Do What You Can Against Drug Abuse
Since the 90’s, the United Nations (UN) has been observing June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, and this year’s theme is “Better Knowledge for Better Care”.
According to the World Drug Report, 2019, there are around 35 million people with drug use disorders throughout the world who are in need of treatment services.
Of the 34 million people, how many may have access to treatment facilities?
In the US in 2016, of the 21 million people needing treatment only 18% were able to receive addiction treatment. If there is such a huge gap in the US, we can only imagine how terrible the treatment situation might be in low- to middle- income countries.
Related Article: What is the connection between mental health and addiction recovery?
Drug abuse is a global issue affecting not only the lives of an individual user but their family’s as well. With very limited access to treatment in contrast to easy access to drugs owing to the massive infiltration through illicit trafficking, the number of drug users and drug use disorders is certain to increase every day, every year. This hard fact may be a bitter pill for us to swallow but there must be something we could do at an individual level.
As the age-old adage goes “Prevention is better than cure”, let us focus on learning the symptoms of Substance Use Disorder as stated in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition).
Let us equip ourselves with this knowledge, so that we may be better able to see the symptoms in the people close to us and use appropriate intervention. With better knowledge better care is sure to follow. So let us look at the criteria for substance use disorders from DSM-5.
Criteria for Substance Use Disorder
There are 11 criteria in the DSM-5 to recognize Substance Use Disorder in an individual. Based on the number of criteria present in an individual, the disorder is classified as Mild (2-3 criteria), Moderate (4-5 criteria) and Severe (6 or more criteria).
- Increasing use of the substance in larger amounts or for longer periods of time: No individual ever experiments with drugs with an intention to become addicted. However, most often they start increasing the amounts of the drugs or use drugs for a longer period of time than they had initially intended. Be on a lookout for such a gradual increase in both amount and usage time as one of the first signs towards developing an addiction.
- Spending more time in acquiring and using the substance and recovering: When a person starts spending time not just using the substance but also in thinking of ways to get the drug, this is another sign of addiction. Using the drug is a quick process compared to finding a supplier and enough money to pay for it, and then recovering from the “high”. Therefore it’s important to know what is preoccupying the minds of your loved ones… remain watchful!
- Unable to cut back or control using the substance: They may have admitted to using drugs followed by a promise to quit using. However despite their sincere effort, if you see them going back to their drug habits – seeking an early intervention can be highly effective in getting the situation under control.
- Giving up on social or recreational activities: As this is a behavioral pattern, it is easier to detect in terms of comparison. Since they are spending more time on how to get drugs, they may be automatically/ unknowingly giving up on activities they used to enjoy / participate in before.
- Unable to carry out regular duties at home or school or work: Similar to the above criterion, a person invested in drugs may start to show some slack when it comes to regular chores both at work or at home. Students may show lack of interest in schoolwork too.
- Problems in relationships: People at risk of developing addiction may start hanging out with a new set of people. This could be mainly because they are doing drugs together or it could be because they are having arguments and trust issues with their family members. Often they resort to stealing money for drugs and also cause an uproar in their intoxicated state.
- Facing negative physical or psychological consequences: Despite having some physical difficulty like headache, nausea, etc., as a result of doing drugs, they may not wish to discontinue using it. The same goes with mental health issues like depression. They use drugs despite knowing that it can only aggravate their physical / psychological conditions.
- Continue using substance despite hazardous situations: Driving under influence is the most common example of this behavior. Some people may get into fights when they are intoxicated or engage in risky behaviors and end up in dangerous situations.
- Cravings and urges for substance: The use and cravings develop hand in hand over time. Often when they are not doing drugs, they are craving it. They are usually preoccupied with a strong desire to use the substance even when they are engaged in other activities.
- Requiring more amount of substance to get high: In the beginning when a can of beer would be enough for an individual to feel tipsy, later the same person would need at least 6 cans to reach the same level of intoxication. This is because of their increased tolerance.
- Develop withdrawal symptoms that can be relieved by using the substance: This is when an individual shows dependence on the substance. They may not be able to perform any activity without the use of their choice drugs. Also, they could show withdrawal symptoms like running nose, hand tremor, etc, depending on the drugs they are using, which disappear once they use the substance.
Individually we may not be able to put an end to the drug cartel or start an establishment to help treat people with substance use disorder, but we can certainly learn about the diagnosis and perhaps prevent just one person from developing a severe disorder. So, let us do what we can against drug abuse and illicit trafficking as Sydney Smith has rightly said, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”