What is Drug Abuse?
When a person uses drugs excessively, for pleasurable effects as opposed to therapeutic, it is defined as drug abuse.
Drug abuse can alter the way the brain functions. It poses a severe public health issue as it often results in addictions, injuries and illnesses. A person can abuse any substance, from illegal drugs to prescription medication. (1)
Anyone can get addicted to drugs. However, there are particular risk factors which could increase the chances. People who go through major life alterations are generally more vulnerable.
Drug abuse can have a significant impact on life. Not only for the affected, but also for loved ones. It is not easy to stop an addiction, and it usually requires much help and support.
The brain wants to repeat anything which feels good. This could be eating a tasty dessert or being around good friends. Unfortunately, the same goes for drugs.
Drugs which are abused will often stimulate parts of the brain which bring pleasure and excitement. In turn, the affected may get used to the effects and crave it even more. At last, the drug becomes a norm and is needed for daily functions. (2)
Everyone is different, so it is not inevitable that a person becomes addicted. For adults, the chances may increase when faced with difficult times.
Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to bad influences. It is thought that children who are around drug abusers are more likely to acquire similar habits.
Drug abuse can also have significant effects on general health. Depending on which drugs are used, complications may include: heart, lung and liver diseases, strokes or cancer. (3)
There are a few signs family or friends may notice which could indicate drug abuse or even addiction.
Change of Friends
People who abuse drugs often prefer to be around those with a similar interest. The affected might stop spending time with friends who don’t share these habits. (4)
Those affected by drug abuse are likely to become isolated from friends and family. They can often be observed increasing their distance. They may choose to spend more time alone as opposed to what they usually would. (5)
This could also be a sign of a more pressing issue. As drug abuse progresses, it tends to become more compulsive, as opposed to social. The affected is likely to spend more time using the drug.
Family might perceive him/her as unreliable. The sufferer may often ask for financial help from friends, which in turn, can be a burden and further isolate the affected. (6)
Loss of Interest
A loss of interest in favorite hobbies may become apparent. Family and friends may notice this as the affected falls deeper into addiction. (7)
During addiction, the affected may place the drug use at a higher priority than personal care. They might not see the importance of brushing teeth or taking a shower. The person may often be seen wearing the same clothes or look messy. (8)
Those affected might often complain of being tired or feeling sad, which could be signs of depression.
Depression might be an effect of or a cause of drug abuse. Some people may develop depression or anxieties as a result of drug use. In contrast, others may develop an addiction due to their depressive mood to somehow feel better. (9)
It is not uncommon during drug abuse that eating habits change. Some might feel more hungry while others eat less. (10)
Drugs of abuse will usually have pleasurable and exciting effects on the brain. Depending on the drug taken, this may lead to an increase in energy levels. The affected might be perceived as talking or acting fast. Spoken language may not make sense or even be understood. (11)
The mood may quickly change between feeling good and bad. The affected might often be nervous or cranky. He/she may easily get agitated. (12)
A change in sleep patterns have long been a common side effect of drug abuse. The affected might go to bed at unusual hours. This is especially widespread among young adults who misuse drugs. It can have severe consequences in their educational performance. (13)
A sign of drug abuse which friends and family may begin to notice are more frequently missed appointments. This could be as an effect of the symptoms mentioned above. (14)
Problems at Work/School
As we already established, drugs which have severe effects on brain functions may interfere with sleep, social life and mood. Those affected may perform poorly in the workplace or fall behind in school. The sufferer may find it challenging to stay focused and meet deadlines. (15)
An alarming fact about addiction is that the brain can record the environmental stimuli occurring while taking the drug. It might trigger a craving when in those surroundings.
Stage #1 (Binge and Intoxication)
The first stage describes the beginning of drug abuse.
The patient digests an addictive drug which releases a chemical that stimulates the nerve cells. The brain will register the drug as a “reward” and with continued use, will crave it even more.
Stage #2 (Withdrawal and Negative affect)
As the affected progresses closer to addiction, the brain will take a sudden disliking to the drug of abuse.
The brain has “reset” its reward system. This means the patient won’t experience the same pleasures and excitements from the drug as they used to.
Unfortunately, this may also affect other things which generated pleasures, such as relationships or hobbies. The affected is likely to become very vulnerable to stress and negative feelings if the drug is withdrawn.
In turn, the patient will begin to use the drug to wear off the painful side effects of withdrawal. This is as opposed to using it as a pleasure stimulus as they did in the first stage.
Stage #3 (Preoccupation and Anticipation)
The drug of abuse has now become an obsession.
Even though the person may feel the drug is having various effects on life and might desperately try to stop, the addiction may remain.
Drug abuse is treated differently depending on the person, type of drug and circumstances. It generally revolves around counseling and medications. (18)
Counseling will involve talking to a professional about the drug abuse. The counselor may help figure out what triggered the need for the drug. They might also help understand how it has affected behavior and relationships. (19)
A counselor may suggest ways to deal with problems without using a drug. He/she may also propose ways to avoid people and places which could trigger a relapse.
Counseling can be done alone or in groups with other people who are experiencing similar issues.
Your doctor may prescribe a specific medication depending on which drug is abused and the extent of addiction. (20)
Different medicines may be applied which work in various ways. Some may minimize the problematic side effects of withdrawal. Others can help reduce the cravings or block the pleasures.
What is drug abuse? Drug abuse is defined as the misuse of a drug or medicine for pleasurable purposes.
What are the signs of drug abuse? Drugs of abuse have severe effects on the brain. The affected might lose their sense of judgment, get agitated easily or lose interest in hobbies or friends. They often isolate themselves or keep to groups of other drug abusers. Personal care might take a backseat and depression is likely to develop.
How are you diagnosed for drug abuse? A diagnosis of drug abuse is usually made with thorough questioning. As treatment begins, doctors are likely to keep a close eye on the patient. This is to evaluate his/her reactions during withdrawal. Substance abuse and mental health disorders often overlap but may require different treatments. So it is essential to monitor responses and symptoms. (21)
What is the best treatment of drug abuse? Treatment will depend on the person and what drug is being abused. It will generally involve counseling and medications. These may help reduce the need for the drug and resolve problems which led to the misuse.
What are the long term complications of drug abuse? Drug abuse can have various effects on life and health. Chances for heart, lung and liver diseases increase, as well as cancer and strokes. The brain’s functions are compromised and can lead to depression and anxieties. (22, 23)
Is drug abuse considered a disability? Drug abuse is not considered a disability. However, it can be disabling and may lead to mental health impairments. (24)
Is there any cure for drug abuse? Yes, treatment can be successful and the person may not need the drug anymore. However there are chances of relapse.
Is drug abuse life threatening? Yes, complications may arise such as mentioned above. It may also result in an overdose which can be fatal if not treated. (25)
When a person begins to use a drug for other than therapeutic purposes, it is referred to as drug abuse.
Drug abuse may have serious effect on life and health, such as addiction, illnesses and even death. Those affected might isolate themselves, decrease their performance at work or school and may have altering mood swings.
It is essential to seek treatment to prevent complications. It might be a long recovery, yet with help and support, people can restore their lives.