Drug abuse is the consistent and patterned use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs, where the users end up harming themselves or others. It would be a mistake to view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem. Drug abuse should be recognised as a disease that impacts the brain. Thus, just willpower may not be able to stop the abuse.
International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is organised by United Nations on 26th June every year. The objective is to create a world free of drug abuse. Drug abuse can cause problems at work, home and school, leaving you isolated and feeling totally helpless.
The first step toward recovery from abuse involves admitting that you have a problem, which makes it easier for you to overcome the disease. The article that follows gives you valuable tips on how to get over your addiction and help yourself or a loved one.
- About 230 million people use an illegal drug at least once a year. This represents about 1 in 20 persons between the ages of 15 and 64.
- According to global estimates, there were between 99,000 and 253,000 deaths in 2010 as a result of illicit drug use.
Know the myths
1. You can overcome drug addiction by your willpower.
Fact: Brain changes due to prolonged exposure to drugs result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. The sheer force of will is not enough to quit.
2. Addiction is an incurable disease.
Fact: Addiction impacts the brain, but the changes can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise and other treatments.
3. You can’t force someone into treatment. They should be willing to take help.
Addicts will benefit whether they volunteer for treatment or if they are pressurised by their family, employer or the legal system to receive treatment.
4. To get better, addicts have to hit rock bottom.
No, recovery is faster if treatment is started early. The longer the abuse continues, the stronger the addiction and the harder it is to treat.
5. If treatment has failed once, there is no use trying again.
There might be multiple setbacks during the long recovery process. A relapse doesn’t mean the treatment has failed but is a signal to get back on track by adjusting the treatment approach.
Spot the symptoms of drug abuse:
- Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Deterioration of physical appearance or personal habits
- Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
- Tremors slurred speech or impaired coordination
- Sudden mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
- Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation or giddiness
- Lack of motivation and lethargy
- Being fearful, anxious or paranoid without reason
- Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)
How to Help?
Talk to the person about your concerns and offer your help and support without being judgmental. Be prepared for excuses and denial by listing specific examples. Don’t blame yourself if you are unable to convince the person to get help. Do not shield the abuser from the consequences of his habit. Do not punish, threaten, bribe or preach. Hiding or throwing out drugs, arguing or pleading with addicts when they are high is pointless.
Treatment and Recovery
- Explore your treatment choices. You can opt for a medically supervised detox or a stint in rehab.
- In addition to doctors and psychologists, many clergy members, social workers and counsellors offer addiction treatment services.
- Reach out to your close friends and family members for support. Join a recovery support group and attend meetings regularly.
- Once you have recovered, try to find ways to cope with stress and avoid the triggers that led you to abuse. Keep cravings in check through medication, meditation and exercise.
- If you relapse, get in touch with your sponsor or support group immediately and get back into treatment.
- Say no to drugs the first time. Build a meaningful drug-free life!
Did you know?
Heroin was once successfully marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant in 1898, a time when tuberculosis and pneumonia were the leading causes of death. Thankfully, it fell out of favour shortly after the negative health effects became apparent.
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Accessed June 11, 2015.
- World Health Organization. Accessed June 11, 2015.
- HelpGuide.Org. Accessed June 12, 2015.