What is Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction?
Drug abuse, also known as substance abuse, is a condition where a person persists in using a substance despite negative consequences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the government’s National Institutes of Health, estimated that in 2012, nearly 24 million Americans age 12 or older “had used an illicit drug or misuse of a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant, or tranquilizer) in the past month.”
Most people experience their first drug use when they are teenagers. In 2012, nearly 8,000 people tried illicit drugs for the first time. Half of those new users were teens. More than half of new users begin with marijuana. Next most common are prescription drug abuse with pain relievers, followed by inhalants, which is most commonly used among younger teens.
Addiction Respects No Age!
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What is Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction? What are the Medical Consequences?
Drug addiction is a disease of the brain. Although an individual might voluntarily use drugs the first time, prolonged use alters the brain’s chemistry, interfering with the person’s ability to make voluntary decisions.. Once addiction develops, the person is compelled to compulsively seek and use drugs.
Depending on the length and severity of drug habit, the individual might develop any of a number of physical ailments, such as
- Cardiovascular disease | National Institute On Drug Abuse
- Lung disease
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Skeletal damage
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- Neurological Damage
Some of these ailments occur when drugs are used at high doses, or after prolonged use. Some occur after a single use. There is no “safe” dosage for illicit drugs.
Of course, the physical damage from drug abuse is not always limited to the user alone. Pregnant women who use drugs run the risk of affecting their unborn child. Studies show that drug abuse can result in low birth weight, premature birth, miscarriage, and a variety of behavioral and cognitive problems in the baby.
What is the relationship between addiction, such as alcoholism, and mental illness?
In addition to physical damage, chronic drug use alters the brain’s chemistry and creates or exacerbates existing mental health and emotional issues. Chronic drug use may lead to paranoia, aggression, depression, or hallucinations.
Such mental health and emotional problems build on themselves. Drug users often suffer strained relationships due to their drug use, affecting family, friends, and coworkers. This in turn causes financial, legal, and work-related problems. As the problems build, the drug user may turn to drugs to escape the escalating cycle of emotional pain.
Can you recognize the signs of drug abuse? What Questions You Should Ask Yourself If You Use Drugs?
- Do I need to drink alcohol to socialize?
- Do I ever feel ashamed of my drinking?
- Do I feel anxious if I can’t get my (heroin, cocaine, prescription painkillers, etc.)?
- Do I feel paranoid?
- Do I always feel sedated?
- Do I take more than the doctor’s recommended amount of drugs I’ve been prescribed?
- Do I ever take someone else’s prescription drug?
- Do I hide how much prescribed medicine I’m taking from my doctor?
- Do I have trouble with relationships because of my drug use (including drinking)?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to seek professional substance abuse treatment.