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

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

Drug Abuse Pictures Slideshow: Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs

What are warning signs that you or a loved one may have a drug use disorder?

While specific symptoms that are used to diagnose drug use disorders are described below, warning signs that you or a loved one suffer from the condition include the following:

  • Having blackouts or loss of memory
  • Mood problems like irritability, sadness, or mood swings
  • Repeated arguments with loved ones
  • Repeatedly using drugs to cope with problems
  • Physical symptoms when abstaining from drug use
  • Physical problems as a result of using drugs
  • Repeatedly using more drugs or using drugs for longer than intended
  • Spending less time on life obligations due to drug use
  • Needing more drug to get high than one used to

What are symptoms and signs of drug use disorder?

In order to be diagnosed with drug use disorder, a person must exhibit a maladaptive pattern of drug use that leads to significant problems or stress, as manifested by at least two of the following signs or symptoms in the same one-year period:

  • Recurrent substance use that prevents the sufferer from meeting significant responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Recurrent drug use in situations that may be physically dangerous
  • Recurrent legal problems as a result of drug use
  • Continued drug use in spite of continued or repeated social or relationship problems as a result of, or worsened by the drug's effects
  • Tolerance, that is either a markedly decreased effect of the drug or a need to significantly increase the amount of the substance used in order to experience the same high or other desired effects
  • Withdrawal, which is defined as either physical or psychological signs or symptoms consistent with withdrawal from a specific drug, or taking that drug or one chemically close to that drug in order to avoid developing symptoms of withdrawal
  • Larger amounts of the drug are taken or for longer than intended.
  • The person has a persistent urge to take the drug or has unsuccessfully tried to decrease or control the drug use
  • Excessive amounts of time are spent either getting, using, or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • Cravings/strong urges to use the substance.
  • The person significantly lessens or stops engaging in important social, recreational, work, or school activities because of the substance use
  • The person continues to use the drug despite knowing that he or she suffers from ongoing or recurring physical or psychological problems that are caused or worsened by the use of the drug.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/4/2016

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