Mind Trending
Addiction & Fatalities Caused By Drugs

Dr C Rajesh Reddy

MBBS, MD, DM (Neurology)

5 min read


Fatalities due to overdose of drugs are increasing among the youth of India, today. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there are different kinds of drug abuses but prescription drug abuse is a more popular means of drug over dosage. According to statistics, the numbers in the world have tripled since 1990. This is a grim situation indeed.

 

Do people get addicted to prescribed medicine? The answer is yes. Though they don’t have access to these medicines, they try to procure it through other means. They abuse a prescribed drug and don’t talk about it openly. They also don’t reveal the exact amount they may be consuming or the ways of procuring it. In the case of children – parents are totally unaware. They only come to know when the child becomes intoxicated or when it’s too late.

Intoxication is of two kinds – acute or chronic. Despite this scenario, there’s a pressing social stigma attached to the topic of drug abuse. This is one of the main reasons for this issue not being addressed. Let’s try to understand drug abuse better. The abuse of drugs takes place when medication is used for reasons not prescribed by a doctor. This could be practiced by people we know or it may even be our loved ones. Records state that drug abuse often begins at the age of 12. Most people undergo maximum drug overdose between their 20s-30s.

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Drug addiction is a vicious cycle. It starts with an individual choosing to take a medication/drug for different reasons like fun, pleasure, peer-pressure, relaxation and others. After a few days of consuming the drug, the brain starts to respond to the chemicals and it begins to affect self-control and reasoning ability. Over time, there is an intense urge to consume the drug on a more frequent basis – this marks the initial phase of addiction.

 

Procuring prescription drugs isn’t too difficult, given the scenario of OTC (over the counter) medicines in India. The three most common classes of prescription drugs often abused are opioids, CNS depressants and stimulants.

 

Opioids: This medicine has chemicals to treat pain and relax the body. The relaxation produces a ‘high’ that people get used to.

 

Some common prescriptive pain relieve medicines falling in this category include Vicodin, OxyContin and fentanyl. The making of these either involves using the opium poppy plant or lab-derived synthetics.

 

CNS depressants: Comprising the category of sedatives, tranquilizers and hypnotics, these numb the body system. It relaxes the muscles, reduces the heart rate and creates a calming effect on the body.

 

While it treats stress, panic attacks, anxiety and sleep issues, overdose of the depressants create a ‘down.’ This impacts the breath, heart rate and the brain. The amount of oxygen reaching different parts of the body also gets affected. The user may go into a coma, encounter permanent brain damage, withdrawal symptoms, seizures and hypoxia.

 

Stimulants: Derived from the root word ‘stimulate’, this class of prescription medicine improves alertness, attention and energy. These are often used to treat obesity, asthma, narcolepsy, depression and ADD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

 

Helpful in treating low self-esteem, troubled relationships and work-problems – the stimulants raise heart rate, sugar and blood pressure. Stimulant abuse in the form of snorting can cause a rise in body temperature and irregular heartbeat. This can also be accompanied by slurred speech, poor coordination and dizziness.


During substance abuse, patients are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. This includes both physiological and psychological. There can also be episodes of mood swings along with fits and seizures.


Addictive drugs come in different forms and shapes. These come in oral administrative and injective formats as well. The abusers of the medicine go to the extent of injecting themselves through intravenous and intramuscular forms.

In the entire journey of addiction, the most difficult step is identifying abuse. The user is seldom forthcoming about the abuse, amount of abuse, type, drug being used and so on. Due to the social stigma, these individuals withdraw from society which makes identification even more difficult.

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Often, a medical emergency such as being unconsciousness, getting fits and seizures brings attention to the root cause of the problem. Trauma doctors of the medical emergency team generally have the tools and medicines to counteract the effects of drug overdose. Post the emergency, the abusers are best-guided under a trained set of psychologists and anti-addiction experts.

Despite help being available, it is generally seen that patients do not complete their course of consultation and leave mid-way after a couple of sessions. This behaviour leads to a relapse in addiction. More awareness is needed towards substance abuse. Though there are many rehabilitation centers for alcohol abuse, there are only a few to treat prescription drug abuse.

When it comes to substance or drug abuse, the approach gets more complex. For this reason, the government needs to implement a holistic range of experts, including but not limited to a psychiatrist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, social worker and a physical trainer.

 

During substance abuse, patients are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. This includes both physiological and psychological. There can be episodes of mood swings along with fits and seizures. This uphill path could deter patients to continue on their de-addiction journey. In such cases, emotional support from family and friends is crucial.

 

Due to the lack of specialized centers, some alcohol de-addiction centers handle drug abuse as well. Another good option is virtual counselling sessions which have recently gained prominence. If initiated in the early stages, a virtual session can help address the problem to a certain extent. Virtual sessions have the obvious advantages of 24*7 availability, anonymity, and personalized, non-invasive interaction. Most importantly, this problem can find its solution through a two pronged process – acceptance and action.