Drug Addiction

Stimulant Addiction – Stimulants, also known as “uppers”, is a broad classification of drugs that include cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin/Concerta), MDMA/ecstasy and cat (methcathinone). Stimulants may lead to elevated levels of sociability, libido and concentration as well as boosting one’s overall mood. This is usually achieved through stimulants’ ability to manipulate dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain. Certain stimulants may be prescribed in the treatment of ADHD, obesity and sleep disorders. The accompanying negative effects of stimulants often include hyperthermia, arrhythmia, paranoia, stimulant psychosis and may several of these may lead to heart attacks, seizures and eventually death.

Opioid Addiction - Opioids are a class of drugs which result in feelings of pain relief and pleasure when used; which work by binding to opioid receptors throughout the body and reducing pain signals received in the brain. Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain management as well as the treatment of coughing, diarrhoea and dyspnoea. Commonly abused opioids include codeine, pethidine, fentanyl, oxycontin, heroin, morphine and nyoape/woonga. Common physiological side effects include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, constipation, itching and respiratory depression. Opioids have the propensity to result in reinforcement disorders, such as addiction and dependency, due to users building tolerance rapidly and subsequently requiring larger doses to achieve the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms from opioids include body aches, nausea and fatigue.

Cannabis Addiction – Cannabis, which is either smoked, vaped or orally ingested, produces an increased appetite, an elevated mood and a differentiated sense of perception. The most sought out psychoactive chemical in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and subsequently alter movement, cognitive abilities, emotions, memory as well as coordination. Medically, cannabis has been used to treat lack of appetite, nausea, chronic pain as well as seizures. The negative effects that may accompany cannabis use include anxiety, an increased risk of depression, motor skill impairment and memory loss. Contrary to popular belief, cannabis can be addictive and cannabis use can also lead to dependency issues. Cannabis withdrawal can lead to symptoms such as irritability, sleep problems, cravings, depression and a reduced appetite.

Benzodiazepine Addiction - Benzodiazepines, more commonly known as benzos, are a class of drugs which produce feelings of calmness, sedation as well as muscle relaxation. These effects result from benzos amplifying the effects of the brain chemical GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) which controls neurons responsible for fear and anxiety when they are overexcited. Common benzos include alprazolam (Xanax/Xanor), diazepam (Valium), midazolam (Dormicum), lorazepam (Ativan) and flunitrazepam (Rohypnol). Benzos are often prescribed for the treatment panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, insomnia, alcohol withdrawals and seizures.  Adverse effects of benzos include possible behavioural problems, cognitive impairment as well as the worsening of psychiatric problems in the long-term. The chronic use of benzodiazepines may accelerate the build-up of tolerance and dependency for the user which could increase the potential for addiction.  Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines include but are not limited to tremors, anxiety attacks, irritability, sweating, nausea seizures and psychosis.