Guide to Drug Abuse
1. Underlying Psychological Conditions
2. Drug Abuse Among Teens
3. The Difference: Abuse and Addiction
4. Short-Term Effects
5. Long-Term Effects
6. How to Recognize Drug Abuse
7. The Importance of Getting Help
Drug abuse is a serious problem that can come in many forms. The one common factor concerning the various types of drug abuse is that all forms can lead to addiction. Drug addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In order to understand drug abuse and the many facets involved, it is important to understand the root causes of abuse.
Underlying Psychological Conditions
Many individuals who abuse drugs or who may already be addicted to drugs also suffer from an underlying condition that has contributed to their drug use. These conditions can range from mild to severe and might include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Major depression
- Personality disorders
When an individual faces the issues concerning these treatable disorders without a proper diagnosis, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to assuage the cascading symptoms. When this happens, the effects of the alcohol and drug abuse can create a vicious cycle that only serves to worsen the original condition.
Drug Abuse Among Teens
Studies have shown that the earlier an individual has access to drugs, the more likely they are to suffer from long-term drug abuse and addiction issues. Each year, Monitoring the Future conducts a survey among students in the United States between the 8th grade and the 12th grade. According to the most recent survey for 2010, they discovered that 48.2 percent of high school seniors reporting having used an illicit drug at some point in their lifetime. For those students in the 8th grade, the percentage is 21.4 percent
The numbers of school-aged children in the United States who admitted to using drugs in the month prior to the survey took a sharp upward turn, as well, for all grades surveyed. One of the most significant increases for 8th graders was use of the drug MDMA — or Ecstasy — which increased from 0.6 percent to 1.1 percent for previous month use over the course of a single year. When asked whether they had used Ecstasy at any point during their lives, 3.3 percent of 8th graders responded that they had. This is an increase of more than one percentage point over the previous survey.
The Difference Between Abuse and Addiction
Drug abuse is the use of drugs in any manner other than how the drug was intended, or the use of any drug that is considered illicit with no medicinal purpose. When an individual has developed certain characteristics concerning drug use, they have progressed to the addiction stage. The characteristics for addiction are:
Drug abuse can be just as deadly as drug addiction. Some drugs, like inhalants, can cause serious injury, brain damage or death from one instance of use, even if that instance is the first time the individual has ever used the drug.
Other drugs, such as methamphetamine, are so highly addictive that one use will put the individual into the throes of addiction immediately.
Prescription drug use is one of the most prevalent forms of drug abuse because many individuals fail to recognize they are dependent upon the drugs. Since the drugs are legally prescribed to them by their primary care provider, the individual does not see a problem — even when they consume the drugs in a manner other than directed.
An individual who uses drugs for recreational purposes is looking for the euphoria or escape that comes from the drug’s effects on the brain. The reaction will depend greatly on the type of drug taken, however:
- Central nervous system depressants will slow down the heart rate, lower blood pressure and make the individual feel groggy or tired.
- Central nervous system stimulants will increase energy, decrease appetite and raise the body’s temperature.
- Opiates will attach to opiate receptors in the brain and interfere with the proper release of dopamine and other substances to increase the pleasure response and decrease feelings of pain.
- Alcohol is a CNS depressant that will actually increase energy in the early stages and create a loss of inhibition in the individual.
Each type of drug affects individuals in unique ways. One person may become far more agitated than another on the same drug. It is impossible to predict how each drug will affect any individual.
The long-term use and abuse of drugs will lead to addiction in the vast majority of individuals. This comes from the basic principle of tolerance. When a doctor prescribes a central nervous system depressant for an anxiety disorder, for instance, the patient is informed that they may feel some euphoric effects for the first few days they take the medication. As the body gets used to the chemicals, the euphoric effects will lessen and the individual will begin to feel normal. The medication is still working to reduce anxiety; however, the “high” is no longer present.
If an individual takes the same drug specifically for the euphoric effects, he or she will need to take more of the drug in question to obtain those effects. This is because the body has built up a tolerance for the substance. The cycle will begin again at the higher dose. Soon, the drug abuser will need to take even more of the drug.
In a matter of time, which varies between drug users, the drug user will not be able to function well without the help of the drug. When they stop taking the drug, they will suffer withdrawal symptoms and obtaining the drug will become the most important aspect of their daily life. This is addiction.
Other long-term conditions may result from the use and abuse of drugs, as well:
- Liver damage
- Heart attack or stroke
- Extreme trembling
- Inability to think properly, brain damage
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Sudden death
How to Recognize Drug Abuse
There are many, many signs of drug abuse, however, recognizing the signs may not be easy. One of the most profound signals that a problem has developed is the constant drug-seeking behavior exhibited by a drug abuser. Obtaining the drugs they need becomes the most important aspect of their lives — more important that their career, their schooling or education, and their family.
Other signs to look for may include:
- Frequent visits to a variety of doctors to obtain prescription narcotics
- Prescriptions that are “misplaced” or “stolen” on a regular basis
- Inability to concentrate on simple tasks
- A change in friends and an unwillingness to bring new friends around their family
- Unexplained weight loss or complexion problems
- Mood swings, aggravation or irritability
- Glassy eyes or grogginess without explanation
Many of these signs and signals are inconsequential when taken independently; however, when they are combined with each other, they may indicate a drug abuse issue.
The Importance of Getting Help
Most drug abuse issues will develop into addiction problems. Recognizing the symptoms of a developing problem can create an avenue toward healing in the earliest stages. Like any disease, when drug abuse is caught early, the chances for recovery are greatly increased. Instead of waiting until a full-blown addiction and the destructive patterns associated with it have destroyed your family, seek help for a drug abuse problem early through intervention and the best drug treatment available.