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Substance Abuse: A Deadly Reality

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To understand the individual differences and proneness to substance abuse, you first need to understand what substance abuse is. Substance abuse is simply the intake of illegal, illicit, and non-prescribed drugs regularly. Substance abuse has long been one of the many reasons that affect the death rate all around the globe. Substance abuse includes over and illegal use of drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy), Marijuana (Cannabis), methamphetamine, cocaine, alcohol, etc.  

According to WHO reports, there are around 33 million people with drug use disorders, out of which 3.3 million die each year due to alcohol overuse. In the recent pandemic, it has been observed that the health of people suffering from substance abuse deteriorated much quicker than others.  

Now, one should not confuse substance use with substance abuse, as consumption of any substance to the extent where it negatively affects a person’s mental or physical health becomes substance abuse. There are substances that most commonly alter the mood, behavior, and physical reflexes of a person if used beyond recommended quantities.

Proneness to substance abuse:

Few people are more prone to substance abuse and addiction as compared to others. Are you among them? Below are the factors you need to check for.

However, to accurately determine and attribute a single determinant of substance abuse is not possible. It is perfect to say that there is no discrimination in substance abuse; people of all IQ levels, age, and gender, ethnic and religious background are subjected to it. A countless number of researches have been done and found out that not a single key driver of substance abuse is there, but a comprehensive combination of factors are playing a pivotal role. Family background, parental drug usage, environment, genetics, stress, and personality traits are more likely to develop an addiction.

No one can eliminate the complete chances of becoming an addict. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following are the primary factor that increases proneness to drug abuse.

Genetic predisposition and biology:

The genetic predisposing in few individuals enhance chances by 50 percent. Due to hormonal and neurobiological differences, people respond differently to the intake of different drugs. Gender is one aspect that needs to be considered, the likelihood of substance abuse in males is more significant, not only biology but indeed, culture plays an important role. The more significant number of men historically has been reported to use Heroin, and women, in contrast, are more subjected to the abuse of sedatives.  

Mental disorders:

Various mental disorders, for instance, depression, GAD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and many others that remain unresolved, can increase the likelihood of intake of drugs. The primary reason is that the same part of the brain is involved in both mental health issues and substance abuse. People with depression and other issues may take drugs to avoid dealing with problems.

Environmental stimulants: 

People, especially teens who encounter or spend time with drug addicts in their family and friends, can also increase the proneness. The children of addicts are 45-60% more likely to be addict themselves as per the national institute of health, and peer pressure is also crucial to consider. Peer pressure, early experience of violence and abuse, stress, and lack of parental involvement, and guidance are a major environmental stimulant of the substance abuse. 

Developmental aspects:

Drug exposure at an earlier stage of development is what enhances the chances of addiction and abuse. At the earlier stage of development, the part of the brain associated with judgment and decision-making, self-concept, and self-control are not fully developed. Thus they are more prone to exhibit a range of risky behaviors, and trying a new drug or substance out of curiosity is the one that teens are most vulnerable at.  

An adult helps a young girl light a cigarette as a band plays in the background in the village of Vale de Salgueiro, northern Portugal, during the local Kings’ Feast Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. The village’s Epiphany celebrations, called Kings’ Feast, feature a tradition that each year causes an outcry among outsiders: parents encourage their children, some as young as 5, to smoke cigarettes. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Higher intelligence:

Yes, you have read it correctly. In a recent couple of years, the researchers have negated the commonly held misconception that individuals from remote and less educated areas and with decreased mental capabilities are more likely to be substance addicts. Many people from a sound professional and educational background such as bankers, doctors, lawyers, and professors also experience addiction. Studies have found out that intelligent children are vulnerable to psychoactive drugs such as marijuana, Heroin, and Cocaine out of curiosity, and later on, they fall victim to the addiction. Another supporting argument is that the more the intelligent one is, the more he is going to rationalize and intellectualize his abuse of drugs.

Reasons for addiction:

The mechanism for addiction is simple as the drugs activate the mesolimbic reward system leading to the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, another part of the brain. The dopamine activates feelings of pleasure, leading to addiction. The psychological explanation lies in conditioning that is caused by memorizing and associating positive feelings with drug intake and the circumstances, which in the future creates a craving for drugs in case of re-experience of the same situation of meeting with some individuals.

Identifying substance abuser:

The following are the symptoms that you look for in surrounding to check whether or not the individuals around you are involved in substance abuse. You should definitely keep a keen check on them.

· Anti-social behavior

· Frequent company change 

· Irritability and loss of concentration

· Irregular sleeping and eating patterns

· Frustrated and exhausted or being too extra energetic 

· Instability in moods and feelings 

· Relationship management problems 

Treatment vs. prevention:

As mentioned earlier, none of us is 100 percent away from the chances of substance abuse, but still, many of us are succeeded in avoiding this curse. Prevention is much better than treatment. Substance abuse, although very prevalent nowadays, is still preventable. The initiatives should be taken at the institutional, national, and global levels to introduce and propagate the prevention programs that involve family counseling, awareness at schools, and community level and the use of mass media for awareness for substance abuse harms. 

Treatment is time-consuming, and the chances of relapse are too high in substance abuse as he returns to those stressors of his life. Treatment involves medications along with the theory sessions. For counseling, you must need to understand the harms and reasons for addiction, to develop healthier coping strategies to deal with problems and to avoid the trigger like places, people, and situations where that cause craving. 

Maya SH

Maya SH

Blogging with passion

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