Drug Use and Addiction 101 (Part 1)



In 1972, there was only as many as 20,000 reported drug abusers in the Philippines. More than 30 years later in a study conducted in 2004, the figures exponentially jumped to 6.7 million, with methamphetamine (also known as shabu) the drug of choice for 90% of these illegal substance users. This has alarming implications to society as the effects of drug abuse rips apart its very fabric–the family. Thus, education and intervention is important not only to the substance dependents but also their families, as well as society in general.

Being Sucked into the Black Hole of Addiction

(c) Illustration by Jeremy Enecio

Learning about the nature of drug dependency and addiction will help give you a better understanding of the underlying problems, its effects, and the best ways to address them.

Drug Use, Drug Abuse, and Addiction

Involvement with illegal drugs cover all demographics and are done for various reasons. People–whether they are educated or not, professionals or unemployed, male or female, young or old–may first try drugs out of curiosity, peer pressure, or as a way to ease their stress or problems. A drug user may not necessarily and addict and there is no formula as to when casual or social drug use becomes destructive drug dependency.

It is important to understand that the tendency for addiction varies from one person to another. Many factors contribute to your inclination to drug use and drug addiction, such as:

  • Early exposure or introduction to illegal drugs
  • Family history of drug use and/or addiction
  • Abuse, neglect, exploitation or childhood trauma
  • Method of drug administration, such as ingesting, smoking or injecting

Nevertheless, the problem is not as much as the substance itself but more about the consequences of drug use. Whether you are taking drugs as a form of unwinding or de-stressing, or if you are taking drugs on a daily basis–if it is causing you to lose your job, lose your family and friends, or flunk out of school, then you have a drug problem that must be addressed.

How Drugs Affects Brain and Behavior

Many drug abusers may deny their dependence on drugs and still believe that they are in control. However, repetitive drug use can alter the functions of the brain, which eventually have explicit physical and behavioral effects.

Different drugs have their short-term and long-term effects, yet they share these things in common:

  • Drug use, whether recreational or compulsive, triggers a surge of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that is responsible for feelings of pleasure. Each time you do drugs, your brain releases dopamine to your body and you would want to always repeat that feeling of bliss.
  • You turn to drugs whenever you feel bad or tired or pressured because doing drugs can make you feel good again.
  • As you become addicted, your drug use will take the forefront in your life, making it as important (or even more so) than your natural instinct for survival, such as eating and drinking.
  • Later on, your brain chemistry changes and the drugs in your brain will hamper your ability to think clearly, make sensible judgement, and have a sense of control and responsibility.
  • There will also be a time when you do not feel “normal” when you are not on drugs so you will find ways to get your “high”.
  • The cravings intensify until fulfilling them becomes more important than your studies or your job, your friends, family, and even your own hygiene, health, security, and goals in life.

How Addiction Develops

Signs of Drug Abuse

  • You are neglecting your responsibilities in school, at work, or at home.
  • You are using drugs regardless of the danger it presents to you, such as driving under the influence, operating dangerous machinery, or using dirty and possibly contaminated needles, to name a few.
  • You do not care about the legal implications of your drug use and the effects it does to you, such as getting into fights, committing crime to support your drug habit, or getting arrested in a drug bust.
  • Your habitual drug use is causing a strain in your relationships with your co-workers, friends, and family.

Signs of Drug Addiction

  • ToleranceYou need to increase your dosage to experience the same affect as when you first took the drug.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms. You experience nausea, shaking, restlessness, irritability, sweating, and/or depression when you are not on drugs so you need to take drugs to avoid these withdrawal symptoms.
  • Losing control. You thought you can forgo drugs today, but soon realized you’re doing drugs again. There may be times you want to stop but you feel helpless about it.
  • Drugs take over your life. All your activities and resources revolve around your next fix. You spend more time using drugs and, when you are not using, your thoughts are all about how you can get drugs.
  • Your lifestyle has changed. The activities that once kept you preoccupied, such as hobbies and sports, no longer interest you.
  • Drugs is damaging your life. Your drug use is causing you mental, physical and social problems: infections, diseases, depression, paranoia, hallucinations, and mood swings, to name a few.

Drug users and addicts tend to deny or minimize that they have a drug problem. If you, a friend or a family member have been abusing drugs, seek help immediately.

Watch out for Drug Use and Addiction 101 (Part 2)

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