Drugs are substances that alter the assorted procedures that occur in the brain and alleviate mood. Some of the commonly misused drugs include marijuana, stimulants, barbiturates, cocaine, opium derivatives, prescription drugs, and minor tranquilizers. The usage of these drugs can lead to a lot of problems with the law, as well as physical, mental, and societal harm.
A study conducted by the NHSDS in 1979 suggested that about 14% of the population aged 12 and above were using drugs at least once a month. From 1980 to 1998, this figure reduced to 6.2%, but it again rose to 7.1% in 2001. It was approximately 39% in young persons, which reduced to 14.4% in 1992, and then rose to 25.7% in 2001. In the military, about 27% of the staff had consumed drugs, which dropped to 2.7% in 1998. About 56% of the felons in 1986 confessed to drug use, which was about 57% in 1997. Marijuana was the most often abused drug, followed by cocaine and opium derivatives (ONDCP, 2006).
Drug and related issues seem to be very costly in the US. In 1992, the estimated cost spent on drugs, treatment of abuse, loss of jobs, etc., was about 245.7 billion dollars, and about 77.7 billion was spent directly on the purchase of drugs. Most of the cost related to drug abuse was borne by the government and the individuals’ families. The cost rose aggressively in 1992 to over 50% of the cost spent in 1985 because of the sudden cocaine usage tendencies, the HIV/AIDS infection problem, the state’s increase in fines for drug-related offenses, and associated rise in offenses that followed drug usage (which occupied a major proportion). Between 1988 and 1995, about $38 billion was spent on cocaine, $9.6 billion on heroin, $7 billion on marijuana, and $2.7 billion was spent on other drugs (NIDA, 2006).
Drugs may cause more serious problems in women compared to men. Women tend to be affected faster by drugs, and the ill-effects seem to be more severe in women than men. In 2004, about 31% of the drug users were females. About 41% of the females above the age of 12 use drugs at least once in their lifetimes (ONDCP, 2007). Women who consume drugs during pregnancy could seriously damage the health of the unborn baby. Several problems such as premature delivery, low birth weight, reduced head size, and having babies smaller in size may arise. Several factors such as the specific period during which the drug is consumed, the amount and mode in which the drug is taken, maternal nutrition, etc., also play a very important role (NIDA, 2004). Children born of mothers who abused marijuana during pregnancy had visual problems, palpitations, developmental problems, and neurological disorders. They also had reduced memory and attention levels and lower problem-solving capacity at school (NIDA, 2006).
Cocaine or “crack” is a drug that has stimulating effects and is usually sold as a white powder. Frequently, drug dealers mix cocaine with loading agents or fillers, which may be even more dangerous because they may contain harmful agents, and the drug user cannot determine the exact amount of cocaine they are consuming. The drug is usually smoked but can also be consumed orally, intranasally, and through injections. In 2002, about 2 million Americans were using cocaine. The drug can cause several harmful effects on the body, such as sudden heart attacks, decreased sexual function, death (due to heart attack or respiratory failure), addiction (as the drug produces several enjoyable effects, including euphoria, an energetic feeling, mental alertness, etc.), seizures, chest pain, respiratory problems, depression, stroke, abdominal pain, and aggressiveness.
A cocaine addict will spend any amount to obtain the drug, and they begin to lose interest at home, work, school, or social interactions. In order to feel normal, they have to consume the drug. Cocaine produces its effect by bringing about certain changes in the chemical transmitters present in the brain. These changes can result in a lot of mental problems when the drug is not stopped (such as depression). Hence, the individual feels the need to consume the drug to counteract these problems. Once the user stops consuming the drug, several withdrawal symptoms develop known as “anhedonia” (difficulty in enjoying life) (Cleveland Clinic, 2007).
On consuming the drug for extended periods, the individual develops tolerance and feels the need to consume greater doses of the drug to bring about the same effect. Some harmful effects of cocaine depend on the mode in which the drug is consumed. If the drug is consumed by snorting, the person can lose the sense of smell and develop nosebleeds, dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), irritation of the nasal mucous membrane, hoarseness of the voice, etc. When consumed orally, the intestinal mucous membrane may start to deteriorate because the blood vessels that supply these parts get obstructed. If consumed by injection, the risk of developing sudden allergic reactions and several infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B infections is very high. Also, several problems may develop at the injection site, such as pain, swelling, infection, etc. (NIDA, 2004).
Marijuana is the most abused drug in the US and is usually smoked as a cigar or in the form of a pipe. About 14 million Americans used the drug at least once in 2004. A greater percentage of these were individuals under the age of 18 years. Like cocaine, the drug, when smoked, is quickly absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream, from where it enters the brain. It attaches itself to certain receptors (binding sites) present in the brain, where it produces its effect. People consuming marijuana have several problems, such as concentration problems, difficulty in learning, memory loss, loss of coordination, abnormal thought processes, judgmental troubles, reduced problem-solving abilities, and a rise in blood pressure, etc. The drug has a similar action on the brain compared to cocaine, and therefore, the long-term effects also seem to be similar. The nerve cells present in the brain that are stimulated by Dopamine (a chemical nerve transmitter) are affected in marijuana abuse. Marijuana smoke may be even harsher than tobacco smoke.
People who consume marijuana seem to hold more wellness jobs and may not be able to work usually at home, school, or at the workplace, compared to tobacco users. Besides, marijuana tobacco users are at a greater risk of developing many of the ill-effects that smokers experience, such as chronic bronchitis, cough, chest pain, lung infections, obstructed air passages, lung cancer, reduced oxygen transporting capacity of the blood, heart disorders, etc. Evidence suggests that the risk of developing cancer following marijuana smoking is three or four times greater compared to tobacco smoke. This may be due to the fact that marijuana fume contains more than 50% to 70% carcinogens compared to tobacco fume. Marijuana also reduces the body’s ability to fight foreign substances and infection. Several other problems such as hurt, aggression, personality problems, dependence, etc. may also develop in relation to marijuana abuse (NIDA, 2006).
Another concerning problem is the rising abuse of prescription drugs among teens and young adults in America. Some of the most abused drugs include cough suppressants, depressants, pain medicines, and stimulants. Some teens may think that consuming prescription drugs is relatively safer, cheaper, easier to access, and better legal options compared to cocaine or marijuana. However, consuming any drug (except under strict medical supervision) can result in the development of several serious health problems (The Partnership for Drug-free America, 2006).
Heroin, another linear drug, is obtained from poppy seeds and is available as a white or brown powder. The effects of the drug are similar to that of cocaine and marijuana. The drug depresses the central nervous system, and the individual experiences turns of alert and sleepy states following its ingestion. Heroin may cause serious effects on the developing fetus when consumed during pregnancy.
These include spontaneous abortion, development defects, and low-birth weight. The drug is often adulterated with several other substances. When such substances are injected into the blood, they can block the blood flow to critical organs and can cause serious complications. Towards the end of 2003, 8% of the drug-related emergencies arose from heroin misuse. Heroin usage can also result in dependence and tolerance. Withdrawal symptoms (that appear once the drug is stopped) normally arise after 48 to 72 hours once the drug is stopped and include wakefulness, vomiting, nausea, etc. (NIDA, 2006).
People may be abusing drugs for a number of reasons, but not only are the families, communities, and the government paying a huge price, but also the individual through the potential risks and ill-effects the drug has on health. There is a strong link between crime and drug abuse. Use of several drugs has increased in the recent past. Drugs can seriously alter the physical and mental operation of the individual. Besides, withdrawal symptoms in case the drug is stopped can be very serious. Many people have lost their lives due to drug overdose and poisoning. Hence, it would be better to stay away from such habits.
- NIDA. “Cocaine Abuse and Addiction.” NIDA Research Report Series. 2004. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRCocain.pdf
- NIDA. “NIDA Info Facts: Costs to Society.” NIDA: Trends and Statistics. 2006. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/costs.html
- NIDA. “NIDA Info Facts: Heroin.” NIDA: Drugs of Abuse. 2006. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/heroin.html
- NIDA. “NIDA Info Facts: Marijuana.” NIDA: Drugs of Abuse. 2006. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/marijuana.html
- ONDCP. “Drug Use Trends October 2002.” ONDCP Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse Fact Sheet. 2006. Executive Office of the President Office of National Drug Control Policy. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/publications/factsht/druguse/
- The Cleveland Clinic. “Cocaine and Crack.” 2007. The Cleveland Clinic Health Information Center. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/0000/0060.asp?index=4038
- The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. “Prescription Medicine Abuse: A Growing Problem.” 2006. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. 16 Jan. 2007. Hypertext Transfer Protocol: //www.drugfree.org/Parent/Resources/Prescription_Medicine_Misuse