Drugs is a generic name for pharmaceuticals and stimulants that have a numbing, stimulating and/or hallucinogenic effect and which can lead to addiction. Drugs include many illegal, forbidden agents, such as ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. A distinction is made between soft and hard drugs.
In order to have effect, drugs should get into the brain via the blood. If the drugs arrive there, they affect functioning of the elements that can transfer electric signals from one nerve to the other. As a result, certain parts of the brain are boosted or inhibited. This causes all kinds of effects.
Soft drugs (such as hemp products) are not or only mentally addictive. Hard drugs on the other hand (including cocaine and heroin) are much more harmful and can be both physically and mentally addictive.
Drugs can act on our mind in three ways: they can stimulate (such as speed and cocaine), they can numb (such as heroin, sedatives and tranquilizers) and they can alter consciousness (such as cannabis, LSD and other hallucinogens). Sometimes, they combine two of those three effects, for example ecstasy (psychotropic and stimulant).
Risks associated with using drugs include:
- Physical health risks. A distinction can be made between risks in the short term (overdose) and risks in the long term (various physical diseases).
- Mental health risks. Drugs can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. The reasons and motives for use play an important role.
- Risk of abuse and addiction. Of every hundred people who start, some get addicted.
- Social risks. Drugs can cause social problems, such as violence, fights or drunk driving. Excessive use of drugs also leads to problems with relationships or work. The illegal status of a drug brings additional risks.
Drug addiction is treatable in many cases, but medical and professional help is required.
- People who have their lives fairly straight, but do show a problematic drug use, can in principle deal with their addiction themselves with the help of an online aid programme or participation in a self-help group.
- In case of an individual approach, the treatment will mainly include therapy (individual, in a group or a combination thereof). This takes the form of a training that is mainly focused on learning to deal with situations where they previously were in (strong) need for drugs.
- In case of prolonged drug use and serious problems, an admission is sometimes necessary. The admission includes therapies and converstations and there will be a fixed daily structure, which they eventually need to learn themselves.
- Sometimes, it’s not feasible to completely stop the use of drugs, because the user has become dependent for life. That is, for example, the case with chronic heroin addicts. Then, treatment is not aimed at cure, but at care.
Treatment to deal with drug use is a difficult path. The rehab ultimately ensures that the body is no longer dependent on drugs. Then it’s important to get rid of the mental dependence as well. Therefore, discussions and therapies are an important part of the treatment. There is often worked with cognitive behavioral therapy. This is aimed at changing behavior. Of course, the problems are also addressed.
Apart from treatment for the drug user, family and loved ones should also get support and help. They can participate in self-help groups and get peer support.