Comprehensive memoir on drug abuse and addiction; disorder of choice paving way for societal degeneration

Comprehensive memoir on drug abuse and addiction; disorder of choice paving way for societal degeneration


People from all walks of life can experience problems with their drug use, regardless of age, race, or background. While some are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without experiencing negative effects, others find that substance use takes a serious toll on their health and well-being.

A drug is something that influences your body. A drug goes through the body and meddles with brain’s neurotransmitters. Drug abuse is the non lenient consumption of certain substance that may prompt physical and mental reliance. Illegal drugs are consumed by an estimated 208 million people around the world.

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug. It is consumed by 3.9% of the world’s total population; the age of these addicts is between 15 and 64 years.

This figure was presented by a report in 2008 by United Nations. 230 million Individuals have used an illegal drug throughout the world. Cocaine-dependent individuals number around 27 million, 0.6% of the world adult population. Worldwide illegal drug use is expected to ascend by 25% throughout the following couple of decades.

Abusing drugs can leave you feeling helpless, isolated, or ashamed. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, learning how drug abuse and addiction develops—and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better understanding of how to best deal with the problem and regain control of your life.

Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to.

In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.

Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.

The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

Drug addiction is not only confined to physical and/or psychological problems, but poses the addict and the entire family with multiple problems. From the day the person enters treatment, along with the physical aspect of detoxification, the psychological aspect of acceptance of bitter reality is fixed within the patient.

Understanding the importance of collective efforts is required. We aim to take the families and the significant others on-board during the treatment and provide them with the right knowledge and skills to manage the vicious cycle of addiction. Thus, making the life of their loved one functional.

It is essential for family to recover along with the patient. Willing Ways provides a suitable platform for comprehensive recovery of the patient and family. Recovery at Willing Ways is a complete package that comprises of physical, psychological, and social recovery, while identifying the loopholes of everyone involved.

As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug to try and achieve the same high. These brain adaptations often lead to the person becoming less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, sex, or social activities.

Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include:

  • learning
  • judgment
  • decision-making
  • stress
  • memory
  • behavior

Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.

Data Reveals…

In Pakistan, the total number of drug addicts as per a UN report is 7.6 million, where 78% are male while the rest 22% are female. The number of these addicts is increasing at the rate of 40,000 per year making Pakistan one of the most drug affected countries in the world.

What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these heroin addicts are under the age of 24. The reports and figures presented by the UN about the drug abusers to government entities are in fact 1/3 of the actual number of addicted people.

According to a 2013 report by the UN, around 6.7 million people in Pakistan are drug addicts. We see hardly any preventive measures, despite the shocking numbers.  Let us take a look at some of the trending factors that lead to drug addiction in Pakistan.

An extensive national investigation of drug use was conducted in Pakistan. According to this study people between the age of 15 to 64 are the most affected by the drug abuse and its terrible consequences. It also reveals that in the past few years about 6.7 million youngsters have used drugs in Pakistan. The age of most of these drug users according to this report is between 25 and 39 years.

Around 4.25 million people are drug addicts but still treatment and expert interventions is very hard to find.

Every year less than 30,000 drug addicts get access to treatment. As compared to men, women are more averse to have gotten drug treatment. They make 20% of the total drug addicts while the rest 80% were men. It is hard to access the proper treatment in a country where per day earning of a common person is less than 1.25 US dollar.

Pakistan Statistics:

In Pakistan 3.6% of the youngsters or 4 million people use Cannabis which is listed as the most commonly used drug in the country, while 1% of the drug users are addicted to opiates, namely opium and heroin.

Most youngsters of our country start using drugs because they idealize the west and try to follow their culture of drugs and enjoyment of life, while some of them start using it out of curiosity and for the pleasure they get through use.

Citing the Global Burden of Disease study from 2015, the researchers note that tobacco use has led to 170.9 million disability-adjusted life-years worldwide. Second in line comes alcohol consumption, to which 95 million disability-adjusted life-years are attributed.

No less worryingly, illicit drug consumption has caused individuals around the globe to claim 27.8 million disability-adjusted life-years.

Based on the data available, authors say, “Alcohol use and tobacco smoking are far more prevalent than illicit substance use, globally and in most regions.”

About 1 in 5 adults worldwide will have engaged in heavy alcohol consumption on at least one occasion in the past month, which may increase the risk of sustaining injuries.

Also, an estimated 15.2% of adults smoke on a daily basis. People who frequently smoke, the researchers warn, are at an increased risk of developing 12 different forms of cancer, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular diseases, to name but a few related health outcomes.

The data also suggest that the “use of illicit drugs [is] far less common” than the use of alcohol and tobacco worldwide; estimates indicate that “fewer than 1 in 20 people” reported an instance of cannabis use over the past year.

Even fewer people are thought to engage in amphetamine, opioid, or cocaine use. Nevertheless, some regions — including the United States, Canada, and Australasia — have very high rates of illicit drug abuse that warrant concern.

The authors of the report note that Australasia came up as the region with “the highest prevalence of amphetamine dependence,” amounting to 491.5 per 100,000 people. Australasian populations also appeared to use other drugs, such as cannabis, opioids, and cocaine, more frequently.

The authors also note that, in stark contrast with the populations of other continents, people across Central, Eastern, and Western Europe tend to indulge much more in alcohol consumption.

Per capita, Central Europeans drink 11.61 liters of alcohol per person, Eastern Europeans drink 11.98 liters per person, and Western Europeans consume 11.09 liters.

Europe was also discovered to contain the highest number of people who smoke tobacco, with 24.2% of Eastern Europeans, 23.7% of Central Europeans, and 20.9% of Western Europeans admitting to this habit.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, countries in North Africa and the Middle East reported the lowest rates of alcohol consumption, as well as the lowest percentage of heavy drinking.

Drug Abuse is Rampant in School, Unis in Major Cities

In October 2016, an NGO reported that about 53% of the students in leading private school chains are addicted to various kinds of drugs in Islamabad. Since these private schools ask for huge sums as fees, most of the students belong to wealthy backgrounds and affordability is not an issue.

Similarly, a recent study which included 10 schools and 2 universities from Lahore revealed that 57 percent of students reported the use of at least one drug.

According to a UN report, there are 7.6 million drug addicts in Pakistan; 78% male and 22% female. These addicts increase at a rate of 40,000 per year putting Pakistan amongst the top drug abusing countries in the world. The most disturbing fact is that the average age of heroin users is below 24 years. The actual number of drug abusers is much higher than what the UN reported according to government figures.

Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others don’t?

No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:

  • Biology. The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.
  • Environment. A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life.Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.
  • Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction risk.Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction.This is particularly problematic for teens because areas in their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, teens may be especially prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs.

How addiction develops:

There’s a fine line between regular drug use and drug abuse and addiction. Very few drug abusers or addicts are able to recognize when they’ve crossed that line.

While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed do not necessarily constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.

  • If the drug fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. You may take illegal drugs to calm or energize yourself or make you more confident.You may start abusing prescription drugs to relieve pain, cope with panic attacks, or improve concentration at school or work. If you are using drugs to fill a void in your life, you’re more at risk of crossing the line from casual drug use to drug abuse and addiction.To maintain a healthy balance in your life, you need to have positive experiences and feel good about your life without any drug use.
  • Religious Factors: Because alcohol is not allowed in Islam, many addicts find ways of justifying drugs, believing that it is a religiously and socially acceptable act.As a matter of fact, Islam forbids not just alcohol, but also intoxicants, which go side by side with gambling. “Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So will you not desist?” [Quran: 5:91].However, because the destruction that comes about when a poor man or woman use up their daily savings on drugs does not cause any major destruction other than to themselves, it is deemed a less important issue to worry about than others.
  • Peer Pressure: Moving away from the poverty stricken lower class to the privileged upper class, drug addiction is prevalent in spades even here.One can not tell whether it is surprising or not that college and university students use freely and openly everyday. But the peer pressure is not just friends copying friends. In fact, the security guards, janitorial staff, and even faculty members use drugs, inside and outside school premises.Instead of disciplining students, they become allies with them in the act. Drug usage has become such a second nature to so many folks in Pakistan, that even an educational institution does not see it as a weakness in the individual, in the institution or in the system.
  • Drug abuse may start as a way to socially connect. People often try drugs for the first time in social situations with friends and acquaintances.A strong desire to fit in to the group can make it feel like doing the drugs with them is the only option.
  • Problems can sometimes sneak up on you, as your drug use gradually increases over time.Smoking a joint with friends over the weekend, or taking ecstasy at a rave, or painkillers when your back aches, for example, can change from using drugs a couple of days a week to using them every day.Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you.
  • As drug abuse takes hold,you may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you may start to neglect social or family responsibilities. Your ability to stop using is eventually compromised. What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need.
  • Eventually drug abuse can consume your life, stopping social and intellectual development. This only reinforces feelings of isolation.
  • With the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of drug use and regain control of your life.The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem, or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects drug use is having on your life.

Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse

  • Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children).
  • Using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
  • Experiencing legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit.
  • Problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of friends.
  • You’ve built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to derive the same pleasure you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You use to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • Loss of control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn’t. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, or recovering from the drug’s effects.
  • You’ve abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
  • You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it’s hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, financial issues, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

Physical warning signs of drug abuse or addiction

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral warning signs of drug abuse or addiction

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Unexplained financial problems; borrowing or stealing
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse or addiction

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

Combating drug consumption:

However, the hazard of drugs can be battled. Education is the primary fight. Everyone should be educated about the harm and effects of drugs so that they may know the consequences of its use and can avoid it. Government should take strict steps against the drug dealers and should authorize the law by increasing the police labor.

There are extensive treatment programs that seek to pursue and achieve certain developmental milestones from abstinence (learning how to stop using alcohol and drugs), to sobriety (learning how to cope with life without alcohol and drugs), to comfortable living (learning how to live comfortably while abstinent), to productive living (learning how to build a meaningful sober lifestyle).

Long term health and sobriety is supported by wholesome living, uplifting relationships commitment to values outside of oneself and spiritual growth. This treatment management aims at re-orienting life around values that are non-drug centered, and a lifestyle that is ultimately sobriety centered.

It seems the interior ministry is taking the matter seriously. However, we are yet to see if the real criminals, with power, money and influence, behind these small scale distributors get apprehended. These backers allegedly belong to political parties and are back by high ranking officials.

The federal and provincials governments need to pick up in this regard. CCTV cameras need to be a must near all educational institutes. Universities and these expensive private schools have to be made accountable if students are found abusing drugs. With the enormous budgets that they have, it is certainly one of their duties.

Institutes also need to educate the students on the adverse effects of these drugs for them, their future and their families. The government needs to make an example of the criminals who are involved with drug distribution and playing with the future of Pakistan.

6 steps parents can take to curb teen drug use

  1. Talk openly about the dangers of both illegal and prescription drug use with your kids. Providing a safe and open environment to talk about these issues can make a real difference in the likelihood that they’ll use or abuse drugs.
  2. Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using drugs comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce—and make sure your spouse agrees and is prepared to enforce the rules.Remind your teen that taking someone else’s prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal.
  3. Monitor your teen’s activity and talk to your child about underlying issues.. Know where your teen goes and who they hang out with. It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases. Monitor your teen’s use of the Internet to check for illegal online purchases.Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your teen having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce causing stress?
  4. Keep prescription medicines in a safe place, avoid stockpiling them, and dispose of any unused prescription medicines. Monitor your prescription refills carefully.
  5. Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and after-school clubs.
  6. Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or drug counselor.

Seeking remedies?

As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment for drug addiction generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.

A humanistic form of treatment has been found to be most effective in dealing with drug addicts. But, first of all, awareness and prevention must start at home, with parents. Parents should be vigilant and keep an eye on the company their children keep and their activities.

People who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for their whole lives. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success for most patients.

Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery.

More good news is that drug use and addiction are preventable. Results from NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction.

Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking.

Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use.

Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.

Five myths about drug abuse and addiction

Myth 1: Overcoming addiction is simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want.

Fact: Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.

Myth 2: Using drugs like opioid painkillers are safe since they’re so commonly prescribed by doctors.

Fact: Short-term medical use of opioid painkillers can help to manage severe pain after an accident or surgery, for example. However, regular or longer-term use of opioids can lead to addiction. Misuse of these drugs or taking someone else’s medication can have dangerous—even deadly—consequences.

Myth 3: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Fact: Most experts agree that addiction is a disease that affects the brain, but that doesn’t mean anyone is helpless. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

Myth 4: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better.

Fact: Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost everything.

Myth 5: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help.

Fact: Treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

Myth 6: Treatment didn’t work before, so there’s no point trying again.

Fact: Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn’t mean that treatment has failed or that sobriety is a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.



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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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