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15 is a good age to be: Tackling drug and alcohol addiction

Substance abuse refers to “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome – a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.” (World Health Organisation)

You keep taking a drug after it’s no longer needed for a health problem.
You need more and more of a substance to get the same effects (called “tolerance”), and you can take more before you feel an effect.
You feel strange when the drug wears off. You may be shaky, depressed, sick to your stomach, sweat, or have headaches. You may also be tired or not hungry. In severe cases, you could even be confused, have seizures, or run a fever.
You can’t stop yourself from using the drug, even if you want to. You are still using it even though it’s making bad things happen in your life, like trouble with friends, family, work, or the law.
You spend a lot of your time thinking about the drug: how to get more, when you’ll take it, how good you feel, or how bad you feel afterward.
You have a hard time giving yourself limits. You might say you’ll only use “so much” but then can’t stop and end up using twice that amount. Or you use it more often than you meant to.
You’ve lost interest in things you once liked to do.
You’ve begun having trouble doing normal daily things, like cooking or working.
You drive or do other dangerous things (like use heavy machines) when you are on the drug.
You borrow or steal money to pay for drugs.
You hide the drug use or the effect it is having on you from others.
You’re having trouble getting along with co-workers, teachers, friends, or family members.
They complain more about how you act or how you’ve changed.
You sleep too much or too little, compared with how you used to. Or you eat a lot more or a lot less than before.

You look different. You may have bloodshot eyes, bad breath, shakes or tremors, frequent bloody noses, or you may have gained or lost weight.
You have a new set of friends with whom you do drugs and go to different places to use the drugs.
You go to more than one doctor to get prescriptions for the same drug or problem.
You look in other people’s medicine cabinets for drugs to take.
You take prescribed meds with alcohol or other drugs.

Changes in personality and behavior like a lack of motivation, irritability, and agitation.
Bloodshot eyes and frequent bloody noses.
Shakes, tremors, or slurred speech.
Change in their daily routines.
Lack of concern for personal hygiene.
Unusual need for money; financial problems.

Changes in friends and activities.

You’ve probably heard of “alcohol abuse,” "alcohol dependence,” or “alcoholism.” Maybe
you know the new term doctors use, “alcohol use disorder.”
You may have an alcohol use disorder if you:

  • Drink more, or longer, than you plan to.
  • Have tried to cut back or stop more than once and couldn’t.
  • Spend a lot of time drinking, being sick, or hungover.
  • Want alcohol so badly you can’t think of anything else.
  • Have problems with work, school, or family because of your habit (or because you're sick after having alcohol).
  • Keep drinking even though it has caused problems for you or your relationships.
  • Quit or cut back on other activities that were important to you in order to drink
  • Have found yourself in situations while drinking or afterward that made you more likely to get hurt
  • Keep having alcohol even though it made you depressed or anxious, hurt your health, or led to a memory blackout
  • Have to drink more than you used to for the effect you want
  • Found that you had withdrawal symptoms when the buzz wore off, like trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, a seizure, or seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there.

If you’ve had two or three of those symptoms in the past year, that’s a mild alcohol use disorder. It’s a moderate disorder if you’ve had four to five. If you’ve had six or more, that’s severe.
“Wacha niKwambie”
June 2019 – “25 is a good age to be”
Tackling Drug Addiction and Alcoholism