To those who do not understand drug abuse, they would think that it is merely an irresponsible act of choosing to take a controlled substance out of curiosity and finally getting themselves hooked. But more than that, some individuals who have been hooked on drugs started out as taking these drugs as part of their medication to heal a specific health condition. Unfortunately, every drug that has been developed does have its side effects and potential for abuse.
Drug Addiction Defined
Drug addiction is defined as a compulsive act of seeking a drug despite knowing its harmful consequences. The primary decision in taking a drug may be voluntary but repeated use of a drug can affect the brain, thereby interfering with the individual’s ability to resist such intense urges to take the drug.
Chemicals from some medicines are too potent that it can manipulate how the individual thinks, to the point of being unafraid of possible health risks. It should be noted that those people who have recovered from drug addiction have a high risk of getting back to the addiction (or going into relapse) even after so many years of giving it up.
Helping an individual to recover from drug addiction may require longer treatment. The treatment does not end with merely detoxifying the individual; it should also extend to a series of therapy sessions wherein a trained therapist or psychologist provides an extensive follow-up treatment until the recovering addicts has their minds “refocused” on better and healthier things.
There is a standard set of guidelines that can help speed up recovery, but each individual is given a tailor-made treatment that would fit the person’s changing needs.
When Drugs Take Over The Brain
To better understand how drug abuse changes the human mindset, it is important to discuss dopamine, a chemical responsible for the happy or rewarding feeling of an individual. When a certain drug metabolite floods in with dopamine, the result is having an unusual “high”, which makes the individual seek for more. As a result, the person has the urge to take the drug over and over again to the point of addiction.
As an individual continuously takes drugs, it gets to a point where the brain is able to adjust to the excess dopamine by reducing the ability of cells to respond to it. This in effect reduces the unusual “high” that an individual feels compared to the time when the drug was first used. This effect is what is called as tolerance.
Once this is achieved, the individual would feel the need to take higher doses of the drug in order to achieve the same “high” effect. Having this kind of feeling lessens the individual’s interest on other things that could supposedly provide a more natural feeling of happiness and satisfaction.
Brain functions are altered with the continuous use of drugs. The following are aspects of a person’s mind that are affected by drug abuse:
- Stress Level
Factors that May Increase the Risk of Drug Addiction
There is a question being raised on how some patients who are using regulated drugs to treat a certain condition do not become addicted to these drugs. Several factors may increase the probability of drug addiction in some individuals, some of which include the following:
- Individuals diagnosed with mental disorders may be exposed to a higher risk of drug addiction.
- The gender and ethnicity could also be a contributing factor.
- The kind of environment where the person lives can influence the behavior of an individual.
- Sexual abuse, peer pressure, stress, family issues, and exposure to a family member hooked on drugs can also be contributing factors.
Common Drugs Used For Treating Prescription Drug Abuse
Although there are many options for drug abuse treatment, one of the commonly used techniques is pharmacological treatment. This may sound preposterous, but some drugs are designed to help in the treatment of prescription drug abuse.
Here are three common drugs used for pharmacological treatment of drug abuse and addiction:
MethadoneThis narcotic drug is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms in individuals who have been addicted to heroin or other narcotic drug. It is designed for pain relief, and has become a safe alternative to more addictive prescription opioids. In fact, methadone is being used as part of drug addiction detoxification and maintenance programs.
Precautions when using Methadone
Here are some necessary measures to be taken prior to prescribing Methadone to an individual:
- It should not be used by patients with asthma or bowel obstruction.
- It can slow up breathing.
- It should not be used in large amounts for a long time because taking it can be habit-forming.
- It should only be given to the patient that has been prescribed with it and should not be shared with others.
Misuse of Methadone
Abusing this drug may lead to health risks, some of which are:
- Life-threatening heart rhythm disorder
- Chest pains
It should be noted that alcohol and methadone can be a dangerous combination.
Side Effects of Methadone
There are certain adverse reactions that a patient may experience when taking Methadone. Not all described below, however, can be experienced by the patient at the same time.
- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of appetite
- Severe constipation
- Shallow breathing
- Infertility or missed periods
- Impotence or lower sex drive
- Life-threatening heart rhythm disorder
This narcotic analgesic — which is also known as naloxone or the brand name Suboxone — works on the brain and the central nervous system to help decrease pain.
Precautions when using Buprenorphine
Patients should always provide the necessary information to their physicians so that they can be given the right kind of medication to ensure their complete recovery from a condition.
For instance, you should mention potential sensitivity to any ingredient in Buprenorphine. It’s also advised to mention to your doctor if you are taking sodium oxybate.
Conditions affected by Buprenorphine use
Extreme caution should be undertaken when prescribing Buprenorphine as it can affect several conditions, which may worsen the situation instead of helping in the treatment. Here are some conditions where Buprenorphine may have some impact:
- Currently taking other prescription medication
- Sensitivity or allergy to medicine, food or other substances
- History of blood problems, lung problems, adrenal gland problems, liver or kidney problems, blockage of bladder, gallbladder problems, or stomach problems
- History of any recent head injury or brain growth
- History of mental problems, as well as drug or alcohol abuse
Medications that can interact with Buprenorphine
Buprenorphine should be prescribed and taken with utmost care. Complete patient history should be provided so that doctors may be aware of any medications that can cause untoward reactions to Buprenorphine. Here are some of them:
- Azole antifungals
- Methadone (may decrease the effect of Buprenorphine)
Side Effects of Buprenorphine
Expect a number of adverse effects when taking Buprenorphine. These side effects include:
- Drowsiness or dizziness
- Breathing problems
NaltrexoneThis drug blocks the effects of any opioid medication that can lead to opioid abuse. This drug is used as part of a treatment program for drug or alcohol dependence. It helps in keeping a drug dependent away from the feeling of having the urge to use the opioid.
Precautions when using Naltrexone
The following precautionary measures should be undertaken prior to using Naltrexone:
- This should not be used by people who experience withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drug addiction.
- This should not be used if there was any opioid medication used for the past 10 days.
- This should not be used with Methadone or Buprenorphine.
- This should not be used by individuals below 18 years old.
Side effects of Naltrexone
Just like other drugs, Naltrexone may produce side effects that an individual may experience. Not all of the mentioned signs and symptoms below can be experienced all at the same time by a single patient.
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Depression (thoughts about suicide)
- Mood changes
- Upper stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Clay-colored stools
- Dark urine
- Feeling anxious
- Muscle or joint pains
Drugs that may interact with Naltrexone
Your doctor should be aware of other medications that you are taking prior to prescribing Naltrexone. This ensures that the optimum efficacy of the drug can be achieved.
The following drugs may interact with Naltrexone and affect its effectiveness:
- Over-the-counter medicines
- Herbal supplements
Long-term use of naltrexone is considered to be effective. In other words, it is safe to use for months without the fear of being addicted to it. Naltrexone also does not pose any danger when taken with alcohol.
Public Safety and Awareness
Scientists are continuously developing drugs, which they hope can be the cure for certain diseases and conditions. The only downside to these drugs is that there is a possibility that it can be abused because of its euphoric or pain-relieving effects.
A lot of people have been involved with drug abuse, which leads to several health complications and even to the point of death.
Drug addiction is similar to diabetes or asthma in the sense that no absolute cure has been discovered. However, proper treatment by providing medical intervention and psychological therapy can help an individual to stay away from drugs.
Although relapse may be possible, there is a need for the family, friends and the whole community to receive information on how to deal with drug abuse. In relation to this, widespread campaign programs should be conducted in order for people to be informed of the adverse effects of drugs. That way, more people can see how badly drug abuse can affect and destroy a person’s life.
Ideally, family members should be the first people to know if there is something wrong with someone in the family. Sometimes, the mere lack of time and communication may lead susceptible members of the family to resort to drugs because of the feeling of belongingness among peers. For them, the unusual “high” that they experience from taking drugs is what they want to feel because of the lack of love and concern from the family.