Fight against Addiction
Buljan, Danijel, Alcoholism
There is a constant need to study alcohol, tobacco and opioid drugs abuse and dependence. Problems related to them are a significant burden for public health service and are demanding for the organization and carrying out of the mental health protection in that field.4 Persons of all age suffer from harmful effects of opioid drug abuse. Infants exposed to opioid drugs during pregnancy can be born premature and underweight with a slower intellectual development and later behavioral disorders. Adolescents who abuse drugs often have poor results at school and they drop out of it. They run the risk of developing bad behavior, violence, unplanned pregnancies or infectious diseases. Adults who use drugs often have problems thinking clearly, remembering, paying attention, making decisions and they seem to have problems with motor abilities. Parents who use drugs often create a chaotic, stress-filled home and they abuse and neglect children.30
The scale of the problem
Drug abuse and addiction cause considerable damage to each nation if their combined medical, economic, criminal and social impact is taken into consideration. Epidemiologic data suggest that tobacco smoking has been stagnating among the Croatian children and adolescents in the last decade, while the frequency of alcohol drinking before the age of 12 is in increase. In 2007 it accounted for 84%, slightly above the European average which was 82% .2·8·32·29 In experimenting with cigarettes, 15 year-old girls almost achieved the same results as boys. According to ESPAD report, experimenting with marijuana stabilized in 32 European countries. In 1995 12% of the Croatian boys and 5% of the girls had taken marijuana at least once in life. In 2003 24% of the boys and 17% of the girls had tried marijuana and in 2007 20% of the boys and 15% of the girls claimed to have experimented with marijuana. We should be cautious since the share of young people who took marijuana more than 40 times at the age of 15 and 16 years has been continuously increasing.5-28·32 In Croatia 7500 persons are treated from drug abuse annually, 6175 men and 1288 women. Heroin is the main drug for which they get the treatment (73%), and among younger persons it is marijuana.33
What solutions for drug abuse does science offer?
Scientists have been studying the effects of alcohol, tobacco and opioid drugs on the brain and human behavior. Scientific data are used for developing efficient prevention programs and early discovering harmful drug use as well as for the treatment and rehabilitation of addicted persons. Special studies and practical pilot programs help with the transfer and application of these ideas in our communities.31 Today it is perfectly clear that clubs of treated alcoholics ran by educated experts are familiar with all the scientific discoveries and have a significant success in the treatment of alcohol addicts.19,20,22
What is addiction?
Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful effects. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change its structure and functioning and they lead to behavior disorder. Brain nerve cells, the synapse between them and neurochemical information transmitters (neurotransmitters) continuously adapt to the drug's activity. When there is no drug, there is an imbalance between the excitatory systems in the brain which secure our alertness and reaction and the depressor systems which make us calm and relaxed. Signs of abstinence syndrome develop and a drug addict treats them by taking the drug again. Adaptive brain changes are usually long, although the adaption to some drugs like heroin, cocaine and nicotine can happen very quickly.1-3,15
Risk and protective factors
We often wonder why some people become drug addicts and others don't. As with any other disease, proneness to addiction differs from person to person. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chances that drug use will lead to abuse or addiction. …