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 complications of drug addiction?

Drug addiction puts its sufferers at risk for potentially devastating social, occupational, and medical complications. Effects of chemical dependency on families include increased risk of domestic violence. Individuals with drug use disorder are also much less likely to find and keep a job compared to people who are not drug addicted. Children of parents with a substance use disorder are at higher risk for impaired social, educational, and health functioning, as well as being at higher risk for using drugs themselves.

In addition to the many devastating social and occupational complications of drug addiction, there are many potential medical complications. From respiratory arrest associated with heroin or sedative overdose to heart attack or stroke that can be caused by cocaine or amphetamine intoxication, death is a highly possible complication of a drug use disorder. People who are dependent on drugs are also vulnerable to developing persistent medical conditions. Liver or heart failure and pancreatitis associated with alcoholism and brain damage associated with alcoholism or inhalants are just two such examples.

What is the prognosis of drug use disorder?

If treated, the prognosis of alcoholism and other drug use disorder improves but is not without challenges. Recovery from substance dependency is usually characterized by episodes of remission (abstinence from drug use) and relapse.

Is it possible to prevent drug abuse and addiction?

A number of different prevention approaches have been found to be effective in decreasing the risk of drug use disorder. Lifestyle changes, like increased physical activity and using other stress-reduction techniques, are thought to help prevent drug use disorder in teens. More formal programs have also been found to be helpful. For example, the Raising Healthy Children program, which includes interventions for teachers, parents, and students, has been found to help prevent drug addiction in elementary-school children when the program goes on for 18 months or more. The prevalence of easier access to technology has led to the development of computer-based prevention programs. Such programs have been found to be very promising in how they compare to more traditional prevention programs, as well as how many more people can be reached through technology.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/4/2016

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