Drug Abuse

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Drug Abuse

Drug Abuse is generally defined as the use of a drug with such frequency that the user has physical or mental harm or it impairs social abilities. The substances that are discussed in this report are called psychoactive drugs; those drugs that influence or alter the workings of the mind, affect moods, emotions, feelings, and thinking processes.

Drug Dependence/Addiction

There are three basic characteristics that indicate that the user is dependent on a drug. First, the user continues to use the drug for an extended period of time. Second, the user finds it difficult to stop using the drug. They may drop out of school, steal, go to jail, lose their jobs, or leave their families in order to keep using. Finally, the user has withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped. They may undergo physical pain or mental distress. The drug mimics a natural process in the brain called neurotransmission. This is when a brain cell releases a signal to another brain cell. The signal then returns to the first brain cell. The signal is called a neurotransmitter. One major neurotransmitter is called dopamine, which is involved in feelings of pleasure. When the drug is released into the brain, it blocks the dopamine from returning to the first brain cell. Repeated use changes the brain cells so that normal messages can't be sent between brain cells. The drug must always be present in order for neurotransmissions to take place. The user is only able to feel pleasure from the cocaine rather than the things he/she used to find pleasurable. This is called drug addiction or dependence.

Drug Classification

Drugs are generally categorized into two groups, stimulants and depressants. Stimulants are drugs that speed up signals through the nervous system. They produce alertness, arousal and excitability. They also inhibit fatigue and sleep. They include the amphetamines, such as cocaine, caffeine, and nicotine. Depressants slow down the signals through the nervous system. They produce relaxation, lowering of anxiety, drowsiness, and sleep. They include sedatives (such as barbiturates, alcohol, and tranquilizers) and narcotics (heroin, morphine, opium, codeine), which dull the mind's perception of pain.

Some drugs are not included in the stimulant/depressant categories. An example is the hallucinogens, such as PCP and LSD, which produce unusual mental states such as psychedelic visions. Also, marijuana is not generally regarded as belonging to any one of these categories.

Effects of Drugs

There are four basic stages that the drug user goes through. In stage one, there are no outward behavioral changes caused by the use of drugs. The drug use is considered normal. In stage two, the user actively seeks the euphoric effects of the drug by using it more frequently. A reliable source of the drug is established. The user may add mid-week use rather than only on weekends or at parties. In younger users, a general lack of motivation is noticed, along with changes in friends and lower grades. In stage three, the user is extremely preoccupied with the desire to experience the effects of the drug. The drug is used daily. There may be thoughts of suicide and/or depression. There may be family problems or trouble with the law. In the fourth and final stage, the user has become addicted. They are dependent on the drug just to feel normal. Physical signs are frequent sore throats, coughing, fatigue, and weight loss. They may be experiencing overdosing and blackouts more frequently. The user may be engaging in criminal activities in order to obtain money for the drug.

Alcohol

One major drug that physically effects the user is alcohol. It causes damage to the brain, pancreas, and kidney. It also causes high blood pressure and may heighten the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Other consequences of alcohol abuse are possible alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach and duodenal ulcers, colitis,...
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