Substance abuse is a broader term which implies the use of harmful or hazardous psychoactive substances including alcohol and other illicit drugs like opioids, heroin, amphetamines, cannabis and many more. Substance abuse disorders are among the world’s leading public health problems and cause enormous human sufferings and costs and threaten the very social fabric of almost all communities around the world.
It is simply the ingestion of substance/substances without experiencing any negative consequences. It may be social use, like in parties; recreational or experimental use, dietary practice or may be religious ritual.
The use of any substance for purposes other than medical and scientific, including use without prescription, in excessive dose levels, or over an unjustified period of time.
It is defined as the repeated use of substance to the extent that the user is periodically or chronically intoxicated, shows a compulsion to take the preferred substance (or substances), has great difficulty in voluntarily ceasing or modifying substance use, and exhibits determination to obtain psychoactive substances by almost any means.
The history of use and abuse of psychoactive substances is as old as history of civilizations. Human beings have been using various forms of substances derived from plants, as well as alcohol for thousands of years. The recorded history indicates that some of these substances were used not just for their presumed therapeutic effects, but also for recreational purposes to enhance pleasure and relieve stress. However, new and often more harmful drugs and patterns of use are replacing traditional practices. In recent years the consumption of legalized or licit (tobacco, alcohol) as well as illicit substances has increased greatly .
Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians (among those included in this survey). Nationally, about 14.6% of the population (between 10 and 75 year of age) uses alcohol. In terms of absolute numbers, there are about 16 crore persons who consume alcohol in the country. After Alcohol, Cannabis and Opioids are the next commonly used substances in India. About 2.8% of the population (3.1 crore individuals) reports having used any cannabis product within the previous year. About 2.1% of the country’s population (2.26 crore individuals) use opioids which includes Opium (or its variants like poppy husk known as doda/phukki), Heroin (or its impure form – smack or brown sugar) and a variety of pharmaceutical opioids. About 1.08% of 10-75 year old Indians (approximately 1.18 crore people) are current users of sedatives (non-medical, non-prescription use). Inhalants (overall prevalence 0.7%) are the only category of substances for which the prevalence of current use among children and adolescents is higher (1.17%) than adults (0.58%) .
The other major menace amongst the youth is their increasing inclination towards use and consumption of tobacco. The decision-making part of the teenage brain that is responsible for impulse control and planning is not fully developed, so teens may make more impulsive decisions, such as starting to smoke tobacco as compared to adults. The college-aged young adults are also prone to get addicted because college is usually the first time young adults live away from their parents; it’s also a time of experimentation, including drugs. Lack of supervision and association with drug-using peers is a major factor in whether college students will become addicted or not.
With continued use most drugs cause the body to rapidly adapt to their effects so that more of the substance must be taken to achieve the same psychoactive effects. However, drugs vary greatly in their potential to cause tolerance.
A distinction is often drawn between psychological and physical (physiological) dependency. Psychological dependency refers to the user experiencing a craving for or becoming preoccupied with the substance. The user might experience feelings such as irritability, anxiety and headaches if the drug cannot be taken at scheduled times.
Physical dependency may include all these elements, but in addition the user experiences a range of withdrawal symptoms of mild to severe physical discomfort, such as tremors, high fever or muscle cramps.
A drug overdose can simply be described as the use of a drug at a dosage which exceeds the level at which the body has become used to. The results could range from mild (nausea, vomiting) to life threatening (respiratory failure, cardiac arrest).
You’ve built up a drug tolerance if you need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects as before. You take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
You’ve lost control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them and recovering from the drug’s effects. You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy such as hobbies, sports, and socialising, because of your drug use. You continue to use drugs despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life – blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia – but you use anyway.