International Day against Drug Abuse: Mental and physical health effects of drug abuse on victim and family

The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was initiated by the UN on 7 December 1987. The General Assembly of the UN decided to celebrate 26th June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of the determination, strength, and cooperation required to achieve the goal of a society and world that is free of drug abuse.

The theme for the 2020 International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Better Knowledge for Better Care”. It speaks volumes of the need to spread awareness about the world drug problem and how better knowledge will help in better international cooperation, governance and security.

As part of the awareness, one has to also understand the effects of drug abuse on not just the victim, but also his/her family. Drug abuse can shatter homes, and can even be fatal for the person doing it, and his/her loved ones. Drug abuse can have certain physical as well as mental health effects that one should be aware of.

Physical health effects of Drug Abuse

Developmental issues – Drug abuse can begin at an early age – as early as teenage and can cause serious developmental issues. Teenage is the time a lot of children grow and start developing reproductive features. Their bodies are under a transformational phase, and drug abuse can cause hormone imbalances and issues in proper development.

Risk of infections – People who abuse drugs may engage in behaviours that can put them at a high risk of deadly infections like HIV, or other blood-borne diseases. This can happen due to injecting drugs using shared needles, poor judgement and control, leading to risky behaviour.

Risk of accidents – Since the use of drugs can lead to impulsive behaviour, cloudy judgement, and little or no control over their bodies, people who abuse drugs are at a high risk of accidents. They may fall and injure themselves or meet with an accident because they are driving under the influence of drugs.

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The Mental health effects of Drug Abuse

Mental health issues have already become very common among people, especially due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. While mental health issues like depression or anxiety may act as triggers for drug abuse or use, the effects of drug abuse on the mental health of the users are also seen widely.

Mental health problems such as depression, apathy, withdrawal and other psychological dysfunctions have been linked with substance use among teenagers and young adults. According to reports, drug abusers are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, conduct problems, memory issues, and personality problems.

Talking about specific mental health issues such as schizophrenia (a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally), according to a paper published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, substance abuse among patients of the mental health disorder is a commonly recognised phenomenon. The researchers of the study stated that drug abuse can exacerbate psychotic symptoms.

However, some patients have reported feeling less dysphoric (a profound state of unease or dissatisfaction), anxious and more energetic while intoxicated.

How are the families of the victims affected?

In scenarios such as drug abuse and addiction, it is not just the person who suffers, but all his/her loved ones suffer with them. Drugs can only be procured by paying huge amounts of money, and addicts ensure they find that money by whatever means they have to.

Families, often, have to suffer the brunt as they often fall into a financial crisis due to the practice. Domestic violence hampered relationships, and sometimes, the loss of a loved one, are some of the ways families of drug abusers suffer.

Physically, the risk of STDs among the family can also increase indirectly.



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