A lot of people develop their dependence on illegal drugs, for instance, marijuana (Van, 1999). Despite the existence of laws that prohibit the use of marijuana, many youths think that it is legal to smoke weed. Studies now indicate that the use of marijuana is often a direct way to dependence on harder drugs such as cocaine (Van, 1999). Social strains remain the main culprits behind the issue of drug abuse.
Therefore, efforts to mitigate the problem of drug abuse must not only focus on formal approaches (such as law laws that prohibit the use of marijuana), they must also focus on social aspects that create a suitable environment for drug abuse. It is also useful for people to understand common trends in the behavior of drug addiction, treatment, and stimulating factors in order to participate fruitfully in mitigating the problem of drug abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Studies indicate an alarming rate in the number of people who try using marijuana and other drugs (Johnson & Dean, 1998). About 16 million Americans reportedly abused bhang in 2004 (Compton et al., 2005). Three million Americans consumed cocaine while about 300,000 used heroin in 2004 (Compton et al., 2005). The main active ingredient in cannabis derivatives such as marijuana and hashish is tetrahydrocannabinol (TTC) (Van, 1999). TTC is contained in plants from the hemp family.
Depending on multiple factors such as climatic conditions, the genetic composition of the hem plant, extracting approaches, the percentage composition of TTC varies from 0.4% to about 15% in marijuana (Van, 1999). Genetic breeding of the hem plant has been responsible for the significant increase of TTC percentages in cannabis drugs over the past years (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). On conducting laboratory studies on confiscated cannabis, observations made indicate that the average TTC composition is increasing significantly (making a leap from 3% in 1992 to an average of 6% in 2002) (Compton et al., 2005).
Scientists are trying to understand how chemical compositions that are present in cannabis derivatives affect the human brain. Despite the presence of more than 70 different chemicals in cannabis derivatives, the main active ingredient that is majorly studied is TTC (Dennis et al., 2002). TTC affects nerve endings in the brain that coordinate functionalities such as movement and balance (Johnson & Dean, 1998). When it reaches the brain, TTC affects nerve cells that coordinate multiple cognitive activities such as learning concentration and memory capacity (Johnson & Dean, 1998).
Repeated use of cannabis derivatives often leads to the development of a tolerance condition (Van, 1999). Here, an individual will require higher doses of the drug to stimulate experiences that followed the use of smaller doses earlier (Dennis et al., 2002). Withdrawal symptoms will also necessitate a need to increase the number of cannabis derivatives for people that have developed a tolerance condition towards the drug (Van, 1999). Other drugs such as cocaine and heroin affect an individual in the same way as cannabis derivatives do (Van, 1999).
Causes of Drug Abuse and Addiction
Studies have revealed that high schools students who had consumed marijuana while in elementary are five times more likely to use bhang than their counterparts who had not used the drug while in elementary school (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Often, early initiation into the consumption of illegal drugs like marijuana is usually accompanied by other social ills like theft, sexual abuse, and alcoholism (Johnson & Dean, 1998). Such a pattern of behavior will create negative impacts on an affected individual, thus, exacerbating the tendency to use marijuana and other drugs for affected persons.
Influences from social units like families and friends can initiate trends towards drug use and addiction among affected persons (Dennis et al., 2002). As such, parents and close relatives have a capacity of transferring a culture of abusing drugs to their children and close family members (Dennis et al., 2002). Children who experience serious difficulties while growing tend to experiment with drugs than those brought up in healthy families (Johnson & Dean, 1998).
For example, children from single parents experiencing financial difficulties are likely to develop ill behaviors including drug abuse in comparison to their counterparts from stable families. Likewise, religious values among other family values within families are useful in protecting family members from drug abuse (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). For example, children who have people to look up for and emulate (who are mostly parents) are less likely to experiment with marijuana (Compton et al., 2005).
A child’s personality is mainly formed during interactions with adult members of the society (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Children who encounter negative companies in their schools and neighborhoods are in danger of using drugs and developing an addiction (Dennis et al., 2002).
Since an individual will have a tendency to align with distinct social groups to promote his/her social value, such a tendency can lead to conformity with a range of behaviors that are prevalent in the selected social group (Johnson & Dean, 1998). Here, one may be compelled to adopt a range of behaviors such as smoking weed so as to be accepted in a given social group (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Although both males and females are susceptible to use drugs like marijuana, there are disparities along gender lines in the use of marijuana and other drugs. Studies reveal that males are at a higher risk of consuming marijuana than females (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Studies show that more than 8% of high school males consume marijuana (Dennis et al., 2002). On the other hand, only about 3% of senior school females consume marijuana (Dennis et al., 2002). Here, gender disparities in the consumption of marijuana are especially prevalent among adolescents and the youth (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
People who are suffering from physiological problems are at a high risk of consuming, and becoming addicted to drugs like marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Here, it is noteworthy to mention that among the effects that arise because of using marijuana are physiological disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
However, physiological disorders can also lead to the use of marijuana (Dennis et al., 2002). Physiological disorders that can lead to the use of marijuana include the difficulty in controlling emotions, rebellion, low self-esteem, anxiety, inferiority complex and superiority complex (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Likewise, physiological states like depression, stress and antisocialism often lead to experimentation with marijuana and other drugs (Dennis et al., 2002). O
ver 90% of marijuana addicts who seek medication have experienced some form of psychological challenges (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). A quarter of all patients who have looked for medical remedies from marijuana addiction have admitted entertaining suicide thoughts (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). More than 12% of Marijuana addicts attempt suicide once in their lifetime (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Consequences and Effects of Drug Abuse/ Addiction
One of the main problems that can result from using drugs such as marijuana is a negative effect on the health of the user (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Multiple respiratory conditions can easily result from the use of marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Since the smoke produced while consuming marijuana contains many harmful chemicals and substances that can trigger lung cancer, even light use of marijuana can adversely affect the health of a user (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Chemists estimate the smoke produced while smoking marijuana to contain about 80% more of cancer catalyst substances than tobacco (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Marijuana users are in greater danger to develop multiple types of cancer/chest infections than cigarette smokers because they usually hold their breath for longer periods when smoking marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Such a practice exposes the lung tissues of a marijuana smoker to harmful substances for a longer time than tobacco smokers (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Heart attacks are common among marijuana smokers (Dennis et al., 2002). While one of the effects of smoking marijuana is to stimulate the heartbeat rate, another effect is to lower the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, thus, creating a potent environment for heart attack (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Besides, researchers associate the smoking of marijuana with chronic conditions such as stroke (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Women who smoke marijuana while pregnant expose their babies to multiple dangers (Budney et al., 2001). In this case, marijuana can lead to stillbirths, underweight births, and immature births. Moreover, the habit of smoking marijuana among pregnant women can easily result in the birth of children with low cognitive abilities and learning capabilities (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
As noted earlier, the use of marijuana results in the development of poor cognitive abilities. People who use marijuana exhibit a poor learning ability, low memory capacity, terrible attention and impaired coordination (Budney et al., 2001). As several studies indicate, marijuana is the main culprit behind deteriorated mental capacities among users (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
For example, a study conducted to observe the influence of marijuana on cognitive abilities observed individuals who had been pre-exposed to the drug (30 days earlier) to have poor memory, attention, and coordination (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Besides, Marijuana use can hasten the development of short memory loss condition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The short memory loss condition develops at the onset of old age due to the loss of nerve cells in the sphere of the brain that stores short memory as one advance in age (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). However, marijuana destroys this area (short memory) of the brain that stores short memory irrespective of one’s age.
Although the use of marijuana has not been directly associated with the development of physiological illnesses, it leads to the development of physiological conditions like stress, poor moods, and anxiety (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Besides, marijuana can stimulate negative psychological conditions for persons who have psychiatric illnesses. Studies indicate that there could be an ignored correlation between psychiatric conditions and the use of marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). 14% of people who regularly consume marijuana suffer from mental impairment conditions (Budney et al., 2001).
Besides, children who begin experimenting with marijuana are more likely to develop mental illnesses when they grow in comparison with those who have no early exposure to marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Still, a number of parameters that play together to influence an individual to use marijuana could contribute to psychological conditions for marijuana users (Budney et al., 2001). Schizophrenia, a mental condition that is characterized by such issues like fear and the hearing of imaginary voices, is among the most common psychological conditions that can directly result from consuming marijuana (Budney et al., 2001).
The consumption of marijuana can greatly interfere with the social development of users. Dependence on marijuana can lead to low performance in academics and create many social problems for users as well. For example, students who abuse marijuana are less likely to graduate from high schools than those who do not use the drug. Students who consume marijuana obtain low grades and engage in destructive practices while at school (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
There is a connection between regular use of marijuana and crime. Many children who have developed a dependence on marijuana are likely to spend some years of their lives in juvenile cells because of engaging in criminal activities (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Adolescents who regularly consume marijuana are more likely to engage in more unsafe sexual practices such as unprotected sex and sexual intimacy with many partners than those who do not use the drugs. Such behaviors could lead to the acquisition of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s) and unplanned pregnancies (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Moreover, violent behaviors among youths can also be associated with the use of marijuana and other heavy drugs (Budney et al., 2001). Reported incidences of violence among people who regularly consume marijuana do not occur when the individuals have just consumed the drug (Alan et al., 2003). Rather, violent incidences are more common when marijuana addicts suffer from withdrawal symptoms, or when they have not consumed marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Scientists have tried to understand how the consumption of marijuana contributes to violent behaviors among users (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Since it affects the cognitive capacity of a user, marijuana can affect one’s capacity to interpret satiations and use cognitive abilities to solve conflicts (Budney et al., 2001).
Besides, the use of marijuana can stimulate the heartbeat and other body processes, hence, leading to feelings such as panic that are associated with violent behavior (Alan et al., 2003). Withdrawal symptoms that result from the use of marijuana can build feelings such as anger and disappointment, which precede violent reactions (Alan et al., 2003).
The use of marijuana often precedes the use of harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. People who regularly use marijuana are ten times more likely to start using cocaine, heroin, and other harder drugs than those who do not (Budney et al., 2001). Such a pattern can arise due to various reasons (Budney et al., 2001). Firsts, hard marijuana users are likely to develop tolerance to the drug, hence, there is a need to look for harder drugs to stimulate the same feelings that they felt while using marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
Besides, people who use marijuana are likely to socialize with people involved in trafficking and supplying hard drugs; hence, there appear high chances of staring to take harder drugs like cocaine and heroin (Alan et al., 2003). There is an interrelationship between smoking tobacco and using marijuana (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Many people who use marijuana start by smoking tobacco before transforming to the drug. On the other hand, about half of the people who use marijuana smoke tobacco as well (Budney et al., 2001). Either way, such an arrangement creates a potent situation that exposes marijuana users to the hazards of tobacco smoking as well (Alan et al., 2003).
As observed earlier, the use of marijuana and other drugs can lead an individual to develop a state of tolerance, and/or addiction (Budney et al., 2001). Tolerance to marijuana/drugs is observed in individuals who require higher amounts of marijuana drugs to stimulate the same effects that they experienced while using initial amounts (Stephens & Roberts, 1999).
Withdrawal symptoms include negative feelings that individual experiences after experiencing a crest of ‘high’ both of which result from using marijuana and other drugs (Stephens & Roberts, 1999). Therefore, one can be described as addicted to marijuana or to any other drug if he experiences tolerance and withdrawal symptoms (Stephens & Roberts, 1999). Accessing medication for the treatment of tolerance and addiction symptoms among drug addicts is paramount to mitigate the challenge of drug use/addiction in our society.
Because of significant changes in the behavior of an individual that is required for one to successfully stop using drugs, medication approaches must be comprehensive and tailored to distinct circumstances for an individual. One of the main challenges that impede successful treatment of drug addicts is the reluctance to seek medical treatment by affected groups (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Reluctance to seek medication for drug addiction problems can arise from uncertainties over a confidential guarantee of provided information (Chung et al., 2004).
Adolescents and the youth are heavily concerned with the prospect of revealing their drug problem to the society; hence, a tendency to avoid medication (Alan et al., 2003). Apart from accessing treatment services to drug addicts, effective treatment programs must also guarantee the confidentiality of information to drug patients (Chung et al., 2004). Researchers have tried to develop fruitful strategies that can be effective in the treatment of drug addiction.
To incorporate therapies that stimulate motivational attitudes within patients is among the most useful suggestions (Alan et al., 2003). Addicts can be motivated to initiate changes in their lives that would liberate them from drug addiction. Moreover, cognitive therapies can help patients to develop cognitive areas that were stunted by drugs (Chung et al., 2004). Other areas that need attention for effective treatment of drug addiction include long term medications that span over a long period of time until the patient recovers fully (Budney et al., 2001).
Apart from developing effective treatment programs for drug addicts, it is also important to create efforts that can identify and correct social parameters that stimulate drug use/addiction within our society. Among the most important areas is the implementation of assistive programs such as guidance and counseling programs. As observed earlier, the majority of youths and adolescents who develop drug addiction problems, come from challenging backgrounds (such as broken families, economical challenges, among others) (Chung et al., 2004).
Fruitful programs that can help affected adolescents to cope with societal challenges will mitigate the tendency of turning to drugs among adolescents. Assistive programs must address the challenges of teenagers through a platform that does the following. First, such programs must provide a warm environment where teenagers feel welcomed.
Besides, assistive programs must guarantee the confidentiality of participating teenagers (Chung et al., 2004). It is also important for assistive programs to incorporate professionals that have the desire and ability to help the youth. Moreover, assistive programs must be easily accessible to people who need their services (Budney et al., 2001).
Addressing the fundamental issues that are leading to confusion, frustration, and drug addiction among the youth in our society goes beyond the setting up of effective counseling and guidance programs (Gold et al., 2004). Drug abuse and addiction are common among individuals who have lacked some basic child necessities such as parent mentorship, a healthy family, and self-confidence (Stephens & Roberts, 1999). Therefore, it is useful to develop programs that can address some of these issues within the limitations that exist (Chung et al., 2004).
For example, society can try to develop programs that increase the self-confidence of children who come from discouraging backgrounds. Improving the capacity of educational institutions to instill hope in children who hail from poor neighborhoods can also help to address some of the challenges that the society face (Gold et al., 2004). One must ensure that such children obtain quality education to effectively compete with their counterparts from more able families (Budney et al., 2001). Moreover, increasing the economic capacity of the society would be helpful in mitigating problems such as drug addiction and crime.