Saturday, 7 July 2012

Substance Abuse-21st Century Curse?

Substance Abuse

When I was growing people often talked about drug abuse and addicts and I was curious. Luckily none of my family members were into drug/ substance abuse. For me druggies only existed in films until the day I went to University. I was coming from the city with my friend when on our way a group of street kids were lying unconscious with their face dark from the stuff they were inhaling. Most were lying with eyes dilating and others were just still. I had never seen anything like it. If they were dead I thought, what could have killed them. Immediately we called the police and within minutes the ambulance arrived. To quench my curiosity, I asked what had happened. The police informed us the young fools had been sniffing glue and other substances. I could not believe it because as far as I was concerned at the time, glue was glue surely and could never be used for that purpose. I decided at the point to look into what else people were doing to destroy or shorten their lives. Since then in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa where I have been, I have always seen people taking dangerous substances. These substances ranged from marijuana the very cheapest- glue and this does not come without a price to pay. Most of these youngsters stopped going to school, some even got stabbed to death for stepping on other people’s toes or even stealing. I thought I would start looking at the very cheap drugs ones used by the common people.



Inhalants come in many different forms – from glue to petrol to laughing gas and poppers.

Inhalants in Southern Africa
Glue is the most commonly abused inhalant in Southern Africa and glue-sniffing is prevalent amongst many young children, many of whom live on the street. The use of inhalants is common amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds worldwide.

Many people do not see inhalants as drugs, because they are freely available in the home or workplace and they have other uses. These inhalants are breathable chemical vapors that can cause mind-altering effects.

These inhalants are usually volatile solvents. Inhalants are popular among children because they are cheap, readily available, require no special equipment to use, and they take effect quickly and wear off quickly. If you are living on the streets, you need to have your wits about you and cannot afford to be under the weather for protracted periods of time.

The different categories of inhalants:

·         Solvents – household or industrial, such as paint thinners and different types of glue
  • Art or office supply solvents – correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid.
  • Gases – these are used in many products including lighters or refrigeration gases.
  • Aerosol propellants – spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays.
  • Medical anaesthetic gases – ether chloroform and laughing gas.
  • Amyl nitrate –poppers

How they are used
Inhalants are breathed in through the nose or the mouth. Often a paper or plastic bag is attached to the substance being inhaled. This concentrates whatever substance is being inhaled.

·         Its effects
Most inhalants produce a feeling of temporary contentment, pleasure and detachment.

·         But sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death.

·         High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases.

·         Glue, correction fluids and paint spray inhalation can lead to hearing loss. Glue, gas cylinder and petrol inhalation can result in muscle spasms. Glue and paint sprays can lead to central nervous system and brain damage and petrol inhalation can cause bone marrow damage.

·         Long term effects
These can be very serious and include liver and kidney damage, blood oxygen depletion, suffocation, heart failure and sudden death.

·         It also appears that people who are HIV positive develop Karposi’s sarcoma, the most common cancer amongst AIDS patients, more frequently if they have taken poppers previously.

Withdrawal symptoms

Inhalant users suffer a high rate of relapse, and require thirty to forty days or more of detoxification. Users suffer withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations, nausea, excessive sweating, hand tremors, muscle cramps, headaches, chills and delirium tremens.

Cheap as they are, inhalants are bad for one’s health and must be avoided. If you are affected seek help before it’s too late. The combination of poverty and substance abuse does nothing but make the situation worse.

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