The 26th of June every year has been set out by the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime as the International Day against Drug abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1987, this day serves as a reminder of the goals agreed to by Member States, which Nigeria is a part of, of creating an international society free of drug abuse.
In a statement given by the Executive Director of the UNODC, Mr. Yury Fedotov, to mark the day he says “Today is an important day for focusing on the threat of the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs. Robust action is needed to strengthen criminal justice systems, break-up the criminal networks who deal in misery and suffering, and to nurture health and human rights-based responses.”
Truly, Drug abuse and trafficking causes immeasurable pain and suffering to those who end up becoming addicted to these substances. Drug abuse hurts the people who take drugs AND the people around them, including families, kids, and babies who aren’t yet born. It also hurts the body and the brain, sometimes forever.
Depending on the drug, it can enter the human body in a number of ways, including injection, inhalation, and ingestion. The method of how it enters the body impacts on how the drug affects the person. For example: 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 reward 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 actually change how the brain performs its jobs. These changes are what lead to compulsive drug use, the hallmark of addiction.
Recreational use of prescription drugs is a rising epidemic causing a serious problem with teens and young adults. Studies have show that a teen is more likely to have abused a prescription drug than an illegal street drug with many youths believing prescription drugs to be safe because they were prescribed by a doctor or a pharmacist. However taking them for nonmedical use to get high or “self-medicate” can be just as dangerous and addictive as taking illegal street drugs.
There are very serious health risks in taking prescription drugs. This is why they are taken only under the care of a doctor. And even then, they have to be closely monitored to avoid addiction or other problems. Many pills look the same. It is extremely dangerous to take any pill that you are uncertain about or was not prescribed for you. People can also have different reactions to drugs due to the differences in each person’s body chemistry. A drug that was okay for one person could be very risky, even fatal, for someone else.
Prescription drugs are only safe for the individuals who actually have the prescriptions for them and no one else. Due to their potential for abuse and addiction, many prescription drugs have been categorized in the same category as opium or cocaine. These include Ritalin and Dexedrine (stimulants), and the painkillers OxyContin, Demerol, Roxanol, Codeine.
Many illegal street drugs were at one time used or prescribed by doctors or psychiatrists but were later banned when the evidence of their harmful effects could no longer be ignored. Examples are heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine and Ecstasy.
Abuse of prescription drugs can be even riskier than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. The high potency of some of the synthetic (man-made) drugs available as prescription drugs creates a high overdose risk. This is particularly true of OxyContin, Codeine and similar painkillers.
Many people don’t realize that distributing or selling prescription drugs (other than by a doctor) is a form of drug dealing and is as illegal as selling heroin or cocaine, with costly fines and jail time.
TYPES OF ABUSED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Prescription drugs that are taken for recreational use include the following major categories:
- Depressants:Often referred to as central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) depressants, these drugs slow brain function. They include sedatives (used to make a person calm and drowsy) and tranquilizers (intended to reduce tension or anxiety) such as Rophynol.
- Opioids and morphine derivatives:Generally referred to as painkillers, these drugs contain opium or opium-like substances and are used to relieve pain such as Codeine.
- Stimulants:A class of drugs intended to increase energy and alertness but which also increase blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.
- Antidepressants:Psychiatric drugs that are supposed to handle depression.
A person who abuses drugs may not realize they have a problem until pronounced effects of drug abuse are seen, often physically. While drug abuse effects on the body vary depending on the drug used, all drug abuse negatively impacts one’s health.
Common effects of drug abuse on the body include sleep changes and decreased memory and cognitive abilities. Other common physical problems include:
More deaths, illnesses and disabilities stem from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to illicit drug use. People who live with substance dependence have a higher risk of all bad outcomes including unintentional injuries, accidents, risk of domestic violence, medical problems, and death.
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 susceptibility to infections.
- Cause 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.
- Cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
- Cause the liver to have to work harder, possibly causing significant damage or liver failure.
- Cause 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.
- Produce global body changes such as breast development in men, dramatic fluctuations in appetite and increases in body temperature, which may impact a variety of health conditions.
Effects On The Brain
Although initial drug use may be voluntary, drugs have been shown to alter brain chemistry, which 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 – effect 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.
- Impaired Judgment
- Loss of Self-Control
There is an increasing percentage of women who use illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and other amphetamines, and heroin during pregnancy. These and other illicit drugs may pose various risks for pregnant women and their babies. Some of these drugs can cause a baby to be born too small or too soon, or to have withdrawal symptoms, birth defects or learning and behavioral problems. Additionally, illicit drugs may be prepared with impurities that may be harmful to a pregnancy.
Finally, pregnant women who use illicit drugs may engage in other unhealthy behaviors that place their pregnancy at risk, such as having extremely poor nutrition or developing sexually transmitted infections.
There are lots of reasons why people take illegal drugs. Some take them to escape problems while others are bored, curious or just want to feel good. People may be pressured into taking drugs to “fit in” with a particular crowd or to rebel or get attention. Drug users come from all kinds of backgrounds. They are male and female, young and old, rich and poor, working and unemployed, from the city and the countryside—it does not matter. Drug use can affect anyone.
“Efforts against illicit drugs must be connected to our work to promote opportunities through equitable and sustainable development. We must continually strive to make the weak and fragile stronger. The United Nations General Assembly special session on the world drug problem, to be held in April 2016, can advance this cause, with countries sharing knowledge and forging common solutions.
On the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, let us raise awareness about the value of applying a balanced approach to these problems based on an understanding that sustainable development can and must catalyze change across all these fronts” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General