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.

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When Drug Abuse Becomes Addiction

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.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse and Addiction?

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:

  • Drug abusers neglect responsibilities at school, work, home, or in other areas
  • They engage in at-risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence and unprotected sex. In 2011, 9.4 million people in the U.S. reported driving while under the effects of drugs during the previous year.
  • They often face legal issues, such as being arrested for driving under the influence, disorderly conduct, or theft
  • They have relationship issues, such as fights with loved ones and loss of close friends
When drug abuse spirals into drug addiction, common signs and symptoms include:
  • Tolerance increase, characterized by the building up and needing of larger amounts of the chosen substance to reach the same experiences that smaller amounts previously garnered
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, jitteriness, sweating, nausea, depression, and fatigue in the absence of drugs
  • Loss of control or using more drugs than originally planned
  • Life alterations or focusing life plans on when and where to consume the next drug as well as time to recover from drug use
  • Dangerous and harmful behavior or continuing to use even in spite of significant repercussions, such as mood swings and paranoia

Drug Addiction Facts: How Addiction Affects the Brain

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.

If you or someone you love needs help with drug abuse and addiction, we are here to help you.

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What are the Effects of Drug Abuse and 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.

  • Marijuana (Cannabis) – Increased heart rate & appetite, bloodshot eyes, paranoid behavior, slowed reflexes, weakened motor skills and mental health problems.
  • Cocaine – Loss of appetite, nausea, paranoia, high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, seizures. Over time, cocaine addiction can also affect the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys and digestive system.
  • Heroin – Extreme drowsiness, nausea, slow heart rate & breathing, constipation, depression, paranoia, collapsed veins.
  • Prescription Opioids – Euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, slow breathing, insomnia, diarrhea..
  • Hallucinogens – Dizziness, distorted thinking, hallucinations, paranoia, body and spatial distortions, anxiety, seizures, hemorrhage, respiratory issues.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) – Increase blood pressure, poor memory, muscle tension, organ complications, insomnia, mental health disorders.
  • Methamphetamine – Increased breathing, blood pressure & temperature, uneven heartbeat, violent behavior, paranoia, hallucinations.

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