We hear about drugs each and every day, but many have no or little idea about what it is, why we use it and the different kinds of drugs we have, Laws binding its use, medical effects and the physical effects. In this article, I am going to focus on “WHAT IS DRUG, USES OF DRUGS AND ITS EFFECTS”. Drugs have been part of our culture since the middle of the last century, popularized in the 1960s by music and mass media and invading all aspects of society.
WHAT IS DRUG?
With a lot of people in our communities, drug is a “medicine”. A lot of young people in Ghana today, have no understanding of what drug means, the difference between a psychoactive drug and legal drugs. Interestingly, we tuned our understanding to drugs as “illegal” without a clear and precise definition and thought on what it is. Drugs are substances which has a physiological effect on an individual when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body which changes the individual’s mental and physical state. There is a vast preponderance of drugs that is used to treat medical conditions (both physical and mental). However, some drugs which are termed as recreational drugs are used outside the medical setting, there are basically two major types of drugs, that is the licit and illicit drugs with the licit being legal and accepted for medical use whiles the illicit are ultimately consumer goods, typically produced and distributed through
A PSYCHOACTIVE drug affects the central nervous system and alters a person’s mood, whether prescribed for a medical condition e.g. antidepressants or taken for recreational purposes e.g. Alcohol. (You may be wondering why I classified Alcohol as a drug, I will explain more on the categories of drugs and their chemical components). Psychoactive drugs affect the way a person behaves, thinks and feels. The most common legal psychoactive drug is alcohol and tobacco with illegal ones being cannabis which we all know as marijuana or weed.
CATEGORIES OF PSYCHOACTIVE DRUGS
There are three main categories but some drugs fall into two or more of the category.
ü Depressant; this slows down the movement of the nervous system or lowers the neurotransmission level which is known as the chemical messenger or brain chemicals which communicates information throughout the body and the brain.
A depressant drug includes heroin, alcohol, cannabis, prescription drug group of benzodiazepines and analgesics.
ü Stimulants; this raises the psychological and nervous activity. It causes one to be active, alert and induces temporary improvement in the body.
Example of stimulants includes caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.
ü Hallucinogens; this makes a person see, hear or feel things that aren’t there or exist. Examples are ecstasy, cannabis, magic mushrooms, lysergic acid diethyl amide (LSD), ketamine, dextromethorphan, peyote and phencylide (PCP).
EFFECTS OF DRUGS
The misuse of drugs can pose a threat to the health and well being of an individual both short and long term and could possibly lead to addiction. Alcohol, cannabis, heroin and cocaine are the commonly used psychoactive drug in Ghana.
Alcohol is not just a drug, but the archetypal drug: the drug which is extensively used and the drug that causes the majority of addiction, disease and violence. But in our current state or country, Alcohol is not considered a drug. A bar tender, a bar owner and an Alcoholic manufacturing company are all drug dealers; don’t get me wrong, Alcohol contains the drug Ethanol that’s why it’s a depressant and termed as one of the most dangerous drug that can destroy or kill a person.
According www.drugfreeworld.org, Alcohol and cannabis are both intoxicating and mostly addictive. Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity, Increased family problems, broken relationships, Alcohol poisoning, High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases, Liver disease, Nerve damage, Sexual problems, Permanent damage to the brain, Drowsiness, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Upset stomach, Headaches, Breathing difficulties, Distorted vision and hearing , Impaired judgment , Decreased perception and coordination , Unconsciousness , Anemia (loss of red blood cells) ,Coma , Blackouts are some of the long and short term effects of drugs especially Alcohol.
By Juana A. Boateng, First published by Business and Financial Time (BnFt)