Understanding Drug Abuse

Drug abuse refers to use of drugs by self medication in a manner and amount that deviates from the approved medical and social patterns in a given culture at a given time. As the above line states, there are many things related to drug abuse, it involves self medication, that is, taking medicines on one’s own without a prescription. And then there is manner and amount that comes into play, and on top there is deviation from approved medical and social patterns. The drug regulatory bodies consider intake of illicit drugs as drug abuse. The drugs of abuse are known to produce effects that make the user wish to take it again, or to induce drug seeking behavior, this being known as reinforcement property. Tobacco is the most prevalent substance abused in Nepal, followed by alcohol and marijuana. In Nepal, marijuana and its byproducts have traditionally been used for medical purposes, besides playing a role in cultural and religious occasions for hundreds of years.

There are few other terms that are interrelated with drug abuse, such as drug addictionand drug habituation. Drug habituation refers to less intensive involvement with the drug, so its withdrawal or stoppage produces only mild discomfort. Craving for tea, coffee, and tobacco are linked with drug habituation. Drug addiction is a pattern of compulsive drug use, where procuring the drug and using it takes precedence over other activities. Despite being aware of the harmful consequences of doing drugs, people continue to take them. Cannabis, cocaine, and amphetamines are known to lead to addiction.

It is not easy to understand why and how people fall for drug abuse and addiction. People resort to using drugs for different reasons: some to derive euphoria, others for withdrawal from reality, and some others because they fail to adjust in the society. The drugs are often known to increase the brain dopamine levels, which is linked to the brain’s reward circuit.

There is no single factor that can predict whether a person will get addicted to drugs. Multiple factors come into play influencing the risk for addiction. A person’s biology right from the genes to mental status and ethnicity influences the risk for drug addiction. Similarly, the person’s environment, such as family and friends, peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, and early exposure to drugs have roles, too. Teens are especially prone to risky behaviors, including doing drugs.

Substance use disorders are classed as ICD-10-CM (International Statistical Classification of Diseases). Drug addiction is a complex disease, and people find themselves relapsing into drug addiction despite strong will and good intentions. Drugs don’t just change the person; they change the brain of the person taking the drug, so it is much harder to stop using the drugs. Drug addiction can be treated, but not cured as such. Therefore, there is tendency of relapse even years after going drug-free. Relapse is simply the return to drug use after attempting to stop using them. Drug addiction certainly is treatable and can be successfully managed. Tailoring the treatment approach for individuals, taking into consideration the medical, mental, and social problems, can prove beneficial. It is largely preventable; from spotting a person risking drug abuse to education and outreach programs run by healthcare providers. Numerous rehabilitation centers running in our country are doing a nice job of taking care of the people who fall for drug addiction.

Kathmandu was a hippie paradise back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nepal was a place not just to climb high onto the laps of the Himalayas, it was also a place to get high on marihuana and hashish. Nepal had users of cannabis long before, and then it was the hippies who introduced various other drugs of abuse, including heroin, to the Nepali people. Later, it was under the pressure of the American government under President Richard Nixon in power, who had started a campaign on “War on drugs in US and abroad”, that our nation decided to stop selling marijuana freely, and also limit entry to the hippies. It is the hippies who had helped boom the tourism sector in Nepal, which was a kind of a haven for people who were done with wars and wanted a place to relax. With the hippie era long gone, presently, the days when one can legally indulge in marijuana dropped in Nepal from 365 days a year to one day a year, the day of Shivaratri. Ganja and bhang are taken as offerings to Lord Shiva, and it is considered normal to take some amount of such items on the very day. Taking the same thing regularly, or during any other days, would then again be taken as drug abuse.

The use of cannabis is far more common in Nepal than we can think; it is customary for some elderly people to smoke ganja on a regular basis too, after all, it can be seen growing in many open fields. Even the “ghotti chauthi” fed to infants has ingredients that come from cannabis to help the young fall asleep. Another substance of concern when it comes to drug abuse is alcohol. Our nation being a mixed society of people of different castes and ethnicities, alcohol use is widespread in different cultures. As we go uphill in the colder regions, we notice an increase in alcohol use. Nepal has various local brews, too, like chyang, tongba, rakshi, aiila, jaad, tin pani, thon, etc. Nepal introduced the “Ma pa se” law in recent years, and following that, the number of accidents due to drunk driving has decreased drastically. However, incidents of increasing cannabis consumption and driving have been noted.

Nepal had voted for legalization of cannabis in the United Nations. Cannabis is being pulled off from the prohibited drugs list in many nations, owing to its medicinal value, and there have been talks within Nepal to legalize it, too. There are changes bound to happen with regard to the legal status of cannabis, but then we have alcohol, tobacco, and many other pharmaceutical products that fall under narcotics and psychotropics that have high abuse potential and are therefore regulated by the law. The relation of Nepal as a country and drug abuse still needs to be explored in much detail. We need to stop seeing drug abusers as a problem, and rather spot that drug abuse is a problem that we need to deal with as a society and as a nation.

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