The issue of drug addiction and how to tackle it

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Susmita Das, a fourth-year medical student of Shaheed Shuhrawardy Medical College,Dhaka,Bangladesh. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The concept of “drug addiction” outlines substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behaviour and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication.

Drugs that are commonly misused include:

Alcohol,Stimulants, such as cocaine,Opioid, painkillers such as heroin, morphine, Tobacco/nicotine and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vaping),Synthetic cannabinoids,steroids, prescription drugs and cold medicines,

Sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications),Inhalants, including solvents, aerosol sprays, gases and nitrites (poppers),Marijuana etc.While these drugs are very different from each other, they all strongly activate the addiction center of the brain. That is what makes these substances habit-forming, while others are not.

According to the latest global estimates, about 5.5 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64 years have used drugs at least once in the past year, while 36.3 million people, or 13 per cent of the total number of persons who use drugs, suffer from drug use disorders.Research has shown that about 1 in 9 Americans uses illicit drugs (about 11% of the population).

There’s so many causes behind this drug addiction such as Curiosity and peer pressure, especially among school children and young adults. The use of prescribed  drugs that were originally intended to target pain relief may have turned into recreational use and become addictive Chemicals may be used as part of religious practices or rituals Recreational purposes as a means of obtaining creative inspiration.

Symptoms of drug addiction include:

Bloodshot eyes and looking tired,changes in appetite,changes in physical appearance such

as having a poor complexion or looking ungroomed,craving drugs,difficulty completing

tasks at work, school or home,engaging in risky behaviours,despite knowing negative consequences (such as driving while impaired or having unprotected sex),inability to reduce or control drug use,weight loss,issues with money.

Study habits,academic support,communication,

peer relationships,self-efficacy,assertiveness,

drug resistance skills,reinforcement of anti-drug attitudes,and strengthening of personal commitments against drug abuse can enhance reducing this problem creating among the people.

Several therapies exist for treating substance use disorder. Even for a severe case, treatment can help. Often, you’ll receive a combination of these therapies:

Detoxification by stopping taking drugs, allowing the drugs to leave the body. You may need healthcare supervision to detox safely.

Medication-assisted therapies by detox medicine can help control cravings and relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapies by cognitive behavioral therapy or other psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help deal with addiction’s cause. Therapy also helps build self-esteem and teaches healthy coping mechanisms.

Some practices that take harm reduction

approaches include: using a nicotine patch instead of smoking, consuming water while drinking alcohol, using substances in a safe environment with someone they trust, and needle exchange programs for people who inject drugs.

There is no cure for drug addiction. People can manage and treat addiction. But there is always a risk that the addiction will return. Managing substance use disorder is a lifelong job.

Four pathways are open in relation to drug harm reduction: reducing the amount of drug use; reducing the harm that drug users experience; reducing the harms that drug users impose on others; and reducing the harms caused by drug markets.

Most often the challenges faced are the absence of proper drug manufacturing policy,legislation,rules and regulations of using drugs, excessive use of drugs.

Through simple voluntary actions medical students can make an impact. Behavioral counseling,medication,medical devices and applications used to treat withdrawal symptoms

or deliver skills training,evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can be done for reducing harm.

Let’s make our future world safer for us by promoting collaboration across all sectors through a harm reduction approach.

About the author

Susmita Das is a fourth-year medical student of Shaheed Shuhrawardy Medical College,Dhaka,Bangladesh. She is working as a Local  Officer of Finance of Bangladesh Medical Students’ Society .She loves drawing,singing and reading books.She believes in bringing changes to the future world. Her passion towards medicine makes her commending for better accessibility to healthcare and empowering the public with accurate and reliable medical information.She wants to serve humanity.

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