Smoking & Substance Abuse

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Substance abuse is the harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes. This includes illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription and over-the-counter medications, nicotine, as well as inhalants and solvents – which can all be used to harmful excess. If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s smoking or drug use, it’s important to know that help is available. Learning about the nature of substance abuse and addiction—how it develops, what it’s symptoms are, and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better understanding of the problem and how to best deal with it. Substance abuse and addiction are serious, but treatable, medical problems. This section contains tips for overcoming smoking and substance abuse, as well as information about the treatments available. Because the best way to prevent an addiction to nicotine or drugs is to never start smoking or taking the drug in the first place, we’ve also included some steps you can take to tackle smoking and drug abuse in your children. Effect of substance abuse on the brain People experiment with drugs and other substances for many different reasons. While each substance produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common – repeated use can alter the way the brain looks and functions. This is especially the case with drugs. Taking a recreational drug causes a surge in levels of dopamine in your brain, which trigger feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated. As you continue to use drugs, the brain adapts to the overwhelming surges in dopamine by producing less dopamine, which reduces your ability to enjoy not only the drugs but also other events in life that previously brought pleasure. This decrease compels you to keep abusing drugs in an attempt to bring the dopamine function back to normal.  The brain changes that occur also challenge your self control and hinder your ability to exercise good judgment and resist the intense impulses to take drugs. If you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviours, such as eating and drinking. Understanding substance abuse and addiction Many people do not understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. A frequent misconception is that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behaviour. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so. The good news is that treatment and support is available to help you counteract the disruptive effects of substance abuse and regain control of your life. 

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It is important to recognise the signs of drug use and abuse early, as this can rapidly develop into drug dependence. Below are a list of physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms to look out for: Physical symptoms Bloodshot eyes, or pupils larger or smaller than usual Changes in appetite, causing sudden weight gain or weight loss Changes to sleep

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Diagnosing a smoking or drug addiction often starts by seeing a general practitioner who will ask a series of questions, including how often the substance is consumed, whether the substance use has been criticised by the people around you, and whether you personally feel you may have a problem. In cases of smoking, establishing whether or not there is an addiction is done at t

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Recognising that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, one that takes tremendous courage and strength. If you’re ready to make a change, learning new coping skills and knowing where to find help are essential in overcoming smoking and substance abuse. Here are some steps to consider: Seek support: Support is essential to addiction recovery. Ask

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Substance abuse and addiction are serious, but treatable, medical problems. Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual's life, effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components. They must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and improve everyday functioning in the family

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The best way to prevent an addiction to nicotine or drugs is to never start smoking or taking the drug in the first place. Research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has shown that prevention programs targeted at youths, and which involve families, schools, communities, and the media are effective in reducing drug abuse. The National Lung Association has com

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