Drug Info - Frequently Asked Questions: Part 1
What are drugs?
Drugs are substances that, when taken into the body, cause changes in the mind or function of the body. Drugs are usually classified as either prescription drugs or illicit drugs, although there is little difference between some of the prescription drugs or street drugs. For example, the street drug heroin is very similar chemically to the prescription drug oxycodone.
Some drugs save lives or help a person in severe pain. A person who is highly stressed right after an accident or death of a loved one may be helped by the short administration of a sedative. But when drugs are abused, they are taken without a doctor's authorization or in a way that was not authorized by a doctor. They are normally used at dosages much higher than normally recommended or in a way not recommended, such as snorting a painkiller.
Is alcohol a drug?
Alcohol definitely fits the definition of a drug. Alcohol has also been used medically for thousands of years.
What do drugs do in the body?
Drugs are basically poisons to one degree or another. All drugs have some toxic effect on the body but in the case of useful prescription drugs, the benefits outweigh the toxicity. In general, a small amount of a drug acts as a stimulant. A larger amount can cause sedation, sleep or unconsciousness and even more will kill you. This is true for all drugs.
Different drugs act on the body in different ways. Some drugs bypass the body's normal process of creating hormones that are generated after pleasurable activity. When a person achieves an important goal, when they eat something they really enjoy, when they have sex, when they have fun, there are certain hormones that are generated by the body. Drugs hijack these systems and overwhelm the body with synthetic substances. This makes a person feel very euphoric or excited and confident. But the more this happens, the less a person is able to generate these natural hormones on their own and the more dependent they become on the drugs they are taking.
Why are drugs addictive?
A person can become physically addicted to drugs or they can become psychologically addicted, or both. When the body gets accustomed to the presence of the drugs being abused, it will begin to make certain functional or chemical changes to compensate for the continual presence of a drug like alcohol or heroin. If drug use is stopped, the body goes through symptoms that can be severe and long-lasting as deals with the absence of the substance it had depended on. The body's chemistry has to change back to what it was like before. The toxicity left behind after drug abuse may create barriers to this return to normal. These situations can result in the addicted person feeling sick, having cramps, spasms and even seizures or high fevers when they stop using drugs.
A person may also be psychologically addicted, in that they need the feeling that drugs provide. They need the euphoria, the relaxation or the stimulation just in order to be able to function in daily life. If this person simply handled the physical addiction and did not handle this aspect of addiction, they would be very likely to return to drug abuse as they still need that drugged feeling to enjoy life.
Sometimes when a person has needed a prescription drug perhaps to deal with physical pain, but he did not abuse it, he is only physically addicted but not mentally dependent on the drug. He may only need medical help in coming off the drug and may not need drug rehab.
What happens when addictive drugs are withdrawn?
When drug use is stopped, there are specific withdrawal syndromes that a person goes through that are different for each drug. With heroin or prescription opiates, a person will feel sick, vomit, have muscle and bone pain, feel restless and depressed, have muscle spasms and more. A person coming off high dosages of alcohol may experience seizures, coma and even death and so in many cases must be medically supported through withdrawal. If a person comes off a stimulant like cocaine, they are likely to be very depressed, even to the point of suicide. They may also be paranoid, exhausted and hungry. A person withdrawing from marijuana may feel irritable, anxious, depressed and suffer sleep disturbances when they quit. In nearly every case, the person in withdrawal will experience sharp cravings for the drug they have quit.
Why is it dangerous even to "experiment" with drugs?
Because some drugs cause physical cravings for the drug after just one or two uses. Methamphetamine, crack cocaine and Ecstasy, all stimulants, can cause cravings to start after just one or a few uses. Prescription painkiller abuse can also start to create cravings after very few uses. A person never knows how his body will react to drug use.
Some people may find the psychological effects of drugs to be very attractive and they may be drawn to abuse drugs a second and third time even if they do not have physical cravings. A person who gets drunk with his friends for the first time may feel that he finally fits in. A person who snorts OxyContin for the first time may feel that the euphoria he feels solves his problems. Someone else who uses Ecstasy at a party may feel that this is a solution to the difficulty she is having in finding any joy in her life. But the pleasure they may find in drugs is false, and if it leads to continued use or addiction, is very dangerous.
There is also the danger of overdosing on a drug. Nearly every drug can cause an overdose and some can create stresses on the body that cause the body to malfunction and even die. This is especially the case with cocaine, alcohol, Ecstasy and any opiate like heroin, methadone, Oxycontin, Vicodin or Lortab. An overdose can occur the first time a person "experiments" with a drug.
What should the family do for a person who becomes addicted?
The family needs to help this person get to a Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. At Narconon, an addicted person has a 70% chance of staying sober after graduating the program, as this is the usual success rate of Narconon centers located around the world. If the addicted person has no hope of recovery or resists the idea of being helped, a Narconon center can help the family find an interventionist who will work with the addicted person to draw out his or her own desire to be sober. No one wants to be addicted, no matter what the person says.
For more Frequently Asked Questions, read Drug Information FAQ Part 2