Drug Addiction and Abuse
Drug addiction is a chronic – often relapsing – brain disease that causes obsessive drug seeking and consumption, regardless of the consequences. Drug addiction is progressive in nature, meaning that it usually gets worse over time, not better.
Drug abuse is the patterned use of drugs where abusers use drugs in an amount – and at a frequency – that may be harmful to themselves or to the people around them.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse and Addiction?
For some users, the line between drug abuse and addiction can be so fine as to be invisible. We’ve split signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction into two sections.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse:
- Neglecting Responsibilities: school, work, family.
- ‘At-Risk’ Behaviors: driving under the influence, engaging in unprotected sex, associating with people and situations that place the person at risk for physical or emotional harm.
- Legal Issues: arrests for driving under influence, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and theft.
- Relationship Issues: fights with family and loved ones, divorce, and the loss of old friends.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction:
Drug addiction involves some of the same symptoms of drug abuse, but the symptoms are more severe and physical dependence upon the drug develops. A person who has, or is developing, drug addiction may display any of several common signs and symptoms, including:
- Tolerance Increase: Larger and larger amounts of the drug may be needed to reach the same level of intoxication that the user could reach with smaller amounts when drug use began.
- Loss of Control: people struggling with drug addiction may often find themselves using more drugs than they planned, promised, or intended.
- Cravings: people with drug addiction will find themselves obsessively thinking about drugs, and may feel a strong sense of urgency or “need” to get drugs.
- Life Alterations: for people suffering from drug addiction, life becomes less about living and more about planning around where and when to get the next drug and the time needed to recover from using.
- Dangerous and Harmful Behavior: even though continued drug use creates problems with mental and physical health (like blackouts, mood swings, and paranoia), people with drug addiction will continue using regardless of the consequences.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Withdrawal may occur if alcohol is denied or unavailable. Signs of withdrawal syndrome can include anxiety, jumpiness, shaking, trembling, sweating, nausea, insomnia, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, and even seizures. If you or someone you love is showing signs of alcohol withdrawal, you should consider seeking medical assistance immediately. You can find more information here.
How Do Drug Abuse and Addiction Affect The Health of the User?
There are many factors that influence how drug abuse and addiction will impact the health of the user, including:
- How much and how often a person uses
- The age drug use began
- The length of time the person has been using
- Family history of drug abuse addiction
- Pre-natal exposure
Drug abuse and addiction can impact the health of the user and result in:
- Memory impairment
- Anxiety disorders
- Personality disorders
- Panic disorders
- Liver disease
- Brain damage
- Thoughts of suicide
- Emotional impairment
- Problems with gait and balance
- Brain damage
- Organ damage and cancer
- Heart disease
- Overdose, coma or death
As the user continues to abuse drugs (or to sink further into drug addiction) the degree of impairment may become more severe and may become permanent.
What are the Effects of Particular Drugs?
High doses of many drugs can cause immediate life-threatening health problems such as heart attack, respiratory failure, and coma. The addition of impurities in most street drugs only increases the risk to the user. Combining drugs with alcohol (a drug in its own right) is especially dangerous. Here is a list of certain drugs and there effects:
- Barbiturates and tranquilizers: hangover-like symptoms, nausea, seizures, and coma. Overdose or mixing these drugs with alcohol can be fatal. Withdrawal symptoms from tranquilizers can be fatal.
- Cocaine: tremors, seizures, psychosis, and heart or respiratory failure.
- LSD: nausea, rapid heart rate, depression, disorientation, paranoia, and psychosis.
- Marijuana: rapid heart rate, memory impairment, cognitive problems, paranoia, infertility, weakened immune system, and possible lung damage.
- Heroin/Narcotics: respiratory and circulatory depression, dizziness, impotence, constipation, and withdrawal sickness. Overdose often leads to coma and death.
- PCP: unpredictable and violent behavior, cause dizziness, numbness, high heart rate and blood pressure, convulsions, and heart and lung failure.
- Stimulants: high heart rate and blood pressure, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, impotence, skin disorders, tremors, seizures, and psychosis.