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Drug abuse: A downward spiral of addiction

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The drug is a substance when used brings changes in an individual’s consciousness, behaviour, thinking, mood, perception, judgments, insight, and muscles strength. These drugs get into the brain cells and alter the chemical reaction within.

A psychoactive drug, often known as a psychotropic substance is a chemical substance that predominantly affects the central nervous system, causing transient changes in mood, consciousness, perception, and behaviour. A drug, which has a deteriorative effect upon the functioning of the human mind and body, is called a narcotic drug. 

A downward spiral describes a situation that over any significant period the life of the individual will deteriorate. It emphasizes the fact that once people become addicted; their life tends to become increasingly intolerable. The benefits of consuming drugs may appear to exceed the disadvantages at first, but this situation may eventually reverse. The longer a person remains addicted the more they will end up losing, and if they are unable to stop the behaviour, it will eventually kill them. The issues associated with the behavior worsen as the person’s consumption grows, but instead of preventing and discouraging substance misuse, the person utilizes these difficulties as a reason to use drugs more.

Injection, inhalation and ingestion are few ways for drug intake. The most commonly abused drugs are opiates (opium, morphine and heroin), hallucinogens (LSD, mescaline and psilocybin), barbiturates, cocaine, inhalants, tranquillizers, cannabis and prescription drugs including opioids (morphine, hydrocode), central nervous system depressants such as benzodiazepines(Valium, Klonopin, Xanax), stimulants such as amphetamine, adderall etc. 

Opioids have the potential to cause drug abuse, as well as physical dependence and addiction. When they are taken with substances that depress the central nervous system there is a much higher chance of respiratory depression or even death. The depressants are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, including insomnia. Asthma and obesity were the first conditions for which stimulants were used. They’re also prescribed to treat problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression, narcolepsy, and other problems.

For example, if your doctor prescribed pain medication to be taken three times daily and you are taking it more frequently or more than prescribed at a time or using the same medication for reasons other than prescribed , then you are abusing prescription drugs. 

Drug abuse can lead to a range of both short-term and long-term mental and physical health problems such as cardiac or cardiovascular complications, stroke, cancer HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, lung disease, mental disorder, brain damage, seizures or death due to overdose, nausea and abdominal pain etc. These depend on the type of drugs that are being taken.

In Nepalese context, according to Narcotics Drug (Control) Act 2033, the purchase and consumption of narcotic drugs for medical treatment in the prescribed dose from any licensed pharmacy on the recommendation of any recognized medical practitioner is allowed. The medical practitioner may not prescribe it to individuals who do not require it or to those who do require it in excess of what is required. 

A person who consumes drugs (illegal/pharmaceutical drugs) is also liable to punishment. According to Section 14 (1) (a) Narcotic Drug (Control) Act 2033, a person who consumes cannabis/ marijuana shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to one month or with a fine of up to two thousand rupees.

According to Section 14 (1) (e), anyone who takes opium, coca, or any other narcotic drug derived from it is subject to a one-year prison sentence or a fine of up to ten thousand rupees. However, the judicial authority may not punish the person if he/she is undergoing treatment in any rehabilitation centre or institution.

Generally, in criminal cases, the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt lies on the prosecution. But if any narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances are found to be in possession of any person, he/she shall have to furnish proof to the effect that he/she had possessed such substance under the law. Failing to prove means guilty of an offence and liable to punishment.

The Supreme Court of Nepal has laid down a precedent that in a possessory offence the burden to prove innocent lies on the defendant. A possessory offence is one in which the “act” element of the crime is satisfied simply by having illegal drugs in one’s possession.

 In law, Corpus Delicti is a Latin term which means the “body of the crime”. It refers to the concept that all the elements of a crime must be established before a person may be tried for it.

The prohibited drug itself constitutes the very corpus delicti of an offence which means the drug-related offence has been committed. Since the drug has been seized from the defendant, they have committed a possessory offence and have the burden to prove that the drug has been legally obtained to avoid criminal liability. 

Risk factors are characteristics within the individual or conditions in the family, school or community (peer pressure, aggressive behaviour, poor family environment, lack of parental supervision, poor social coping skills, and academic failure) that increases the likelihood that someone will engage in drug abuse and addiction. 

In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of taking drugs. If the risk factors are controlled, the consumption or demand for substance abuse and addiction will also be reduced. There should be effective implementation of policies, programs and laws to control the demand and supply/trafficking of the prohibited drugs. 

More than 7 million people worldwide suffer from an illicit drug disorder, and illicit drug usage is responsible for one out of every four deaths. In fact, drug misuse is linked to more deaths, diseases, and disabilities than any other preventable health problem. Addicts to drugs and alcohol are also at a higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents, and domestic violence events. Hence, it is importance to create a friendly and supportive environment for youth in school, family and society to protect them from addiction and effective service and programs should be developed for treatment, behaviour change and rehabilitation support to the addicts.

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