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Drug dependence.

In parlance of the average person, two words have for years separated a double phenomena associated with the continued and excessive use of certain psychoactive drugs. HABITUATION is one, indicating a mental dependence (a craving that can be started with the first experience) to continue use of a drug. ADDICTION is the second, conveying the fact that a somatic adjustment has been made for the body to function as normally as possible with an upsetting, physically dependence-producing drug continually in its presence. A third development, the phenomena of TOLERANCE, related to physical dependence, is the ability of the body to continue adjusting toward normal function in the face of ever increasing moderate (larger ones may be fatal regardless) dosages. WITHDRAWAL symptoms expose physical dependence when the body exhibits specific uncomfortable conditions within hours following discontinuance of accustomed dosages (or substitutes) of the addicting drug.


Depressants, including sedatives and hypnotics, embrace many hydrocarbon solvents, the anesthetics, the harbiturates, chloral hydrate, alcohol, opiates, etc. Narcotics are depressants and generally refer to the opiates, such as heroin, morphine, and codeine. (**) Morphine and similar synthetic drugs are the most effective pain relievers known. In fact morphine is used as the standard of pain relief by which other drugs are evaluated. Depressants are chemicals that retard both mental and physical functions for the user. They provide relaxation, reduce physical activity, bring about drowsiness, and sleep. They are used to treat both physical and mental illnesses. Unfortunately, some have become the most abusively used drugs in the world, although a user may obtain them legally only by a licensed medical practitioner's prescription.

Psychotoxic conditions are also established from excessive or continued use of many of the depressants. This may result in behavioral disorders, especially when the more potent of the barbiturates (the most widely abused depressants) are used. Intoxication becomes apparent from the depressant's direct action upon the central nervous system. In addition to the slurring of speech, staggering, loss of balance, and falling; the abuser presents a quick temper and quarrelsome disposition. Sufficient of the drug will cause unconsciousness and loss of motor function. A forgetful mind has little control of the amounts used, thus there is always the danger of overdose. This hazard is multiplied when alcohol is used in conjunction with the depressant due to a synergestic effect. (The total action becomes greater than the sum of the two effects). These dangers have contributed to the death of an endless number of individuals, many prominent. Even with relatively safe medical use of barbiturates, there is danger from this "2 plus 2 equals 5" drug reaction. There is also an additional risk of death. Sudden withdrawal, after barbiturate physical dependence is established, is exceedingly perilous (more so than sudden abstinence from heroin for its addicts), and has often resulted in death if endured without skilled medical treatment.


Depressants also reduce sensitivity to both psychological and physical stimuli -- meaning the abuser escapes from reality and its concerns, responsibilities, and other problems. The individual becomes unresponsive to the landlord's plea for his rent, to father's demands, or mother's tears, or a youngster's neglect, or a mate's despair. The mental capaciy to want to maintain standards is deadened. Truthfulness, honesty, dependability, are character traits no longer "fully active."


The addict's mind clings mainly to two lessons retained after becoming "strung out" (the illicit user's term for physical dependence). First, a terrible sickness, that must be avoided at all costs, will result if insufficient drug is administered several times each day. Second, to again feel some of the drug's original reaction, an additional amount must be taken beyond the dosage necessary to offset the oncoming suffering.


The body gradually develops normalizing adjustments to these depressing drugs dosages. As dosages are increased, adjustments continue. This is termed "tolerance", and although a separate entity, it is closely related to physical dependence. Tolerance lessens the effect of a drug, especially upon such vital mechanisms as the cardiovascular (heart and blood distribution) and respiratory (breathing) systems. Not all parts of the central nervous system become tolerant to depressants simultaneously. The brain is then exposed to ever increasing concentrations of the drug, as organs vital to survival become less subject to the drug's action, increasing mental incapacitation. Stimulants are used to offset depressants.

"Cold Turkey" Heroin Withdrawal Tortuous

When use of the depressant is not continued at the dose level attained, a physical readjustment must take place. Withdrawal symptoms observed are the outward results of the turmoil within. During this "kicking" period addicts experience severe physical upset -- sweating, mucous discharge, body aching, cramps, loss of control, and worse.


Barbiturate dependents often lose up to twelve pounds or more the first twenty four hours of abstinence. The United States Drug (law) Enforcement Administration uses the following words in their publication describing the plight of abusers who use various depressants: euphoria, constricted pupils, belligerence, drowsiness, irritability, restless-panic, irrational behavior, anxiety, depression, constipation, hallucinations, panic, confusion, slurred speech, staggering, tremors, coordination impairment, depressed reflexes, loss of appetite, increased sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, convulsions, unconsciousness, death from withdrawal, death from overdose.

Not all depressants bring about every one of these reactions. However, they total a word picture of the wretched existence of the abusive user becoming dependent upon a depressant drug.


"Lesser animals, such as the monkey or even the rat, having once experienced (the effect of) a drug like cocaine will, without exception, self-administer the drug until they die."

That is a statement by Maurice H. Seevers, PhD, MD, appearing in The American Medical Association's Physicians' Guide Book on Drug Dependence. Dr. Seevers also states, "Some drugs are so weak that little harm (from their use) results. But many are such powerful reenforcers that if all the population were to be given a trial with every major psychoactive drug by intravenous administration and then permitted free access to the drug of their choice, the disaster to society would be enormous." The doctor adds this admonition, "It should be clearly understood by those that decry the depravity of the drug addict that susceptibility is only relative, and if conditions are optimal, almost any individual can be made to be drug dependent in the most serious sense of the term, even against his will."


These shocking facts released to its members by the American Medical Association should bring every thinking American to attention. Mentally and physically enslaving drugs can be an "Achilles heel" for our country. The unbelievable upsurge of illicit drug use being experienced by the free world today may well have more implications than appears on the surface. Drug dependence is taking a terrible toll in lives and money from us now. Sad to say, the average citizen (especially parents, youngsters, and even users) knows very little about drugs, and the treacherous properties of some to enslave.


This class of drugs includes caffeine, nicotine, the hallucinogens; such as marihuana, mescaline, and LSD (luysergic acid diethylamide); the amphetamines, cocaine, and others. Stimulants are basically drugs that act upon the central nervous system when administered, thus exciting psychic functions and increasing motor activity. Some potent ones have provided valuable applications in medical practice. Abusive use is curtailing these advantages.

The small pharmacological effects of the milder stimulants used, such as caffeine and nicotine, do not result in psychotoxic reactions, although health deterioration may become a problem. The near lack of this toxic condition separates their use from the other forms of dependence-producing drugs. It eliminates the dangers that result from the psychotoxic conditions that induce anti-social acts, as when the more potent central nervous system stimulants are abusively used. These are manifested by bravado, false bravery, paramoid delusions, and other extremes. There are perceptual distortions without impairment of the capacity of the user to perform physically. In fact this ability may actually be augmented. The stimulated individual, lacking full mental control over a abnormally activated physical body, is extraordinarily dangerous for even a drug user.

Depressants Counteract Stimulants And Vice Versa

A difference between the hallucinogens and other members of this stimulant family is the extent of dosage. The former causes mental distortions earlier in the dose-reaction observations. Much larger amounts (especially when administered intravenously) of an amphetamine or cocaine are required to actuate psychotic behavior. Stimulant abusers often resort to the use of depressant drugs to counteract excessive effects.

Stimulants Cause Psychological Dependence

Abusive use of stimulants, for many persons, results in development of dependence produced characteristics. However, use and overuse of these chemicals does not result in a physical dependence. Withdrawal symptoms from the extended use of these stimulants are of the "opposite" type than those resulting from overuse of the depressants. When the abusive spree or chronic stimulant user is denied his drug; depression, exhaustion, and sleep are among his or her "withdrawal" experiences. The stimulant user may have an overpowering compulsion for more of the drug, but this craving is not related directly to a physical need.

Physical Dependence -- No Criterion To Judge A Drug

Dependence of the psychological type, however, is deceptive to the point of tragedy due to the lack of physical symptoms that can be readily observed. This is the reason these types of drugs are not regarded as "addicting" in the physically dependent sense. Overlooked is the fact that mental dependence is terribly difficult, when not impossible, to overcome. Physical dependence (that results in a tortuous readjustment dysphoria when the depressive drug that caused it is withdrawn) is being successfully treated every day. Although physical dependence does not seem to develop from the abusive use of such stimulants, a mental "hold" does result that is even more binding. Cocaine is an excellent example. Its abusive use establishes one of the most enslaving experiences of all types of drug dependence.

(**) Federal Law (narcotic classification) includes the stimulant cocaine, defined synthetics, and others.
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Publication:Pamphlet by: Narcotic Educational Foundation of America
Article Type:pamphlet
Date:Jun 20, 1991
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