What are Smart Drugs?

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What are these smart drugs? What are they used for?

  • Smart drug is nothing but a term given to those medicines or drugs which help any person to stay awake or increase one’s physical and mental capacity. Hence termed as SMART.
  • They are used to stay awake & increase mental awareness.

So called uses being put by people for justifying smart drugs

  • Helps to keep alert
  • Increase productivity

Reason for taking smart drugs

  • High stress lives
  • To work for long hours
  • To work harder
  • For studies
  • Increasing efficiency in the work
  • Some use as an effective way to deal with jet lags (note: jet lag is experienced by people when they travel from one time zone to other, where the condition opposite to the present place makes a person sleepy)

Why it is not good to use these drugs?

  • People are using it without any disease which may have adverse effect on their health.
  • Most of them are using these drugs without any doctor consultation i.e. they are self-meditating.
  • May be addictive & hence cause extreme amount of sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, hallucinations and psychosis.

What are the reasons for staying late?

  • Though there may exist some natural reasons like a mother may need to stay overnight for her child which is less than 1 year of age; there also exist artificial reasons.
  • Artificial reasons which may not be very justifiable include working, studying or partying for late hours & thus avoiding 8 hours of sleep.

Why people tend to take more and more pills?

  • Some develop a habit.
  • Other takes a pill today & the next day to reduce the fatigue of yesterday. They purposely try to stay awake & for that to happen, they take more & more pills.

What are the popular drugs in the Smart Drug category?

  • Modafinil also called as MOD (a drug given the doctor to treat narcolepsy which is a rare sleeping disorder where a person sleeps at any time & at any place.) (Note: It not only keeps the user awake for long hours, it also increases human cognition) (Note: Modafinil gives you heightened alertness, stamina and productivity. I find it helpful for focus and memory.)
  • Atomexatine & Ritalin & Adderall (a drug given to patients having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder i.e. to patients who find it hard to focus on some work at hand. These drugs can increase the focus of the people on the work they are doing.)
  • It should be noted here that doctors sometimes give such drugs even if a person is not having any disorder considering the depression & anxiety of the patient.

What studies carried on in this regard say?

  • They say that it helps to increase focus, alertness, concentration & memory.
  • They help in this regard by stimulating levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine & noradrenalin in the brain.
  • These affect mood, cognition & memory but if taken in ideal quantity & dosage.
  • If taken in excess, it may result into drug addiction.
  • Dopamine is released in the body in experiences which are enjoyable in nature like drugs, food or sex, etc. Hence people may resort to repeated use of these drugs to experience those rewarding experiences.
  • Modafinil particularly has the sign on its package saying that it can be addictive.

Should they be really used?

  • Though these drugs are very famous, their efficacy is a matter of debate.
  • Moreover, though it gives temporary advantage to the user, it can seriously affect health.
  • Doctors strictly do not recommend these drugs to people who are not having any disorder. According to doctors these drugs have serious side effects.
  • It can cause various harms related to sleep deprivation. Side effects on the body include headaches, nausea, stomach problem & insomnia.
  • It also causes a constant steak of irritability caused by lack of sleep.
  • It may cause addiction and permanent damage if taken by children who are in their teens whose brain is still in a developing stage. (Note: teens means the children between the ages of 13 to 19)

Aren’t there any law regarding this in India?
It is true that to supply drug in India without prescription is unlawful & a crime but to purchase one is not a crime. That is the loophole you see.
What is the Cheating debate?
Many students & experts are debating over the issue of cheating. Some section is of the view that taking these drugs amounts to cheating in the exam. But the other section defends it saying that it is not illegal to take other measures like coffee, cigarette, etc., why to protest against smart drugs.
What are the other alternatives for smart drugs which can enhance attention & productivity?

  • Proper sleep of 8 hours
  • Regular exercise
  • Taking a healthy diet

What is a drug? What is drug abuse? What is drug dependence & addiction?

  • Drug in a medical sense is a substance prescribed by a physician or manufactured expressly for the purpose of treating and preventing disease and ailment by its chemical nature and its effect on the structure and functions of a living organism.
  • Drug abuse is the use of illicit drug or misuse of legitimate drug resulting into physical or psychological harm. It includes smoking ganja or hashish, taking heroin or cocaine or LSD, injecting morphine, drinking alcohol and so forth. These are sometimes referred to as being ‘high on speed’ or ‘trip’ or ‘getting kicks’.
  • Drug dependence denotes habitual or frequent use of a drug. The dependence can either be physical or psychological. Physical dependence occurs with the repeated use of the drug when the body has adjusted to the presence of a drug & will suffer pain, discomfort or illness if the use of the drug is discontinued.
  • The word addiction is generally used to describe physical dependence. Thus addiction or physical dependence is a state whereby the body requires continued administration of the drug in order to function. Body functioning is interfered with if the drug is withdrawn, and withdrawal symptoms appear in a pattern specific for the drug. The total reaction to deprivation is known as “abstinence syndrome”.
  • The chronic drug user develops a feeling that he must constantly increase the dose in order to produce the same effect as that from the initial dose. This phenomenon is called tolerance. It represents body’s ability to adapt itself to the presence of a foreign substance. However, tolerance does not develop for al drugs or in all individuals; though with certain drugs (for example morphine), addicts have been known to build up great tolerance very quickly. Cross tolerance refers to the fact that tolerance-development for one drug may also result in tolerance for similar drugs
  • Psychological dependence occurs when an individual comes to rely on a drug for the feeling of well being it produces. The word habituation is sometimes used to refer to psychic or psychological dependence.
  • The difference between habituation and addiction is that habit is not compulsive as addiction is. Addiction to a drug means that the body becomes so dependent to the toxic effects of the drug that one just cannot do without it.

What are the characteristics of drug addiction?

  • An overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means
  • A tendency to increase the dose
  • A psychological and generally a physical dependence on the effects of the drugs
  • An effect detrimental to the individual and to the society

What are the causes for drug usage?

  • Psychological causes like reliving tension, easing depression, removing inhibitions, satisfying curiosity, removing boredom, getting kicks, feeling high and confident and intensifying perception
  • Social causes like facilitating social experiences being accepted by friends and challenging social values
  • Physiological causes like staying wake, heightening sexual experiences, removing pain and getting sleep
  • Miscellaneous causes like improving study, sharpening religious insight, deepening self-understanding and solving personal problems, etc.

What are the sources for these drugs?

  • Drugs can be generally obtained from the non-medical sources (friends, acquaintances, family members, home cupboard)
  • Medical sources are used more by girls than by boys
  • Non-medical sources mentioned most often was “friend”

Categories of abusable drug

  • Abusable drugs may be classified into six categories.
  • Six categories: alcohol, sedatives, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens and nicotine.
  • Alcohol: it is used by some people as a normal, pleasant and sociable activity, while others take it as is spur which enables them to work. It also acts as a sedative which calms down nerves or a kind of an anaesthetic which reduces the pain of leaving. Alcohol relieves tension and lessons aggressive inhibitions. It also impairs judgement and creates confusion.
  • Sedatives or depressants relax the central nervous system, induced sleep and provide a calming effect. Tranquillisers fall into this category. Medically they are used in high blood pressure, insomnia, epilepsy and to relax patients before and during surgery. As depressants they depress actions of nerves and muscles. In small quantities, they slow down reading and heart beating and make the user relaxed, but in higher doses their effects resemble alcohol intoxication in which the users becomes sluggish, gloomy and sometimes irritable and quarrelsome. His ability to think, concentrate and work is impaired and his emotional control is weakened.
  • Stimulants activate the central nervous system and relieve tensions, treat mild depression, induced insomnia, increase alertness contract 40 and expressive drowsiness and lessen aggressive inhibitions. Most widely known stimulants are amphetamines, caffeine and cocaine. Moderate doses of amphetamines when properly prescribed by a doctor can check 40 and produce feelings of alertness, self-confidence and well-being. Heavier doses cause extreme nervousness, irritability, headache, sweating, diarrhoea and unclear speech.
  • Narcotics like sedatives produce a depressing effect on the central nervous system. They produce feelings of pleasure, strength and superiority, reduce hunger, lessons inhibitions and increased suggestibility. Included in this category are opium, marijuana, heroin, morphine, cocaine and cannabis. Heroin is a white powder made from morphine, cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca bush and is odourless, cannabis is obtained from the hemp plant, and marijuana is a particular form of cannabis. Heroin, morphine, pethedine and cocaine are used either by inhaling (the powder) or injecting the liquefied form. Opium and Marijuana may be smoked, sniffed or ingested.
  • Hallucinogens produce distortions or perception (seeing or hearing things in a different way that they actually are) and dream-images. Their use is not advised by medical practitioners. The well-known drug in this group is LSD, which is a man-made chemical. It is so powerful that one ounce produces three lakh human doses. An amount literally smaller than a grain of salt can produce gross psychotic reactions in human beings. Panic, depression and permanent severe mental derangement can result from an attempt to withdraw from its use.
  • Nicotine includes cigarettes, bidi, cigars, snuff and tobacco. Nicotine has no medical use. The risk of physical dependence, however, may be there. It leads to relaxation, stimulates the central nervous system, increases wakefulness and removes boredom. But frequent or heavy use of nicotine may cause heart attack, lung cancer, and bronchitis. The law does not classify this as a drug.
  • Stimulants, depressants, narcotics and hallucinogens are called psychoactive drug.

Main causes of drug abuses

  • Main causes of drug abuses are:
  • Family environment
  • Mental condition
  • Social factors like oppressive social system and power structure
  • Subcultures (slum areas, college/hostel subcultures, etc)
  • Peer pressures
  • Personality factors (dependent personality)
  • Pursuit of pleasure and fun

Role of family and peer group in drug abuse

  • Parents take an interest in the career of their children and are conscious of their parental obligations
  • Relations between parents of drug users, between drug users and their parents and between users and their siblings are based on harmony and solidarity
  • Parental control is neither very harsh not very lenient so as to give an opportunity to the child for self-expression
  • The size of family is so manageable in terms of family income that no child in the family suffers from unfulfilment of the necessities of life
  • Parents broadly confirm to social and moral norms setting examples of their children to follow
  • The child exhibits a feeling of trust and secularity in the parents by taking them into confidence and by seeking their advice and help in facing perplexing problems.

Measures to Combat Drug Trafficking, Treating Addicts and Preventing Drug Abuse

  • The Ministry of Welfare, Government of India has also evolved a four-point action plan on drug abuse: 1) community-based action for identification, motivation, counselling, treatment and after-care 2) generation of awareness about the consequences of drug abuse 3) training for service providers 4) association of non-governmental organizations in the implementation of the program and providing funds to them for the establishment of counselling and de-addiction facilities.
  • In order to combat drug trafficking in drugs, among the various measures adopted by the government, one was the enactment of an act in 1985, called the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
  • The profits generates by drug trafficking are used in many ways: 1) money is used for financing politicians and developing lobbies in bureaucracy, judiciary, police, prisons and media 2) Money is invested in shell corporations that take over legitimate business organizations 3) money is laundered in purchasing arms for terrorism 4) intelligence agencies take help of drug traffickers to assist terrorist activity.

Control over Drug Abuse

  • Imparting education about the Drugs: The target population for education measures for prevention should be young college/university students particularly those living in hostels and away from the control of their parents, people living in slums, industrial workers, and truck drivers and rickshaw-pullers.
  • Changing physician’s attitudes: A change in the attitude of doctors in prescribing too many drugs can go a long way in controlling the abuse of drugs. The doctors have to show a greater care in not ignoring the side effects of the drugs.
  • Undertaking follow-up study of addicts treated under detoxification programmes.
  • Giving deterrent punishment to policemen and other law enforcers found working in collusion with drug peddlers.
  • Parents need to play a crucial role in controlling drug usage among their children. Since parental neglect, over-hostility, rejection, marital disharmony play an important role in perpetuating drug addiction, parents have to take more care in keeping the family environment congenial and harmonious.
  • The teachers too can help much in the prevention of drug abuse.
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