According to the World Drug Report by the UN, 35 million people suffered from drug-related disorders in 2019. Only 1 in 7 received treatment.

Substance abuse is a serious concern, especially among youngsters. Lack of awareness, peer pressure, and a thrill of trying something new have collectively started a silent and dangerous epidemic. Drugs and alcohol can have significant mental and physical impacts on the individual. Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to problems like depression, anxiety, hallucinations etc. Apart from mental effects, it can also affect the immune system, induce nausea, lead to strokes and seizures, and even cause death. In pregnant women, alcohol exposure can lead to disorders in the unborn baby.

How does a drug act on our body?

Our brain has nerve cells or neurons, which create communication pathways. They continually rearrange themselves throughout our life, as we gain more knowledge and experience. Drugs disrupt these pathways, and as a result, influence our mood and behavior.

Additionally, all drugs target the ‘reward system’ of the brain. Imagine the drug to be a bar of chocolate. If we give this bar of chocolate to a child as a reward, they will enjoy it and want more. Something similar happens when we take recreational drugs or alcohol. They stimulate our mind and activates certain hormones (dopamine). As a result, we feel lightheaded and worry-free immediately after taking them. But this feel-good effect lasts only for a certain period. It soon transforms into a dangerous addiction. Now, you don’t need the drug to feel happy, but you need it to not feel depressed or anxious. And the more you consume, the more you need. A vicious cycle has started.

Is there any way to treat addiction and substance abuse-related disorders?

The good news is yes, addiction is treatable. But due to the disorder being chronic, the treatment is often very long. The main aim of any treatment is to stop the consumption of drugs. But withdrawal can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, slurred speech, etc. To understand how drastic they can be, here is an example. Drug withdrawal can lead to sensory hallucinations. The person may feel that bugs are traveling on their limbs. In an attempt to get them off, they scratch and damage their skin.

Treatments include behavioral counseling, medication, treatment of withdrawal symptoms, and routine follow-ups to prevent relapse.

But remember, while it can be hard, refusing is always better than one try.

 

– Ishita Gupta, Amity International School, Noida

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