Mind Trending
Who can u blame ? Who should be blamed ? Are ADDICTS the real victims !

Dr C Rajesh Reddy

MBBS, MD, DM (Neurology)

5 min read

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), over 8.5 lakh people inject drugs into themselves and 1.18 crore people use sedatives and inhalants in India. These alarming statistics of drug abuse in the country calls for our attention to a serious yet neglected issue of ‘substance abuse’.

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse can be best described as a pattern of detrimental use of any substance for the purpose of altering moods. These substances include drugs and alcohol – legal and illegal. Sometimes, these ‘substances’ are not drugs of any kind. Substance ‘abuse’ can be the result of using a substance that is not prescribed or recommended. An individual can use a substance and not be addicted – there is something known as substance use disorder as well.

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When we talk of substance abuse, it generally refers to the use of drugs that are illegal. These drugs are illegal in the first place because of their addictive quality and due to the negative health effects they cause. Besides altering the mood, drugs can distort perceptions, cloud judgment and mess with UR reaction times – all of which are highly dangerous leading to injuries and accidents.

For substances that are legal, the line between what is ‘use’ and what is ‘abuse’ is a bit blurred for many. When you have some drinks to unwind after a hard day’s work – is it abuse or just use? Drinking lots of coffee in the morning to kick-start UR day is abuse or use? What about smoking a pack of cigarettes every day? In situations such as these, individuals are the best judge. Only they decide where abuse begins and use ends! The important question that they need to ask themselves is ‘will this cause any harm?’

Drugs are illegal in the first place because of their addictive quality and due to the negative health effects they cause. Besides altering the mood, drugs can distort perceptions, cloud judgment and mess with UR reaction times.

There are many substances that are being consumed traditionally in the country. India is the second largest populous country in the world, due to which use and abuse is very common. Most prevalent among this is smoking and alcoholism. As it’s legal, substance abuse is more common – people are comfortable talking about it and it seems to be okay. Even for the general average person in our country, it seems like it’s not a very harmful thing as long as it’s consumed in limitation.

But from the medical point of view it’s not advisable – even a single cigarette can cause harm. In terms of alcohol, there are some reports that say a moderate intake of alcohol (30ml for women and 60ml for men daily) has some benefits in preventing heart strokes. Some research also states that moderate alcohol intake prevents brain stroke. This data seems to be grossly misrepresented and people don’t follow any moderation!

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When patients look for validation based on this research, zero consumption of alcohol is advised; because there is equal evidence that suggests alcohol is harmful! If you ask a gastroenterologist he would say even a drop of alcohol is toxic for the liver! Alcohol intake can lead to hemorrhagic strokes (brain hemorrhage) – there are two kinds of strokes (clotting related stroke and bleeding related stroke). Alcohol has shown to reduce the clot-related stroke but on the contrary it can increase hemorrhage related strokes. As alcohol is legalized it depends on the individual to consume it in limitations. When it is had in excess there are complications.

Let’s talk about the substances that are legal and which have social taboos attached to them – their safe and unsafe limits. Traditionally, even in the BC period, people used to consume cannabis or marijuana. After alcohol and tobacco (smoking) this is the third largest substance abuse in India. Take for example, a national housing survey that was conducted about a decade ago. People were asked if they had consumed alcohol or cigarettes in the last one year (or one month) or if they take it daily. It was found that 30% people in the country consume at least one cigarette in their lifetime. About 10% have cigarettes on a daily basis or had it during the last one month (according to question in the survey question). When it comes to alcohol, at least 25% people consume it at least once in their lifetime and 21% in the last one month. About 3.6% people use it excessively, to the extent of what is called alcohol dependence. Considering the populous nature of the country this is huge – about almost four to five crore people.

Speaking of marijuana, at least 4.6% of the population has taken it at least once in their lifetime. This too is a huge number, considering it is not legal. Somehow they manage. These facts have come to light through the survey. Cannabis as a form of addiction is about 1.6%.

Following cannabis, we have opium and opium derivatives. The synthetic form of opium comes into the country from the Border States where there is widespread cultivation. Apart from this, we have newer drugs known as club drugs or recreational drugs which include stimulants like amphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy) etc.

Many argue that these recreational drugs are not harmful and are merely for use and not abuse. Those who smoke marijuana ardently support recreation drugs. Their argument is that it is not addictive but in fact, has helpful qualities unlike the other drugs that are considered ‘hard’ drugs. According to recent studies, even marijuana is harmful for health and may have harmful mental, physical and psychomotor effects.

When stimulants are used they open up breathing and increase the heart rate. Users feel more energetic and alert with its use. When prescribed and taken in a proper way, they are very effective for treatment of ADHD, depression and narcolepsy. The stimulants that are abused include amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Overdose of these can be fatal.

The side effects include headache, tremors, heart palpitations, hallucinations, paranoia, panic etc. When taken in high doses by abusers – stimulants can cause seizures, an irregular heartbeat and heart failure too! It’s important to remember that over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs can be abused in the same way as other drugs.