The dangers of abuse of prescribed drugs

I walked into a pharmacy this week and began to chat with one person who was inside who happened to be a health professional who stated that their head was a bit heavy because of work pressure and so wanted a specific preparation for that cause.

As there were a couple of people in between us, I went and helped myself with water, the individual had been served and so comes to where the water is and says I need water quick to take my medication, then says watch over for me that the pharmacist is not looking this side, l need to pop in two pills instead of one to do a quick riddance of this headache, if they see l had two they will not have kind words for me. I looked at the individual and asked are you aware of the effects and they said “l am a nurse l work with these things, there is no harm in this.”

I quickly gave them a lecture on the dangers of prescribed drugs and their eyes almost popped out and said “l guess l need some help”. This ignorance factor made me realise the need for creating an educational base for all levels of society despite their occupation.

When drugs are taken into the body, they are broken down by the liver into metabolites (chemical substances closely related to the original substance). Most of these metabolites are eliminated rapidly from the bloodstream, but some can become trapped in the fatty tissues of the body.

Although there are various types of tissues that are high in fat content, the one thing in common — and the problem that needs to be addressed — is that these drug residues remain for years.

Tissues in our bodies that are high in fats are turned over very slowly. When they are turned over, the stored drug metabolites are released into the bloodstream and reactivate the same brain centres just as if the person actually took the drug.

The former user now experiences a drug re-stimulation (or “flashback”) and drug cravings. This is common in the months after an addict quits and can continue to occur for years, even decades.

When these centres are activated, the individual wants more of the drug. For instance, when you say to a child close your eyes and open your mouth and you drop a bit of sugar in their mouth, they will want more of the sugar.

When the addict initially tries to quit, cells in the brain that have become used to large amounts of these metabolites are now forced to deal with much decreased amounts.

Even as the withdrawal symptoms subside, the brain “demands” that the addict give it more of the drug. This is called drug craving. Craving is an extremely powerful urge and can cause a person to create all kinds of “reasons” they should begin using drugs or drinking again.

l Mthandazo Ndlovu is a Drug and substance abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation Specialist. If you know someone who wants but cannot stop taking drugs and substances of abuse call or whatsapp +263772399734 or email – B-Metro

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