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What Is Drug Abuse?

Posted on February 24, 2015

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse, more commonly referred to as drug misuse or a drug use disorder, is diagnosed based on evidence of impaired control, social dysfunction, risky use, and pharmacological criteria. These disorders require quality treatment provided by expertly trained addiction specialists. At Origins, we provide superior, compassionate care to those hoping to recover.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of Drug “Abuse”

There is a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms that can indicate a substance use disorder. These will vary depending upon the specific drug, whether or not other drugs (including alcohol) are also being used. Underlying medical or mental health issues and how long the person has been using must also be considered.

There are numerous signs and symptoms that can help family members to recognize the need for treatment. These include:

  • Difficulty maintaining a job and financial difficulty
  • Divorce and loss of child custody as well as other family relationships
  • Refusal to spend time with family or old friends
  • Increased physical illness (e.g., cold and flu symptoms) or low energy and complaints of fatigue
  • Extreme changes in eating patterns
  • Extreme changes in sleeping patterns
  • Development of chronic health disorders related to drug or alcohol use
  • Exacerbation of underlying medical disorders and/or mental health disorders
  • Extreme mood swings that vary with use of different drugs
  • Withdrawal symptoms that come on quickly and/or disappear quickly with use of the drug of choice

Whether or not an individual’s use of drugs and alcohol is defined as abuse, misuse, dependence, or addiction, if the person is unable to stop drinking and getting high without support, treatment is highly recommended. A wide array of medical co-morbidities, including co-occurring mental health disorders, are common among those with substance addictions.

Addiction Is No Respecter Of Age, Gender, Or Status

Though some people can safely use alcohol and even experiment with certain drugs recreationally without developing an addiction, others cannot. An estimated one in 10 Americans aged 12 and older is living with a drug or alcohol problem, according to the Surgeon General’s Report. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also notes that the number of Americans living with an addiction adds up to about 20.6 million people, yet report that only about 11% of that number get the addiction treatment they need to heal. Drug addiction can impact people of all genders, in all age groups, and from all walks of life.

Addiction Is A Disease

Research and medical technology have shown that addiction is a disease. This powerful illness affects the brain, body, and your behaviors. A number of factors, including genetics, physiology, and environment can contribute to the development of addiction. Contrary to popular belief and social stigma, addiction is not a behavioral problem brought on by a lack of willpower or a habit. Addiction is not caused by a bad home life. It is not caused by stress. It is not caused by running with the “wrong crowd”. Addiction is an illness.

Here are the facts:

  • Addiction is chronic. There is no cure, it is constant and can last a lifetime once it begins. It is defined as a chronic disease comparable to cancer, diabetes, and other disorders that must be managed for a lifetime. Just as with other chronic diseases, those in recovery from addiction are encouraged to make lifestyle changes that will support a lifetime of progress in recovery.
  • Addiction is progressive. That means that it worsens over time in a downward spiral. The movement down the spiral can be so slow that no one, including the person with an addiction, notices the progression.
  • Addiction is fatal. The human body cannot withstand the damage over time and eventually gives out. Death can also be caused by overdose, suicide, and alcohol/drug-related accidents.
  • There is no cure for addiction, but addiction is treatable. People can and do recover when they become willing to accept the right help.

Commonly Misused Drugs

Drug misuse can involve a range of substances, both legal and illegal. Some commonly misused drugs include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription opioids (e.g., oxycodone and hydrocodone)
  • Prescription benzodiazepines (e.g., lorazepam and diazepam)
  • Prescription stimulants (e.g., amphetamine/dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate)
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., synthetic marijuana and Spice)
  • Synthetic cathinones (e.g., bath salts)
  • Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs
  • Inhalants (e.g., cleaners, aerosols, and sprays)
  • Over-the-counter medications (e.g., certain cold medications and weight loss supplements)
  • Club drugs (e.g., ecstasy and Molly)
  • Hallucinogens (e.g., LSD, peyote, and mushrooms)
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Crystal meth
  • PCP

Recovery Is Possible With Quality Treatment

An effective treatment program will offer the patient everything necessary to progress from active drug and alcohol use to a stable life in recovery.  Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. Every individual with addiction is different, and treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Individualized treatment plans are vital to success. Effective treatment addresses all of the patient’s needs, not just his or her drug use. This includes addressing the medical, clinical, psychological, and spiritual components of wellness.

The following key principles should form the basis of any effective treatment program:

  • Staying in treatment long enough is critical
  • Counseling and other behavioral therapies are the most commonly used forms of treatment
  • Medications are often an important part of treatment, especially when combined with other therapies
  • Treatment plans must be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs
  • Treatment should address other co-occurring mental disorders
  • Medically assisted detoxification (detox) is only the first stage of treatment
  • Every year, hundreds of people recover as the result of interventions
  • Drug use during treatment must be monitored continuously
  • Treatment programs should provide comprehensive medical services that can address other illnesses, such as infectious diseases that often occur alongside addiction

If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of addiction, please contact us at any time to receive more information: 561-841-1296.

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