Substance use and its effects

25 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Substance use and its effects

The Herald

Loice Vavi Health Matters


Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a dependence on a legal or illegal drug or medication. Keep in mind that alcohol and nicotine are legal substances, but are also considered drugs.

When you’re addicted, you’re not able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. You may want to quit, but most people find they can’t do it on their own.

Drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment, and the law.


Most drug addictions start with experimental use of a drug in social situations. For some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. The risk of addiction and how fast you become dependent varies by drug. Some drugs have a higher risk and cause dependency more quickly than others.

As time passes, you may need larger doses of the drug to get high. Soon you may need the drug just to feel good. As your drug use increases, you may find that it’s increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill (withdrawal symptoms).

Drug addiction symptoms or behaviours include, among others:

Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day

Having intense urges for the drug

Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect

Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug

Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it

Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use

Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing

Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug

Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug

Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognising drug abuse in family members

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish normal teenage moodiness or angst from signs of drug use. Possible indications that your teenager or other family member is using drugs include:

Problems at school or work — frequently missing school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or work, or a drop in grades or work performance

Physical health issues — lack of energy and motivation

Neglected appearance — lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks

Changes in behaviour — exaggerated efforts to bar family members from entering his or her room or being secretive about where he or she goes with friends; or drastic changes in behaviour and in relationships with family and friends

Spending money — sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation; or your discovery that money is missing or has been stolen or that items have disappeared from your home, indicating maybe they’re being sold to support drug use

Recognising signs of drug use or intoxication

Signs and symptoms of drug use or intoxication may vary, depending on the type of drug.

Below you’ll find several examples:-

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

People use cannabis by smoking, eating, or inhaling a vaporised form of the drug. Cannabis often precedes or is used along with other substances, such as alcohol or other illegal drugs, and is often the first drug tried.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

A sense of euphoria or feeling “high”

A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception

Increased blood pressure and heart rate

Red eyes, Dry mouth, Decreased coordination, Difficulty concentrating or remembering, Increased appetite, Slowed reaction time, Paranoid thinking

Long-term (chronic) use is often associated with:

Decreased mental sharpness

Poor performance at school or at work

Reduced number of friends and interests

Synthetic cannabinoids and substituted cathinones

A sense of euphoria or feeling “high”

Elevated mood, Relaxation, An altered sense of visual, auditory and taste perception, Extreme anxiety or agitation, Paranoia, Hallucinations, Increased heart rate and blood pressure, Vomiting, Confusion

Meth, cocaine and other stimulants

Stimulants include amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine and methylphenidate (Ritalin). They are often used and abused in search of a “high,” or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

Feeling of exhilaration and excess confidence, Increased alertness, Increased energy and restlessness, Behaviour changes or aggression, Rapid or rambling speech, Dilated pupils, Delusions and hallucinations, Irritability or changes in mood, Changes in heart rate and blood pressure, Nausea or vomiting with weight loss, Impaired judgment

Nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose (if snorting drugs)

Insomnia, Paranoia, Depression as the drug wears off, Club drugs, Club drugs are commonly used at clubs, concerts LSD (Lencyclidine) use may cause:


Greatly reduced perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colours, Impulsive behaviour, Rapid shifts in emotions, Permanent mental changes in perception, Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, Tremors

Flashbacks, a re-experience of the hallucinations — even years later PCP (Phencyclidine/ Angel dust) use may cause:

A feeling of being separated from your body and surroundings


Problems with coordination and movement

Aggressive, possibly violent behaviour

Involuntary eye movements

Lack of pain sensation

Increase in blood pressure and heart rate

Problems with thinking and memory

Problems speaking

Impaired judgment

Intolerance to loud noise

Sometimes seizures or coma


Signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary, depending on the substance.

Some commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products. Due to the toxic nature of these substances, users may develop brain damage.

Full article:

Signs and symptoms of use can include:

Possessing an inhalant substance without a reasonable explanation

Brief euphoria or intoxication, Decreased inhibition, Dizziness, Nausea or vomiting, Involuntary eye movements

Appearing intoxicated with slurred speech, slow movements and poor coordination

Irregular heartbeats, Tremors, Lingering odour of inhalant material, Rash around the nose and mouth

Narcotic painkillers

Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes, among others, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone and oxycodone. Some people who’ve been using opioids over a long period of time may need physician-prescribed temporary or long-term drug substitution during treatment.

Signs and symptoms of narcotic use and dependence can include:

Euphoria or feeling “high”, Reduced sense of pain, Drowsiness or sedation, Slurred speech, Problems with attention and memory, Constricted pupils, Lack of awareness or inattention to surrounding, people and things,

Problems with coordination

Depression, Confusion, Sweaty, clammy skin, Constipation, Runny nose or nose sores (if snorting drugs), Needle marks (if injecting drugs)

You think you may be having withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use. Consult a therapist /counsellor /psychiatrist.

Seek emergency help if you or someone you know has taken a drug and:

May have overdosed, Shows changes in consciousness, Has trouble breathing, Has seizures or convulsions, Has signs of a possible heart attack, such as chest pain or pressure, Has any other troublesome physical or psychological reaction to use

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