“On this International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, I call on governments, the media and civil society to do everything possible to raise awareness of the harm caused by illicit drugs and to help prevent people profiting from their use.” ~ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are sometimes thought to reduce stress. Many people are mislead by the belief that they are “an outlet” or “an escape from reality.” The reality is that AOD can create more stress because Alcohol and other drugs can cause health, impairment and legal problems that can create a more stressful reality.
All of us, at some point in our lives have faced many types of stress that ultimately impact the mind as well as behavior. These stresses can produce thoughts and emotions that, if poorly understood, can transform a confident and secure person into an indecisive, ineffective individual with questionable ability to survive.
Psychological stress doesn’t just put your head in a vice. New studies document exactly how it tears away at every bodily system—including your brain. But get this: The experience of stress in the past magnifies your reactivity to stress in the future. So take a nice deep breath and realize “this too will pass”.
Before we can understand our psychological reactions in a stressful situation, it is helpful to first know a little bit about stress. Stress is not a disease that you cure and eliminate. Instead, it is a condition we all experience and must manage. Stress can be described as our reaction to pressure. It is the name given to the experience we have as we physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually respond to life’s pressures.
The proper management of stress often begins in areas we think don’t matter. It is amazing the natural remedies available that do not require a prescription from a physician. Often, the damage and side effects that occur far outweigh the benefits. Along with obvious physical issues, drugs like Xanax, Paxil and others adversely affect the liver, heart and libido. Drugs that work to counter stress can build up into addictions. After viewing information online, many are suffering to wean themselves off the drugs even against doctor’s recommendations. It is frightening how accessible ‘legalized drugs’ can be without being properly monitored. The big business of medication has a mission to treat disorders, not cure them.
Today, there is an alarming new drug problem; demand has soared for substances not under international control. Therefore, the 2013 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) global awareness campaign “Make health your ‘new high’ in life, not drugs” aims to inform the public, and particularly young people, about the harmful effects of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Sold openly, including through the internet, these substances, which have not been tested for safety in humans, can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs.
We need stress because it has many positive benefits. Stress provides us with challenges; it gives us chances to learn about our values and strengths. Stress can show our ability to handle pressure without breaking; it tests our adaptability and flexibility; it can stimulate us to do our best. Because we usually don’t consider unimportant events stressful, stress can also be an excellent indicator of the significance we attach to an event—in other words, it highlights what is important to us.
As you can see, stress can be constructive or destructive. It can encourage or discourage, move us along or stop us dead in our tracks, and make life meaningful or seemingly meaningless. Stress can inspire you to operate successfully and perform at your maximum efficiency in a crisis situation. It can also cause you to panic and forget all you are well able to handle the situation.
Any event can lead to stress and, as I’m sure we have all experienced, events don’t always come one at a time. Within the lives of those considered celebrities we have seen the ugly side of the spot light. The case surrounding Michael Jackson, who left us in 2009, is still active in the court system. With regard to the untimely death of super star Whitney Houston; her rise to fame and the pressures to maintain seemed to create stresses that were ‘medicated’ instead of ‘mastered’. We mourn her death but there is a greater issue that needs to be advocated; prescription drug addiction is a poor solution for long term problems. In the lime light, just like normal life, stressful events occur simultaneously. The events themselves aren’t stress, but they produce it and are called “stressors.” Stressors are the obvious cause while stress is the response. Just as your body, when it recognizes the presence of a stressor, begins to act to protect itself; so should you.
In response to a stressor, the body prepares either to “fight or flee.” This preparation involves an internal 911 sent throughout the body. As the body responds to this “cry for help” several actions take place. The body releases stored fuels (sugar and fats) to provide quick energy; breathing rate increases to supply more oxygen to the blood; muscle tension increases to prepare for action; blood clotting mechanisms are activated to reduce bleeding from cuts; senses become more acute (hearing becomes more sensitive, eyes become big, smell becomes sharper) so that you are more aware of your surrounding and heart rate and blood pressure rise to provide more blood to the muscles. This protective posture allows a person the ability to cope with potential dangers; however, a person cannot maintain such a level of alertness indefinitely.
Stressors are not courteous; one stressor does not leave because another one arrives. Stressors add up. The cumulative effect of minor stressors can be a major distress if they all happen too close together. As the body’s resistance to stress wears down and the sources of stress continue, eventually a state of exhaustion arrives. At this point, the ability to resist stress or use it in a positive way gives out and signs of distress appear. Anticipating stressors and developing strategies to cope with them are two ingredients in the effective management of stress without the aid of medications. It is therefore essential that we learn the lessons life is trying to teach us once again through the tragic death of a global icon. With suspicions surrounding the passing of Michael Jackson, Don Cornelius and Whitney Houston, it behooves us to be aware of the types of stressors we may encounter so we are better prepared to manage stress at its onset.
Everyone has a part to play in protecting the youth of the world from dangerous substances. UNODC leads the annual World Drug Campaign to drive home the message that illicit drugs pose a danger to society, aims to mobilize wide public support and seeks to inspire people to act against drug abuse.
Let’s all join in and adopt the United Nations theme for 2013: Make health your ‘new high’ in life, not drugs.
By: Cherese Jackson