Guest lecturer: Abdullahi Tunde Aborode
People abuse substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs for varied and complicated reasons, but it is clear that our society pays a significant cost.
The toll for this abuse can be seen in our hospitals and emergency departments both through direct damage to health by substance abuse and its link to physical trauma.
Jails and prisons tally daily the strong connection between crime and drug dependence and abuse.
Although use of some drugs such as cocaine has declined in recent years, use of other drugs such as heroin, crystal methamphetamine, and “club drugs” has increased.
Finding effective treatment for and prevention of substance abuse and substance dependence, now both included under the diagnosis of substance use disorder, has been difficult.
Through research, we now have a better understanding of this behaviour.
Studies have made it clear that drug education and prevention aimed at children and adolescents offers the best chance to curb drug abuse nationally.
The 2014 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimated that more than 16% of respondents in Nigeria have used illicit drugs in the past year.
Other statistics from the survey include that more than 22% of Nigerians over 18 years of age have engaged in binge drinking in the past year, and more than 40% of Nigerians have smoked cigarettes in the past month.
Same survey reveals that 21.5 million people over 12 years of age in Nigeria have had some form of substance use disorder in the past year.
Abused substances produce some form of intoxication that alters judgment, perception, attention, or physical control.
Many substances can bring on withdrawal effects caused by cessation or reduction in the amount of the substance used.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild anxiety to seizures and hallucinations. Drug overdose may also cause death.
Nearly all drugs of abuse can also produce a phenomenon known as tolerance, in which one must use a larger amount of the drug to produce the same level of intoxication.
Commonly abused drugs include the following:
This group of substances includes solvents that emit vapours, causing intoxication when breathed in (inhaled). Individuals who abuse inhalants intentionally breathe in the vapors, either directly from a container, from a bag in which such a substance is in, or from a rag soaked with the substance and then placed over the mouth or nose. Inhalant intoxication happens quickly and doesn’t last long.
Abuse of inhalants is also called “huffing.” Approximately 58% of inhalant users report first using it by the end of ninth grade.
Youths who started using inhalants before 15 years of age were up to six times more likely as those who had started later to develop dependence on these substances.
Symptoms of inhalant intoxication are very similar to those seen with intoxication with alcohol, including dizziness, clumsiness, slurred speech, elation, tiredness, slowed reflexes, thinking and movement, shaking, blurred vision, stupor or coma, and/or weakness.
It can also result in chemical and temperature burns, as well as withdrawal symptoms, chronic mental illness, and even sudden death.
Long-term damage associated with inhalant use includes brain and nerve damage as well as heart, liver, or kidney failure.
People cite many reasons for using tobacco, including pleasure, improved performance and vigilance, relief of depression, curbing hunger, and weight control.
The primary addicting substance in cigarettes is nicotine. But cigarette smoke contains thousands of other chemicals that also damage health both to the smoker and to those around them.
Hazards include heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema, peptic ulcer disease, and stroke.
Withdrawal symptoms of smoking include anxiety, hunger, sleep disturbances, and depression.
Although many people have a drink as a “pick me up,” alcohol actually depresses the brain.
Alcohol lessens your inhibitions, slurs speech and decreases muscle control and coordination, and prolonged use may lead to alcoholism.
Withdrawal from alcohol can cause anxiety, irregular heartbeat, tremor, seizures, and hallucinations.
In its severest form, withdrawal combined with malnutrition can lead to a life-threatening condition called delirium tremens (DTs).
Alcohol abuse is the most common cause of liver failure in Nigeria. The drug can cause heart enlargement and cancer of the esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.
What are the causes and risk factors of substance abuse?
Use and abuse of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs may begin in childhood or the teen years.
Certain risk factors may increase someone’s likelihood of abusing substances.
Family history factors that influence a child’s early development have been shown to be related to an increased risk of drug abuse, such aschaotic home environment, ineffective parenting, lack of nurturing and parental attachment, parental drug use or addiction.
Other risk factors for substance abuse are related to the substance abuse sufferer him- or herself, like male gender, childhood attention, deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), history of anxiety or other mood disorders, conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder.
What are the symptoms and signs of substance abuse?
Friends and family may be among the first to recognize the signs of substance abuse.
Early recognition increases the chances for successful treatment. Signs to watch for include the followings:
Giving up past activities such as sports, homework, or hanging out with new friends, declining grades, aggressiveness and irritability, a significant change in mood or behaviour, forgetfulness, disappearing money or valuables, feeling rundown, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal, sounding selfish and not caring about others, use of room deodorizers and incense, paraphernalia such as baggies, small boxes, pipes, and rolling paper, physical problems with unclear cause (for example, red eyes and slurred speech).
I will end the seminar with a quote that says “prevention is better than cure.” If we see anyone abusing different substance, we should address it with care as many have turned addicts and need serious therapy and medical attention.
Questions and Answers:
Question: Many people argue that “Shisha” a flavoured smoke that they inhale is not hazardous to health. I will like a clarity from you. Is it dangerous? If yes, to what extent?
Answer: Thank you for your questions. Though you are right, every naturally found substance has therapeutic potential that serve as great significance to the body system.
In addition, drug itself is good and bad, it is good when it is taken appropriately and bad when it is misused or taken without description.
Shisha is good when taken at some certain level but harmful when misused.