Post Mortem

Understanding addiction

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/26/2019 12:15:34 PM IST

 Human body has complex compound called the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which code for all the information in our body. Our skin color, height, free or joined earlobe, etc is all stored in the language/code of DNA. In the same manner through the DNA code our body physiological function is also determined by participation of various chemicals that are normally produced to perform normal functions. All these processes are controlled by the brain through the action of neurons and special chemicals called the neurotransmitters or the messengers, which are both excitatory and inhibitory in nature. 

How do alcohol/drugs act on the brain? Drugs and alcohol affects both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. They act as depressant to the brain; affect all major functions of the body including breath, speech, thought and movement; results in slower reaction times, slow communication in the brain, slurred speech, trouble walking, blurry vision, constipation, restlessness, elevation of liver enzymes, etc. Gradually leading to decreased brain cells, shrink in brain capacity, memory loss, depression, etc.

Some factors responsible for addictions: Our brain want to keep repeating activities that brought pleasure, so when a person take alcohol/drugs (even smoking a cigar or chewing gutkha or any substance that contain nicotine), they experience a high sense of pleasure from the effect of this drugs. The brain remembers it and as the reward circuits, the person want to continue doing that again and again, which lead to addiction. Peer pressure is also identified as one common factor for indulgence to addictive substance. Studies have shown that even moderate alcohol consumption can act as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline (Topiwala et al, 2017). Alcohol consumption has also been shown to be related with frontal lobe shrinkage in brain and the decrease in brain mass is accelerated among the alcoholics. Another study has reported that addictive substance such as cocaine eats up brain twice as fast as normal aging (Pappas S, Live Science, 2012). Whatever may be the popular concept about alcohol and drugs, the outcome of use of these addictive substance remains detrimental to human health, besides several other related negative effects in individual and the society. Addiction adversely affects the socio-economic condition of the family; career and professional commitment; effect the spiritual and emotional attachment; impair social harmony, among others.

For an addict, the ‘dose’ comes first rather than their family, career and professional commitment. We notice the addiction of a person only after their involvement is long enough. Just as they indulge on the substance, over time the drugs alter the normal physiological process in their body and their system seek the level of chemical activity where the ‘good feeling’ or pleasure must be maintained. Therefore, we cannot expect them to change at one go. This is one of the reasons why our traditional method of forcefully confining them is often less productive. Another point is that the addiction has a relapse effect. The body (brain memory) may seek or long for those substances at any time or any reason seeking relieve, when they face unpleasant or stressful situation.

Can addiction be treated successfully? Yes, addiction is a treatable disorder. It can be managed successfully, with the ‘willingness to change’ approach of the addict and involvement of their loved ones and professional counsellor. Behavioral therapies enable the addict clients to counteract addiction’s disruptive effects on brain and their behavior to regain control of their lives. Government has also come up with harm reduction programs such as Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) for drug users in all the district hospital, community health centers, including satellite centers, some NGOs are also involved in providing this services; Cognitive-behavioral therapy seeks to help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to drink alcohol/use drugs; Contingency management with the active participation of like-minded organizations help to identify them and use positive reinforcement such as providing rewards or privileges for remaining drug free, for attending and participating in counselling sessions, or for taking treatment medications as prescribed; Motivational enhancement therapy use strategies to make the most of people’s readiness to change their behavior and enter treatment; Family therapy helps the addicts, as well as their families and address influences on drug use patterns and improve overall family functioning; Rehabilitation programs offer a platform for controlled routine that aims to decrease the intake and gradually give up the addiction.

Conclusion: Today, as we join the world in observing the International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking, it also bring to us the challenge to sincerely look into how far we have come to understand the problem of addiction in our society and intervene with measures to improve the life of people who are in substance abuse. The Bible in Genesis 1:27, 2:7, teach us about how special God has created human beings. No matter what the circumstances, we are all created and carry His image. Perhaps St. Mother Teresa clearly saw this fact in her practical life while taking care of the helpless people in the streets of Kolkata, said, ‘I see Jesus in every human being’. 

Most of the time, we have a discriminating attitude towards alcohol/drug users. We can longer afford to distant those members of our society, but rather dare to relook into our approach and shed away the stigma associated with the addiction. It is encouraging that some organization including the church has started setting up rehabilitation efforts. But there is more left to be done. If we all could see the realities and join our hands towards this cause, we will definitely witness much needed change in many affected families and partake towards creating a responsible citizens.

The addictive substance and its appalling effect, should be the focus point when we consider such topic, because the strong affect of these substance take complete control of that person. It is important to openly recognize them as a priority group and find ways to address their individual need; work out together to free our society from the menace of addiction, by actively involving at individual level or as an organization, to help in rebuilding their beautiful lives. 

Lima Phom, Yingli Mission 

Society and Dr. Sentikumla, 

OST MO D.H Longleng


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