Substance abuse


Substance abuse is a challenging issue across the world with the magnitude of the problem growing each year. It is among the top 3 issues in the young population between the ages of 20-40 years. However, from the past 2 decades, teenagers are becoming more vulnerable to the issue. Substance abuse or dependence are interchangeably used where an individual cannot live without the use of particular addictive substance/s. The most common addictive substances include alcohol, prescription drugs including some non-prescription drugs. Due to the tendency of psychological dependence, substance abuse is turning out to be more serious. It is a threat not only for the individual but also for the family and society because of the euphoric feeling that an individual gets from the addictive substances.  The victim goes into a temporary elation while the substance is in the blood but they seriously harm in the long-term. 




Common prescription drugs used for abuse

Apart from smoking, drugs such as heroin, cocaine, barbiturates, nicotine and opioids are mostly used for addiction. These are mostly chemicals while excluding a few plant products . Some addictive substances are derived from flowers, while a few substances are obtained from fungi also. Most of these substances enter directly into the nervous system and create a sense of euphoria (happiness) and in their absence, a person feels, loneliness, disconnected from others while a few individuals behave bizarrely.  Some drugs used are prescription or off-label substances in smaller doses but as the dosage is increased, they become lethal. The most common prescription agents used are depressants, anxiolytics, sleep inducers, and pain relievers. The largest proportion of these drugs causes suicidal thinking and emotional disturbances that require a very long time to recover. Many abusive drugs are prescription-based, for example, barbiturates (a class of drugs used for improving sleep). Some pain killers like morphine and pethidine are used for pain management after surgery and sometimes they are prescribed for patients with serious trauma due to accidents. One of the studies inferred that the percentage of illegal drug users is increasing worldwide. Pain medication is used by 9.3%, stimulant medication at5.4%), sedative or anxiety medication in about 2.9%v of people, while the sleep medication is abused by 2.0% of the total drug users. Some of the important substances being abused are described below.



Cannabis, Coca, and Poppy

These are plant products capable of producing addiction,  they are extracted from roots, flowers and leaves. They are used by drying and powdering them.  Cannabis, also known as marijuana among is a psychoactive drug extracted from the Cannabis plant used primarily for medical or recreational purposes. Cocaine is 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. 




In ancient times, opium was used as a powerful pain reliever and also as a sedative to induce sleep in chronically ill patients. Unfortunately, this is one of the dangerous substances despite the fact that it is not a chemical by nature. In the initial stage of usage, it slows down the breathing and heart rate while some become unconscious. Some of the minor effects caused by opium include vomiting sensation, confusion, constipation, dryness of mouth and nasal mucous membranes. Prolonged usage is not advisable because they cause withdrawal effects like tremors or shakiness of legs and hands, change in BP when a person stops opium abruptly.




Morphine, the main alkaloid of opium, was first obtained from poppy seeds in 1805. It is a potent analgesic, and a class of steroidal drug used as a pain medication. It will block the pain pathways where pain signals reach the brain from the periphery. It is mostly used to manage pain from myocardial infarction and labour in the form of injections. There is a Number of semi-synthetic opioids of varying strength such as codeine, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, meperidine, and oxycodone.




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.



Tobacco Smoking

Tobacco usage either by smoking or chewing is increasing 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. The primary risks of tobacco usage include many forms of cancer, particularly lung cancer, kidney cancer, cancer of the larynx and head and neck, bladder cancer, cancer of the oesophagus, cancer of the pancreas and stomach cancer.



Effects of smoking

  1. There are about 70,000 chemicals present in the tobacco, some of the most harmful ones are nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, ammonia, etc. Nicotine is a highly stimulating substance that stimulates an adrenergic response to create a sense of relaxation. During smoking, the adrenal gland releases adrenaline and nor-adrenaline into blood circulation which could impair blood circulation whereby it can raise the blood pressure and heart rate.

  2. Apart from the variation of blood pressure, smoking causes oral ulcers, halitosis(bad smell), brain tumours and most important 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.




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-dimensional approach is essential with the self-help and other resources including families, doctors, therapists, counsellors, nurses are among the priority agents.   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.






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