Drug taking is one of the most prohibited vices in many societies across the globe. Engaging in drugs abuse in whatever form has not only been openly and continuously condemned by the tenets of the society but also revoked or greatly controlled by government registrations both in sale and usage.
Although the laws and principles governing drugs abuse vary from one area of legal jurisdiction to another, there are observable similarities in the provocation of illicit drugs used in many countries as well as decrees illegalizing the wrong usage of legalized drugs. Many of these drugs attract very harsh penalties such as the death penalty or live imprisonment. Apart from the penalties that come with a conviction of handling or using illegal drugs, their physiological, sociological, and health effects are lethal. Drug abuse leads to death, especially in cases of overdose (John 5). Consequently, societies, parents, religious organizations as well as anti-drug organizations such as NACADA have openly prohibited drugs usage and reacted by carrying out intensive anti-drug campaigns and educative programs aimed at reducing drugs abuse.
Irrespective of the effort from both the government and humanitarian organizations to fight drugs abuse, the vice especially among the youth and adolescence is still rampant. Drugs, just like HIV/aids pose a very enormous risk to this vulnerable social group (NIDA 2). As a result, massive and more coordinated efforts still need to be put in place in an endeavor to teach the members of society about the dangers of engaging in drugs abuse. NIDA (3) believes that to win the war against drugs, especially among the youths and adolescents, all parties including the teachers, parents, and the government agencies need have full knowledge on the various drugs and their distinctive effects on the affected individuals. This paper, therefore, presents the physiological and sociological effects of drugs and narcotics including alcohol and tobacco abuse and presents the parents, teachers, and community leaders with materials to prevent drug abuse among young children and adolescents mainly through early intervention to avert or lessen the risk factor.
The risk factor
Drug taking among members of society can be influenced by several factors. Such factors include the conditions in which an individual is living, his or her quality of life, the age group, the role of parenting, family, and children’s socio-economic background among others. Hawkins, et al. (231) According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (1997), understanding the factors that are likely to make an individual engage in drugs abuse is the initial step towards stemming the vice in society. Hawkins, Catalano, Kosterman, Abbott, & Hilt (230), points out that it is easier to fight drug abuse when the vice is prevented before it occurs than attempting to take an addict out of it. According to the latter, Success in the prevention of drugs abuse (or arresting the vice at this early stage) relies on the interested party’s ability to ascertain the vulnerability or rather the risk factors of the various constituents of the society. This will form humble precedence of putting up measures in place to prevent an identified person from indulging in drugs abuse.
The possibility of young children engaging in drug abuse is higher in children and adolescents than in the adults of society. Ideally, children, youths, and adolescents form a social group whose risk factor of indulging in drugs is the highest (NIDA 6). As a result, parents, teachers anti-drug campaigners, community leaders, and all the members of the society interacting with this vulnerable social group, either directly or indirectly must do everything possible to stem drug abuse. Among the measures that can be used include physical education on the dangers of drug-taking, the physiological and sociological effects of drug-taking as well as the actual health dangers that drugs pose to an individual (John, 1999; 7). To achieve this, massive education, consistent counseling, close mentoring, and passionate support supervision by those close to the affected are of the essence. According to Hawkins et al (1999:237), as fighting drugs begin risk factors are ascertained, thus protective measures should be put in place to avert the high potential of the identified individual from engaging in drugs abuse. In addition, educating the members of the society via targeting them with information regarding the dangers of engaging in drugs abuse, the physiological, psychological, and sociological effects, using groups or peer discussions, exhibits or cases of drug side effects through films, engaging children in parental discussions to discuss the dark side of drugs abuse among another education initiative can reduce the risk factor while being of help to those who are already in drugs.
The most effective way to stemming drug uses especially among the members of the most vulnerable social group is prevention. A research carried out by the National Institute of Drug Abuse In Conjunction With The National Institute Of Mental Health and Center Fore Diseases Control and Prevention in 1997, revealed various ways via which people can gain skills to prevent negative behavior such as indulgence in drug abuse. According to the report, the most effective and efficient way to achieve this objective is arresting the imminent behavior well in advance before it happens. This, therefore, calls for the families, schools, communities, and government agencies to work closely to ensure success in early intervention to prevent imminent risky behavior among the youths and adolescents.
NIDA, 1997 suggested that a drug abuse prevention program must be wholly comprehensive. In this case, all forms of drug whether legal or illicit as well as all the effects must be addressed by the program based on the risk factor or the target group. In addition, they must address underage consumption and excessive use of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco not forgetting medical drugs abuse (taking unprescribed drugs). Hawkins et al (1999:233) felt that the effectiveness of a preventive program can be appraised by its ability to boost the protective factors as well as either repeal or lessen risk factors. Among the protective factor includes the ability of the parent to effectively deal with factors that could increase the person’s risk of indulging in drugs abuse such as defiant behavior and attitudes among children and adolescents. Parents must understand that close support and supervision controlled by the highest level of understanding will enhance the vulnerable person’s resilience and lessen the risk factor.
It is important to understand that both the risk and protective factors will vary along with age. For instance, the family background will pose a greater risk to young children. On the other hand, external influences such as interaction with drug-abusing peers will pose a great risk to teenagers and adolescents. Parents must also understand early intervention as a protective initiative e.g. handling aggressive behavior and instituting self-control on a deviant child is more effective than later intervention such as attempting to change the way of life of a child who has already involved him/herself in drug abuse. Furthermore, the prevention program must address all forms of drug abuse across the social stratus, focus on the risk factors that can be reversed or mitigated as well as foster the identified protective factor (Hawkins et al 2002). According to Ashery, Robertson, and Kumpfer (1997), protective programs must be customized to address specific risk factors in the community that they target based on specific characteristics of the target groups (e.g. age, sex ethnicity, social classes among others) for optimal effectiveness. For elementary school children, for instance, issues such as self-control, emotional awareness, solving social problems, and reading to enhance an individual knowledge on drugs and their effects should be included in the early intervention program, those programs that target junior high school and high school students must include teachings on how to relate with peers, strengthening individuals self ability to make and stand by own decisions, enhance anti-drugs attitudes and equip the adolescents with skills to resist drugs.
For successful prevention, the roles of the parents are cut out. Parental mentoring supervision and setting rules children must adhere to are among the efforts which can yield a positive result in preventing drug abuse especially among the young members of society. In addition approaches such as peer discussion about drugs and dangers of drugs abuse as well as a parental role in teaching children on the physiological, psychological, and sociological effects of drugs abuse can both act as early and late intervention measures (Oetting, Edwards & Beauvais 101)
The effects of drug abuse are diverse. They vary with the type of drug, the quantity taken by individuals, body system, and the people’s status or degree of the drug saturation in the body system. One similarity about the effects of drugs is that all drugs are virtually addictive due to continued use (John, 1999:17). Although such effects might have similarities in their manifestation, there are differences, especially in the physiological effects. For instance, an individual who has taken marijuana is likely to react differently from a person who has taken tobacco or alcohol. The physiological effects of alcohol for instance include stupor, absurdity, physical staggering, slurred speech, blackouts, unusual excitement, and elation among others. Some drugs cause abnormal aggressiveness, loss of control, and violent behavior on the part of the abuser.
Sociologically, some drugs especially narcotics make people withdraw from others, makes individuals unusually anti-social et cetera. All drugs have their own physiological, sociological and health-wise side effects. To achieve success in preventing drug use among the members of society, all the negative effects of drugs must be included in the anti-drugs campaign and education programs so as the target audience are made aware of the dangers that drugs abuse holds. Effective prevention also relies on the ability to ascertain the risk factors. While prevention measures are the most effective approach to stemming drugs, individuals who are already in drugs abuse can be helped out through support, counseling, rehabilitation, and more importantly targeting them with education programs explaining the dangers of drugs abuse.
Ashery, R.S.; Robertson, E.B.; and Kumpfer K.L.; eds. Drug Abuse Prevention through Family Interventions; IDA Research Monograph No. 177. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.
Hawkins, J.D.; Catalano, R.F.; Kosterman, R.; Abbott, R.; & Hill, K.G, Preventing adolescent health-risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood; Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 153:226–234, 1999.
John N. Marr. The Interrelationship between the Use of Alcohol and Other Drugs: Office of Justice Programs Drug Court Clearinghouse and Technical Assistance Project American University issues Paper Series Overview for Drug Court Practitioners, 1999.
Oetting, E.; Edwards, R.; Kelly, K & Beauvais, F. “Risk and Protective factors for drug use among rural American youth” In: Robertson, E.B.; Sloboda Z.; Boyd, G.M, Beatty, L & Kozel, N.J., (eds). Rural Substance Abuse: State of Knowledge and Issues. NIDA Research Monograph No. 168. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, pp. 90–130, 1997.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse, Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research Based Guide for Parents’ Educators and the Community. 2nd ed., 1997.