Archive for August, 2009

Link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS

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HIV/AIDS is one of the deadliest diseases that have been shaking the world killing more than 25 million people, of which more than 500,000 are Americans. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV annually and a large number of them are not yet 25 years old. Just like addiction, this disease has also been successful in spreading its effects to all countries across the globe, affecting people irrespective of their socio-economic strata, religion and gender. But researches conducted in this field show that certain groups are more prone to be affected than others and this vulnerability is absolutely related to their behavior pattern.

Drug abusers have been identified as one of the most vulnerable groups. A NIDA International Program supported research has shown that 5% of the world’s population between the age group 15 to 64 years abuses drugs and that this group acts as a pool of infectivity transmitting the infection to others as well. Young people are at a risk of contraction since they are engaged in more risk-taking and sensation seeking behavior and use of drugs increases the probability of engaging in such behavior.

Injection drug abuse has been known to be one of the greatest factors in the spread of the disease. Since the beginning of the epidemic it has, directly or indirectly, accounted for about 1/3rd  of the AIDS cases in the United States.

But non-injecting drug use also has its role to play. The intoxicating effects of drugs disrupts the parts of the brain associated with judgment and inhibitions thereby making people more prone to engage in impulsive unsafe behavior like unsafe sexual practice.

Addiction affects the overall health condition thereby escalating the susceptibility to HIV contraction.  

Prevention is the key word. Stay healthy; do not choose drugs and think clearly before taking any decision.

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HIV/AIDS and Drug Addiction: Vulnerability of Street Teenagers

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The developing countries in the eastern part of the globe are facing a new challenge – controlling the spread of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS amongst street teenagers. Such children, who are on the street deprived of any guidance and affection, are at a risk of substance abuse and HIV/AIDS contraction. The difficult circumstances under which they live make drug abuse and sexual exploitation inevitable parts of their lives.

Street children are abjectly neglected and are mostly considered as a nuisance to the society. They are an extremely mobile population who are abused at different levels. The threats of street life force them to conform to gangs where drug abuse and sexual activity are desired sources of pleasure. Lack of information regarding the issues is yet another curse which makes them even more vulnerable.

The Government and Non-government agencies have been trying hard to bring the situation under control. Dr.Nghyen Dang Phan of the Binh Dan hospital in Vietnam said that in 2004 and 2006 he had witnessed 85 HIV/AIDS patients die in Mai Khoi Charity Medical Centre of whom 93% were male drug users. Phan said 66% of the HIV positive people are infected through drug abuse and 18% through unsafe sexual practices. He was attending a seminar organized by the Centre for Applied Social Work of HCM City Open University to promote a healthy life for street teenagers. This was a part of the project launched by the university to help addicts quit their habit. The Director of the Department said that last September a group was formed with 15 former drug users who work as peer motivators encouraging other users to kick the habit.

Different NGOs in India are also working for the cause. Homes have been set up for these children. Education and Life Skills Training form integral parts of the different projects that are being run by different organizations that have proved to be extremely successful.

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Dirty Money: Traces of Cocaine on 90% of US Dollar Bills

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The next time you deal with paper currency, be aware of the fact that a large percentage of U.S. bills contain traits of cocaine. Yuegang Zuo, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, conducted a research which revealed that 90% of the bills circulated in the U.S. are contaminated with cocaine.

This startling information is a confirmation of the findings of previous studies on the issue. In 1985 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration study showed that a third to a half of all the randomly tested currency in a Federal District Bank had traces of cocaine. In another study, more than 135 bills were tested in seven cities of the country and all except four, were contaminated. Cocaine binds in the green dye in the bill.

Zuo said that the contamination was 100% in cities like Detroit, Boston, Orlando and Los Angeles, 85% in Toronto, 77% in Salt Lake City, Utah, 75% in Brasilia and 20% in Tokyo and Beijing. He also found that $5, $10, $20 and $50 had greater chances of contamination. 

The quantity of contamination could vary between a nanogram (one-billionth of a gram) to milligram. Thus it actually does not pose any health risk. But those who have to handle an extremely large number of bills everyday – in bank tellers or soft rooms of casinos- repeatedly inhale cocaine involuntarily and has a chance of being positive on a drug test report.

Money gets contaminated if a cocaine user snorts with it and also during drug deals. But not all money gets infected that way. In powdered form cocaine is extremely fine. So when a dirty bill is processed or sorted through the machines, traces of the drug are easily passed on to the other bills in the same batch. Thus bills also get infected through ATMs, counting machines in banks and casinos. Whatever be it, the fact remains that the initial contamination was through the drug users and dealers.

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Parents – Can you hear this?: Effects of Parents’ Drug Addiction in Family

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It has been a long time that we are focusing primarily on issues related to teenage addiction. As parents we are concerned about our children’s vulnerability to substance abuse. But did we ever focus on our own behavior? Parents serve as role models for children. Thus it is their responsibility to practice what they preach. If you ever try to delve deep into the reasons for a child’s addictive behavior, you will surely find that faulty learning process is the most important factor and parents, being the first teachers of a child, are the chief influencers.

There are a number of people who suffer from problems related to substance abuse but they prefer to keep them unaddressed due to shame or other social factors. I was just going through a post “Diane Schuler’s Death: kills buzz for moms who drink” and was just shocked to know how reckless a mother could be. Schuler, a 36 years old mother of two, met with a fatal accident on 26th July, 2009 when she crashed her minivan into an approaching traffic killing herself, her 2 year old daughter, three young nieces and three men in another car. Police said that shortly before the mishap, Schuler had smoked pot and drank 10 drinks worth of vodka. Her blood alcohol level was twice more than the permissible limit.

The incident of Diane Schuler is the extreme example of how kids suffer due their parents’ addiction. It is being said that in suburban areas like Westchester, the rate of drunken mothers driving with their children has been rising steadily. But most families pretend that the disease doesn’t exist and this worsens the situation.

Children of addicts are the silent sufferers. The irresponsible behavior of their parents fosters a sense of insecurity within them. They tend to become rebellious and ultimately find solace in drugs.

If substance abuse is a problem for you please seek help.

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Inhalants: Yes! They can cause addiction

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I still remember the day when I was talking to Martin, a 15 year old school dropout who had been referred for treatment of drug addiction. “So which drug do you use?” was my obvious question. “I am addicted to solvents like glue and I desperately want to quit this habit” was his reply. I was taken aback. Addicted to GLUE! I never had the concept that a familiar household item like glue was a DRUG! But yes, it is true. Addiction to inhalants (popular street names being glue, whipped cream, poppers and rush) is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to get the high.

Inhalants are not considered as drugs since they are useful everyday products and a majority of them are legal. Generally three categories of the drug are abused:

  • Solvents: glue, felt tips, correction fluid, nail polish removers, paint thinners, household cleaners and waxes.
  • Gases: butane, propane and aerosols.
  • Nitrates: amyl and butyl.

The substances are generally sniffed from the containers, inhaled from bags or balloons (bagging), inhaled through a soaked cloth or material directly placed over the mouth (huffing), and mixed with alcohol for drinking or injected.  

Abuse of inhalants is mostly common among adolescents and young adults. In both UK and USA the use is high in the 12-16 age group. The European School Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD) revealed that 20% of the youngsters in the UK in that age group had used inhalants.

Inhalants cause excitement, euphoria and dizziness. Long-term use leads to a devastating neurological damage by decaying the fatty tissues of the brain and the rest of the Central Nervous System. Mood swings, hallucinations, slurred speech, movement disorder, personality change, poor judgment and bizarre behavior are the other effects. Sudden sniffing death is also a hazard.

If you find anyone having this problem please take the necessary action, help him to lead a sober life. Coming out of these addictions are much easier than other stronger drugs or prescription drugs.

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How Drugs Affect the Brain?

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The human brain, in very simplistic terms, has two parts – the neocortex which is located in front of the head and which receives, processes and stores information for decision making and for remembering.

The other part is the limbic system whose function is to control all the automatic systems of the body and the emotions. It also controls the survival responses, i.e. in a threatening situation it tells you to adopt “fight or flight” responses, i.e., either to defend yourself or run away from the situation.

Drugs and alcohol program the limbic system to avoid uncomfortable situations instead of making healthy responses to resolve the associated stress and the Cortex protects such faulty behavior pattern by a filtering process called denial. The result is the addictive brain.

A communication system exists within the brain whereby the information is received and processed. The individual brain cells or neurons communicate with one another through neurotransmitters or biological messengers. Psychoactive drugs change the normal pattern of communication in two ways:

  • By  imitating the brain’s natural communication
  • By overstimulating the brain’s reward system with dopamine

The chemical structure of drugs like marijuana and heroin is similar to that of neurotransmitters. Thus they can easily deceive the brain receptors and activate nerve cells to send abnormal messages. Cocaine and methamphetamines, on the other hand prevent the recycling of brain chemicals by releasing large amount of neurotransmitters. This blocks the signal between the neurons and the amplified message thus produced, disrupts the normal communication patterns.

Almost all drugs target the dopamine secretion which is normally related with emotions and feelings of pleasure. When overstimulated, it produces euphoric effects in response to drugs thereby reinforcing the habit of abusing drugs.

Artificial stimulation of the brain undoubtedly leads to irreparable damages in the brain cells.

Would you compromise your BRAIN for DRUGS?

Make a healthy choice, stay away from drugs.

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