“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging” (Proverbs 20:1). At the last it biteth like a serpent and stingeth like and adder” (Proverbs 23:32). These biblical verses depict the continuing use of drugs and addictions with which mankind has struggled with over the ages. All of us have addictions, whether they be drinking alcohol, eating chocolate, drinking coffee, gambling, or overspending each time we shop. Yet, God warns us to stay away from addiction for our own good as it only produces “sorrow and woe.”
Nearly everyone seems to have relatives or friends who are abusing alcohol, nicotine, or some other drug. Unfortunately, chemical substances and alcohol have become part of our daily lives. Many people use drugs to relax, to feel less inhibited, to increase our pleasure, or to get rid of unwanted emotions. Pharmacologically speaking, the word drug is defined in the book Drugs, Society and Human Behavior, as “any substance natural or artificial, other than food, that by its chemical nature alters structure or function in the living organism.”
Most people probably continue to think of addiction, for the most part to illicit drugs
as primarily a moral or character problem and that they simply lack willpower. Yet, I have learned in our class, addiction to alcohol and other drugs is a phenomenon that has been clouded by many myths. Now scientific research has led experts to believe that addiction is actually a brain disease, such as a chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension. According to our book, it is believed that the mesolimbic dopamine system is a critical pathway for the dependence of many drugs. Because of the advances in technology we are now able to examine the brain and understand the disease causes changes in the brain. This does not mean one can not change the addicted state, yet we now know it takes major lifestyle changes and often times one must receive professional treatment just as a heart patient often times needs to make lifestyle changes by taking their medication daily, change their eating habits, and most likely will be encouraged to exercise regularly. The bottom line is our society must stop blaming people for their addictive behaviors and continue to treat this disease as an illness.
In my readings on addictive personalities, I found it of great interest that many people who try drugs or alcohol do not become addicted. Why is it then that some people become addicted to drugs and alcohol? According to the book, studies have been done and it is now believed addiction may be influenced by genetics, social experiences, and personality. For example, if someone in my family is addicted to drugs, my kids are more prone to drug addiction.
Alcoholism is often called the “disease of denial.” This is a defense mechanism in which the abuser refuses to acknowledge the reality of their addiction. The book also talks about the enabler who makes excuses for the family member who has an addiction. By enabling and protecting the abuser, it is then very difficult for the addict to take responsibility and to change his behavior pattern.
When one becomes addicted to a drug or alcohol, this means after awhile more of the drug must be used to achieve the desired high effect. This is called tolerance. When an individual continues to use a substance, despite significant substance-related problems, the addict becomes both physical and psychological dependent. Psychological dependence occurs in users who have a strong urge to alter their state of consciousness through the use of a chemical. Physical dependence refers to the body’s need for the drug, in order to remain chemically balanced. The presence of withdrawal symptoms are a sign of physical dependence. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that I have learned about are headaches, cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite, agitation, and the shakes.
There are some other signs of a drug problem, above and beyond those that involve the instantaneous effects of the drug. For example, financial hardship can be a sign of drug dependence. As tolerance increases, the quantity of the drug a person needs to pay for increases as well, quickly leading to a costly habit. This in turn can lead to crime, specifically stealing from friends and even their own family to support their dependence on drugs. Paranoia, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, hopelessness, and impaired memory may be some of the indirect signs of a drug dependence, while needle marks, burned lips, and frequent bloody noses are a few of the physical symptoms an addict may exhibit.
As a Family Life Educator, I believe it is imperative I am aware of what drug abuse can do to the body and to the mind. and be acquainted with slang terms used to describe these drugs. I now know stimulants such as cocaine and crack are amphetamines which may cause hallucinations and psychological and physical dependence can develop. Also, continued high doses can cause many problems including heart problems, coma, and even death.
Depressants such as alcohol, relax the central nervous system and they are considered a downer. The possible effects are confusion, lose of mental confusion, blurred vision, and impaired judgment. Long term damage may includes liver and kidney impairment, vitamin and mineral deficiency, heart disease, migraine, stomach ulcers, cancer, depression, loss of sex drive, and insomnia.
Cannabis is often referred to as marijuana, weed, hash, or pot. This drug alters mood and perception and can cause anxiety or tension. Yet, oftentimes those feelings are replaced with a sense of well-being, subtle changes in thought and expression, talkativeness, giggling, and an increase appetite may occur. At higher doses, visuals may become more prominent, sense of time is altered, attention span and memory are commonly affected, and thought processes and mental perception might be considerably altered. Some of the negative effects can include dry mouth, respiratory problems, a racing heart, paranoia, and a reduced ability to concentrate.
Hallucinogens temporarily distort reality and may cause confusion, irrational behavior, depression, and one is like to hallucinate. An overdose can cause coma and death.
Narcotics lower perception of pain, Morphine, codeine, and heroin are just a few of the drugs that are abused today. Loss of judgment, lethargy, and loss of self control may occur when taking these drugs. An overdose can cause convulsions and death.
Lastly, nicotine is very addictive and linked to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, low birth weight, and miscarriages. Secondhand smoke can also contribute to heart disease and lung diseases in nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke can be especially detrimental to children. Studies have shown children who are exposed to secondhand smoke may develop more respiratory problems, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, coughing, wheezing, and worsened asthma. Also, children of smokers are much more likely to smoke than children of nonsmokers.
When working with a chemically dependent client, I must be aware of the many aspects of treatments that are available to fit my clients needs. In the movie we watched in class, I learned that the first step an addict must face is that he has a problem. Little can be done to help him until he hits rock bottom and is willing to change his belief system. Many times hitting rock bottom includes losing, family, friends, losing their job, and even one may become alarmed he may lose his life or become seriously injured. I also know another common bottom is being diagnosed with aids due to unclean needles or unsafe sex.
There are many treatment programs available for addiction. I have learned that treatment varies depending on the severity of addiction and the characteristics of the patient. It is essential that the dependent not only is aware that he has a problem but it is also essential the person have the desire and motivation to seek and accept help.
It is believed the best programs include behavioral therapy such as teaching one coping strategies to help one resist their addiction. Group therapy also seems to be very affective because it is addicts helping each other. Also, extensive programs are available to help family members. such as One group is called Alateen. The purposes of Alateen and other similar groups is to share experiences, give strength and hope to each other, and to learn how to detach themselves emotionally from the drinker’s problems while continuing to love and care for the person who has an addiction problem.
For extra credit, Diane and I decided to attend an Alcohol Anonymous meeting to enhance our outstanding of the program. Of course, I had heard of their success and I also heard about the twelve step program but to my delight , I learned much more. Alcohol Anonymous is truly compassionate and accepting program. Since its founding in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has provided help to millions of men and women who once drank to excess. By finally being able to acknowledge they could no longer handle alcohol, and, through the support of recovering alcoholics sharing their stories of addiction, many men and women today are able to find relief and from this disease. Also, they believe that there is in fact a higher power greater then themselves, and that this higher power could in fact, remove all defects from their character and help them to find a new, healthier way of life that excludes drinking. Below I find it important to list the twelve steps of the program.
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