Drug Abuse and Dependence - Overview
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This topic is about drug
abuse and dependence in adults. For information about drug abuse in teens or
children, see the topic
Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
What are drug abuse and dependence?
Drug abuse is using drugs in a way that harms you or that leads you to harm
others. You can abuse illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or
When you abuse
drugs, you are not always able to meet work, home, or school duties. You may be
late to work. You may use drugs in dangerous situations, such as when driving
or operating machines. Or drugs may cause problems in your
Drug abuse can lead to drug dependence, where you
addicted to a drug. The drug controls your life. Any
of the following can happen:
- You take more of the drug over longer periods
of time and need more of the drug to feel "high."
- You try to quit using the drug, but you are not able to.
- You continue to use the drug even though it harms your
relationships and causes you to develop physical problems.
- If you
stop using the drug, you feel sick. This is known as
Drug dependence is a disease. It's not a weakness or a
lack of willpower. It's your choice to begin using a drug. But as you use it
more, your brain begins to change. This change can lead to a craving to use the
drug, and this can influence how you act.
Which drugs might be a problem?
Drugs that are
- Marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens, such
as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), mescaline, psilocybin, PCP
(phencyclidine), and ketamine.
- Inhalants, such as glues, aerosol
sprays, gasoline, paints, and paint thinners.
- Club drugs, such as
- Methamphetamine, which is called meth, crank, or
- Opiates, such as heroin, morphine, and codeine.
- Prescription drugs, such as diazepam (Valium), methylphenidate
(Ritalin), hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin), and oxycodone
- Over-the-counter medicines, such as cough syrups and cold pills.
What are the signs of drug abuse and dependence?
Behaviors that may be signs of a drug problem include:
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits, less
attention to dressing and grooming, or less interest in sex.
- Up-and-down moods, a mood or attitude that is getting worse, or not caring about
- Sneaky behavior, lying, or stealing.
- Poor family
relationships, or relationships that are getting worse.
problems at work or school, or problems with the law.
Having these signs doesn't always mean a person is using
drugs. The behavior could be because of work or school stress, or it could be a
depression or another medical problem. But behavior
changes like these are common in people who abuse drugs.
signs of drug abuse and dependence include:
- Red eyes, a sore throat, a dry cough, and
- Needle marks on the arm or other area of the
- Small, "pinpoint" pupils in the eyes.
weight without trying to, or not feeling like eating.
- Changes in sleep behavior, such as not sleeping as well.
- Seeing things that don't exist (hallucinations).