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When the body comes across any new substance, it charts a response route. This route is medically known as the general adaptation syndrome and may be described as, “the sequence of physiological reactions to prolonged and intense stress. The sequence consists of the alarm reaction, the state of resistance, and the stage of exhaustion.”
The five stages of the general adaptation syndrome are:
i. Initial response
iii. Exhaustion or illness
THE INITIAL RESPONSE: This is the first reaction of the body to any new substance that is inhaled or ingested. If the reaction is positive or there is no reaction, we should understand the substance as beneficial or neutral to our health. If there are negative reactions, such as coughing (on smoking) or palpitations (on increased caffeine intake) etc., then the substance is harmful for our health.
ADAPTATION: This refers to the phase when the body quickly tries to adapt as a reaction to damage control and self-preservation. Thus with subsequent intakes of caffeine, the body may not record elevated pulse rates. However, in a bid to protect itself the body undergoes transformation at the basic cell level. We see the cells in the lungs of smokers change in a bid to stop the damage caused by the toxic fumes. Similarly, the arteries of the heart and the body develop plaque to protect the artery cell damage.
EXHAUSTION OR ILLNESS: If the abuse with substances does not stop and we continue with its usage over mid or long-term, then the back-up resources and immunity of the system gets compromised. The body then gets exhausted and becomes ill. At this stage we require medical help.
RECOVERY: This is the phase when the doctor or medical practitioner puts us on medication combined with abstinence from the substance that caused the illness. If immediate abstinence is not possible or advisable, then its usage is severely restricted and methods and techniques to wean from it are implemented.