Uchechi Nwosu

Drug abuse (also called substance abuse) is the routine use of a drug; a practice in which the user consumes the substance in quantity or with methods neither approved nor supervised by medical professionals. Some of the drugs most often associated with this term include alcohol, cocaine, heroin and barbiturates.

Drug abuse often leads to drug addiction- a chronic brain condition that causes compulsive drug-seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the addicted person and his associates.
People often erroneously believe that only conventional drugs can be abused, not herbal medicine.

People who take herbal medicine often say it is safe because it is natural. But this may not always be the case. Some experts assert that because herbal medications, like over-the-counter (OCT) drugs, can be purchased without prescription, most people who use them do not consider them to be risky.

Some herbal medicines may be potentially toxic or cause adverse reactions either on their own or in combination with other conventional drugs. Among the herbs that can be toxic are borage, calamus, comfrey, chaparral, ephedral and licorice. These herbs, if abused, may cause heart problem, sodium and water retention, and cancer-causing toxins.

According to research, some herbal medicines have been found to contain potentially lethal concentrations of arsenic, mercury and lead. These substances may cause serious illnesses, worsen existing health problems or result in death especially if they are taken in excess or injected rather than ingested. A case involved a young boy with cancer of the retina whose parents resorted to herbal medicine that caused arsenic poisoning.
Moreover, some herbal practitioners often mix herbal preparation with conventional drugs, presumably to make them more effective. Some herbs can potentially interfere dangerously with the action of pharmaceutical medications. In fact, some herbs become toxic when taken in large quantities. There was a case of a herbal medicine that was said to work ‘very fast’. When the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) tested this herbal medication, it was found to contain septrin – an antibiotic. Some people react to septrin. If these people were to take this herbal preparation without knowing the content, a serious health problem may result.

Although many herbal remedies have been proven to be effective for some health problems, before you take any herbal medication, find information about it from pharmacist, a doctor, the internet, a library or better still avoid the usage when you are not sure.

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