Drug use or abuse by the today’s youth is one of the most difficult social problems which is being faced by our society at present. According to the British Crime Survey (2005), thirty three per cent of men and 21 per cent of women among the group of young people (between the age of 16-24 years), in England and Wales were reported to be taking illicit drugs. Commonly, these drugs are used by the young people either in a manner or a quantity which is different from what is directed by the physician.
When drugs are used in this manner for illegitimate purposes, it is known as drug abuse [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: fourth edition (DSM-IV), 1994]. Drugs being used in this manner include either illicit drugs, which are forbidden by law and prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs which are medically used for different purposes. Excessive drug abuse in the long run can result in development of drug dependence or addiction.
In this dissertation, I shall be discussing about the various commonly abused drugs, the implications of their abuse on the society, and the legal framework and treatment options available against drug addiction in the U. K. I shall be also making a general comparison between UK and Greece in the issue of drugs. Drug abuse and dependence are the two ends of the spectrum of ill effects associated with excessive use of drugs, with the drug abuse being the mildest form and dependence being the most severe form of illness.
Drug abuse has been defined by DSM-IV (1994) as excessive use of drugs which is not for medical indications. Drug abuse is characterized by intense desire to obtain a particular drug, which takes preference over all the other activities of living, resulting in social and interpersonal problems, failure to fulfill obligations at work, school or home, involvement in illegal activities and tendency to continue using drugs even in physically hazardous situations (driving a vehicle), with one or more symptom occurring at least once during the 12 month period.
According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: revised fourth edition (DSM-IV-R), 2000 drug dependence is defined as compulsive use of a drug despite development of severe and devastating negative consequences and is associated with three (or more) of the following symptoms occurring at any time in the same 12-month period: development of tolerance towards the drug which is being used, development of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not consumed, the same drug has to be used to obtain relief from withdrawal symptoms, the substance is consumed in either larger amounts or for longer duration of time than intended, the person has made numerous unsuccessful efforts to control substance use, great deal of time is spent on drug related activities ( e. g. procuring, using or recovering from effects of drugs), important social and occupational activities are given up because of the time spent on substance use and the person continues to use substance despite the knowledge regarding its possible physical or psychological harms. Tolerance to drugs develops when a person has to consume increased quantities of drugs to experience the same desirable symptoms which he had been previously experiencing. This is so as consumption of same quantity of drug as consumed previously results in diminished symptoms (DSM-IV-R, 2000).
Drug dependence causes the body to become physically or physiologically dependent on a particular drug forcing the body to adapt in such a way that when these drugs are stopped or their dose is drastically reduced, a constellation of signs and symptoms (called withdrawal symptoms) develop (DSM-IV-R, 2000). This is often accompanied by development of social deterioration and violent behaviors. Psychological dependence is characterized by the development of intense desire or craving to consume the drugs when their usage is suddenly stopped or their dosage is markedly reduced. Psychological dependence from abuse of drugs can last much longer in comparison to physical dependence and is one of the major reasons for relapse (Leshner, 1999).
On the other hand, drug addiction is characterized by the continued use of a specific drug despite the awareness about its ability to cause physical, psychological or social harm. Addiction is also characterized by compulsive drug -seeking behavior and may or may not be associated with physical dependence (DSM-IV-R, 2000). Drug abuse besides affecting psychological and physical health also disrupts social functioning and can result in increased levels of violence and crime in the society (Leshner, 1999). Though no single cause can be defined, which leads to drug abuse by young people, social-environmental factors and peer pressure have been thought to be the most important factors which result in drug abuse (Deborah, 1989).
Signs pointing towards probable development of drug abuse in young people include: sudden development of prominent changes in behavior, deteriorating relationships with family and friends, development of new group of friends or acquaintances, frequent involvement in unlawful activities like stealing, lying, violence and crime, sudden development of aggressive and violent behavior, reduced performance at school or college and decreased interest in activities which were previously found to be enjoyable etc (Deborah, 1989). Drugs can be consumed through a variety of routes. Some drugs are injected Intravenously (e. g. heroin etc), some are swallowed (e. g. amphetamines, ecstasy etc), some are smoked or inhaled into the lungs (e. g. cocaine etc) where as some are applied over the mucosal surface (e. g. cocaine etc).
The drug when applied over the mucosal surface, usually the nasal mucosa is directly absorbed into the blood stream. Intravenous injection of drugs into the blood stream among the youth is associated with a dangerous health problem, i. e. risk of transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) resulting in development of AIDS. There is a recognized association between HIV infection and the sharing of contaminated needles while injecting drugs intravenously into the blood stream (Amodeo et al, 2004). In a study by Brook et al (2002) drug abuse among adolescents and young people was associated with high levels of risky behaviour (which would expose an individual to the risk of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C etc) and early pregnancies.
Drug abuse is also frequently associated with engagement in prostitution for the purpose of procuring drugs and having sexual relationship with infected, drug using partners, both of which can also act as risk factors for transmission of HIV infection (Brook et al, 2002). Maternal drug use can also result in transmission of HIV infection to the newborn child and other pregnancy related complications like premature delivery etc (Amodeo, et al, 2004). Drugs Used By the Youth Nowadays According to a survey conducted by Edinburgh University and Crew (2000) drug abuse was most commonly seen among the individuals belonging to the age group of 18 to 24 years for the year 2000 in the UK.
According to this report, use of drugs among the youth of today has become a vital part of dance and youth culture in the U. K. Drugs most commonly used on the dance floor were found to be ecstasy (being used by 82%), amphetamines (being used by 81%), cocaine (being used by 39%) and LSD (being used by 30%) in this survey. The British Crime Survey (2005) found that on the overall basis the most commonly abused drugs in the U. K were cannabis followed by cocaine and ecstasy for the year 2004. On the other hand, the British crime survey, for the year 2006-2007 shows that the use of illicit drugs among the young people aged 16-24 years in U. K has decreased from 11.
6% in (2002-2003) to 8. 3% for the year 2006-2007. The use of drugs like cannabis, amphetamines and LSD, as measured by the British crime Survey (2007) amongst the young people has been observed to be stabilized over the past ten years (since the year 1997). However the use of cocaine among the youth in the U. K was seen to rise. Low costs and increased availability of cocaine have been held responsible for this . The findings of British Crime Survey (2007) also show that overall rates of drug related crime had stabilized in England and Wales over the year 2006. Most common drugs National Institute on Drug abuse (NIDA) 2007 has classified the most commonly used
drugs (controlled substances) into five major categories, namely Central Nervous Stimulants, Central Nervous System Depressants, Hallucinogens, opiates and narcotics, and drugs in which the main ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol. All these drugs have the ability to affect the mood, feelings and thinking process of an individual. All these five categories of drugs are capable of being abused as all of them are able to alter the person’s mood, disconnect him from reality and make him feel good or relaxed (NIDA, 2007). Each of the five categories of drugs, including some examples of the commonly used drugs in each category is shown in table 1 and would be described briefly below.