International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking is annually observed on 26 June to raise awareness on the dangers of drugs and to strengthen global action to achieve a world free from drug abuse. The day is initiated by United Nations General Assembly decided to observe it on June 26th. UN every year reaches out to non-profit organizations and countries to do more against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. On this day, people communities, organizations across the globe try to raise awareness about the problems that occur due to illicit drugs. The United Nations in its message said people globally got to have more solidarity and compassion to tackle the menace that destroyed lives of millions including youngsters. The theme for 2020 International Day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking “Better Knowledge for Better Care” emphasizes the need for improve the understanding of the world drug problem. Around 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally.
How do drugs affect our mind?
Let’s take a look at how our brain works. The basic working unit of the brain is called a ‘Neuron’, neuron sends signals back and forth to each other and the rest of the nervous system. In order to do this, it releases neurotransmitters through the gap between it and the next neuron. Once the neurotransmitters crosses the gap, it attaches itself on the receptor of the receiving neuron in the middle of our brain there is a system that controls our emotions and memories. A part of that system is called the ‘Brain Reward System’ which generates the feelings of pleasure. One type of neurotransmitters involved in this system is called ‘Dopamine’, when dopamine is released it sends signals to the brain that something important is happening and it needs to be remembered.
Some drugs have similar chemical structures as our natural neurotransmitters, this means that the drugs can activate neurons. However since they are not natural neurotransmitters, they send abnormal messages to the brain. Other drugs can cause neurons to release large amount of natural neurotransmitters like dopamine and this over activates the reward system. It then makes the connection between the pleasurable feeling and drugs. The increased use of drugs makes the brain adjust the levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The brain will then produce less of these neurotransmitters in the Reward System or it will reduce the number of receptors receiving the neurotransmitters which means it will get much more difficult for the person to feel pleasure from anything but the drugs. Over time as the brain gets more adapted to high levels of dopamine taking drugs becomes less of a pleasure unless they keep taking more drugs. Eventually the person takes drugs to relieve from the discomfort rather than to seek the initial. Although the effects of drugs vary from person to person, the process is difficult one to stop, instead of turning the drugs we could always choose natural ways to release chemicals in our brain. Around 8.4 million females or 6.6 percent ages 18 and above have misused prescription drugs in the past year. We must tackle the world’s drug problem by building solutions that are based on facts shared responsibility and solidarity with the most vulnerable.