Any traumatic change in lifestyle puts an individual at risk for substance abuse. A divorce, the death of a loved one, loss of employment, retirement, change of environment are just a few situations when a people might abuse drugs. They do this, not with the intent to abuse, but with the intent to subdue the anxiety they are experiencing.
No group is more vulnerable to the dangers of substance abuse than teenagers. Adolescence is a time when peer pressure is at a high peak. Adolescents needs to conform to the crowd, not be different. It is a time in their lives for many changes, physically and emotionally. They are sometimes confused, and there is real conflict as they struggle towards independence and adulthood.
Adolescents want to belong and feel part of the gang. The being together or "hanging out" seems to be more important than the activity. If they are with a crowd who does drugs, then that's what they will do. Young people are usually introduced to drugs by a friend. If parents of the teenager drink or take drugs, then he gets the message that the use of drugs is OK.
A study conducted in 1993-1994 by the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs found that more than one in four California high school students are heavy drinkers by their junior year, and teen use of other drugs is on the rise. Children of alcoholics have a higher risk of becoming alcoholics than children of nonalcoholics.
Bobbi was a happy little girl who loved to dance and sing. It is hard to equate her with the moody, angry adolescent she is today. She doesn't seem to have any interests or goals. She has become a loner, isolated from friends, teachers and family. She dropped out of school and has been arrested for shoplifting. She is sick emotionally and spiritually. Her parents are frightened and don't know what to do.
Adolescent time is the time of transition between childhood and adulthood. It is the time to prepare for the future. If this valuable time is squandered with drugs, the future is compromised.
Today there is a wider range of choices than in previous generations. Teenagers need guidance in making these choices. This is the time for parents to stay close to their children. Parents who are liberal or absent and leave the decisions to the child are more likely to have an adolescent who will take drugs. A parent must take a firm stand and forbid drugs. It is also important to keep the teenager busy with activities he enjoys and to know who his friends are. The adolescent caught between his parents' values and the values of his peers will embrace the values of his parents if there is strong parental support.
Those most likely to be substance abusers are unhappy with their families. They are rebellious and do not like school. Teenagers have little or no money, and those with no supervision or role models will resort to crime to obtain money for drugs. The way to counteract this path of destruction is with education and positive example. If a child hears, at an early age, about the negative effects drugs have on the body, he is less likely to use them. Parents cannot control adolescents, they can only influence them.
"There's been a large-scale change in the perception of risk," claims Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan's noted Institute for Social Research. In an article in Psychology Today he said, "The percentage of students who believe there is a great risk in smoking pot is steadily increasing." He explains, "Enough time has gone by since the peak of drug use for people to see some of the dangerous results first-hand. It's simply not enough for students to read policies or watch exaggerated documentaries. They must go through a natural learning process. This occurs when someone has a bad drug experience, or when someone close to them does."
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer Capriati, tennis pro at Wimbledon in 1993, had a lost weekend, teenage style. News-week, May 30, 1994, called it a come-and-go-party. Miss Capriati was arrested for possession of marijuana, and some friends who were with her had crack cocaine and heroin in their possession. She was, according to Forbes magazine, the 26th highest paid athlete in the world. Her downward spiral began when she lost in the first round of the U.S. Open. She moved out of her parents' house, because she needed "some space." She then quit the tennis tour saying, "she needed a break" and a chance to finish high school. She was found in a motel near Miami, Florida, with a group of teenage friends. They were "whacked out" on heroin and cocaine. One repercussion was the loss of multimillion dollar contracts she had with two companies. The other repercussion was the loss of her childhood and a tough battle upward to adulthood.
A teenager will experiment with drugs for adventure, fun, camaraderie and escape from depression. He seeks instant gratification. There is no thought of tomorrow. When the individual is removed from the social environment conducive to drug use, the addiction can be reversed.
Jerry was 12, active and popular in school and had never been exposed to drugs. One afternoon, he was over at his best friend's house with two other boys. The boys were alone in the home and one of them dispensed marijuana to the others. The other boy suggested they drink some beer from the refrigerator. Jerry didn't want to appear to be different in front of these boys, and so he smoked a joint and drank the beer. He didn't like the experience but hid that fact from the others.
Whether Jerry will continue using drugs depends on his resistance to peer pressure, how informed he is about the harm of drugs, and his relationship with his parents.
Arming the young with the tools of assertion and problem-solving skill, means giving them a certain amount of freedom and responsibility. Parents cannot be with them all the time and so the education begins early. They need to know why drugs are harmful and how dangerous they can be. Their parents' attitude towards drugs will influence their decisions.
Be aware of changes in their behavior which might be indicative of a developing problem. A change in hygiene, irritability, apathy, track marks, loss of energy and appetite are all red flags. Inflammation of the eyelids and runny noses are common.
The setting or environment or a major transition in an individual's life can make him vulnerable to substance abuse.
A teenager who manages to escape the drug scene in his hometown is at risk when he goes away to college. New environment, new friends and new lifestyle all contribute to the vulnerability of the college student. Wanting to conform or fit in may ignite new behavioral traits. Maybe just for a "new experience" he will join a crowd partaking of drugs.
Molly was raised with a large loving family on a farm outside a small town. Everyone was thrilled when she was accepted at a large state university. It was her first experience away from the family and to be "on her own ". She was excited and yet full of apprehension and determined to "fit in." Her roommate introduced her to marijuana and then cocaine. The drugs eased her nervousness and gave her a wonderful feeling of belonging. She soon became addicted and welcomed the escape from her studies and pressures. One night someone brought PCP to the group and Molly took some. "When I'm high, I'm not me," she exclaimed. The sad ending to this true story is that one night, after taking PCP, Molly became so exhilarated she thought she could fly and jumped to her death six floors below.
Substance abuse indicates a loss of control over the situation a person finds himself in. Overall, anyone with a fierce desire to complete four years of college will have a lower rate of illicit drug use than those not expecting to do so. Statistics show that the percentage of college women who drink to excess has risen from 10 to 35 percent. "Binge drinking on our campuses has devastating consequences, from rape to violence to academic woes," said the Reverend Edward A. Malloy, President of the University of Notre Dame and Chairman of the Private Commission on Substance Abuse at Colleges and Universities. The 98-page report by the Commission reported 51 percent of college men and 37 percent of college women have five or more drinks on a single occasion.
Brian was a third-year college student. He found himself drinking more and more under the pressure of his studies. He was getting it from all sides. His girlfriend wanted him to spend more time with her. His parents were after him to come home to visit. His classwork was difficult and he needed more time to study. A lot of time was spent on drinking with buddies. It was a dreary end to a dreary week when Brian impulsively decided to drive to his parents' home. His car wasn't in the best repair. The tires were bald, and the car needed spark plugs. He had a couple of beers at lunch with his friends. It started to rain, and he ran into some heavy traffic. At one point traffic came to a standstill, and Brian drank some more beer he had in a cooler beside him. Traffic opened up, and he was restless and impatient. He accelerated his speed and was going too fast to negotiate a curve in the road. Brian spun off the road and hit a tree, headfirst.
Brian was the only one responsible for his predicament. He had not kept up repair of his car, and he drove at an unsafe speed. He aggravated the situation by drinking and decreasing his judgment and reflex actions. Brian should have kept his priorities in order. It was only a matter of time before a disaster would befall him.
Young people who drink and at the same time take other drugs, such as heroin, barbiturates or methadone, can become frank alcoholics in a year's time instead of the 20 years it usually takes.
For a teenager, school years can be complicated and demanding. It's a time when they are not quite sure of who they are, what they want to be or whether the choices made day-to-day are the best decisions. Changes and pressures threaten to overwhelm them. This is the time when they need special guidance.
Another major transition that a teenager faces is joining the military. Many persons who might never have used drugs at home turn to them for relief from stress. They are transported to a strange environment having to hide their fears, becoming exposed to social situations where drugs are used, conforming to a strict set of rules and regulations, and so it is very likely they will succumb to the lure of substance abuse.
Substance abuse is more prevalent among the elderly than most people realize. The older individual is dealing with all kinds of loss. They have lost many friends, spouse, family, occupation and maybe loss of health and mobility. The increased tolerance to alcohol and excessive leisure time are likely to hasten the risk of problem drinking. Social drinking escalates into alcoholism after retirement. This is especially true for those with few outside interests or hobbies. Because they live alone, alcoholism often goes unnoticed, until they have an accident or fall. Prescription drugs may also be abused and no one notices until there is an overdose.
Abby was a social drinker, but after her husband died she got in the habit of drinking wine "to get to sleep." She persuaded her physician that she needed "something to calm her nerves" and so fell into the dangerous trap of Valium and alcohol. Abby is treading on dangerous territory and if something doesn't happen to change the course, she will become a statistic.
If the elderly haven't developed coping skills, not unlike the young, they must learn nonchemical ways of dealing with physical and emotional pain. It is not too late, but it does take time and determination. It is better to offer assistance to the elderly by identifying the risk factors. It is unlikely that they will seek help until there is no alternative. Sometimes they have no family or anyone they can turn to for help. It is common for them to have health problems in addition to their chemical dependency. An older person is more likely than a younger one to suffer brain damage, liver disease or malnutrition due to substance abuse.
It takes time to assess the older person. Sometimes he doesn't answer questions because his hearing is impaired. The assessment should include questions to determine his ability to take care of himself. A person's substance abuse is treatable at any age. The older person will have special problems that younger people generally do not have. Assess the person's ability to perform basic tasks such as cooking, writing a check and shopping. Is he safe with kitchen utensils? Can he use the telephone? Would he be able to respond to an emergency?
What does he do for transportation? Can he get his clothes clean? If he is not able to do some of these, can he get help? All these living skills are necessary to evaluate his safety in living alone. Time must be spent with family members to observe their attitude toward the older person's drug abuse. Are they contemptuous? Or are they understanding and want to help?
Older adults are very resistant to the idea of giving up their independence. If a person is going to have to change, he must be introduced to the change slowly. Changing an older adult's living environment seems drastic, but it is sometimes necessary to give him the best opportunity to recover from substance abuse.
Initiating a discussion of spirituality is a professional's responsibility. Feelings about aging, coping with loss and fears of death all need to be explored. This takes much tact and skill, but you are better able to help the person when you have the answers. The elderly need much time to consider and discuss their options, as well as time to explore their feelings. They need to feel they are part of the solution and not being rammed into a decision not of their making.
Many older people can remain in their own homes after treatment for substance abuse. This is especially true if there is a supportive spouse there. There are also many community services which are available to the older person in his own home. Board-and-care homes are an alternative. This is especially useful for the person who cannot maintain a household and is unable to care for himself. Moving from the family home to an apartment is an option for some older adults leaving treatment. Some senior apartment complexes offer residents complete independence. Others offer many activities and social interactions.
Health caretakers need to become more focused on older patients and clients. They represent an increasing portion of our population. The projection is that 20 percent of the general population will be over 65 by the year 2050.
Physiological changes in the elderly affect the metabolism and excretion of drugs. They are at risk because age, body structure and chronic illness may have compromised the body's ability to detoxify alcohol and drugs. Because of prolonged drug use, there may be irreversible damage done to their enzyme system. All these factors make older patients more vulnerable to adverse reactions to drugs. They are likely to be taking many medications. The combination of antihypertensive medications and diuretics could be dangerous. Laxatives are an over-the-counter medication that many older people abuse. Risk-related combinations of anti-anginal medication and the consumption of alcohol adds to a potential negative outcome. It is known that brain sensitivity to depressant drugs increases with drugs. Also they may be taking drugs that might counteract the effects of their diabetic medications.
Because our nation is so youth-oriented, older people are often relegated to the position of nonpersons. Physicians may not listen to their complaints, or they may deal with them by prescribing more medication. This is due to the physician's frame of experience and attitude. It depends on the training he received. He may feel helpless and overwhelmed by the myriad of complaints and the confusing nature of the many disorders of the aged. It is easy to take out the prescription pad and feel in control. The older person may not tell the physician about all the medications he's taking. Family and friends also contribute to this misunderstanding. They want the person to be comfortable and may insist on the "cure-all pill."
Because of poor eyesight, sometimes the person cannot read the label or even tell the color of the pill. He may get confused about the dosage and the time to take the medication. Sometimes he may not remember if he took it. Many elderly men rely on their wives to tell them when to take their medication. Digitalis is a drug that if not taken in correct dosage may lead to toxicity. A fat-soluble drug, like Valium, is stored in fatty tissue and has a prolonged effect on other medications.
The loss of an occupation often leads the elderly to become socially isolated and predisposed to suicide.
Mr. Z, a 67-year-old man, had been a college professor of history until a stroke left him partially paralyzed on the left side. He was angry, depressed and unable to accept or tolerate the decline of his physical and mental abilities. He was hospitalized following a suicide attempt. After his recovery from this frantic episode, Mr. Z was helped by psychotherapy. His passivity was pointed out to him, and he was challenged to use his anger, along with his natural athletic ability, to rehabilitate himself to the fullest of his physical capacity. He took up the challenge, and soon was able to maneuver himself very well with the aid of a walker. The suicide attempt was an isolated incident with Mr. Z. He didn't abuse drugs. He was at a vulnerable period in his life and needed extra encouragement to get over the hump.
Caregivers should recognize that drug misuse is a significant problem with people over 60. Time and effort should be taken to help them understand what medication they are taking and the reason for it. It is a good idea to ask them to bring in all their medications for an accurate assessment. Some people have shopping bags full of pills. It is also wise to recommend that they go to only one pharmacy. That way the pharmacist can assist them and oversee their complete drug regimen. The elderly are a special class of patients and time should be spent to understand their ways and needs. Hoarding drugs is not an uncommon practice. They also like to share medications with spouse or friends.
Some individuals go to many different physicians. These physicians may unknowingly prescribe medication that is in conflict with prescriptions from another doctor. The patient should have a list of the medications he is taking to show to the physician. He cannot rely on memory.
Substance abuse in the elderly does not develop at a specific age. Those who abuse at an early age do not live to see 60. Excessive intake of alcohol contributes to mood swings, depression and insomnia. The sleep of the substance abuser is mostly fragmented, punctuated with frequent awakenings.
We carry basic personality traits into old age. If you are flexible when you are young, you will be flexible when you become old. If you are pessimistic, you will only grow more sour. The timid will be more withdrawn and dependent. As you age, your personality and characteristics stay pretty much as they have always been. Most older persons are impatient with themselves. Their mind is working, but their body is slower. Be alert for signs of withdrawal when an elderly patient enters the hospital. They may be admitted because of a fractured hip or arm, but substance abuse often is an underlying factor.
In the final stage of development in the human life cycle, an individual is confronted with the possibility of integrating all of his or her past experiences into a meaningful life review, or the developmental crisis can result in a negative, despairing view of past experiences. The challenge is to show our own vulnerability and accept our own limitations and aging.
The setting or environment has an important influence on substance abuse. The hangout, the local bar, even the living room is conducive to the use of the drug. It will be a familiar place to the user where the person feels safe and comfortable. A rock concert is another popular venue where drugs are openly used. Many people attending these concerts use drugs to "place themselves in the right mood." Having a beer at a ball game is as natural as having popcorn or a hot dog. Tailgate parties have become a tradition and alcoholic spirits are part of that social interaction.
A picnic, a day of fishing or a day at the beach may not seem complete without beer or wine. These are normal times when a drink is accepted and natural. Any party or get-together of friends is a time for a "cool one." Even dinner out is preceded by a cocktail. Weddings are occasions for liberal amounts of champagne and other alcoholic beverages. How many times have you heard a story that starts with, "Boy, did I tie one on at Jim's wedding."
Phil Donahue had a television show about all the catastrophes that happen at weddings, and most of them centered around alcohol. People laugh and have a great time retelling these experiences, but imagine the impression these stories have on young children.
The newest fad for young people is "rave parties." These parties are spontaneous and feature music, drink and drugs. They are never announced beforehand, but word gets around and large crowds attend. A couple of weeks ago in San Diego, two 15-year-old boys who were not supposed to attend the party were shot to death. It was explained as a misidentification between two drug dealers. Parties like these attract the young, and there is no security to protect anyone.
There is a definite connection between drugs and suicide. Multidrug abuse contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety. The personality of the substance abuser has characteristics which center around intense conflicts concerning powerful and unresolved dependency needs. These needs, some studies show, stem from severe parental deprivation at early stages of development. This leaves the person with a residue of low self-esteem, frustration and anger.
Menninger in 1938 described alcoholism as a form of "chronic suicide." It is obvious that substance abuse is a form of self-destruction and so a form of suicide. Suicide as a consequence of alcoholism happens when the person is unemployed or in marital isolation. His lifestyle becomes chaotic and hopelessness is the foremost feeling.
A person will commit suicide when he sees no other alternative to life's problems. Often it's hard to know whether the drug overdose was intentional or not. Many deaths are called accidental but they may be self-destructive in nature. There is evidence that drinking bouts frequently precede suicide attempts and that bouts are precipitated by spontaneous suicidal thoughts. The incidence of suicide seems to be more frequent in early-stage alcoholics.
Goodwin, in 1973, theorized that later-stage alcoholism may protect against suicide because the alcoholic has less to lose in the way of wealth status and interpersonal relationships, and because brain damage associated with alcoholism makes suicide less probable. Suicide is likely when experiencing anxiety and depression.
Suicide is a personal matter, but it has destructive consequences for a number of people involved with the individual. If young children are survivors, they may have years of emotional problems. A family history of suicide is also regarded to be seen at an elevated rate among alcoholics. Substance abuse contributes directly to the feelings of sadness and hopelessness. All patients should be assessed for signs of depression. Any substance abuser who verbalizes suicidal ideas or plans should be taken seriously.
Death of a spouse, divorce or some other traumatic occurrence is often the time a person will take excessive drugs. The death of a spouse is a two-fold blow. It means not only the loss of a companion but the end of a whole way of life. People are unprepared for a change so immense. Sedatives may have to be given to the survivor to get him through the social obligations during the funeral. This may be appropriate for a short period of time. But sedatives will limit the survivor from being able to express his feelings, which may hinder a successful recovery.
A person who is divorced experiences the same pain, although compounded with anger. A divorced person has lost his dreams and expectations, and also perhaps his social status. In many ways it is harder to recover from this grief because the person has to grieve in private. There are support groups for divorced people, and those who seek out these groups have a better chance to heal. Grief is a very important normal experience, and if the emotions are stunted by substance abuse, it may lead to serious psychiatric problems.
There are three stages to grieving. The first stage is shock. Confusion, disbelief, weariness and restlessness are some of the characteristics of this stage. It is nature's way of protecting the person for the future. The individual in this stage should feel free to express his feelings. The second stage to grieving is suffering. There is no escape from it, and this is the time of greatest temptation to escape through drugs. If this stage isn't truly experienced, the person may become chronically depressed. The goal of getting through the three stages is complete recovery. The last stage is recovery. A person may go into shock, progress to suffering and then back to shock. The recovery period is long and differs with each person.
Queen Victoria was an example of one who never recovered. She had Prince Albert's clothes laid out every day for years after his death.
Reality is what the grieving person wants to escape. Knowledge of events doesn't erase the emotions accompanying grief. Emotional pain is a hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach or a deep gash in the heart. The grieving person is sure no one ever felt like him. He's sure he'll never feel good again or be able to enjoy life.
A person experiencing grief, whether from loss of spouse, child or maybe even job and health, needs support at this time of his life. Be there to listen to him, let him know you are there and acknowledge his pain. Don't tell him to "be strong." Reassure him that he will get through this period. Help him be the way that is best for him. There is nothing that will replace the person lost from his life, but time does eventually dull the ache. When grieving is masked by drugs there is no healing. When drugs are not available, other solutions or distractions will be found.
Children of alcoholics are at a high risk of developing the illness themselves. The effects of addiction are not confined to the addict alone. The family suffers, physically and emotionally, and it is the children who are affected the most. Children lack the maturity to understand the addict's behavior. Substance abusers are unpredictable and unreliable. Children growing up in that atmosphere are often abused. If not abused physically, they may be abused verbally, and the result is low self-esteem.
Normal healthy development is interfered with, and when the child becomes an adult he is unable to realize his intellectual and emotional potential. As an adult, he is attracted to the same lifestyle as his parents. He has learned the same coping mechanism of his parents, which is that "drugs will make the situation more tolerable." Children who grow up in alcoholic homes have a hard time adapting to the demands of adulthood. They have a hard time becoming their own person. Feelings of frustration and loneliness are always with them. These feelings are the residue of childhood. The lack of nurturing results in feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Verbal abuse can have the same destructive results as physical abuse. If a person is called "dummy" or "stupid" often enough, the words are imprinted on his psyche. If an individual is raised by parents who cannot comfort him or respond to his needs, he will think of himself as unworthy or not important. The child does not blame his parents and refuses to think of his parents as bad parents. He has a hard time separating himself from them.
When such children become adults, they are incapable of expressing their feelings and emotional needs. They are aloof and inexpressive and try to live without emotional support or help of any kind.
Josh was the oldest child in a family of four. His dad was in the military and was gone a lot of the time. When he was home, he found refuge in alcohol and so wasn't available to the rest of the family. Josh's mother was overwhelmed and took out her hostility on Josh. He was a bright little boy, but he didn't understand her frequent outbursts. Josh buried his feelings, and, as a teenager, started using drugs. The drugs gave him confidence and the feeling of being in control. He married young and his marriage was filled with the same frustrations and chaos as his parents'. He had trouble keeping a job because of his hot temper. His demands on his wife were a reflection of imperfection in himself. Josh took drugs as a coping mechanism and needed psychotherapy to sort out his actions and help him get some stability in his life.
Psychotherapy will help heal the hurting child inside the adult. Josh needs to learn to love and accept this child. Through psychotherapy he can shed light onto incidents that were beyond the responsibility of the child. This process will be slow and painful. He must learn to love and nurture the child in him and give it the emotional support it needs. He is no longer in the parental home, and his behavior must change so that he can have a constructive, rewarding life. This is possible.
It is difficult to break out of a destructive cycle. Therapy may help a person achieve some insight into what is blocking him from having a serene, prosperous life. There is also a support group called Al-Anon (Alcoholics Anonymous), designed to help families of alcoholics. It enables an individual to mingle with people who grew up as he did and who have the same problems. He will receive assurance and support that will allow him to acquire a healthy perspective.
The recreational drug user has the money to purchase drugs from the street and uses it only for "recreation." These are times when he is camping, fishing, rafting or just "checking out for the weekend." He is at great risk because of the mixture of drugs used to produce the final product. The drug may be contaminated or be an untested derivative of a synthetic narcotic. The risk is death or neurological damage from impure ingredients. These drugs are called designer drugs. Bootleg recipes are for sale to anyone who can get his hands on them. Labs can be set up and dismantled in a few day's time. Testing batches of PCP and purifying the product is not important to black market manufacturers. Money is their prime concern. Designer drugs are variations of synthetic drugs with altered molecular structures. Ecstasy is the most popular designer drug being sold on the street today. Users of this drug claim it gives them confidence and happiness.
A news item from Scripps Howard News Service, July 1994, announced a potent new drug that had hit the streets. College students used a recipe found in the U.S. Patent Office records to create a drug that has been a factor in several deaths.
Methacathinone, known on the street as "cat," is a cocaine-like drug that gives users a high that can last for five to seven days. It affects the central nervous system, causing euphoria, increased sexual drive and hallucinations. The drug speeds up the heart rate and can cause muscle spasms and paranoia. Liquid Drano, Epsom salt and battery acid are among the items cooked together to manufacture this drug, but the bulk of the drug is made from ephedrine, an over-the-counter drug used for asthma and allergies. This drug, made from ingredients not compatible with the human system, is not safe.
The substance abuser who uses needles must be sure that the needle is not contaminated. The Institute of Medicine called for the ban to be lifted on federally funded needle exchange programs. Dr. H. Keith Brodie of Duke University says, "The weight of evidence suggests that needle exchange programs do more good than harm." These programs have helped fight the risky behavior of sharing needles that spreads HIV, the AIDS virus.
The social drinker is also at risk while taking a prescribed course of sleeping pills, tranquilizers, pain medications and even certain types of antimicrobial agents, because he may not be aware of the danger of combinations. Even medicines that have minimal psychoactive effects may produce toxic reactions when taken in combination with alcohol. Another dangerous combination is any two drugs that depress brain activity or induce sleep. The reaction of each is enhanced.
Are people aware of the risk they take when they ingest these drugs into their bodies? I would say no, they are not aware of the risk they are taking. Drugs are a fact of life and always have been, and new drugs will continue to be invented and used. That is the reason education and awareness are so vital.
Some occupations are more tolerant and conducive to drinking than others. A bartender can stand at the bar with a drink in front of him and not much is thought of it. But we would not tolerate a drink in the hands of the surgeon or an airline pilot.
Boredom, frustration and loneliness all contribute to substance abuse. One of the major contributors is stress. The physical response to acute stress prepares the body for fight or flight. Individuals the world over, faced with an unexpected stressor experience the same rise in adrenaline and change in blood distribution. The difference is how we react to this feeling. A source of stress for one person may be an exciting challenge for the next. The window washer who practices his occupation sixty stories up does not have the same reaction to vertigo as the person who can't stand heights.
Health care professionals are prone to addiction for a couple of reasons. They have access to drugs, and because of familiarity with them, they have a false sense of security. Stress on the job may lead them to take a tranquilizer or even a narcotic "to ease the moment."
Helen was a staff nurse on a busy medical ward in a large hospital. One day in the midst of a heavy patient assignment, a patient was sleeping when it was time to give her an ordered Valium. Helen didn't want to wake up the patient, and hardly realizing what she was doing, she took the pill herself. A pleasant sense of calm came over her, and she completed her shift without her usual panic. Helen fell into the habit of taking a Valium every day. She soon became weary and exhausted from planning how she would obtain the pill from the cart. So she took a Benzedrine. The up-and-down feelings she was experiencing jangled her nerves, making her irritable. She didn't realize she was in trouble until her supervisor confronted her about her attitude and behavior. Helen was able to understand the nature of her problem and took a leave of absence to reevaluate how this had come about. She was able to recover from her drug abuse and continue her career.
Other individuals are not so lucky to have Helen's insight and they continue the habit until there is no return.
Construction workers may get into the habit of stopping off for "a couple of beers" at the end of a day's work. This habit eventually invades other parts of their lives with negative effects.
Before she was a leading lady, Andie M. was a pressured supermodel. In an interview appearing in the June 1994 issue of the British magazine Tattler, the star of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" says she took dangerous measures to keep her weight down during her Vogue cover days. "I admit I took diet pills and cocaine to keep thin," she says. The actress expressed concern about how her young counterparts were staying slim. "When I see these girls modeling today, lam really worried about them," she says.
"I know what it was like to be as thin as they are now, and I'm sure some of these girls are doing heroin."
The entertainment business which includes movies and television is a risky business, because of the access and availability of drugs. Vulnerable individuals are warmed by the pleasant effects of drugs and enjoy the fond associations and the feeling of belonging that goes along with the drug. Day-to-day existence is eventually molded around the activities that maintain the supply of drugs. Many talented and beautiful people have been "wasted" by the indulgence of drugs. The list is endless.
Another person who is at risk for getting into the habit of "taking a few nips" is an executive in a sedentary occupation. He can drink on the job. A golf proor a mechanic would have trouble getting away with heavy drinking in the middle of a workday. But the restaurant manager could risk a couple of drinks. Writers are thought to be susceptible to substance abuse because their work is so demanding, lonely and sometimes boring. There are many accounts of the drinking habits of famous writers who were consumed by their addiction.
The problems of each person are unique, they are his own. Much more alcohol is required to subdue panic than to quiet mild anxiety.
Habitual drinking can be trouble-free for life if it is only used as a beverage and not as a mind-altering drug. Those who treat it gently will be treated gently in return. Abuse almost always leads to self-destruction.
Risk Factors for Substance Abuse by Teenagers
Risk Factors for Substance Abuse by the Elderly
Risk Factors in the Environment
Risk Factors of Suicide
Risk Factors of Occupation
Any traumatic change in lifestyle puts an individual at risk for substance abuse.
People especially vulnerable to substance abuse are:
Adolescents need firm parental supervision and guidance. Adolescents who are susceptible to substance abuse are:
Reasons for a teenager to take drugs:
The setting or environment may influence substance abuse. Major transitions in life are occasions to take drugs.
Older persons can have particular problems with drugs due to:
Suggestions for die elderly to manage their medications:
Hopelessness is the major factor in suicide.
There are three stages of grieving: