The United States government declared its “War on Drugs” on June 18, 1971, when President Richard Nixon, at a press conference, used the term that became the government's battle cry for a campaign to fight drug addiction in the country.
It was a time of the hippy movement in the country, when “sex, drugs and rock 'n roll,” was, in turn, the battle cry for the country's youth. While this rallying cry was about freedoms, the hippy era was still characterized by large rock concerts, “free love” and rampant drug use. Since youths of that day grew up to take their place among the workforce society, several other cultural youth movements have come and gone – from yuppies to yippies to Generation Y to so-called Millennials. Meanwhile, in the ensuing decades, the government has spent untold billions combating drugs, but the problem of rampant addiction has never waned. Nor is it any more a problem associated purely with youth.
Various “fashionable” drugs have come and gone. Yesteryear's heroin use went through years of decline, only to be replaced by rampant overuse of prescription opioids (generally prescribed as painkillers) before making a comeback. Today, unfortunately, we still see headlines proclaiming epidemic proportions in heroin use – in Ithaca, New York, and San Diego, California, for example, even while this drug has been overshadowed by prescription drug abuse. Today, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more Americans die each year of opioid abuse than by heroin and cocaine abuse combined.
If drug addictions are no longer a phenomenon associated with youth, who are today's addicts? BLVD Treatment Centers notes that drug seekers come from all sectors of society. Addictions do not discriminate by age, race, or gender. At detox centers, you find every nationality and every socio-economic stratum. Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, tall, short, heavy, thin, you name it. No group or type of personality seems to be spared the potential to become addicted to something.
By category, there are several types of drugs. Depressants include alcohol, barbiturates and opioid-oriented drugs, such as prescription drugs and heroin. These produce a sluggish, numbing, relaxing feeling. With some depressants, like alcohol, inhibitions tend to drop away. People feel wilder, more careless, more verbal. With other narcotics, like opioid drugs, people feel more sleepy and often withdrawn from society.
On the other end of the spectrum are stimulants. These types of drugs, such as methamphetamine or speed, increase a user's heart rate, causing feelings of excitement and increased activity. Cocaine is a fast-acting, short-term stimulant that produces feelings of euphoria. People who use stimulants often feel manic and a false sense of confidence.
In broad terms, the third category of drugs is hallucinogenics. These drugs tend to affect the brain more than other drugs, as the use of hallucinogenics is characterized by seeing swirling images, colors and objects that are not there – almost like being in a dream state, except when you are awake. Mood changes occur and thoughts can be disorganized and confusing.
Needless to say, all types of illicit drugs are dangerous in the short term and the long term. In the short term, for example, alcohol use can be lethal if it provokes a dangerous fall or an automobile accident. In the long term, alcohol can be fatal as sustained use over many years affects the heart, kidneys, liver, brain and almost any physiological system, given alcohol enters the blood stream, which allows it to do damage to every internal organ it contacts.
While every drug has the potential to do short and long-term damage, the concept of addictions is acutely frightening, as it defines a dependence on a drug that is already dangerous to use. Addictions are also characterized by increased use, as the body develops an escalating threshold, which means it takes more and more of the drug (or drink) each time for a person to feel the same effect.
At a certain point, after an addiction has become established, a body begins to depend on a drug even beyond the psychological desire for getting high. The body literally relies on the drug, which means stopping the drug use can actually trigger severe physiological responses. The process by which someone physically withdraws from a drug is called "detox," which is short for “detoxification.”
It is highly recommended that someone going through “Dts” be under the care of a professional physician or enrolled in a treatment center where proper medical services are available.
Don't be fooled by programs that have nothing to do with addiction that claim to allow people to “detox” their bodies of various pollutants. These kinds of detoxification processes, like purging and drinking water to cleanse the body, are not the same as a heroin or alcohol detox process.
Of course, it is a lifelong commitment to stay “clean and sober” and free of drug use after a person has undergone detox. This requires serious psychological care in individual settings and lots of group support from family and 12-Step programs. Those who go through detox, but skip the step of undergoing therapy to root out the causes of their addiction are always at risk of relapse. Remember, folks, this is a war. And it is a war that can be won by individuals, even while the government is losing theirs.