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Health talk: By Dr Johannes Marisa – Drug abuse is now too rampant

Many kids are turning to numerous drugs and some of them are as young as 10 years of age.

It is unfortunate that the world continues to lose many people directly due to drug abuse and if the situation, remains unabated, more lives are going to be lost.

There are over 190 million drug users around the world and the problem has been increasing at alarming rates, especially among young adults under the age of 30.

Roser (2018) argued that Illicit drug use is directly and indirectly responsible for over 750 000 deaths per year with over 166 000 people dying from drug overdoses every year. Opioids are responsible for the largest number of overdoses from illicit drugs.

Contributors to drug abuse

So many reasons have been given for abusing drugs. Drugs of abuse are usually psychoactive that are used by people for treatment of various health problems.

Below are some of the reasons for drug abuse:

  • Curiosity and peer pressure, especially among school children and young adults: Being asked to drink or smoke by friends is one of the strongest predictors of substance abuse in adolescents, even outweighing parenting styles or parental drinking behaviour.
  • Family dynamics: Maladaptive family dynamics can contribute to substance abuse. Unhealthy attachment styles and dysfunctional family roles can contribute immensely to drug abuse and your early relationships can have a long-lasting impact on your psyche and how you relate to others throughout your life.
  • Trauma: The link between trauma and substance abuse is strong. Types of trauma that can contribute to drug addiction include assault, rape, sexual abuse, natural disasters and witnessing traumatic events.
  • Substance use by caregivers: Growing up in an environment where there was heavy alcohol drinking or smoking can predict problem drinking later in life
  • Genetic factors: Studies done to show the link between genetics and addiction show heritability of the problem at 30-70%
  • Mental health: Substance abuse and mental health issues often go hand in hand. About half of people with mental health disorders will have substance abuse in their lifestyle. Mental health issues can lead to drug abuse

Drug categories

The drugs of abuse fall into groups and these include the following:

  • Depressants: These cause depression of the brain’s faculties and examples include sleeping pills (barbiturates) and heroin.
  • Stimulants: These cause stimulation of the brain, giving rise to alertness and increasing bursts of activity. A rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, raised blood pressure, nausea and vomiting can also creep in. The notorious amphetamines fall into this category as they speed up the messages travelling between the brain and the body. Other common stimulants include cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, betel nut, khat
  • Hallucinogens: These cause hallucinations and out of this world feelings of dissociation from oneself. Hallucinogens may cause distorted sensory perception. Paranoia and even depression. Examples include ecstasy and mescaline.

People should realise that there are unbearable effects of drug abuse and below are some of them:

  • High risk of transmissible infections: There are high chances of transmission of viruses like HIV, Hepatitis, Syphilis, Epstein-Barr virus if the same needles are used to self-inject the abusers. Many of the victims do not take cognisance of the general health hence higher chances of transmission.

Social neglect: Many drug abusers end up facing social neglect with relatives ending up neglecting them. A lot of suicide has occurred among the drug abusers with minimal counselling having been offered when things turned sour. Many have abandoned school and have resorted to drug abuse, thus already destroying their potential lives. Some learners have faltered because of drug abuse when they used to be very sharp in schools.

  • Increased chances of accidents: So many accidents are taking place daily because the drivers are not sober or they have used some drugs. Accidents are taking many lives daily and if drug abuse is not nipped in the bud, then the country will continue to lose many people.

It is therefore imperative that some measures be taken to try to contain the issue of drug abuse:

  • Counselling: Thorough counselling should be done to youngsters about the dangers of drug abuse. Problems should be identified and solved so that youngsters are not pushed into drugs
  • Keep the youths busy: Youths should be kept busy with various tasks, activities. Sporting activities should be undertaken and talent identification should be done in the communities.
  • Law enforcement agents should be on top of the situation and suppliers of such illicit drugs should be given deterrent sentences so that the system does not thrive.

Drug abuse is threatening to tear our communities apart but the suppliers of the drugs are openly known and are walking scot-free.

Let us all stand against drug abuse. Our children are getting polluted daily and their lives are changing for the worse daily.

Be suspicious of drug abuse if your child’s behaviour has changed unexpectedly.

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