Drug abuses occurs when you are not able to control your use of prescribed drugs or are using an illegal substance to the point that it interferes with your ability to function. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 40 million illnesses and serious injuries are the result of drug abuse in the United States (NIH). Drug abuse leads to other public health problems, such as:
Intravenous drug users (who inject drugs) also risk contracting and spreading infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Addiction involves many social and biological factors, but treatment is available. The most successful way to stop drug abuse is through prevention and education.
Alcohol is present in beer, wine, or liquor and is legal for adults over the age of 21 to purchase and drink. The body rapidly absorbs alcohol through the stomach and small intestine and into the bloodstream.
One drink equals:
When you use alcohol, you experience impaired brain function and motor skills. Alcohol damages every organ in your body and can damage a developing fetus when consumed by a pregnant mother.
Alcohol use increases your risk of:
Alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, occurs when your use of alcohol affects your ability to work or maintain relationships. Alcohol abuse can threaten your long-term health. The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that over a 30-day period:
Also known as: juice, gym candy, pumpers, stackers
Steroids are man-made substances that mimic the male sex hormone testosterone. They are taken orally or injected and are illegal in the United States. Athletes often abuse them to enhance performance and build strength.
Steroids can cause serious and permanent health problems including:
Women who use steroids face additional symptoms such as:
Teen users may:
This refers to a wide variety of illegal drugs that young adults often use at dance parties, clubs, and bars.
Club drugs can lead to feelings of euphoria, detachment, or sedation. Roofies, in particular, have been used to commit sexual assaults on unsuspecting victims. They can cause serious short-term mental health problems like delirium; physical health issues such as rapid heart rate, seizures, and dehydration; and sometimes death. They are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
Also known as: coke, C, crack, snow, flake, and blow
Cocaine is a powerful drug that leads to a strong addiction. It is sold as a fine white powder that is injected into the veins, snorted through the nose, or smoked. It can also be processed into crack-cocaine, a cheaper product that is also highly addictive. In both forms, cocaine causes the user to feel energetic and euphoric. Cocaine use increases:
Cocaine users risk:
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 4.8 million Americans age 12 and older abused cocaine in 2009 (DHHS, 2009).
Also known as: smack, H, ska, and junk
Heroin is an illegal opiate. Like morphine (a legal prescription drug), heroin is made from the seed of the poppy plant (opium). It is a white or brown powder and is injected into a vein, smoked, or snorted through the nose. Users feel euphoria and experience clouded thinking followed by a drowsy state.
Heroin use leads to:
Regular heroin use leads to higher tolerance, and users may need to take more of the drug to experience the effects. This causes addiction and severe withdrawal symptoms if the user stops taking the drug.
Also known as: huffing, whip-its, popping, and snappers
Inhalants are chemical vapors that the user breathes to experience mind-altering effects. The materials include common products, such as glue, hair spray, paint, or lighter fluid. The short-term effects of these drugs cause a feeling similar to alcohol use.
Inhalants are extremely dangerous and can lead to:
In 2009, 1.2 million Americans ages 12 and older abused inhalants, according to the NationalSurvey on Drug Use and Health (DHHS, 2009)
Also known as: ganja, pot, weed, grass, 420, and trees
Marijuana is a dried mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves from the hemp plant. It is usually smoked, but can also be ingested. It produces feelings of euphoria, distorted perceptions, and trouble solving problems. It is the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 28.5 million Americans illegally used marijuana in 2009 (DHHS, 2009). Research has proven and continues to explore the effectiveness of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions like glaucoma and the negative side effects of chemotherapy. Seventeen states currently have approved marijuana for medical use:
Other names: chalk, meth, ice, crystal, glad, speed, and crank
Methamphetamine is a very addictive drug closely related to amphetamine. It is a white or yellowish powder that is snorted, injected, or heated and smoked.
The user experiences:
If used for a long time, it can lead to:
Many people are prescribed medication for pain and other conditions. Prescription drug abuse occurs when you take a medication that is not prescribed for you or take it for reasons other than those prescribed by your doctor.
These drugs may include:
The effects differ depending on the medication, but can lead to:
They may lead to long-term physical dependence and addiction. In 2009, an estimated 20 percent of Americans used a prescription medication for a non-medical reason (DHHS, 2009). The illegal use of prescription drugs has grown over the past few decades. This is partially because they have become more widely available and the focus of law enforcement has been on illicit drugs.
Public health experts usually break up drug abuse into four stages:
In this stage, the person uses the drug with peers or for recreation.
At this stage, the user changes his or her behavior and uses the drug to fix negative feelings.
At this point, the user is preoccupied with the drug and does not care about his or her life outside the drug use.
In the dependent stage, the user is not able to face his or her life without using the drug. Financial and personal problems increase. Legal problems occur because the user takes risks to obtain the drug.
It is important to find a program that follows these principles of addiction treatment:
Treatment programs should check for and monitor infectious diseases, while providing risk-education counseling. This encourages individuals to act responsibly so they donât contract or spread the disease.
Depending on the drug you are addicted to, the first stage of treatment is often medically assisted detoxification. This is to remove the drug from the bloodstream. It is followed by other treatments to encourage long-term abstinence. Many treatments involve both individual and group counseling. These are given in outpatient facilities or in-patient residential recovery programs. Medications are also helpful to reduce withdrawal symptoms and encourage recovery. In heroin addiction, for example, your treatment provider may prescribe a drug called methadone to ease recovery and help cope with the intense withdrawal stage.
The best way to avoid drug abuse is to prevent initial use and addiction. Efforts usually focus on encouraging youth to avoid peer pressure. Community prevention programs work in schools, with teachers, and with community members to educate and provide information and support.
Parents play an important role in preventing their children from using drugs. They can:
Above the Influence Provides information targeted at youth and young adults regarding drug use, peer pressure, and treatment options. http://www.abovetheinfluence.com 1-800-448-3000 (24 hours a day / 7 days a week)
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Offers free resources or referrals to treatment. If you have questions or need help, you can call the 24-hour helpline Call 1-800-662-HELP, 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teenagers Provides information and research for teenagers and young adults about drug abuse. http://teens.drugabuse.gov
National Association for Children of Alcoholics
Provides information and resources for children of alcoholics.
10920 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 100
Kensington, MD 20895
Al-Anon Provides confidential groups and meetings across the United States for adult friends and family members of problem drinkers. Phone: 888-4AL-ANON (888-425-2666) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, MondayâFriday http://www.al-anon.org/home Al-Ateen Provides confidential groups and meetings across the United States to help teenagers and young adults cope with a friend or family memberâs alcohol use. Phone: 888-4AL-ANON (888-425-2666) from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, MondayâFriday http://www.al-anon.alateen.org Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) AA offers meetings and support groups for people interested in recovering from alcohol addiction or abuse. Support groups are also offered online. www.aa.org
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Offer meetings and support groups for people interested in recovering from narcotic addiction or abuse. www.na.org