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Home ยป The psychology behind drug misuse: Why do people take drugs, long term health risks and all you need to know – Times of India

The psychology behind drug misuse: Why do people take drugs, long term health risks and all you need to know – Times of India

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On Sunday, when Shahrukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan, was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), it sent shock waves across the country. Reportedly, the actor’s 23 year old son was at a party on a cruise ship, when the NCB raided the place and found 3 grams of cocaine, 21 grams of charas, 22 pills of MDMA, and 5 grams of MD.

While the case is still under trial, there have been many talks and discussions around the use/misuse of drugs and how it’s becoming more common among young adults. The science behind why one resorts to drugs is not definite. However, there are certain stressors that might lead to addiction.

That said, let us first delve into the many aspects of addiction and drug abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is a United States federal-government research institute, uses drug use, drug abuse and addiction in different contexts and not interchangeably.

According to them, “Drug use refers to any scope of use of illegal drugs: heroin use, cocaine use, tobacco use.”

Read more: Cannabis use can worsen risk of poor mental health, finds research

“Drug misuse is used to distinguish improper or unhealthy use from use of a medication as prescribed or alcohol in moderation. These include the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality.”

Lastly, “Addiction refers to substance use disorders at the severe end of the spectrum and is characterized by a person’s inability to control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences,” as per NIDA.
The psychology behind why people take drugs is more complex than we assume. While some blame money and power to be the root cause of it, there are many factors that lead to addiction.

Basically, addiction is when a person indulges in an activity that is so pleasurable, that one cannot stop doing it even when it disrupts day to day functions, negatively affects physical and mental well being.

Drug use initially starts voluntarily. Either a person is inclined towards experiencing something new or it is an attempt to have fun. But over time, it can impair a person’s self-controlling abilities, leading to addiction.

Such addictive behaviour may begin due to an emotional stress, triggered by a traumatic experience that is extremely difficult to challenge. This is when a person may resort to drug use, substance abuse so as to distract oneself from the stress. While some people are strong-willed and are able to stop themselves, on the contrary, there are those who develop compulsive behaviour.

As per NIDA, “People use drugs for many reasons: they want to feel good, stop feeling bad, or perform better in school or at work, or they are curious because others are doing it and they want to fit in. The last reason is very common among teens.”
According to a study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience on “neural and psychological mechanisms underlying compulsive drug seeking habits,” the want for drugs begins as a goal-oriented behavior i.e. a person finds and takes drugs (the action), and gets high (the outcome of the action). This is a form of associative learning meaning the will to do something based on a new stimulus.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse believes, “Drugs excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good. But after you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Then you need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug just to feel normal.”

Following which, “you feel sick, awful, anxious, and irritable without the drug,” adds NIDA.

Read more: Feeling lost, lonely and uninspired? Ways to glide through quarter-life crisis

As per experts, drugs impact our central nervous system, affecting how we think, feel and act. There are different types of drugs that have different effects on one’s brain.

Depressants – Depressants are drugs that reduce functional activity. When taken in small quantities, depressants may make a person feel relaxed. Large amounts of depressants may trigger nausea, unconsciousness and in some cases, even death. Alcohol, cannabis, opiates such as heroine, morphine, GHB are examples of depressants.

Hallucinogens – Hallucinogens warps one’s sense of reality. You may start hallucinating, see or hear things that are not really there. Such instances may lead to paranoia, panic, emotional and mental euphoria, nausea and gastrointestinal problems. LSD, cannabis, magic mushroom and Ketamine are some specimens of hallucinogens.

Stimulants – Stimulants help you be more attentive and overworking your brain. It can lead to an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, fever, loss or change in appetite, agitation and sleeplessness. When taken in large amounts, it can lead to panic, seizures, stomach cramps, anxiety and more. Caffeine, nicotine, cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) are examples of stimulants.
Continuous use of drugs can pose great long term risks. From having mental health problems/ disorders such as paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression and hallucinations to developing chronic health issues associated with cardiovascular diseases, respiratory illnesses, kidney damage and more, drug misuse and addiction may sometimes lead to death.

As per NIDA, “Longer-term effects can include heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and others. Long-term drug use can also lead to addiction. Drug addiction is a brain disorder. Not everyone who uses drugs will become addicted, but for some, drug use can change how certain brain circuits work.”
Drug misuse and addiction is a treatable condition that needs time and effort. It is a long term process that may involve many attempts.

The process of recovery may focus on a lot of factors from family roles to work skills to improving one’s mental health.

Treatment may include the following.
– Detoxification under medical supervision.
– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
– Family therapy
– Life skills training
– Medication combined with behavioral therapies
– 12-Step Facilitation i.e recognizing that addiction has several negative consequences – emotional, social and physical.
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