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Whether excessive consumption of a specific substance is abuse or not depends upon the substance’s abuse potential, which is defined as its ability to influence the central nervous system (CNS). If the effects range from producing changes in mood, levels of awareness or perceptions and sensations to an altered physiological system, it is commonly termed as abuse; however, a hierarchy of drug-induced effects is generally believed to be relative to the abuse potential of a substance.
Information you should know
Drug abuse, currently a global concern, is one of the prime causes behind serious health and social problems; drug abuse also leads to both psychological and physical dependence, commonly termed as addiction. Defined by Jerome H. Jaffe (in his role as Drug Policy Director in the Nixon Administration) as “The use, usually by self-administration, of any drug in a manner that deviates from the approved medical or social patterns within a given culture”, the term “conveys the notion of social disapproval, and it is not necessarily descriptive of any particular pattern of drug use or its potential adverse consequences”. But to understand drug abuse completely, its important to know the relation between alcohol and the human body.
Drug abuse is just another name for excessive doses of psychoactive chemicals that are deliberately sustained over a prolonged period of time. The initial reason being a pleasurable stimulation, mild usage of these stimulants, sedatives or tranquillizers transforms into curse when NMDA receptors start becoming unresponsive.
Drugs make the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) system of the brain more receptive to the Neurotransmitter Glutamate, thus stimulating the cortex, hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, heightening the feel of pleasure. Further effects include an increase of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) level in the hippocampus, which inhibit the normal activities of the brain causing memory impairment by interfering with the registration and consolidation stages of memory formation. Drug abuse also suppresses the metabolism of glucose in the brain and affects directly the occipital lobe, thus resulting in blurred vision. Vertigo, often brought about by abnormal eye movements or Nystagmus due to a malfunctioning vestibular system is a common symptom of hangover, a direct result of drug abuse. But the most fatal is perhaps Gait Ataxia, which may even lead to a permanent brain damage. And extreme cases of drug abuse are witnessed through O.D.-s and death due to respiratory depression, apart from Wernicke Encephalopathy (disorder of thiamine metabolism) that leads to the irreversible Korsakoff psychosis. Long-term drug abuse produces atrophy of the Vermis (a part of the cerebellum responsible for coordinating bodily movements) and also Diabetic Coma (in case of alcohol).
Directions for fighting drug abuse
But drug abuse, apart from being a major public health issue, is also a social problem with far-reaching implications. A major cause behind poverty, domestic and mass violence and up to a certain extent, various diseases, drug abuse can lead to the usage of other psychoactive drugs if proper care is not taken for eradicating it at its very early stages. Knowing the causes is the first step towards fighting this social disease.