Moderate consumption of alcohol is not considered to be risky. In fact alcohol use is widespread across the world and is the norm in many cultures. However, alcohol and its byroducts are known to be toxic. The body can handle this toxicity in small amounts and rapidly eliminate it before there is any serious damager. However, excessive alcohol consumption in the way of daily drinking of amounts higher than the safe limit and binge drinking is dangerous. Sometimes the potentially deadly effects can occur with hours or days as is the case in alcohol poisoning. But for many it is the long term consequences of alcohol misuse that can lead to life-threatening conditions.
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Substance abuse can refer to a number of different substances that alters mental and physical abilities, induces euphoria and there is some degree of addiction to the substance. Addiction means that a person will actively seek out the substance often at the cost of other aspects of their life, experience withdrawal symptoms without using it and constant use has negative social/financial/personal impact on the user’s life. It is not only about illicit drugs (street drugs) like marijuana, cocaine, crack, ecstasy (MDMA) and heroin. It can also involve legal substances like alcohol, prescription medication and even tobacco although the latter may not have the same degree of psychosocial effects as abuse of the other substances.
How do you know if a person is high?
It is not always obvious to say when a person is misusing drugs, addicted to these substances or even intoxicated. Most of us think that we can spot a person who is drunk or high but this is not always the case. You may not even know when your spouse or children are misusing drugs. Often people are ignorant or sometimes in denial about their loved ones abusing substances. Identifying drug misuse as early as possible and intervening can spare your loved one a lifetime of suffering and even save them from an early death.
A hangover is the result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. What constitutes an excess varies from person to person. For this reason, some people may have just a few drinks and experience a hangover while others can binge heavily and be relatively unaffected the next day. If you are experiencing a hangover, your focus is on getting over it as soon as possible. Time is a major factor in overcoming a hangover but there are several ways that you can help the process along. First it is important to understand why a hangover occurs.
Cocaine and the Heart
Cocaine is a potent illicit stimulant produced from the leaves of the coca plant. It is widely used in the powder form which is inhaled or in the chunky form which is smoked (crack cocaine). Cocaine is often mixed with other substances to ‘cut’ the pure drug, thereby diluting it. Sometimes these fillers or bulking agents are inert substances while at other time it can be toxic compounds.
Cocaine may also be mixed with other drugs like amphetamines, heroin and morphine for a more potent narcotic effect. Cocaine induces a sense of euphoria due to stimulating a massive release of brain hormones (neurotransmitters) like dopamine which acts on the pleasure and reward center in the brain. It also has a host of other effects on almost every organ and system in the body.
The heart is in constant action throughout life. Sometimes it pumps harder during physical activity and at other times slower when a person is at rest or asleep. The wall of the heart is made up of three layers and the thickest section is smooth muscle known as the myocardium. It has an extensive blood supply through the coronary arteries to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients.
The heart has a natural pacemaker that initiates its own electrical impulses. These impulses propagate through the heart wall to ensure that the upper chambers receiving blood (atria) contract separately from the lower chambers (ventricles) that push blood out of the heart. Nerve impulses from the brain and different hormones can also speed up or slow down the heart rate in response to different conditions.
What is delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens is a condition of major disruptions in the nervous system associated with severe alcohol withdrawal. In most cases it arises about 72 hours after stopping alcohol consumption but may occur even a week after. Delirium tremens is often associated with the typical image of an agitated person, who is confused, hallucinating, sweating and vomiting profuse and experiencing tremors. The presentation may vary from milder symptoms to a more extreme manifestation. It can lead to complications, some of which can be life threatening without proper management.
How common is delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens (DTs) is not a common occurrence in alcohol withdrawal. In fact, less than 50% of patient who discontinue alcohol consumption experience withdrawal symptoms. Only 5% experience DTs. The most severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is delirium tremens and is more likely to be seen in chronic alcoholism extending for about a 10 year period. However, excessive daily drinking for even a few months can elicit DTs with alcohol withdrawal.
What is alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is a serious problem that can occur with drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages in a short period of time. The quantity of the alcohol consumed and its byproducts after being metabolized may be toxic to the body. It can therefore result in several systems in the body shutting down and eventually failing, sometimes even leading to death. There are several different types of alcohol which should be differentiated from each other as some are not fit for human consumption. These other types of alcohol can be toxic in even small doses.
Types of Alcohol
The term alcohol can sometimes be confusing because it is a group of substances that are chemically similar. Ethanol is one type of alcohol and is usually found in alcoholic beverages. Although humans can consume ethanol, in large doses especially if this is ingested over a short period of time, it can be toxic. The other types of alcohol may not be meant to be consumed, but may be ingested accidentally or intentionally. The more common types of alcohol that may be consumed by humans, other than ethanol, is methanol, isopropanol or ethyl glycol.
Alcohol (ethanol / ethyl alcohol) is a widely use and commonly abused substance throughout the world. Intoxication, misuse and dependence on alcohol is not a new social ill and mankind has a history with alcohol spanning thousands of years. Consumption of alcohol in limited quantities is known to produce a sense of well-being along with reduction of anxiety and some degree of disinhibition. This encourages individuals to consume alcohol repeatedly and more frequently. The repeated use of alcohol produces tolerance to the effects of alcohol on the brain. To overcome the effect of tolerance, individuals tend to consume more alcohol to reach the same level of intoxication. The regular intake of increased quantities of alcohol leads to alcohol abuse (addiction).
With the increasing use of ecstasy (MDMA) as a recreational drug, overdosing is fairly common. Ecstasy is an illicit drug, often used in combination with other drugs, which greatly increases the risk of toxicity. There is no such thing as a safe dose of the drug and even a minimum amount can produce toxicity and death. It is not just about individual sensitivity and dose, but also the substances added to bulk up the drug (“cut” it) that may contribute to this toxicity. There is no antidote for ecstasy poisoning.
The Drug Ecstasy
Ecstasy or 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a semi-synthetic psychoactive drug which possesses both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. Ecstasy is a “designer” amphetamine and contains chemical variations of the stimulant amphetamine or methamphetamine, as well as a hallucinogen such as mescaline. This causes feelings of euphoria, emotional intimacy, increased sensuality, and loss of inhibition, as well as distorted sensory perceptions.
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is not a single disease but a range of disorders which include numerous physical and mental problems, as well as various developmental defects, that may occur as a result of alcohol consumption by the mother while pregnant. No amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy since alcohol passes easily through the placenta to reach the fetus, where it may also affect the fetal brain. Consuming even a small amount of alcohol carries the potential danger of irreversible birth defects in the baby. However, the risk may be lower with occasional drinking than with regular heavy drinking.
Stimulants are substances that are used to enhance brain activity and has a host of mental and physical effects. Due to the psychoactive nature of these substances, stimulants may also have a number of effects on the emotional state.
A stimulant has pronounced effect on the central nervous system, which is the reason it is often used, and it may also influence the activity of the peripheral nervous system. In most cases, stimulants are used to increase alertness, reduce the need for sleep and give a temporary boost in energy. However, certain illicit drugs that are known stimulants are also used for the euphoria it induces due to the disruption of the brain hormones – dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine and serotonin.
A stimulant is colloquially known as an ‘upper’. It is believed to enhance mental and physical activity, however, these effects are temporary and the following withdrawal period actually hampers functioning. In addition, large quantities and long term use of stimulants may permanently impair mental and physical activity. Stimulants are no longer used frequently in medical treatments except for conditions like depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Certain drugs are more likely to be misused or abused due to a tendency to be addictive. This addiction may either be psychological or physiological. In the former, a person may display behavior that is characteristic of addiction and feel that they need the drug on a regular basis but do not usually show withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing the drug. With a physiological addiction, also referred to as a physical addiction, the person will display withdrawal symptoms and an intense craving for the drug on a regular basis which is only eased upon another dose (“hit”).
What is a drug overdose?
A drug overdose (OD) is where a person consumes an excessive amount of a drug and the body is unable to cope with it leading to certain overdose signs, symptoms and complications (acute toxicity/poisoning). The drug or its byproducts (as a result of drug metabolism) is toxic to the body, especially in large quantities associated with overdose, and may lead to death. An overdose may be accidental and this is frequently seen in addicts who require higher doses of a drug to yield the same effects as a result of tolerance that develops over time. An intentional overdose may be associated with an attempt to commit suicide.
continue reading Drug Overdose Effects – OD Signs, Symptoms, Death in Addiction
What is a drug-induced fever and drug-induced hyperthermia?
Fever vs Hyperthemia Caused by Drugs
A number of drugs and substances can raise the body temperature and this is known as drug-induced fever or drug-induced hyperthermia. Hyperthermia differs from a fever in that with hyperthermia, the body’s thermoregulatory mechanism is affected so the body cannot dissipate heat and ‘cool down’ as is necessary to maintain the body temperature within a normal rage. With a fever, the body’s temperature set-point which is maintained by the thermoregulatory center in the hypothalamus is affected and this set-point is essentially raised. The body has to therefore take the necessary measures to maintain a body temperature at this increased level.
What is Alcohol Dementia?
Alcohol dementia refers to an impairment of cognitive ability and personality changes as a result of alcohol misuse or chronic alcohol abuse and is referred to as alcohol-related psychosis or commonly as alcoholic psychosis. The presentation may also be due to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which is a consequence of thiamine deficiency as a result of a malabsorption syndrome associated with long term alcohol use.
Alcoholic dementia or psychosis may closely resemble other disorders like schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease but unlike these two conditions, it will resolve in most cases once alcohol use is discontinued. However, in cases of chronic alcohol abuse over prolonged periods of time, alcoholic psychosis may be irreversible but in these instances the presentation may be related to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Regular LSD users who stop using the drug do not show any withdrawal symptoms. Some of the psychiatric effects that may be present are probably a result of the long term effects of LSD rather than being withdrawal symptoms. However, LSD users may also be abusing other narcotics simultaneously and could be prone to withdrawal symptoms related to these drugs.
Generally LSD users do not exhibit compulsive behavior in order to acquire the drug on a constant basis.
While there is no physical addiction of LSD, psychological dependence may vary among users. A combination of social factors and pre-existing psychological conditions could make a drug user dependent on any substance, including LSD. However, the unpredictable nature of LSD means that the ‘trip’ may vary significantly and could create undesirable effects (bad LSD trip). This may play a part in discouraging users from continuing with frequent use of the the drug.
LSD is a hallucinogenic drug that goes by the street name acid. LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide which is synthetically produced. Lysergic acid was first discovered in ergot, a type of fungus that is found on contaminated rye and other grain. Despite being known as a hallucinogenic drug, LSD does not usually cause hallucinations if consumed in small amounts. It does ‘excite’ the CNS (central nervous system) but due to the unpredictable nature of this drug, it may have various effects on different individuals.
What does LSD look like?
LSD is a colorless and odorless liquid. It has a slightly bitter taste and is usually soaked on blotter paper and colorful paper stamps. This makes it less conspicuous compared to other narcotic drugs and can often be missed by concerned parents. LSD in the form of tablets, capsules, gelatin squares and sugar cubes are more easily identified but due to the fairly innocuous appearance of these forms, it may not be immediately evident that these substances are laced with LSD.
Peddlers often sell LSD in forms that appeal to a young clientele – targeting children and teenagers.
What Are Opiates?
Opiates are strong narcotic (sleep inducing) painkillers extracted or synthesized from opium. They are available only by prescription and are illegal for non-medical use, since they are highly addictive and may have dangerous side effects.
Opiates belong to a broader group of substances – opioids that can bind to opioid receptors in the body.
Opiate drugs may be natural or semi-synthetic.
Natural opiates include opium, morphine and codeine.
Medical Use of Opium
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