts to this drug which is unhealthy.
Lately, a trend among youths and students is the abuse of coffee, tramadol (tramol) and thousands of others whose hazardous effects are uncountable. In view of these, patients are usually advised to consult the doctor or physician before seeking for, buying or taking any drug.
Since the term “Drug” is used to refer to medicinal and non medicinal use or abuse, drug dependence experts prefer to refer to drugs that are abused as “substances” in order to differentiate between the licit or medicinal use of drugs from the illicit or illegal use or abuse of drugs. Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined substance abuse as “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.”
Therefore, illicit or hard drugs could be defined as deliberate use of chemical substances for reasons other than intended medical purposes which results in physical, mental emotional or social impairment of the user.
Among these illicit drugs are alcohol, tobacco or cigarette smoking, inhalation of chemical substances (like house paints, woods, gum/glue popularly called “evostic” and so on),  sniffing of organic solvents, chewing local leaves or ‘Zakami’, licking or swallowing (psychotropic drugs), cannabis (marijuana such as monkeytey or monkeytail), opium, heroin, Ice (Crystal methamphetamine), cocaine (India hemp/igbo), crack, ecstasy, hallucinogens, heroin, pharmaceuticals, mandrax, steroids, amphetamines, ephedrine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), khat, Caffeine, barbiturates, amphetamines etc.

While estimating that at least 76.3 million people worldwide suffer of alcohol disorders contributing to 1.8 million deaths per year, recent research shows that each year, about 4.9 million people worldwide die as a result of smoking.
Additionally, in a meeting of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2014 World Drug report and International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) held at Abuja, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) claimed to have seized illicit drugs (in 2013) that weighed 339,968kg with an estimated street value of N34 billion naira, as well as successfully counseled a total of 3,271 drug dependent persons (3,062 males and 209 females) across their facilities nationwide, even as some hospitals reportedly treated 802 drug dependence cases.
According to experts, there are four stages involved in developing drug dependence (addiction). The first stage is the stage of experimentation, followed by the second stage called the stage of more frequent use, and the third stage is the stage of intense pre-occupation to experience the effects of the drug, while the last but not the least is the stage of drug dependence (addiction).
These are also what most researchers classified as drug abuse theories namely;
Socio-cultural Theory of Drug Abuse:
This theory maintained that drug abuse is determined by socio-cultural values of the people. For example, certain cultures permit the consumption of alcohol and marijuana, while other cultures do not. In Nigeria for instance, alcohol is used in cultural activities among the Edo, Ijaw, Igbo, Ibibio, Urhobo, Itesekiri and Yoruba, while in the northern part of Nigeria, smoking and drug are partially and impartially upheld.
Personality Theory of Drug Abuse:
The theory emphasis that there are some certain characteristics in an individual that forces people to abuse drugs e.g.; in ability to delay satisfaction, low tolerance for frustration, poor coping ability and low self esteem, poor impulse control and high emotional dependence on other people. People with these personality characteristics find it difficult to abstain from drug abuse.
Biological Theory of Drug Abuse:
The theory maintains that drug abuse is determined by the individual’s biological or genetic factors which make them vulnerable to drug addiction.
Learning Theory of Drug Abuse:
It maintains that usage or dependence on drugs occurs as a result of learning. The learning could be by the means of instrumental learning, conditional learning, or social learning.
Deducible from these theories is that people begin to abuse drugs mostly from teens. It thus means that people could be lured to the act through peer group influence (friends, classmates, age mates and playmates); desire to experiment; personality problems such as low self esteem; family exposure – use of drugs by other members of family; parental deprivation; family discord; media advertizing; unemployment; under-employment; frustration, rapid urbanization leading to breakdown of social and family support; high risk jobs like working in breweries, tobacco companies, bar attendants; drug availability and the so-called spillover effect of drug trafficking.
Dependence on drugs gives rise to mental, emotional, biological or physical social and economic instability. These effects on an individual form the basis for its cumulative effects on the society. The impacts or complications are numerous, and vary, depending on the drug being abused.
For example, the physical effects of drug abuse on the addicts includes bloodshot eyes especially with marijuana, yellow eyes (jaundice) associated with prolonged abuse of alcohol due to liver damage or liver failure, abnormal heart rate, heart attacks or stroke, collapsed veins, infection of the blood vessels and heart valves (resulting from misused of injections). Also, heroin can cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
Furthermore, misuse of drugs can compromise the immune (defense) system of the body, leading to infections and diseases that would ordinarily not afflict the abuser.
Also, there may be seizures (convulsions) with various body injuries; stroke and widespread brain damage that can lead to memory loss.
Similarly, pregnant women may have premature delivery; “drunk baby” syndrome; birth defects in the new born baby and retarded children with poor academic performance.
More-so, addicts may suffer of deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits, tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.
Psychologically, when the substances had saturated the addict brain, he/she would always crave for it, leading to tension and restlessness, dependence (addiction) on the substance and paranoia (suspicious), aggressiveness and violence.
Additionally, substances can lead to a state of delirium characterized by altered consciousness, impaired judgment, impulsiveness and loss of self-control; anxiety disorders and major depressive illness, hallucinations (see things others cannot see or hear voices others cannot hear), and could further degenerate to psychotic disorders or madness.
Also, drugs addicts have increased tendency to commit crimes such as stealing, mugging, burglary, armed robbery and homicides under drug influence, loss of job due to low productivity at work resulting from pre-eminence of the use of the substance over normal duties and responsibilities; poor academic performance at school; dropouts/truancy and expulsion by school authorities; broken relationships and marriages resulting from irrational behaviours such as wife battery; financial insolvency; repeated borrowing; sale of property; embezzlement, destitution; street begging and prostitution; physical and sexual abuse of children by substance abusing parents.
The federal of government of Nigeria has promulgated various decrees and laws against drug abuse which predisposes violators/victims to jail term. It also has an agency, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), charged with responsibility of controlling trafficking, possession and use of counterfeit and hard drugs. Through these agency and other related authorities, the government has sensitised and still sensitising the public on dangers of drugs abuse.
NDLEA has further launched drug free clubs in Secondary School nationwide so as to promote alternative activities to drug involvement by students.
However, more hands are needed to achieving more positive results. Therefore, the parents, guardians and well wishers should adequately discharge their responsibilities of bringing up a child in a way that depicts moral uprightness and abstinence from drugs.
There is also need for community groups, traditional institutions, religious bodies, academic institutions, opinion leaders, private individuals/philanthropies, Nongovernmental organisations, voluntary agencies, political parties and others to intensify public enlightenment awareness campaigns against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking.
Similarly, the aforementioned groups should establish, equip and make functional treatment and rehabilitation centres where addicts could be rehabilitated and converted to living normal life.
These measures can drastically reduce crime perpetrated by our youth and also mental disorders that result from the excessive use of these hard drugs.

Onuegbu, who is the author of the book, DIET GUIDES…Tips for Healthy Living, is a journalist and food nutritionist. He writes from Awka, Anambra State through,, 08061506936



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