– substance abuse leads to severe heart, kidney, liver and brain problems
The dangers of abusing hard drugs are well documented, yet many still abuse it.
Its harmful effects range from kidney and liver problems, to hallucinations, psychosis, insomnia and even death.
ENCOMIUM Weekly looks into hard drugs and why you should never abuse them…
Stimulants (sometimes called “uppers”) as the name suggests, temporarily increase alertness and energy.
The most commonly used street drugs that fall into this category are cocaine and amphetamines.
Prescription stimulants come in tablets or capsules; when abused, they are swallowed, injected in liquid form or crushed and snorted.
The short-term effects of stimulants include exhaustion, apathy and depression, that is the “down” that follows the “up.”
Stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta), act similarly in the brain to a family of key brain neurotransmitters called monoamines, which include norepinephrine and dopamine, enhancing the effects of these chemicals in the brain. The associated increase in dopamine can induce a feeling of euphoria when stimulants are taken non-medically. On the other hand, stimulants also result in dangerously high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, constricted blood vessels, increased blood glucose, open up breathing passages, feelings of paranoia, hostility and psychosis; in addition to its addictive ability.
Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapours that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect. Although other abused substances can be inhaled, the term inhalants is used to describe a variety of substances whose main common characteristic is that they are rarely, if ever, taken by any route other than inhalation. This definition encompasses a broad range of chemicals that may have different pharmacological effects and are found in hundreds of different products.
Most inhalants act directly on the nervous system to produce mind-altering effects. Within seconds, the user experiences intoxication and other effects similar to those from alcohol. There are a variety of effects that may be experienced during or shortly after use, including slurred speech, drunk, dizzy or dazed appearance, inability to coordinate movement, hallucinations and delusions, hostility, apathy, impaired judgment, unconsciousness, severe headaches, rashes around the nose and mouth, nosebleeds and nausea.
Prolonged sniffing of these chemicals can induce irregular and rapid heartbeat and lead to heart failure and subsequently, death in minutes. Death from suffocation can occur by replacing oxygen in the lungs with the chemical, and then in the central nervous system, so that breathing ceases.
Long-term users will suffer muscle weakness, disorientation, lack of coordination, irritability, depression, serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain. As well as memory impairment, diminished intelligence, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, coma (from the brain shutting all but the most vital functions) and death from heart failure or asphyxiation (loss of oxygen).
Abuse of inhalants during pregnancy may put infants and children at increased risk of developmental harm.
Narcotics refer to a class of prescription painkillers derived from opiates. Narcotics reduce the feeling
of pain by blocking pain signals from the brain and the central nervous system. Varieties of narcotics include codeine, morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and hydrocodone.
People who abuse narcotics may feel more pain and have decreased pain tolerance if they stop taking the drug abruptly. Stopping the medication by gradually decreasing the dosage can prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. Mental dependence on narcotics is not likely.
Common side effects of narcotics include drowsiness, leading to an inability to safely operate machinery or drive. Also, itching as a side effect from narcotics may indicate the need to change the dosage or the type of narcotic. Less common but more serious side effects require medical attention, these include sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, decreased hunger and vomiting. An overdose can cause a slow heart rate, chest pains and blue lips.
Sometimes called “downers”, some drugs in this category, such as Zyprexa, Seroquel and Haldol, are known as “major tranquilizers” or “antipsychotics,” as they are supposed to reduce the symptoms of mental illness. They can come in multicolored tablets and capsules or in liquid form.
Depressants such as Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion and Librium are often referred to as “benzos” (short for benzodiazepines). Other depressants, such as Amytal, Numbutal and Seconal, are classed as barbiturates – drugs that are used as sedatives and sleeping pills.
Slow brain function, slowed pulse and breathing, lowered blood pressure, poor concentration, confusion, fatigue, dizziness, slurred speech, fever, sluggishness, dilated pupils leading to visual disturbance, disorientation, lack of coordination, depression, difficulty or inability to urinate and addiction.
Higher doses can cause impairment of memory, judgment and coordination, irritability, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.
Long-term use of depressants can produce depression, chronic fatigue, breathing difficulties, sexual problems and sleep problems.
Cold medications are not entirely harmful, unless when taken at higher-than-recommended dosages.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription cough and cold medicines contain active ingredients that can be psychoactive (mind-altering).
These products may also contain other drugs, such as expectorants and antihistamines, which are dangerous at high doses and compound the dangers of abuse.
One of such medications is pseudoephedrine. It is indicated for the temporary relief of stuffy nose and sinus pain/pressure caused by infection (such as the common cold, flu) or other breathing illnesses (such as hay fever, allergies, bronchitis).
Pseudoephedrine is a decongestant (sympathomimetic), which works by narrowing the blood vessels to decrease swelling and congestion.
People who abuse pseudoephedrine and other decongestants are at risk of high blood pressure, heart and breathing problems, nausea, hallucinations and convulsion.
- MICHAEL NWOKIKE