Drug Abuse and Addiction

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics
Drug abuse in boys

Low Self-Esteem May Lead to Drug Abuse in Boys

Eleven year-old boys who displayed evidence of low self-esteem were more likely to be dependent upon drugs at age 20 than boys who didn't have low self-esteem, according to a study conducted at Florida State University.

Sociology professors studied a sample of over 870 boys from diverse racial and ethnic groups for a period of nine years to try to identify potential early warning signs for drug dependence.

Boys who had very low self-esteem in the sixth or seventh grade were 1.6 times more likely to meet the criteria for drug dependence nine years later than other children. Those who believed that their peers approved of alcohol, tobacco, or drug use were also more likely to be drug-dependent later in life. Overall, 10% of those in the study were found to be drug-dependent.

Quick GuideDrug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs

Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs

Drug use disorder facts

  • Drug abuse and addiction, now both grouped as drug use disorder, is a condition that is characterized by a self-destructive pattern of using a substance that leads to significant problems and distress, which may include tolerance to or withdrawal from the substance.
  • Drug use disorder is unfortunately quite common, affecting more than 8% of people in the United States at some point in their lives.
  • Dual diagnosis refers to the presence of both a drug-use issue in addition to a serious mental-health condition in an individual.
  • Virtually any substance whose ingestion can result in a euphoric ("high") feeling can be abused.
  • Inhalants like household cleaners are some of the most commonly abused substances.
  • While the specific physical and psychological effects of drug use disorder tend to vary based on the particular substance involved, the general effects of a substance use disorder involving any drug can be devastating.
  • Although drug use disorders have no single cause, there are a number of biological, psychological, and social risk factors that can predispose a person to developing a chemical use disorder.
  • Symptoms of a drug use disorder include recurrent drug use that results in legal problems, occurs in potentially dangerous situations, interfere with important obligations, results in social or relationship problems, tolerance, withdrawal, using a lot of the drug or for a long period of time, persistent desire to use the drug, unsuccessful efforts to stop using the drug, neglecting other aspects of life because of their drug use, and spending inordinate amounts of time or energy getting, using, or recovering from the effects of the drug.
  • While the specific effects of drugs on the brain can somewhat vary depending on the drug that is being used, virtually every substance that is abused has an effect on the executive-functioning areas of the brain. Drugs particularly affect the brain's ability to inhibit actions that the person would otherwise delay or prevent.
  • Since there is no single test that can definitively diagnose someone with a chemical use disorder, health-care professionals assess these disorders by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information, as well as securing a physical examination and lab tests to assess the sufferer's medical state.
  • Treatment services for drug use disorders remain largely underutilized by most people who suffer from these conditions.
  • The primary goals of recovery are abstinence, relapse prevention, and rehabilitation.
  • During the initial stage of abstinence, a person who suffers from chemical dependency may need detoxification treatment to help avoid or lessen the effects of withdrawal.
  • Often, much more challenging and time-consuming than recovery from the physical aspects of addiction is psychological addiction.
  • The treatment of dual diagnosis seems to be more effective when treatment of the sufferer's mental illness is integrated with the treatment of the individual's chemical dependency.
  • Drug addiction increases the risk of a number of negative life stressors and conditions, particularly if left untreated.
  • Recovery from a substance use disorder is usually characterized by episodes of remission and relapse.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/4/2016

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