Substance abuse


Substance abuse is a challenging issue across the world as the magnitude of the problem is growing each year. Substance abuse is among the top 3 issues as far as the youth is concerned. The most commonly used substances for abuse is alcohol, prescription drugs, and a few non-prescription drugs. Substance abuse is turning out to be more like a psychological phenomenon than the materialistic one. Because of the reason that one gets immersed in the pleasure-seeking behaviour,  addiction is a threat to society. The abuser feels like being in a state of euphoria, and he goes to a state of temporary psychological feeling of pleasure and well-being. Such a phenomenon makes one difficult to overcome from his helpless state. As per the recent data, every year there is an increased number of deaths and diseases related to addiction. Although the government has banned alcohol and drugs in many parts of the country, the illegal selling and manufacturing of abusive substances are increasingly evident in the country. To address this issue, a multi-modal approach by the parents is essential. Multimodal refers to the role of not just treating the diseases caused by the addiction, instead, the feeling of temptation to use the substance again to be completely eliminated from the victim. This is possible by the team approach involving parents, victims, teachers, doctors, psychologists, and friends. On the other hand, proper education and guidance would enable youth to safeguard themselves against dangerous behaviour patterns and follow healthy lifestyles. The following description is all about types of substances used for abuse, effects of drugs, smoking and alcohol on the health of the victim and also methods to overcome them.


Common prescription drugs used for abuse

Apart from smoking, drugs like heroin, cocaine, barbiturates, nicotine and some of the opioid drugs. Most of these are chemicals and some of them are plant products like flowers, few substances are derived from fungi also. Most of these substances will enter directly into the nervous system and create a sense of euphoria (happiness) and without which person feels difficulty, loneliness, and uncontrolled.  Many of these are depressants, anxiety management medicines, sleep inducers, and pain relievers so an addicted person can easily get dependent on them. Most of these drugs cause suicidal thinking and emotional disturbances that take a longer period of time to recover. Many abusive drugs are prescription-based, for example, barbiturates (a class of drugs used for soothing and encouraging sleep), pain killers especially morphine and pethidine used for pain management after surgery or after a major accident. One of the studies suggested, rates of abuse for different medicines varied like for pain medication (9.3%), stimulant medication (5.4%), sedative or anxiety medication (2.9%), and sleep medication (2.0%). Some of the important substances being abused are described below.


Cannabis, Coca, and Poppy

These are plant products having addictive features. Extracted from the plant opium poppy, morphine drips have entered the hospitals to treat pain. Cocaine has been extracted from the coca plant which is still in use for certain major surgeries. Although these plants proved to be useful,  they have serious side effects like depression, organ damage, and psychological illnesses. 



Opium was used in ancient times as a powerful pain reliever and also to induce sleep but unfortunately, this is one of the dangerous substances although it is not a chemical. In the initial stage of usage, it slows down the breathing and heart rate or even a person becomes unconscious. Some of the minor effects can include vomiting sensation, confusion, constipation, dryness of mouth and nasal mucous membranes. One of the most deadly effects after long usage are called withdrawal effects like tremors or shakiness of legs and hands, change in BP.



 It is a class of steroidal drug used as a pain medication. It belongs to the opiate family derived basically from plant products and some animal products. It will block the pain pathways that flow from peripheral organs to the brain so the person feels numbness when it is injected. It is mostly used to manage pain from myocardial infarction and labour.



These are a group of chemicals, which can interact with cannabinoid receptors of the central nervous system. They are extracted from inflorescences of the plant Cannabis sativa. When these flowers are dried up and mashed to combine with many other products to produce marijuana, hashish, charas, and ganja. Cannabinoids are used in the form of snuffs by inhaling as well as by mouth. Cannabinoids cause serious cardiovascular dysfunction.


Smoking tobacco

Tobacco either by smoking or chewing is probably the most abused substance in India. It is one of the oldest products used by kings and ancient families in India. The incidence is increasing each year despite attempts to stop and completely ban them in many states.


Effects of smoking

  1. Nearly there are 70,000 chemicals present in the tobacco, some of them are nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, ammonia, etc. Nicotine is a highly stimulating substance that stimulates adrenergic response to create a sense of relaxation. During smoking, the adrenal gland will release adrenaline and nor-adrenaline into blood circulation which will impair blood circulation thereby causing a rise in the blood pressure and increased heart rate.

  2. Apart from BP variation, smoking causes oral ulcers, bad smell, brain tumours and most importantly cancers in the throat and lungs. In the GI system, oral cancers, feeling of loss of appetite (hunger), stomach discomfort, gastric ulcer, bleeding.

  3. In the circulatory system, nicotine will increase the carbon monoxide (CO) content in blood which will bring down the concentration of heme-bound oxygen so that there is oxygen deficiency in the body.

  4. Smoking will harm others who do not smoke and this is called passive smoking. In most countries, public smoking has been strictly banned to avoid harming other healthy persons in the public.






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