Drug abuse is a significant problem in the United States. One of the most critical issues concerning drug abuse is the high risk of developing an addiction. In addition, the abuse of drugs can have severe ramifications on a person’s physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.
Diagnosed clinically as a substance use disorder, addiction is a recognized condition involving compulsive use of a substance despite adverse consequences. Drug abuse is the inappropriate use of substances – including alcohol, prescription medication, or illegal drugs – for purposes such as pleasure, to feel or perform better in certain situations, or to change one’s perception of reality.
Abusing substances creates both changes in behavior and how the brain works, specifically in the areas governing judgment and reward. Thus, continued abuse of importance can be a warning sign that individuals are beginning to lose control over their drug use.
Symptoms Of Drug Abuse
Depending upon your drug of choice, the symptoms that suggest the presence of an addiction that requires treatment will vary. In addition, different classes of drugs have other telltale signs that signify usage.
In general, however, there are several signs that drug abuse or alcohol abuse is a severe problem. If you recognize some or all of the following things happening to someone you care about or happening in your own life, drug abuse may be an issue that needs to be addressed in treatment:
- Isolating from family and friends who don’t use drugs
- Spending time with new friends or friends who get high or drink
- Never having money or often asking to borrow money, even for small items
- Showing up late to work/school or not showing up at all
- Losing a job
- Doing little to find a job if out of work
- Paying less attention to basic hygiene
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Extremely private about possessions, including their bag, room, or car
- Lying about using or drinking
- Sneaking away to get high or drunk
You may find hidden bottles of alcohol or drug paraphernalia among your loved one’s belongings. Personality changes often occur with substance abuse and addiction. You or your loved one may be more irritable or agitated and even blow off commitments or family events.
Drug Abuse In Adults
The earlier in one’s life that drug abuse begins, the more likely an individual will become addicted. Substance use in adults can become part of a pattern of unsafe behaviors, including unsafe sex and driving under the influence. The availability of adults may be more likely to abuse dangerous “club drugs,” which, as part of the general picture of alcohol and drugs being used by this demographic, can lead to severe problems including:
- Lifelong legal problems.
- Impaired memory.
- Poor judgment.
- Development of mental health issues.
- Overdose or death.
- Injury due to intoxication.
- Severe, irreversible physical health problems, such as HIV, Hepatitis C, or damage to major organs.
Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drugs are becoming abused more commonly. Even when intended for valid medical or psychological issues, prescription drugs should be taken differently than prescribed or taken by other individuals. For example, opioid painkillers can be prescribed to treat pain due to an injury or chronic condition. The central nervous system depressants known as benzodiazepines are often prescribed for anxiety. Individuals who suffer from attention-deficit disorder, narcolepsy, or obesity may have received prescriptions for stimulant medications with mechanisms of action similar to cocaine and methamphetamine.
In some cases, the pleasurable effects of these drugs (the euphoria that drug abusers seek) are only temporary. As the patient develops a tolerance to the drugs, the desired effects lessen, and the high goes away. Some individuals may assume that the drugs are no longer working, increasing their dosage to feel the effects.
This development of tolerance is often the first in a series of steps that can lead to addiction. Strictly speaking, the very first time an individual takes more than their prescribed dose or takes prescribed doses too closely together, they have already begun to abuse the medication.
States are beginning to monitor doctors who prescribe certain drugs more closely to ensure they are not overly prescribed. This technique has led to reduced drug abuse in some communities, according to the FDA. However, it has also increased the likelihood for some individuals to seek these drugs on the street.
Popular Club Drugs
Club drugs are prevalent in many venues where young people prefer to spend their time, such as parties, concerts, or raves. In addition, older teens and adults can get access to these same drugs in clubs and bars regularly.
- Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
Gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) has a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use in the United States. This drug is a central nervous system depressant.
GHB imitates the GABA neurotransmitter in the human brain. GABA works by regulating consciousness, activity, sleep, improving mood, and promoting relaxation. When GHB is taken, it can create feelings of euphoria, drowsiness, reduced anxiety, confusion, and memory impairment. These effects can lead to GHB being used as a “date rape” drug since the individual may not recollect the event. Combining GHB with other drugs or alcohol can lead to breathing difficulties and overdose. Continued abuse of GHB can result in coma, seizures, and even death.
A second central nervous system depressant popular among young people is a benzodiazepine called Rohypnol. Like GHB, Rohypnol can decrease inhibitions, impair memory and coordination, and create a feeling of euphoria. Rohypnol is often used to sedate and incapacitate a victim of a sexual attack, leaving them with no memory of the attack. Continued abuse of Rohypnol can lead to addiction.
Ketamine is an anesthetic with dissociative properties, which some users find enjoyable. However, ketamine can lead to euphoria, hallucinations, distorted perception of sight and sound, disconnection, and loss of control.
Taking even small amounts of ketamine can result in significantly dangerous symptoms, including difficulties with cognition and focus and becoming unresponsive to stimuli. Moderate use generally produces hallucinations and a dreamy euphoria. Higher doses may cause the individual to suffer from amnesia or become delirious.
Unseen Dangers of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse can lead to health problems involving the liver and other major organs. However, other dangers can come from the misuse of drugs or alcohol that many individuals do not consider. For instance, drug abuse can lead an individual to make risky decisions that place them into dangerous situations, along with those around them. These decisions can have lasting impacts on a variety of conditions.
An individual who abuses substances by injecting directly into muscle tissue or veins drastically increases their risk of infection. Sharing needles can easily transmit HIV/AIDS and chronic hepatitis viruses. In addition, substances often impair judgment and decision-making, leading users to make unsafe choices.
When an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be more likely to underestimate the effects of the substance on reaction time and judgment, leading them to drive under the influence. In the United States, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in 2012. In addition, 10 million Americans over the age of 12 were permitted to drive under the influence of illicit drugs in the last year.
Drug Abuse and Brain Damage
Brain damage is a significant risk of drug abuse. For example, cocaine can cause strokes so small they often go unnoticed but result in brain tissue death and the gradual accumulation of neurologic deficits. Likewise, MDMA (Ecstasy)  can disrupt the brain’s ability to usually produce serotonin, a chemical responsible for equalizing mood, aggression, and other emotions. This can lead users to be unable to control or experience normal emotions without using the drug.
Some drug users will engage in reckless activities such as binge use of certain drugs or alcohol. When this happens, even if the individual does not meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder, the activity may result in irreversible brain lesions – for example, those sustained due to significant head trauma – that can render the individual permanently brain-damaged and ultimately disabled.
Damage to the brain can also manifest as psychological. For example, drug abuse can lead to anxiety and depression, which can worsen pre-existing psychotic symptoms. In addition, the chemical changes in the brain can direct users to experience an inability to enjoy life without drugs and their euphoric effects.
When individuals begin to abuse drugs, they may find that their lives outside of their drug use are affected. They may be unable to perform as well at their jobs, which can lead to financial struggles. They may relate differently to their families, leading to strained relationships and the destruction of existing families. Factors such as these, or legal troubles, can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. These conditions may often contribute to more drug abuse, which can culminate in serious addiction.
Drug Abuse Hotline
Cravings can happen anytime. They don’t always occur at convenient times, such as during a therapy appointment or a 12-step meeting. This is when a drug abuse hotline can be most helpful.
Benefits of a Drug Abuse Hotline
When you are fighting off the urge to relapse, immediate help is essential. You may not have the luxury of waiting for a therapist, sponsor, close friend, or family member to call you back. There may be no self-help meetings nearby at that specific time. You need help immediately – and there’s nothing more immediate than a phone call to a drug abuse hotline.
In addition to the immediate gratification, you get:
- Connection to treatment resources: Staff members at drug abuse hotlines are knowledgeable about the different types of addiction treatment available. If you have relapsed or fear that you will, the counselor you call at the drug abuse hotline can help determine what kind of treatment will help you avoid falling back into active addiction.
- No charge: You pay nothing to call a toll-free drug abuse hotline, and you can talk as long as you need to about your cravings or what happened that made you want to relapse.
- Anonymity. Everything you say on the phone to your drug abuse hotline operator stays between you and the person on the other end of the line.
Getting Help for Drug Abuse
At We Level Up Treatment Center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All are working as a team to provide you with the optimum drug abuse information throughout your treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly