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Alcohol, drugs and psychiatric problems: a dangerous combination

Alcohol, drugs and psychiatric problems: a dangerous combination

Chemical dependency is now a serious public health problem, with serious consequences for the future of young people and society around the world. There is a significant percentage of adolescents illegally abusing drugs, tobacco and alcohol. One in four high school students has used an illegal drug at least once during the month, while about 12 percent of eighth grade students used more than one drug at a time in the same period. McCaffrey argues that although marijuana is the drug most frequently used, rising rates of heroin, cocaine and hallucinogens are of particular concern because of the deadly nature of these substances. He also states that millions of teenagers regularly smoke and drink, risk factors for drug use. McCaffrey was the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

The problem is that often the use of these substances may be related to the incidence of psychiatric illness. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association) that encompasses substance abuse and dependence, there is often an association of psychoactive substances with other psychiatric conditions. Thus when faced with a patient with drug use, whether it is dependence or abusive use, one must always investigate the existence of another psychic illness; as a cause or as a consequence.

Scientific work has shown a high incidence of 13% of the association of mental illness with substance abuse. Inverse observations also occur because in clinics specializing in the care of the chemical dependents, the association with mental disorders is also greater in relation to the general population. In schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in almost half of the patients the association with abuse or dependence of psychoactive substances appears.

Who was born first?

But is the use of drugs can trigger psychiatric conditions or psychiatric conditions trigger the use of One of the scientific models that tries to explain this association between the use of psychoactive substances and the psychic disorders would be a pre-disposition for the mental illness. In this case, the drug would only trigger and aggravate dormant mental symptoms, as previously mentioned. The second model shows that this association is due to the individual presenting some psychic disorder and seeking in the drug a relief or kind of "self-medication ". It would alleviate the symptoms of your anxiety, depression, anguish, fear and other symptoms of this order. There are more models, but these two are the most easily understood.

A simpler explanation is that psychoactive substances act precisely on the neurotransmission of the brain. All our mental work: thoughts, feelings, ideas, behaviors are due to the presence of substances in the brain that are called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, among others). The increase of these substances in the brain can produce acceleration, euphoria, insomnia; and on the contrary the decrease of them causes lethargy, fatigue, depression. Psychoactive substances (drugs) act precisely in this mechanism, and with the neurotransmitters altered we can go from a state of euphoria to a state of psychosis (hearing voices, hallucinations) or at the opposite pole, from a simple state of mental retardation until depression

Genetic predisposition

There are several studies currently showing that there is a genetic predisposition to the use of alcohol or other drugs. In the same way we were born with a tendency to present diabetes, hypertension, rheumatic diseases; we also present a genetic predisposition for drug use. And this can be easily researched by studying family ancestors who had some unhealthy relationship with alcohol or other drugs.So anyone who has a history of psychiatric problems in the family should not even think about using these substances. It is to want to "poke the ounce with a short stick" in popular saying. Communicated in another way, we can have the tendencies to various "dormant" diseases within us: if we put ourselves in stressful situations, the tendencies "wake up" and manifest themselves as diseases.

This also applies to other diseases: as an example I can have the hereditary tendency for diabetes, but if you are not overweight, do not smoke, do not be stressed, the trend may not manifest as a disease. Similarly in psychiatry: I may have the tendency to panic, if using a substance this tendency can turn and manifest itself in disease, in the case panic syndrome. More serious when hereditary tendencies are for depressive illnesses, for psychoses.

Does this depend more on the person's time of use or psyche?

This question is very relevant: the time of use is important, the tendency or pre-disposition to mental illness, the time of use of the substance, the amount of substance ingested, the tolerance to the chemical substance, and the quality used.

Let us first address tolerance, which is a concept that has not yet we commented Tolerance can be defined as the greater or lesser resistance to a given substance. Let's use alcohol as an example: some people with a glass of champagne already feel changed, and others can drink several glasses and do not feel the harmful effects of alcohol; this is valid for other psychoactive substances as well.

Another important fact is the quality of the substance ingested, inhaled or injected. It is known that much of the drug is extremely impure and mixed or refined with extremely toxic products and can be life-threatening immediately. It has been reported the intake of drinks of doubtful origin, which has produced fatal accidents. Once we address these two factors, we will think of time and quantity of use.

The predisposition to mental illness is also very important not to forget that the person who has the tendency to psychic disorder should stay away from any kind of psychoactive substance, or drugs.

Let us now turn to the usage time and the amount of use and start again by the example of alcohol intake. No one gets changed by toasting a glass of wine or champagne; however, if you eat a bottle of vodka you will definitely be drunk - the amount of substance ingested is extremely important. Equally relevant is the time of use: sporadic use of some substance should not cause major damage, but continuous use over a long period of time will cause many damages to the body. Again taking alcohol as an example, it causes repercussions both physical (cirrhosis, gastritis, cancer) and psychic (cognitive impairment, memory loss, behavioral changes and even alcoholic dementia). The example we have given in relation to alcohol is generally valid for other drugs.

It should be noted that some drugs even in short time produce irreparable damage - such as crack, heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs, like certain types of amphetamines and acids. In short, everything adds up to the prejudice of the drug user: predisposition to psychic illness, tolerance, substance quality, quantity of use and time of use.

Now that we know how alcohol and drugs in general can cause problems, in my next we'll talk a little about how some of these specific substances can cause psychiatric damage in patients.

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