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Substance abuse is used to describe abuse of a variety of things including tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. These produce a feeling of false well-being and therefore often misused. These are stimulants and tranquilizers, which give a “happy go lucky” feeling and so are misused.
Tobacco: The primary habit-forming ingredient in tobacco is nicotine. While it is commonly used for pleasure and as a stress buster, it also is a major contributor to a lot of health issues including heart disease, lung cancer, breathing disorders, infertility, peptic ulcers, depression, and sleep disorders. For someone who is addicted to smoking, quitting can lead to withdrawal symptoms including tremors, anxiety, and seizures.
Alcohol: Alcohol depresses the depression center in the brain and therefore produces a feeling of high. Getting addicted to alcohol leads to reduced inhibitions, slurred speech, poor muscle coordination, and reduced cognitive skills. Withdrawal can lead to tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. Alcohol ups the risk for heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer of the digestive tract. In addition, alcohol alters a person’s eating habits and leads to considerable weight gain.
Illicit drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines): There are a large number of these drugs, which are not to be used but unfortunately are. They are used in various forms including snorting, smoking, chewing, and injections. While most of them produce a feeling of well-being, it is transient, and in the long run, they reduce alertness, energy levels, cause confusion, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. They also affect the health of all body organs including brain, liver, heart, kidneys, lungs, muscles, etc. Sharing of needles also carries the risk of hepatitis B and HIV.
Causes: Whatever the substance being abused, there are some common reasons why a person ends up with abusing them. Some of them include:
- Poor social structures: Most of the substance abusers have a poor social structure, for instance, broken families
- Poor economic environment
- Lack of parental support and/or attachment
- Lack of coping skills
- Peer pressure
- History of childhood abuse
The added concern here is the younger age group at which this problem is seen.
Family and close friends may be the first ones to identify symptoms of abuse, which may include
- Non-participative in group activities (which is new) with family and friends
- Declining performance at school/college/work
- Disappearing money or valuables
- Irritable and aggressive
All these could be indicative of an underlying problem, and if they are not open to a frank chat, medical help should be sought. It is definitely not easy to get them out but can be done, if they are willing to and have strong social support.