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Drugs treat physical illnesses as well as psychological disorders. Physical illnesses, which include viral, bacterial, and fungal infections as well as hormonal and cellular complications, can be treated with medication. Psychological disorders, which include mental, emotional and behavioural disorders, can be treated with medication and therapy. For example, probiotics have been found to treat illnesses, especially those related to the gastrointestinal tract. This includes rotaviral diarrhoea in children, and pouchitis (Williams, 2010). Probiotics have also been found to reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance (Williams). Apart from that, probiotics have also been shown to be effective in the treatment of illnesses not related to the gastrointestinal tract such as urogenital diseases, for example, bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections and candidal vaginatitis (Williams). An example of use of drugs in the treatment of psychological disorders would be the usage of oxytocin in assisting the treatment of disorders linked to social dysfunction. Oxytocin, a hormone that affects brain function, was found to improve emotional understanding in a study of autistic adolescents (Elsevier, as cited in Oxytocin Emotion Recognition, 2010). The researchers administered an oxytocin spray and a placebo spray into the nasal cavity of the participants, each administered one week apart (Elsevier, as cited in Oxytocin Emotion Recognition). At both times, the participants were given a facial expression test which evaluates their emotion recognition (Elsevier, as cited in Oxytocin Emotion Recognition). Results showed that they had better emotion recognition when given the oxytocin spray (Elsevier, as cited in Oxytocin Emotion Recognition).
Drugs can also be used to prevent illnesses and maintain an individual's health. Individuals are exposed to free radicals and pollutant every day, from the food they consume to the air they breathe. Thus, they require supplements to counter the damage caused by these contaminants. Many individuals also have little time to consume proper, well-balanced meals due to their hectic schedules. Therefore, they need extra nutrients to make up for the lack of nutrients in their diets. For example, probiotics can maintain microbial equilibrium, especially in the gastrointestinal region (Williams, 2010). Probiotics also decrease intestinal pH, reduce colonisation and invasion of pathogens as well as improve immune reaction (Williams). Besides that, probiotics prevents antibiotic-linked diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, vulvovaginal candidiasis, Clostridium difficile infection, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease (Williams). Another example would be the effect of niacin and statin on the health of the heart and blood vessels. This was shown in a study on patients who had either coronary heart disease or some other similar disease (Elliott, 2010). Results showed that the administration of niacin with statin resulted significant increases in HDL-cholesterol and significant decreases in LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, and mean as well as maximal carotid intima-media width which are indicators of the reversal of atherosclerosis (Elliott). Significant decreases in the incidence of severe cardiac complications were also found (Elliott). Statin was also found to decrease the risk of contracting gallstone disease (Elliott). This was proven in a study of a large sample of United Kingdom patients who had undergone cholecystectomy (Elliot). Results showed that the longer patients took statins, the lower their risk of contracting gallstone disease, with up to a 36% decrease in risk (Elliott).
Apart from that, drugs can also relieve pain. Surgical procedures, bodily injuries as well as certain diseases may cause their sufferers to be in pain. Drugs enable them to feel more comfortable. The most potent pain relieving drugs are general anaesthetics, which consist of anaesthetics and opioid analgesics (Julien, 2001). They are used to relieve highly severe levels of pain. They depress the central nervous system, causing sedation and then, sleep (Julien). Then, reflex actions become depressed and unconsciousness as well analgesia occurs (Julien). On the other hand, morphine, a pure agonist type of opioid analgesic, is used to relieve severe levels of pain (Julien). Morphine may be a potent drug but it is still less potent than general anaesthetics. Morphine works by inducing sedation, depressed breathing, decreased anxiety, mild ecstasy, analgesia, calmness, suppression of coughs, and pupil constriction (Julien). Another pure agonist, codeine, is used to relieve moderate pains (Julien). It is often taken together with aspirin or acetaminophen and is the most commonly prescribed opioid drug (Julien). However, for mild pains, nonnarcotic drugs are prescribed. The most common one is aspirin, a form of nonselective cyclooxygenase inhibitor (Julien). It is the most effective drug for mild pains as only low doses of 650 to 1300mg of it is required to reach its ceiling effect, which is the maximum effect reached whereby increasing its dosage does not increase its effect (Julien).
However, drug use is sometimes abused. Drug abuse includes misuse and overdose of drugs. Misuse of drugs occurs when a drug is used for recreational reasons, not medical reasons. Drug overdoses usually occur when a drug becomes less effective due to increased tolerance to a drug whereby increasing doses of the drug is needed to produce the same effect, or when the drug is naturally addictive due to its behaviour-reinforcing properties. Both drug misuse and overdose usually happens when using prescription drugs such as stimulants, depressants and pain relievers or when taking recreational drugs such as alcohol or nicotine in cigarettes (Julien, 2001). These drugs stimulate the part of the brain which controls pleasure, the dopaminergic system, causing the release of dopamine (Julien). This causes the user to feel a "high", making the user increasingly desire the drug. However, alcohol and nicotine in cigarettes are the most commonly abused drugs but their use is less associated with crime or negative psychological and physical impact on the user as compared to the abuse of opioid drugs, for example. In America, 36% of the population abuses nicotine in cigarettes and 14% abuses alcohol whereas only 4% abuses marijuana, the third most abused drug (Julien). Therefore, majority of drug abusers are not too harmful to society or to themselves. One third of drug abusers also usually not only suffer from a drug abuse disorder, but also some other form of psychological disorder (Julien). Drug abuse involving these individuals can be stemmed by ensuring that they receive the appropriate dosage and type of drugs as well as psychological therapies to treat the drug abuse disorder and other underlying disorders simultaneously. Other, regular people are less likely to be involved in drug abuse.
Besides that, some drugs may also have side effects. They may cause side effects as they usually affect more than one part of the body. However, their benefits often outweigh their side effects. For example, statin treatment of dyslipidemic patients has been linked to an augmented risk of developing diabetes. This was found during an analysis of 100,000 dyslipidemic patients who were undergoing the treatment (Sattar et al., 2010). After four years, 6% of the patients had developed diabetes (Sattar et al.). However, this small increase in risk of developing diabetes was insignificant compared to the well-proven decrease in cardiovascular events caused by this treatment (Sattar et al.). Risk of side effects of a certain drug can also usually be reduced by administering a combination of drugs instead of just that particular drug. For example, clopidogrel has been linked to an increased risk of gastroduodenal bleeding (Ray et al., 2010). This was shown during a research on 20, 596 patients who had been hospitalised for cardiovascular diseases (Ray et al.). Most of them were treated with clopidogrel whereas others were treated with both clopidogrel and PPI (Ray et al.). After six years, those who were treated with both clopidogrel and PPI were found to have had 50% less hospitalisations for gastroduodenal bleeding (Ray et al.). Apart from that, risk of side effects of drugs can also be reduced with proper healthcare. For example, polypharmacy, the simultaneous use of many drugs, have been associated with an increased risk of severe side effects (Dwyer et al., 2010). The more number of drugs used simultaneously, the greater the risk (Dwyer et al.). However, this risk can be reduced with proper monitoring of drugs used. Drugs also should only be prescribed by qualified doctors or pharmacists.
In conclusion, drugs are essential in treating illnesses and disorders, preventing illnesses by maintaining an individual's health, and relieving pain, thus proving that their benefits far outweigh their possible negative effects. However, in order to reduce the probability of its negative effects, drugs should only be administered with prescriptions from either doctors or pharmacists. Prescriptions will help reduce the risk of drug abuse and side effects. Drug laws should also be strictly enforced especially at country or state borders and at possible docking sites where drugs can be illegally imported or exported. This would reduce the availability of illegal drugs, thus decreasing the probability of drug abuse. Besides that, drugs education on the health risks and general negative effects involved in drug abuse and methods to avoid getting addicted to drugs should be disseminated to the public, especially to youths. This can be carried out through talks, or just by parents and teachers. This will increase awareness, and potentially decrease incidence of drug abuse. Much higher taxes should also be imposed for legal drugs that only fulfil recreational purposes such as alcohol and nicotine in cigarettes. This may deter people, especially those from the lower income group, from buying these products.