Drug abuse is an unhealthy pattern of drug use in which the abuser ingests or inhales (or both) the drug of choice in an amount, frequency, and method that can turn self-destructive and hurt other people.
Drug abuse develops into a drug addiction or dependency when the drug-seeking behaviors impede a person’s ability to go about his or her daily life, and these behaviors continue in spite of the damaging consequences. Drug abuse facts and statistics are shocking. Illicit drug use is increasing, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2013, about 24.6 million Americans age 12 or older [reported using] an illicit drug in the previous month (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends).
Drug abuse and addiction are diseases that have been recognized by the medical community as chronic conditions prone to relapse. Like so many other diseases, treatment is the best way to recover.
While different drugs have different physical signs, the overall symptoms of drug abuse are similar. The same holds true with drug addiction. The following drug abuse facts and statistics reveal the disease’s devastating consequences:
Drugs target the brain’s reward system, either directly or indirectly, and flood the brain’s circuitry with dopamine. This particular neurotransmitter is present in areas of the brain that control movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. While a drug-free brain releases small amounts of dopamine in response to pleasurable activities, overstimulation of this system via drugs produces euphoria.
The reaction sets into motion an addictive pattern in which the body builds a tolerance to the increased dopamine levels and the body then craves higher levels of the drug to sustain a high. At this point, the drug abuse has developed into drug addiction.
Several potentially harmful side effects can accompany drug abuse and addiction, including serious long-term health issues. High doses of many drugs, pure or impure, can cause immediate life-threatening problems, such as respiratory failure, heart attack, and coma. Combining drugs and alcohol (a drug in its own right) can be especially dangerous. Different types of drugs have different effects, per the list below. The following are typical effects, but the reactions and severity can vary among users.