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What is drug abuse?

Learn how to identify and confront drug abuse with these basic guidelines.

Drug abuse affects people of all ages, races and economic classes. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Drug abuse affects people of all ages, races and economic classes.

Drug abuse exists in many forms and affects every level of society. The abuse of illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine is just the tip of the iceberg. Prescription drugs like Vicodin and Xanax are traded, sold and consumed at "pharm parties," while some athletes use anabolic steroids as performance enhancers. Because the effects of drug abuse are so devastating, it's important to understand the causes of drug abuse and recognize drug abuse symptoms.

What is drug abuse?

Drug abuse is defined as the recreational use of prescription drugs, illegal narcotics and other controlled substances. Drug abusers enjoy the physical, mental and emotional sensations that drugs provide, any many quickly become addicted. Commonly abused drugs include: alcohol, cocaine, heroin, LSD (acid), marijuana, steroids, methamphetamine (popularly called "meth"), club drugs like Rohypnol (also known as the date rape drug), PCP, and Ecstasy, prescription drugs, nicotine and steroids.

What are the facts about drug abuse?

The facts about drug abuse are grim, and no community or social stratum is immune from its reach. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs the United States $484 billion per year in treatment, incarceration and other damages. Drug abuse is associated with health issues like heart disease and HIV, and social problems like violence and child abuse. Addiction is considered a chronic disease, with genetic and environmental components. Long-term drug abuse also impacts the brain's ability to function.

What is a primary drug abuse symptom?

It's natural for adolescents to rebel, act out and have an "attitude," but some behaviors can point to drug abuse. One of the primary symptoms of drug abuse is a sudden behavior change. Another is drunkenness or incoherence. Other symptoms of drug abuse include: a drop in school grades, a new circle of friends, inexplicable absences from home, trouble with the law, lying, stealing and withdrawn behavior.

What are some causes of drug abuse?

Causes of drug abuse include: depression, peer pressure, stress and anxiety. Drug addiction may also be influenced by genetic makeup, the physical effects of the drug and many of the same factors that caused the user to use drugs in the first place. Research has also linked attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems to drug abuse.

What are the long-term effects of drug abuse?

The long-term effects of drug abuse include physical, social and emotional problems. Relationships and careers are often damaged or lost due to drug abuse. Drug abusers may also have to contend with criminal charges. Most drug addicts develop related health issues such as mental disorders, lung or cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke. In addition, drug abuse affects the brain's functionality, reducing the ability to experience pleasure apart from drug use.

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