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No one plans to be an addict

2022-03-24  Paheja Siririka

No one plans to be an addict

Compulsion, commonly known as addiction, is a sinister and persistent disease that overhauls some individuals with great swiftness, clutching them by the throat and refusing to let go, something that no one plans for.

Senior social worker Leigh-Ann Black at the Etegameno Rehabilitation and Resource Centre said the substance use disorder encompasses a pattern of behaviours that range from misuse to dependency or addiction, whether it is alcohol, legal drugs or illegal drugs. 

“Addiction is a complex disease with serious physical, emotional, financial and legal consequences which can affect anyone, regardless of age, occupation, economic circumstances, ethnic background or gender,” she said while addressing New Era staff to create awareness about the dangers associated with substance abuse.

She stated that addiction can progress from the first experience, which leads to people discovering they like the substance they have taken, where sometimes and in many cases individuals start using that substance for pleasure, to numb undying pain or ultimately to reduce unpleasant feelings.

She added that substance use disorder is a progressive and chronic disease, but also one that can be successfully treated. 

“Chemical, mind-altering substances result in long-lasting changes to the brain, which is why addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease,” said Black.

She added that through the serendipitous phase/regular use, individuals find something good that they were not expecting and/or discover using helps them deal with situations they had problems with before.

“In the instrumental phase/risky use or abuse, individuals deliberately use the drug/behaviour for its effect to cope with difficult situations. Drug use becomes a routine and a deliberate coping tool,” stated Black.

She said: “The dependent phase is where one can’t cope with life without the drug. This is where they have a loss of control and start experiencing unpleasant consequences for themselves, accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame. They may feel trapped, as though the drug use is a part of their basic nature.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5) states that for a person to be diagnosed with a disorder due to a substance, they must display two of the following 11 symptoms within 12 months:

• Consuming more alcohol or other substance than originally planned

• Worrying about stopping or consistently failed efforts to control one’s use

• Spending a large amount of time using drugs/alcohol, or doing whatever is needed to obtain them

• Use of the substance results in failure to “fulfil major role obligations” such as at home, work or school.

• “Craving” the substance (alcohol or drug)

• Continuing the use of a substance, despite health problems caused or worsened by it. This can be in the domain of mental health (psychological problems may include depressed mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety or blackouts) or physical health.

“When they continue the use of a substance despite it having negative effects on relationships with others (for example, using even though it leads to fights or despite people’s objecting to it), then you know that’s an addiction. It also includes the repeated use of the substance in a dangerous situation (for example, when having to operate heavy machinery or when driving a car),” said Black.

The different types of drugs are commonly known as opioids, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens and others. 

“Common side-effects of these drugs include irritation of the lining of the oesophagus and stomach, gastrointestinal problems like gastritis, peptic ulcers, and an increased risk for cancer of the mouth, throat and oesophagus, stomach and liver,” informed Black. 

Other highlighted side-effects include fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis, while pancreatic effects include pancreatitis, cardiovascular effects and poor sleeping patterns, the suppression of blood cell production, kidney problems and sexual dysfunction.

Black specifically emphasised the importance of parents being more hands-on when it comes to the wellbeing of their children, and addressing issues that may be bothering them before they attempt other coping mechanisms.


2022-03-24  Paheja Siririka

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