Some insights into addiction
The substances most commonly associated with drug abuse today include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, inhalants, designer drugs and steroids.
Each individual drug has its own dangers, e.g. steroid use can lead to hostility, aggression and even stunted growth; marijuana affects hormones in both males and females it can delay the onset of puberty in young men or disrupt the monthly menstrual cycle in young women.
While each drug has its own dangers, some dangers are common to all drugs. Drugs can cause brain changes. At least 10% of the population is at risk for physiological and psychological dependence. Because the liver has to metabolize the drugs that pass through the system, drug abuse also leads to liver disease. Other drug effects include dementia, kidney disease, circulatory trouble, heart failure, and premature death. For example, the life span of the average alcoholic is 25 years less than the life span of the average person. Alcohol contributes to nearly 100,000 deaths each year, making it the third largest cause of preventable death.
Everyone is at risk
Drug abuse affects people of all ages; however, it is particularly risky in younger people because their bodies and minds are not fully developed. This may explain why we see so much irresponsibility and childish behavior in drug addicts.
Warning signs are sometimes difficult to find, especially in teens, where the warning signs often imitate normal adolescent behavior. Signs to watch for include a change in personality, greater risk-taking behavior, social and personal problems, trouble with the law (lying, stealing and DUIs) and trouble on the job or in school. A cocaine abuser may have frequent nosebleeds.
There is help available
There are many different ways in which a chemically dependent person can be helped, including individual counseling, intensive out-patient counseling programs, in-patient treatment programs, 12-step programs, interventions and family counseling.
The first step is an assessment of the situation, which will determine the appropriate treatment. It is important to remember, however, that a chemically dependent person is not able to control the use of drugs. Simply cutting back is not an option. While some individuals may be able to control their addictions for a period of time, most relapse. It is important to understand that professional help is available, that it works, and that with help there is hope.