DRUG ABUSE: Illicit or Iatrogenic?

Time and again write-ups appear on drug abuse in the print media including Greater Kashmir. However the main focus of these write-ups is on the illicit abuse of drugs by spoiled youth and the measures to curb it. In fact when we hear the word drug abuse the infamous substances such as Cocaine, Heroin, Brown sugar, Charas, Ganja, Alcohol consumed by ‘bad’ people come to our mind. Most of these drugs are Hallucinogens or mind-altering drugs. They are psychoactive and lead to drug dependence or addiction. Withdrawal symptoms are noted in the patient on their discontinuation. Such patients can go to any extent for availing these drugs as they are dependent on them.

But apart from illicit drug abuse, iatrogenic misuse of prescription drugs and indiscriminate self-medication by the masses too is a cause of concern. Iatrogenic addiction occurs when a patient ends up abusing or becoming addicted to a drug prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate complaint. For example, a doctor may prescribe sleeping pills to a patient for a few days only but unfortunately the patient may go for self medication thereafter, leading to drug abuse. Similarly a doctor may prescribe a stimulant drug to a patient for only a few days but such stimulants are misused by college students as “Study drugs” for staying awake throughout the night during exams for cramming up the notes. Such study drugs or smart drugs cause physiological and psychological drug dependence leading to addiction, with severe long term consequences.

The vice of self medication has developed in the masses and thereby the overuse of drugs is common. Patients are directly seen purchasing medicines from chemists without prescription from a qualified doctor. There are various ailments which take some time and are cured without taking medicines once the disease completes its course, the human defense system taking care of the ailment. Indiscriminate use of prescription drugs such as antibiotics leads to Anti Microbial Resistance (AMR); some drugs have severe side effects whereas the psychoactive drugs lead to drug dependence or addiction.

Overuse of drugs leads to their abuse; there being a so called ‘Right’ and a ‘Wrong’ kind of drug addict. The prescription drugs particularly the psychoactive substances such as sleeping pills and stimulant study drugs are much more dangerous than illicit drugs as the former are easily available in the market whereas there is a ban on illicit drugs. Masses need to refrain from self medication whereas parents need to keep a strict vigil on their school or college going wards vis-a-vis consumption of study drugs. A balanced diet coupled with adequate exercise is the key for sound physical and mental health. Drugs should be the last option and avoided wherever possible.