Drug abuse occurs when a person feels the need to use a drug repeatedly for various reasons. Drug addiction is said to be present when a person compulsively abuses a drug after serious problems related to the drug use have occurred.
Drug abuse is a widespread problem that affects people of all socioeconomic levels. The symptoms of abuse and addiction differ slightly based upon the drug being taken. Drug abuse and addiction cause many health-related and social problems.
Several of the following symptoms or signs occur when a person is addicted to a drug. The person may: be unable to cut down on drug use when he or she wants tocontinue to use the drug despite the problems it causesdevelop tolerance for the drug, so that increased amounts are needed to get the same effectfind that the drug causes problems in life, such as getting in trouble with the lawhave cravings or grow irritable when the drug cannot be usedskip some important activities because of the drugspend a large amount of time getting, using, or getting over the druguse the drug more often or more heavily than intended
Physical symptoms vary depending on the drug being abused and the extent of the drug use. The health risks of tobacco, for example, are different than the health risks of drugs such as alcohol or cocaine.
The exact reason why some people abuse and become addicted to drugs is not known. There appears to be a complex relationship between biological and environmental factors that leads to abuse and addiction.
Commonly abused drugs are: amphetamines, such as dextroamphetamine and methamphetaminebarbiturates, such as phenobarbitalbenzodiazepines, such as diazepam (i.e., Valium), alprazolam (i.e., Niravam, Xanax), or lorazepam (i.e., Ativan)combination pain medicines that contain narcotics such as hydrocodone, codeine, or oxycodone (e.g., Tylenol #3, Percocet, and others)mind-altering drugs, such as marijuana, LSD, PCP, ecstasy, and angel dustmuscle relaxants, such as carisoprodol (i.e., Soma)stimulants, such as cocaine
The best prevention available now is education. If a person has any symptoms of drug abuse, it is important to seek help. The earlier the treatment, the better the results.
The condition is diagnosed by asking the person about drug use. If several of the symptoms or signs mentioned above are present, the person is said to be abusing drugs and may become or may already be addicted to drugs.
Problems associated with drug addiction vary widely among different people. Long-term use may result in changes in brain function that last long after the person stops using drugs. Tobacco dependence is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. Alcohol is not far behind. People with drug dependence can have financial, social, legal, and other personal problems. These may last long after they stop using the drug. Death is fairly common in those with drug dependence due to harmful effects of the drug on the body.
Drug abuse is not contagious and poses no risk to others, but those abusing or addicted to drugs may inflict harm to obtain drugs or while affected by them.
Treatment partly depends on the drug that is used and the personality of the affected person. Treatment is complex. Often it must address the addiction as well as the person's mental and physical health and any work or social problems that occur. Effective treatment may include behavioral therapy, medicines, or some combination of these.
Behavioral therapy helps people: cope with cravingavoid contact with drugsprevent or cope with relapse
The best drug abuse programs will provide a combination of therapies and services. Successful treatment recognizes or responds to certain important issues. No single treatment will work for all people.Treatment must be readily available for a long enough period of time.Effective treatment meets the multiple needs of the person, not just the drug abuse problem.A plan must repeatedly be assessed and changed to meet changing needs.Counseling and behavioral therapies should be included in the treatment plan.Medicines may be needed along with counseling.Mental illness and drug abuse must be treated at the same time.Medical detoxification will only work as the first stage of a long-term treatment plan.Treatment does not need to be voluntary to be effective.Possible ongoing substance abuse must be monitored.Treatment programs need to detect and treat any infectious diseases and teach people to avoid spreading disease.Recovery can take a long time, and treatment may be needed several times.
Drug abuse is a chronic problem. There may need to be several kinds and numbers of therapies. If medications are used, they may have side effects of their own, or in some cases, the result may be that the person simply switches from one addiction to another.
Monitoring and therapy are needed at least until a person can function fully and long-term abstinence, or avoidance of drug use, has been achieved. Self-help programs are often useful in keeping a person sober or "clean."
Monitoring may include the use of drug tests. These can be urine, saliva, or blood tests. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
National Institute of Drug Abuse [NIDA], National Institutes of Health [NIH], US Department of Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration [SAMHSA], Office of Applied Studies, Measurement of Substance Use, Dependence, and Need for Treatment
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition [DSM-IV]. American Psychiatric Association, 1996