It is not over until it is finally over when it comes to fighting the ever increasing problem of substance abuse. Doctor Dalal Akoury a veteran addiction expert and founder of AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center, is very much concern with the tender age at which young people get into drugs. From her over two decades of working experience in this discipline, she says that the use and abuse of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, and illegal drugs are likely to begin in childhood or in their teen years. Even as we look into the actions that contributes in causes of addiction there are certain risk factors that are likely to increase someone’s likelihood to abuse substances. The following are just but a few:
- Chaotic home environment
- Perception of approval of drug use behavior
- Poor social coping skills
- Genetic risks (drug or alcohol abuse sometimes can run in families)
- Lack of nurturing and parental attachment
- Factors related to a child’s socialization outside the family may also increase risk of drug abuse.
- Poor school performance
- Factors within a family that influence a child’s early development have been shown to be related to increased risk of drug abuse.
- Inappropriately aggressive or shy behavior in the classroom
- Association with a deviant peer group
In a family set up when one of their own is struggling with an addiction, it is always common that friends and family may be among the first to recognize the signs of substance abuse. Doctor Akoury says that early recognition is very important as it increases chances for successful treatment and the following are some of the signs to watch for:
- Lying, particularly about how much alcohol or other drugs he or she is using
- Having “blackouts”-forgetting what he or she did the night before
- Constantly talking about drinking or using other drugs
- Getting in trouble with the law
- Drinking and driving
- Giving up past activities such as sports, homework, or hanging out with new friends
- Use of room deodorizers and incense
- Paraphernalia such as baggies, small boxes, pipes, and rolling paper
- Getting drunk or high on drugs on a regular basis
- Having to drink more to get the same high
- Believing that in order to have fun you need to drink or use other drugs
- Suspension from school or work for an alcohol or drug-related incident
- Feeling rundown, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
- Avoiding friends or family in order to get drunk or high
- Planning drinking in advance, hiding alcohol, drinking or using other drugs alone
- Declining grades
- Aggressiveness and irritability
- Disappearing money or valuables
- Frequent hangovers
- Pressuring others to drink or use other drugs
- Taking risks, including sexual risks
- selfish and not caring about others
If you recognize you have a substance abuse problem and want to quit, a doctor can refer you to community resources. A doctor also may prescribe medications to control cravings and withdrawal or help manage medical complications resulting from substance abuse. Let your doctor know what drugs you use and how you take them. Call your doctor if you recognize any of the following symptoms:
- Cough that won’t go away
- Pain at an injection site
- Continuing feelings of sadness or depression
- Leg swelling
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Increasing abdominal girth
- Mild tremors or an alcohol withdrawal seizure not accompanied by hallucinations or confusion
If any of the following occur, go to hospital’s emergency department immediately:
- Confusion or ongoing hallucinations
- Severe pain at an injection site (may be accompanied by redness, swelling, discharge, and fever)
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Any suspicion that you were sexually assaulted while under the influence
- Severe tremors or recurrent seizures
- Dark, cola-colored urine
- Difficulty speaking, numbness, weakness, severe headache, visual changes, or trouble keeping balance
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, or lightheadedness
- Severe abdominal pain
Medical Treatment – Most substances abusers believe they can stop using drugs on their own, but a majority who try do not succeed. Research shows that long-term drug use alters brain function and strengthens compulsions to use drugs. This craving continues even after drug use stops.
Because of these ongoing cravings, the most important component of treatment is preventing relapse. Treating substance abuse depends on both the person and the substance being used. Behavioral treatment provides you with strategies to cope with your drug cravings and ways to avoid relapse. Your doctor may prescribe medications, such as nicotine patches and methadone, to control withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Often, a drug user has an underlying mental disorder, one that increases risk for substance abuse. Such disorders must be treated medically and through counseling along with the drug abuse.
Substance abuse may start in childhood or adolescence. Abuse prevention efforts in schools and community settings now focus on school-age groups. Programs seek to increase communication between parents and their children, to teach resistance skills, and to correct children’s misperceptions about cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs and the consequences of their use. Most importantly, officials seek to develop, through education and the media, an environment of social disapproval from children’s peers and families.
In 1992, officials estimated that alcohol and drug abuse in the US cost $246 billion. That figure did not include the health care costs related to tobacco.
Crime – More than half the economic cost of alcohol and drugs is due to crime. A substance abuser is 18 times more likely to be involved in criminal activity than someone in the general population. Many violent crimes have been linked to the mind-altering effects of drugs. Substance abusers often commit thefts to support their drug habits. Drugs and alcohol have been linked to domestic violence and sexual assault. At colleges, 75% of date rapes are alcohol-related. Among jailed sex offenders, 43% say they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their crime.
Disease – Most abused substances have harmful health effects. For some substances, such as tobacco, effects are caused by long-term use. For other drugs, a single use can cause significant disease.
Trauma – It is estimated that up to 75% of injured people treated at emergency departments test positive for illicit or prescription drugs. Alcohol is strongly associated with both intentional and unintentional injury. Drug use also puts people at risk of violence. Nearly half of assault victims are cocaine users and that is one reason why you really need to schedule for an appointment with doctor Dalal Akoury if any of the above mentioned is in anyway points to your direction.