Dental Education Australia

Dental Disease in Young Adult Injection Drug Users

A person has a drug addiction when such person has a dependence on an illegal drug or medication. The exact reason a person starts taking an illegal drug may be unknown, but some known factors include: the search of a high, the want of relief from dysphoria, the need of an escape from unwanted feelings or thoughts, the ability to conform with peer pressure, the want of an escape from environmental stress. For some, the drug dependence starts as a casual, social, or voluntary use of a drug, and then this becomes a habit. As the drug use becomes more frequent and the dosage taken increases, this develops to an addiction that cannot be quitted.

Science has shown that drugs of abuse cause an alteration in gene expression and brain circuitry, which consequently alters normal human behavior. This alteration of human behavior includes an effect on the person's ability to make voluntary decisions against drug abuse. This develops into a compulsive drug craving and more frequent use. As the body and brain develop a dependence on the drug, it becomes more difficult for the person to go without it, causing physical illness when the drug is withdrawn from the body.

There are several ways by which a drug of abuse can be taken, depending on the type of drug and the form which it takes. The common ways of taking drugs include swallowing, smoking, snorting, and injecting. Each of these has their own effects and consequences to the body, and a person may have a preferred way. Injection drug use is usually done by chronic users who have begun to seek a more intense drug effect. This is because the bioavailability of an injected drug is at 100% and its onset is the fastest at about 15 to 30 seconds upon injection.

Drugs taken by injection could be any water-soluble drug. The most common of these is Heroin. Others include Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates, and Buprenorphine.

Prevalence of Injection Drug Use

In 2003, there was a worldwide epidemic of HIV/AIDS, which prompted health organizations and researchers to find reasons for the spread of disease. One major cause discovered was the increase in injection drug use. A gathering of reports from 130 countries in 2003 showed an estimate of about 13 million injection drug users worldwide. Of this, there was an estimate of about 78% of injection drug users living in developing countries. Furthermore, research reveals that the majority of users are between the ages 18 to 34. In recent years, reports of users younger than 18 years have also surfaced. This may in part be attributed to the growing availability of the drugs worldwide and to the trend of using drugs while in social gatherings such as rave parties. Hence, data gathered by the United Nations Injecting Drug User Reference Group indicate that the number of countries reporting a prevalence of injection drug users has increased in the last decade.

Some drug users who do not use the injection make the transmission to injection use due to their need or want of a more intense drug effect. They do this despite the many known local and systemic complications and infectious diseases that are associated with injection drug use. The most common systemic complication is HIV/AIDS, followed by Hepatitis. Some of the local complications are abscess, cellulitis, gas gangrene, and thrombophlebitis. These days, among the growing concerns is that of dental disease in young adult injection drug users.

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