In American society substance abuse is becoming an increasingly difficult issue to address. What once was predominately a problem of our larger urban cities is swiftly crossing all socio economic barriers and plaguing our homes, neighborhoods, small towns, and rural areas as well. Crack cocaine became a major social problem in the early eighties, where we witnessed a massive wave of addiction, abuse, and homicide as the drug hit our streets! The nineties came with Crystal Methamphetamines, a synthetic drug that can be manufactured in the privacy of your own home, with low cost products that can be purchased at the neighborhood pharmacy. In looking at the aftermath of the drug culture it is clear that drugs are fatally destructive! many have lost loved ones, fathers, mothers, and even their own lives, due to an association with drug abuse of some type. The statistics are pilling up as we see lives lost to the drug trade daily.
What is is so appealing about drugs? What draws so many into a lifestyle that makes no promises for anything short of death and destruction? Addiction is a very complex disease that goes against the very nature of human existence! A healthy human psyche is abounding in possibilities, always seeking to conquer new territories, to grow, to expand, to become all one can be! Addiction robs an individual of his/her natural essence in that it captures the soul and enslaves the mind to the addictive agent! Ultimately addiction changes the way the brain processes information.
The brain is a communications center consisting of billions of neurons, or nerve cells. Networks of neurons pass messages back and forth to different structures within the brain, the spinal column, and the peripheral nervous system. These nerve networks coordinate and regulate everything we feel, think, and do. Neurons, neurotransmitters, receptors, and transporters, make up this vast network of brain cells!The brains reward system is communicated by a chemical release of Dopamine. When dopamine is at a high level in the brain, it produces a euphoric sensation of heightened pleasure. All of the commonly abused drugs target the brains reward system, by flooding the brain circuit with dopamine. It is this false sense of euphoria that cause an individual to lie, steal, and even kill to experience the sensation again. The moment a chemical enters the body, it alters the chemical makeup of the brain, and over time a dependency develops.
The following is a brief description of the most commonly abused drugs and their effects;
Marijuana- The parts of the brain that control emotions, memory, and judgment are affected by marijuana. Smoking it can not only weaken short-term memory, but can block information from making it into long term memory. It has also been shown to weaken problem solving ability.
Alcohol- Alcohol is no safer than drugs. Alcohol impairs judgment and leads to memory lapses. It can lead to blackouts. It distorts vision, shortens coordination, and in addition to the brain can damage every other organ in the body.
Cocaine- Cocaine, both in powder form and as crack, is an extremely addictive stimulant. An addict usually loses interest in many areas of life, including school, sports, family, and friends. Use of cocaine can lead to feelings of paranoia and anxiety. Although often used to enhance sex drive, physical effect of cocaine on the receptors in the brain reduce the ability to feel pleasure (which in turn causes the dependency on the drug).
Inhalants- Inhalants, such as glue, gasoline, hair spray, and paint thinner, are sniffed. The effect on the brain is almost immediate. And while some vapors leave the body quickly, others will remain for a long time. The fatty tissues protecting the nerve cells in the brain are destroyed by inhalant vapors. This slows down or even stops neural transmissions. Effects of inhalants include diminished ability to learn, remember, and solve problems.
Ecstasy- Extended use of this amphetamine causes difficulty differentiating reality and fantasy, and causes problems concentrating. Studies have found that ecstasy destroys certain cells in the brain. While the cells may re-connect after discontinued use of the drug, they don’t re-connect normally. Like most drugs, this one impairs memory and can cause paranoia, anxiety, and confusion.
LSD -While some people use LSD for the sense of enhanced and vivid sensory experience, it can cause paranoia, confusion, anxiety, and panic attacks. Like Ecstasy, the user often blurs reality and fantasy, and has a distorted view of time and distance.
Tobacco- Tobacco is a dangerous drug, putting nicotine into your body. Nicotine affects the brain quickly, like other inhalants, producing feelings of pleasure, like cocaine, and is highly addictive, like heroin.
Methamphetamine- Known on the street as meth, speed, chalk, ice, crystal, and glass, methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that strongly activates certain systems in the brain.
Ritalin- This drug is often prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder. It is becoming an illicit street drug as well. Drug users looking for a high will crush Ritalin into a powder and snort it like cocaine, or inject it like heroin. It then has a much more powerful effect on the body. It causes severe headaches, anxiety, paranoia, and delusions.
I urge you to gain as much information as you can about addiction and educate your children and loved ones on the hazards involved when we choose to use! It is a matter of life and death! When you don’t become part of the solution, you become part of the problem!
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