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Drugs Everywhere- Parents Beware !
by Dr. Lavina Noronha

Jan 2, 2011

Drug trafficking is considered to be one of the three most lucrative businesses in the world. Despite measures taken by the government, the menace of international drug trafficking is thriving in India. The epidemic of drug abuse is not limited to big metros anymore. Even smaller cities are not immune from illicit substances and our children are more vulnerable than ever. First they use the drugs and then they abuse them and finally they become dependent on them or get hooked on to them. Prevention is definitely better than cure and education is crucial in helping teenagers make right decisions and to stay far away from these lethal substances. Even when someone is identified as a drug user, early intervention and rehabilitation can assist in a person’s recovery. The sooner your teenager gets help, the better it is.

What are some of the commonly abused drugs?

Opium comes from Papaver somniferum or poppy plant the seeds of which are generally used as a condiment worldwide. Widely known for its anaesthetizing effect, opium has been used in the medical field for pain management. It is the dried latex from the mature poppy pods that is used to produce heroin which is illegal. Crude heroin is brown in color but in its purest form it is white powder. Heroin is an extremely addictive substance overdose of which can be deadly.

You have to be familiar with the street names or slangs used to refer to the drug in order to identify someone who is on heroin or is selling the substance. Brown sugar, hero, hard candy, powder, horse, junk, joy flakes, gum, dust, sweet stuff, White boy, bomb, smack, skag, chick, black tar, jive, etc. are some of the slang terms used to refer to heroin. Remember, if your teenager is talking to his/her pal and says do you want to jive?” you need to know that they are not talking about going dancing. The drug is put on an aluminum foil and is heated and the fumes are inhaled, it can also be smoked, or injected using a syringe.

Runny nose, persistent cough, sneezing, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itch, staggered gait, confusion, fatigue, constricted pupils (pupils dilate when the person is in withdrawal)  are some of the tell tale signs of heroin abuse. Additionally, the heroin abuser is at risk for blood-borne infections like HIV (due to the use of infected needles), collapsed veins, skin infections and so on.  Heroin overdose can also result in coma or death.

Marijuana: pronounced as ‘marie-wana’, it is a plant which is grown in Northern India and is used in three forms. The black resin from the plant is called ‘Hashish.’ The other names for hashish include charas, hash, hemp, cream, malana cream, Afghan snow, kasa, Bombay black and so on. ‘Ganja’ comprises the leaves and stems of the plant which is often known by its street names- pot, grass, weed, Mary Jane, blunt, herb, dope, etc. ‘Bhang’ is made up of the leaves and flowers of marijuana plant. Hashish and ganja are smoked in rolled paper or mixed with tobacco and bhang is often consumed in liquid form.

Users usually justify their use/abuse of marijuana as harmless. It is true that compared to other illegal substances like cocaine and heroin marijuana is less potent however, in terms of health risks, it has been estimated that one marijuana cigarette equals five plain tobacco cigarettes. When the user develops tolerance to marijuana, he/she usually switches to high potency drugs like cocaine and heroin.  Signs of marijuana use include red eyes, slow speech, uncontrollable giggling, peculiar body odor- clothes, and hair or in the area where the drug was used, restlessness, fear, anxiety and so on.

LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD for short is considered a common hang-out drug or social drug. Used at parties, concerts, gatherings to boost confidence and to enhance the impact of sensory experiences, LSD does not have any taste or color but is very powerful even in small doses. LSD is known to induce auditory and visual hallucinations. Street terms for LSD are acid, sunshine, microdots, stamp, Lucy, etc. It is sold in tablet or powder form for easy consumption.
LSD trip usually increases body temperature, blood pressure, heart beat, and sweating. Users complain of having a poor appetite. Long-term use can cause paranoia, extreme dread or anxiety, and depression. A ‘bad trip’ or an overdose can be fatal.

Cocaine:  Cocaine is a stimulant which is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. It is white crystal powder in its purest form and on the streets cocaine is referred by its slangs like coke, salt, namak, coca, flake, snow, heaven’s dust, crack, toot, blow etc.

Cocaine in its powder form is usually snorted and in its liquid form it is injected. Under intoxication, cocaine users often experience a sudden surge in heart rate and blood pressure, sleeplessness, restlessness, and bouts of energy. Runny or red nose, dilated pupils, accelerated speech are other signs of cocaine abuse. Cocaine overdose or long-term use can lead to seizures, heart failure, respiratory distress, hallucinations, paranoia and so on.

Prescription drugs

There are another group drugs which are easier to procure than cocaine or heroin which are also less expensive than illicit drugs- prescription drugs. Psychotropics, analgesics, sedatives, hypnotics, anxiolytics, synthetic opioids manufactured in the laboratories-methamphetamine, codeine, are easily available over the counter. Despite regulations, not all pharmacists insist on seeing a doctor’s prescription before they dispense these drugs to teenagers.

Medications prescribed for anxiety, depression, pain, insomnia for adults can also be easily accessed and abused by teenagers if adults fail to keep them out of reach of children.  Methamphetamine, anesthetics used by veterinarians, ecstasy, date rape drugs are other popular mind altering substances that are easy to procure.

Why do they do it?

Teenagers are often lured by the temporary excitement or relief drugs tend to offer and do not realize that they can cause a lot of harm to the brain. Curiosity, pressure from friends, and need for experimentation, can get someone hooked on to drugs to a point of no return. Due to the impact of drugs on the brain, it becomes extremely difficult to stop using the drug without professional intervention.

Drug abuse does not happen overnight. Some use drugs to escape emotional pain- to reduce anxiety associated with exams, to numb feelings of sadness or loneliness, or to relieve stress from family life or school-related issues. Drugs are also used to boost confidence or combat plain boredom. Unfortunately what starts as a quick fix for difficult situation ultimately traps the user in a complex web of problems.

Some signs of drug abuse

• Rapid weight loss: Cocaine and opium abuse reduces appetite and affects normal sleep.

• Frequent mood swings: Moods vary from cheerfulness to depression or lethargy. Some experience anxiety, dread, loneliness, slurred speech, tremors, and impaired memory.

• Drastic changes in appearance and style:  Growing a beard, wearing loose, baggy, full-sleeved clothing (to cover needle scars), changes in hobbies, interests, music are common. They often neglect personal hygiene - bathing, grooming, etc.

• Family relationships take a downward turn. Sudden disappearance of household valuables, money, prescription drugs; lying and argumentativeness, secretiveness (locking doors), suspiciousness, disrespect towards adults, withdrawing from family, breaking rules, etc should be taken seriously.

• Using eye drops for red eyes, not maintaining eye contact, using perfumes, air fresheners to hide the smell of drugs or smoke on clothing and body; using mouth-fresheners to hide breath odors.

How can parents prevent drug use?

There are many warning signs of drug use/abuse in teenagers. It is challenging for parents to distinguish between the normal, emotional roller-coasters of teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. However, here’s what you can do:

• Talk to your teens about drugs openly. If the curriculum does not include education about tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances, make it your personal mission to have open communication with your children about drugs.

• Closely monitor and supervise your teens, know where they are going after school hours, who their friends are and what they do when they hang out together. Talk to the parents of your child’s friends and children they play with. It is better to be a snoopy parent than a dopey parent. 

• Meet with the school authorities on a regular basis and see if your child is skipping classes, if there has been any change in academic performance. A sudden drop in grades, negative attitude towards studies, teachers, school, and discipline problems should not be taken lightly.

• When the problem of addiction first comes to light almost every parent reacts defensively.  “You must be kidding; my son does not do drugs.”; “We are from a respectable family; our daughter is not a junkie.”  It is quite natural to be protective of your children but this cover up will prevent your children from getting the help they need on time.  Therefore, please don’t make excuses for your son or daughter and don’t minimize the problem. Being in denial can cost you your child’s life!

• Due to the high cost of both cocaine and heroin, teens who hail from affluent families are at a higher risk. Watch out.

• “Just say no” to drugs, tobacco and alcohol doesn’t work in a society where these substances are easily available. Regulatory measures have to be in place to prevent minors from accessing these illicit substances. 

• Drug abuse and criminal behaviors are closely related. When they get hooked and finances run out or when the withdrawal symptoms are too painful, they resort to stealing from family and friends.

• The narcotic and psychotropic substances Act of 1985 prescribes a punishment of 10 years or more for drug-related offences along with a fine of 1- 2 Lakhs for peddling drugs. However, due to red tape, the drug lords are often let out in the open to prey on youngsters.  Don’t just rely on the drug control boards and the legal systems, as parents you have to protect your children. 

• Look for drug paraphernalia- cigarette rolling papers, pipes, small glass vials, plastic baggies, remnants of drugs, spoons that have burn marks on the bottom, spoons that are bent which are used to crush pills, discarded syringes, etc.
Solutions

Evaluation of a substance abuser by a professional is a must. Consult a psychiatrist and get the teenager admitted for detoxification.  There are excellent drug rehabilitation programs that can help your teenager stay off drugs. Parental guidance, support, encouragement will go a long way in assisting the teens to recover from substance abuse. If family, friends, health care providers, recovering addicts and the narcotic control departments work in hand in hand, we can create a drug-free society. 

Dr Lavina Noronha - Archives :  

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Comments on this article
Shan, Saudi arabiaSunday, April 01, 2012
Amazing job Dr lavina..this is very serious topic and parents should be much concerned about it..drugs consumers are increasing day by day.And majority of it, are students. without any delay start spying on your dearest ..i want to thank writer for sharing this knowledge.
Comment on this message     

A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.Friday, January 07, 2011
Mr. Ivan, Mumbai.

As you have stated, that the pharmaceutical companies are in
high gear to invent new drugs,
and bribe the Doctors to prescribe
them to every Tom and Harry.

The Doctors get their commission,
the companies make huge profit and the average person get hooked
to the drug habit. Some of them
can't live without drugs, and a few
finish their lives earlier through
overdose, or by putting a gun to
the forehead. These are highly
dangerous killing chemicals wrapped
up in fancy foil paper.

Mr. Krisha: You have indicated
many valid points. When the parents
give big amounts for the children,
some of the children are misled,
and will start the habit of
drugs, which will destroy their
lives. Parents will have to watch
very carefully about the changes
in the habit of the children, also
watch closely about their close
friends.
Comment on this message     

James Fernandes, Barkur/USAFriday, January 07, 2011
But for these drugs or drug users the hospital beds would be half empty prisons would be half full, and lot of doctors would be driving taxies, and the drug dealers will have to resort to other means for survival!

How is "Ave Maria" progressing?
Comment on this message     

Ivan, MumbaiThursday, January 06, 2011
The author has mentioned about Psychotropics drugs. 99% of the time you go to a pyschiatrist for a problem they put on drugs... Pyschiatrist mention that you got a chemical imbalance in your brain. 'Chemical Imbalance' is a theory and not a proved fact. Science till date has not been able to quantify Chemical Imbalance or go and check a Person's brain for chemicals being produced in excess or in deficiency... when you go to a doctor for an ailment like fatigue and abnormal weight gain there is a test of the thyroid hormone... but when you go to a pyschiatrist for an ailment called extreem sadness in other words depression there is no test .... big pharmaceutical companies are trying to increase the number of mental health patients so that their sales will increase and patients will get hooked to these drugs for life... If you search the internet regarding homicides especially in the US.... a number of them were done by people who were on Psychotropic drugs like paxil, zoloft etc
Comment on this message     

A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.Monday, January 03, 2011
Mr. Mitchell, U.S.A.

Your comment created a simple curiosity in
me, that LSD is less harmful than
asprin, or the overdose of water.

I am neither a Chemist nor a
Doctor, so I had to read about it.

LSD was discovered in 1938, belongs to "hallucinogen class",
and one of the most powerful
mood-changing chemicals. It is
also known as "acid" in street
language.

It is a dangerous drug, which can
create serious problems due to his
after effect. One dozen asprin
tablets or 10 glasses of water
won't do such harm.
Comment on this message     

Krishna, Mangalore Monday, January 03, 2011
i think main problem parents.

(a) Parents increased pocket money for children.
if they dont have money they will buy drug.
(b) Main problem parents don't spend time with children.
(c) lack of prayer in home.
(d) Bad people friendship / Place

When we are in school our parents only give pocket money 1 Rs. per week i can say.
Now may be 500 / 1000 minimum?
why is it nessary. don't. u think ur spoiling children.
Last i want blame Govt. also.
Kindly take action like Iran.
then see result.
Comment on this message     

Mitchell, USASunday, January 02, 2011
Although I appreciate that you are trying to educate people, you should be aware that spreading false information does not help your case. LSD is not lethal in any known dose. In face, it is easier to die from asprin or drinking too much water than it is to die from LSD.
Comment on this message     

A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.Sunday, January 02, 2011
It is an highly informative and
eye-opening article. Many young
people start the habit due to peer
pressure, like starting the habit
of smoking and chewing tobacco.

But, the danger of drug habit is
beyond of our imagination. It is
like playing with fire and a cobra
at the same time. The most
sharpest and venomous tool of the
devil to destroy lives, one day at
a time.
Comment on this message     

ruchir agarwal, mangaloreSunday, January 02, 2011
Thank you very much DR.Lavina for the wonderfull and highly informative article.
Comment on this message     

Max & Jessie Rasquinha, Mangalore, Houston,TxSunday, January 02, 2011
Thank you, dear Dr.Lavina, for your detailed and well nerrated article on usage and addiction of drugs which is becoming a desease in many parts of the world. Changing affluence, changing lifestyles and changing generations are all part of the major causes for drug related cravings and consequences. More than sixty percent of prisoners in the United States are victims of drug related violations. Millions are families are being subjected to drug related consequences. Your message tore is very valuable and timely, and we look forward to your continued guidance on such topics in the future.
Comment on this message     

jeni, mangaloreSunday, January 02, 2011
Dear Dr. thanx a lot,good article .please organise some parenting sessions as it is important that the parents should be really alert to protect their children.
Comment on this message     

Albert, Mangalore/DubaiSunday, January 02, 2011
very nice article.
helpful to the parents.
We need some strict laws against using drugs
Comment on this message     

Harold Dsouza, Belman, QatarSunday, January 02, 2011
Very good educational article.. I got lot of info from this, drugs are like passion, style, party making..that's what youngsters think.! those days we never knew all this & had fear of parents & society, but time has changed where now parents has to be more alert.! At the end parents has to bear all the consequences. Even home / growing environment also plays big role in control. Thanks Doctor for such a good article. Funny to know the names of drugs.
Comment on this message     

Peter Pereira, PuneSunday, January 02, 2011
Excellent information Ms. Laveena !! Sad to note, Mangalore has become safe haven for drug trafficking and our teen agers from very respectable families are the victims of this evil. Students of some of the renowned colleges are drug peddlers and many students have become slaves of this menace. God save our children from the clutches of this dreadly devil. It would have been more helpful if you had mentioned/recommended some of the successful deaddiction centres in Mangalore.
Comment on this message     

gautham, mangaloreSaturday, January 01, 2011
now a days many of the mangalore college students are becoming a drug addicts too much . this is bad for in future life . Its really bad students of much respected College are also getting addicted to drugs.
Comment on this message     

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