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Drug Addiction

People abuse substances for a variety of personal reasons. However, the cost of drug abuse to the addict and to society is high. We can see the toll that substance abuse takes on our hospitals, emergency rooms, jails, and prisons. While the usage of some formerly popular drugs, such as cocaine, has declined over the years, usage of drugs such as heroin and club drugs has markedly increased.

While many effects of drugs of abuse are related closely to the particular drug that is being used, all substances of abuse have one commonality: they provide the user with a level of mild-altering intoxication that changes judgment, perception, attention or physical control. Many substances of abuse produce withdraw if the amount is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal from substances can be as mild as a minor anxiety or can be as severe as seizures or hallucinations and many overdoses have caused death.

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Nearly all drugs of abuse produce tolerance – the need for larger amounts of the drug to produce the same level of intoxication.

Drugs commonly abused:

Inhalants (also called “huffing”) is a process in which solvents that create intoxicating vapors are used. People who abuse inhalants huff these vapors intentionally in several ways: directly from the container, from the bag a substance is in, or from placing a rag soaked in the substance over the mouth or nose. The high from inhalants is short-lived but the damage caused by inhalants can damage the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys.

Marijuana (also known as “pot,” or “weed”) comes from the plant Cannabis sativa and is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. While normally smoked, marijuana can be eaten. Smoking marijuana irritates the lungs as the smoke contains more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco smoke. Marijuana is often the first illegal drug used and usage runs the risk for progressing to more dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Cocaine (also known as “crack,” “coke,” and “blow”) is derived from the coco plant of South America and can be smoked, snorted, swallowed or injected. The effects and intensity of the high depends upon the manner in which it is taken. Short and long-term usage of cocaine is associated with damage to the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Heroin (also known as “smack”) is a powerful drug that can cause pleasure, sleepiness, and slowed breathing. Withdrawal from heroin is intense and can cause gastrointestinal problems, confusion, and sweating. As heroin is usually injected – often with unclean needles – heroin can cause health conditions such as damage to the heart valves, HIV/AIDS infections, botulism, and tetanus.

Methamphetamines (also known as “meth,” “speed, “crystal meth”) is a powerful stimulant that is becoming increasingly common on the streets. Methamphetamines can be injected, snorted, smoked or eaten. The toxic effects of methamphetamine usage include heart attack, dangerously high blood pressure, paranoia, heart damage, loss of teeth, and strokes.

Effective treatment for and prevention of substance abuse has been difficult in previous years but through much research, today we have a far clearer picture of substance abuse treatment and prevention.

Statistics

The 2012 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimated the number of users of illicit drugs in the United States alone was over 24 million. The survey also showed that an estimated 6.8% of Americans abuse or are dependent on alcohol. Worldwide, it’s estimated that five percent of the adult population, 230 million people – or one in twenty adults – used an illegal drug at least once in 2010. It’s estimated that 27 million people – or 0.6% of the world’s adult population – are considered to be problem drug users. Heroin, cocaine and other drugs kill about 0.2 million people every year.

If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Co-Occurring Disorders

  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other substance use and abuse
  • Conduct disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Other compulsive behaviors

Causes of Drug Abuse

People experiment with drugs for a variety of reasons. Curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, to increase intellectual or athletic abilities, or to ease other problems, like stress or anxiety. Drug abuse doesn’t always lead to addiction, but it’s important to note that drug abuse is less about the amount or frequency of abuse and more to do with the negative consequences of abuse, such as losing a job or your home.

As is the case with many drugs of abuse, there is no single cause for the development of drug addiction. Addiction is generally considered to be the combination of genetic, environmental, biological, and psychological factors working together

Many people begin to use and abuse illegal drugs during late childhood to the early teen years. There are a number of risk factors that can work together to cause someone to abuse drugs. These include:

Genetics: People who have a close relative or parent who has a problem with addiction to any substance or drug are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem later in life.

Biological: As all drugs of abuse are designed to promote pleasure feelings in the brain by affecting the brain’s dopamine levels, it has been postulated that some individuals who abuse drugs are doing so in order to attempt to regulate an inborn lack of dopamine in the brain.

Environmental: Children who grow up in a chaotic home environment in which parenting was ineffective are at greater risk for developing substance abuse problems. Especially notable causes are a lack of nurturing or attachment to a parent. Other environmental factors may include poor coping skills, poor academic performance, associating with a peer group who abuses substances, or feeling as though doing drugs is okay.

Psychological: Many individuals who abuse drugs have an underlying mental illness such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression. In order to manage the symptoms of the disorders, some individuals abuse drugs or alcohol to feel “normal.”

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Certain signs and symptoms of drug abuse will depend upon the substance of abuse. Common symptoms of drug abuse include:

Mood:

  • Aggressive, irritable behaviors
  • Violent mood swings
  • Changes in mood
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideations

Behavioral:

  • Declining work performance or declining grades
  • Changes in behaviors
  • Acting selfishly and not caring about others
  • Getting high on drugs regularly
  • Lying, especially about the amount of drugs being used
  • Not caring about other people
  • Stealing money
  • Abusing drugs while driving
  • Avoiding friends and family to get high
  • Trouble with the law
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Physical:

  • Frequent hangovers from drug binges
  • Appearing rundown
  • Physical problems related to drug of abuse
  • Physical problems without a clear cause
  • Needing to use more drugs to get the same high
  • Mild tremors
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Increasing abdominal girth
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent nagging cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Pain at an injection site
  • Dark colored urine
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Paranoia
  • Problems with memory
  • Confusion
  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • Cravings
  • Psychosis

Effects of Substance Abuse

The effects of drug abuse will vary somewhat on the drug of abuse. Some common effects of substance abuse include:

  • Frequent trouble with the law
  • Unemployment
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • Problems with relationships
  • Difficulties staying employed or in school
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Liver disease
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects of Withdrawal

The effects of withdrawal from drug abuse are very closely tied to the particular drug of abuse and the length of time a person has been addicted to that drug. One should never attempt to go through withdrawal from a drug without the direct supervision of a medical personnel. Some of the most common side effects of withdraw include:

  • Craving the drug
  • Social isolation
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tightness in chest
  • Delirium tremors
  • Coma
  • Death

Illegal drug use typically begins in late childhood to early teen years. There are several risk factors that work together to cause someone to abuse drugs. These include:

Genetics: People who have a close relative or parent who has a problem with addiction to any substance or drug are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem later in life.

Biological: As all drugs of abuse are designed to promote pleasure feelings in the brain by affecting the brain’s dopamine levels, it has been postulated that some individuals who abuse drugs are doing so in order to attempt to regulate an inborn lack of dopamine in the brain.

Environmental: Children who grow up in a chaotic home environment in which parenting was ineffective are at greater risk for developing substance abuse problems. Especially notable causes are a lack of nurturing or attachment to a parent. Other environmental factors may include poor coping skills, poor academic performance, associating with a peer group who abuses substances, or feeling as though doing drugs is okay.

Psychological: Many individuals who abuse drugs have an underlying mental illness such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression. In order to manage the symptoms of the disorders, some individuals abuse drugs or alcohol to feel “normal.”

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

The signs and symptoms of drug abuse will depend upon the substance of abuse and the individual. Common symptoms include:

Mood:

  • Aggressive, irritable behaviors
  • Violent mood swings
  • Changes in mood
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideations

Behavioral:

  • Declining work performance or declining grades
  • Changes in behaviors
  • Acting selfishly and not caring about others
  • Getting high on drugs regularly
  • Lying, especially about the amount of drugs being used
  • Not caring about other people
  • Stealing money
  • Abusing drugs while driving
  • Avoiding friends and family to get high
  • Trouble with the law
  • Engaging in risky behaviors

Physical:

  • Frequent hangovers from drug binges
  • Appearing rundown
  • Physical problems related to drug of abuse
  • Physical problems without a clear cause
  • Needing to use more drugs to get the same high
  • Mild tremors
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Increasing abdominal girth
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent nagging cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Pain at an injection site
  • Dark colored urine
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Heart attack
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Paranoia
  • Problems with memory
  • Confusion
  • Aggression
  • Violence
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others
  • Cravings
  • Psychosis

Effects of Substance Abuse

The effects of drug abuse will vary somewhat on the drug of abuse. Some common effects of substance abuse include:

  • Frequent trouble with the law
  • Unemployment
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • Problems with relationships
  • Difficulties staying employed or in school
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Liver disease
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Trauma
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects of Withdrawal

Withdrawing from any drug depends on the drug and the individual’s willingness to commit to treatment. Because of the side effects of drug withdrawal, an individual should never attempt this on their own. They should be under the direct supervision of a medical personnel. Some common signs of withdrawal include:

  • Craving the drug
  • Social isolation
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tightness in chest
  • Delirium tremors
  • Coma
  • Death
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