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Drug Abuse and Addiction

Home Drug Abuse and Addiction

Written by: Editorial Staff.

What is a Drug?

A drug is any substance that alters the central nervous system, brain chemistry, or bodily functions. There is no single definition since there are different meanings of the word “drug”, with regard to medicine, government, and street usage.

Dictionary.com defines a drug as “a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.”

Medicinal drugs may be prescribed by a doctor for a limited time frame or for use on a regular basis for a chronic condition. Recreational drugs or street drugs are drugs that target the central nervous system and brain chemistry. They are used specifically to alter perception, mood, and behavior. Many recreational drugs lead to abuse and dependency. OTC refers to over-the-counter drugs, which do not require a prescription to buy.

What is Drug Addiction?

Effects of Drug Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM IV) lists three stages of addiction:

  • Preoccupation/anticipation
  • Binge/intoxication
  • Withdrawal/negative affect

These stages are marked by:

  • Cravings
  • Obsession with and preoccupation with the substance
  • Using more of the substance than originally intended
  • Needing more to experience the original effect
  • Experiencing tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Decreased motivation for normal life activities

It also lists two distinct addiction-related disorders: abuse and dependence. Additional criteria must be met to qualify for meeting the diagnosis of dependency. When one is suffering from a drug dependency, a drug intervention is usually needed to begin the recovery process.

How Drug Addiction Affects Brain

While each drug causes different physical problems, all drugs have one thing in common: Continuous use can change how the brain works. This includes medications that are often overdosed, as well as recreational drugs.

  • Taking medication causes a sudden increase in the level of the hormone dopamine in the brain, which leads to feelings of complacency. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them to happen again.
  • In drug addiction, drugs are just as important as other lifestyles such as eating and drinking.
  • Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, make good decisions, regulate your behavior, and make you feel normal when not having drugs.
  • Regardless of which drug you are addicted to, the growing urge to abuse drugs grows.
  • The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or regulate addiction. You may underestimate the amount of medication you take, how often it affects your life and the level of regulation of your drug use.

Drug Classifications

The vast numbers of prescribed and recreational drugs fall into certain drug classifications.

Drug Classifications:

Prescription medications are the most commonly abuse the drug in the United States.

Other Highly Abused Drugs Include:

  • Nicotine and tobacco
  • Crack and Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • OxyContin (a respiratory depressant)
  • Cannabis
  • Heroin
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ecstasy and Club Drugs
  • Barbiturates
  • Date Rape Drugs
  • Steroids

Most Commonly Abused Drugs

According to Jon D. Johnson, PD, MBA Vol. II No. 3 June/July 1998, the most commonly abused drugs of all types are prescription drugs.

Commonly Abuse Prescription Drugs

Legal Drug Classifications

You may hear of drugs being referred to as classified as “Schedule 4,” for example. The Controlled Substances Act of 1990 set up the Legal Classifications of drugs based on their use, abuse, and how safe they are considered. The following is a partial list:

Schedule 1: High Abuse, no known medical use, Lack of Safety

Schedule 2: High Abuse, some medical use, high risk of dependency

Schedule 3: Lower abuse, medical use, and moderate dependency risk

Schedule 4: Limited abuse, high medical use, limited dependency risk

Schedule 5: Minor problems

Dependency and safety risk can rise significantly when drug interaction occurs, mixing substances in different classifications. Drug overdose is also possible not only through using a large quantity but when certain drugs interact that are contraindicated. It is vitally important to have drug information that includes possible drug side effects and drug interactions.