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.

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

Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs

What are the physical and psychological effects of drug use disorders?

While the specific physical and psychological effects of drug use disorders tend to vary based on the particular substance involved, the general effects of addiction to any drug can be devastating. Psychologically, intoxication with or withdrawal from a substance can cause everything from euphoria as with alcohol, Ecstasy, or inhalant intoxication, to paranoia with marijuana or steroid intoxication, to severe depression or suicidal thoughts with cocaine or amphetamine withdrawal. In terms of effects on the body, intoxication with a drug can cause physical effects that range from marked sleepiness and slowed breathing as with intoxication with heroin or sedative hypnotic drugs, to the rapid heart rate of cocaine intoxication, or the tremors to seizures of alcohol withdrawal.

What are causes and risk factors for developing a drug use disorder?

Like most other mental-health problems, drug use disorders have no single cause. However, there are a number of biological, psychological, and social factors, known as risk factors, that can increase an individual's vulnerability to developing a chemical use disorder. The frequency with which substance use disorders occur within some families seems to be higher than could be explained by an addictive environment of the family. Therefore, most substance use professionals recognize a genetic aspect to the risk of drug addiction.

Psychological associations with substance abuse or addiction include mood disorders like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, thought disorders like schizophrenia, as well as personality disorders like antisocial personality disorder. Social risk factors for drug abuse and addiction include male gender, being between the ages of 18 and 44 Native-American heritage, unmarried marital status, and lower socioeconomic status. According to statistics by state, people residing in the West tend to be at a somewhat higher risk for chemical dependency. While men are more at risk for developing a chemical dependency like alcoholism, women seem to be more vulnerable to becoming addicted to alcohol at much lower amounts of alcohol consumption compared to men.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/4/2016
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