Terms and Conditions
The world is full of toxicants. Although some humans expose themselves to these substances at will, some are either unaware of their very existence or have little or no choice on avoiding them. However, it is not always that toxicants harm an individual’s body. In essence, all things are poisonous; the amount of dose taken determines the harm the toxicants cause in the body. Toxicology being the study of adverse effects posed by poisons evaluates and quantifies the results of exposure to different toxicants in various routes of exposure. As it is, some substances are more poisonous when mixed with others. Four categories of street drugs are highly abused for recreational purposes in most parts of the world. There are certain toxicological principles that are applied in evaluating a poisoned individual to determine the most effective health care to undertake in certain situations.
Categories of Street Drugs
Street drugs are some of the major toxicants in the world consumed voluntarily by humans often for non-medical purposes. Majority of them are illegal in most parts of the world. However, they have still managed to escape the law and reach a considerably wide population. Like many other drugs, the type, dose and route of exposure determine their effects on an individual’s body. There are four categories of street drugs namely hallucinogens, narcotics, stimulants, and depressants (Center on Addiction, 2017). They all have different effects and pose different threats to the users.
Hallucinogen is a category of street drugs that include both man-made and natural. The drugs alter perception, moods, thoughts and sensory awareness. The same drug can have different effects on different people at different times. The most popular effect is hallucination or disconnection from reality. For this reason, the substances are highly abused even for spiritual and religious purposes. Examples of hallucinogens include marijuana, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) N-dimethyltryptamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and Salvia divinorum. The most common symptoms associated with this category of street drugs are dilated pupils, elevated temperature and blood pressure, paranoia and anxiety, introspection and varying senses.
Narcotic is a category that encompasses both natural and man-made drugs that binds the opioid receptors in the user’s body hence producing the desired effects. Drugs in this category are highly addictive and their withdrawal process is often long and life-threatening if mismanaged. Examples of drugs in the category include heroin, opium, and fentanyl. Some opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine are legally prescribed for their pain relieving and relaxation effects. The drugs, however, have effects on the brain, the spinal cord and the limbic system as these areas contain opioid receptors. Symptoms associated with opioids include; euphoria, increased libido, high blood pressure, lowered motivation to perform important tasks, psychosis, anxiety attacks, irritability, depression, improved self-esteem among others.
Stimulants can either be prescribed or illegal. They are used for their ability to increase energy and alertness by speeding up fundamental function in the user’s body although temporarily. Often times, the users become over-reliant in them making it difficult to withdraw. Withdrawal process also bears negative side effects to the body. The most common types of stimulants include cocaine, caffeine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, nicotine, and amphetamines. Signs and symptoms associated with stimulants include dilated pupils, sweating, weight-loss, restlessness, hyperactivity, and loss of appetite.
Depressant are a category of street drugs that includes drugs that slow down functions of the brain and the central nervous system thus producing a calming and relaxing effect on the users. Some drugs in other categories of street drugs also have depressants factors such as opiates. Alcohol is the most popular depressant that is legally sold and used by every adult worldwide. Other drugs in the depressant category include benzodiazepines, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), barbiturates, and Rohypnol. The most common signs and symptoms associated with depressants include dilated pupils, dizziness, sluggishness, low blood pressure, confusion, slurred speech, poor concentration, disorientation, and depression.
Toxicological Principles Applied in Evaluating a Poisoned Individual
According to Richards and Bourgeois (2014), here are six important toxicological principles that should be used in evaluating a person who has been poisoned (O’Flaherty, n.d). The exposure to the toxicant and the aspects that are related to reducing the toxicant’s absorption in the patient’s body is an important principle that should not be overlooked when evaluating a poisoned person. It is essential to consider the patient’s dose-response so as to determine the most effective health action to take. The poison’s target tissue and the systematic effect is an issue worth consideration during the evaluation as it helps the health care provider to know what he/she is looking for during the process. The patient’s chemical interaction, chemical antagonism, and acute versus chronic effects are other crucial principles to consider in the evaluation process.
Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, commonly known as GHB and going by the street name G is a depressant that is highly used especially in dance clubs. It is easy to produce making it affordable and easily available to most people. The drug can also be used for medical purposes due to its ability to treat alcoholism insomnia, narcolepsy, and depression for its anesthetic properties. The side effects of the drugs largely depend on the amount consumed and the other type of drug that it is consumed with. Often times, small doses of the drugs do not pose a lot of harm to the user. Large doses, however, can cause sedation, coma or even death. GHB is commonly used with alcohol to heighten its effect producing a euphoric feeling. This, however, puts the user at a high risk of poisoning as the toxicants of the two drugs become too much for the body to control. The effects are similar to those of an overdosed GBH. They are progressive and in worst cases lead to the user’s death. The side effects include seizures, respiratory failure, paralysis, coma and eventually death.
Reducing Toxicant Absorption
For systemic toxicity to occur, drug absorption must occur. When providing health care to a poisoned individual, it is important to determine the route of exposure to the poison and stop further absorption in the person’s body. The route of exposure can determine the degree of the drug’s toxicity in the body even when exposure is at the same dose. There are various ways to inhibit absorption of toxicants. Most of these inhibitors are specific to certain routes of exposure or even to certain toxicants.
In cases where the patient is exposed to a toxicant through inhalation, he/she should be removed from the environment of exposure to prevent further absorption of the toxicant. Through washing is crucial for an individual who is exposed to a drug through the skin. Washing removes the poison from the patient’s skin preventing more of it from being absorbed and causing more harm. The person doing the cleaning should wear protective clothing to prevent being contaminated with the poison. For most orally consumed chemicals, activated charcoal is the most effective remedy to prevent further absorption. It acts by absorbing the toxicant. For the life-threatening amount of drugs ingested, a stomach pump or gastric lavage is the most advisable methods to help prevent more chemicals from being absorbed. Various antidotes can also reduce the amount of toxicants absorbed in the body.
Steps in Managing Acute Poisoning
Poisoning both acute and chronic is common. Some poisoning can be intentional or unintentional from either illegal or prescribed drugs. When not managed with an immediate effect, acute poisoning can be fatal or cause permanent harm to the individual’s body. The procedure for the immediate management of acute poisoning includes initial resuscitation especially for comatose patients (Medscape, 2013). This is done by ensuring the patient has a clear airway, assessing the patient’s ability to breathe and providing assistance if he/she cannot breathe on their own, address proper blood circulation, and examine the patient for any injury that might have occurred due to the poisoning.
Non-medical individuals who come across individuals with acute poisoning should no fret or leave the patient unattended. As they are calling for a health emergency help, they should try to resuscitate the patient to prevent death. This can be done through CPR if the patient is unconscious. Knowing the route of exposure is important to help prevent further absorption of the drug. If the patient is vomiting, his/her head should be turned down to prevent choking from the vomit. One should try to determine the drug consumed by looking at the nearby drug containers to ease the medical professional’s work in trying to figure out the chemical hence making it easier to administer immediate healthcare.
In conclusion, drugs are one of the most common causes of poisoning in the world today. Different categories of street drugs are highly abused for recreational purposes. Although most drugs are not life-threatening when consumed in small amounts, overdosing and a long period of exposure to these drugs increase toxicity level in the user’s body. Most drugs such as GHB are highly toxicant when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Determining the route of exposure is important in establishing the remedy to help prevent further absorption or reduce the toxicity level. Individuals should familiarize themselves with toxicological principles to help evaluate the patients hence saving lives.