But the fact is, there’s no single profile to ascribe to someone who has turned to drugs and may even suffer from substance abuse disorder. That person could be a member of your family, a friend, a significant other, a coworker, or a neighbor. They may hope for a normal life without drugs, and some people can even keep the impression that they have one. But in secret, they may not know how to deal with the problem and may be in need of an intervention.
Drugs are a continuing problem in the US, and knowing about what constitutes drug abuse will help you prevent it from becoming a concern in your family or community. Here are some important information about commonly abused substances, signs that someone you know might be using drugs, and how and when to call for help.
What Is Considered Drug Abuse?
Drug abuse falls under the category of substance abuse, in which someone engages in the unhealthy and often dangerous consumption of psychoactive substances. In many cases, drug abuse can lead to dependence and cause physiological, cognitive, and behavioral problems in the person using drugs.
Though this may seem like a simple concept, in reality, drug abuse can be hard to keep track of. Some substances that are considered drugs, like alcohol and nicotine, are legal. Other substances, like methamphetamine and cocaine, are banned by the law. Still others, like prescription opioids, may be legally obtained via a doctor’s prescription, but misused in a way that doesn’t align with their medical purpose.
In short, when understanding the problem of drug abuse, one should consider not only the substance, but the harmful pattern in which it is consumed.
Why Do People Do Drugs?
Another thing that everyone should know about the phenomenon of drug abuse is that people use drugs for different reasons. You cannot chalk up drug abuse and addiction to any one simple reason—there may be a more complex problem behind it.
The most common reasons why people use drugs, however, are the following:
- They are looking for some sort of high that can enhance their feelings of pleasure, excitement, or relaxation.
- They are looking to induce a feeling that can distract them from difficulties in their lives.
- They are looking for something that can give them a boost of energy for work, school, or social situations.
- They’re seeking a way to relieve pain, stress, insomnia, or other form of physical discomfort, but not in a way that’s healthy for them.
- They want to impress or try to fit in with peers who are also using drugs.
- They are looking for means to lessen their inhibitions.
- They are looking for ways to satisfy their curiosity.
Someone you know may have started using drugs for one or more of the reasons listed above. It’s important to be knowledgeable, understanding, and compassionate when figuring out the whys of their drug use.
What Are the Signs That Someone May Be Abusing Drugs?
If you have a suspicion that someone you love may be abusing drugs, it may be because of the following clues:
- There are drastic changes in their appearance. They may have drastically gained or lost weight in a short period of time. They may also have red eyes and bad skin. In addition, they may look disheveled or show a lack of their usual care in their physical appearance.
- Changes in behavior. Their behaviors may fall under extremes. On the one hand, they may have more energy than usual, and on the other, they may be exceptionally tired or withdrawn.
- Problems at school or in the workplace. Drug abuse may be the reason behind absences, neglect of duty, failing grades, or unfavorable assessments. This may be because the person is not as focused, motivated, or driven to perform as usual.
- Problems in personal relationships. Drugs can also be behind strife in personal relationships, such as when someone is being secretive or regularly lying about their whereabouts.
- Money troubles. A look at the person’s finances may also indicate that they are spending a lot of money to sustain a harmful habit of drug use.
What Are the Most Common Types of Dangerous Drugs in the USA?
Several classes of drugs have been flagged as potentially harmful or outright harmful by health authorities in the United States. Here are the categories to watch out for, the effects they have on users, and examples that fall under each category.
- Cannabis and cannabis-containing substances. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a drug that’s used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Users either smoke, vaporize, or consume cannabis as edibles to achieve a relaxing, euphoric effect. But if taken at high doses, cannabis can also cause nausea, coughing, and a decrease in mental sharpness.
- Club drugs. This class of drugs, which includes ecstasy or molly (MDMA), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), and ketamine, is typically obtained by users at social events, hence the name. Partygoers often take these to enhance the pleasure or high of their social experience. But club drugs also have a bad reputation for being used to carry out assault, causing accidents, and inducing chills, tremors, and loss of consciousness.
- This group of substances, which includes methamphetamine (crystal meth), cocaine, methylphenidate (Concerta or Ritalin), and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall), stands out for strong, addictive highs. Users often turn to these drugs to get a boost of energy and maximize their performance at work, school, or social situations. Stimulants permit them to do so, even without much food or sleep. Known side effects are rapid changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature as well as in mood and mental perception. Several drugs that fall under this class are illegal.
- Benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other depressants. This class of drugs comprises central nervous system depressants like Phenobarbital and secobarbital (Seconal). It also comprises the sedatives alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Ativan). Also under this category are prescription sleeping medications like zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien). Though several of the examples mentioned are attained through a doctor’s prescription, they can be easily misused. Users can take more than the recommended dose or use these for a purpose outside of their medical intent. The consequences include lack of inhibition, changes in mood, and lack of mobility or coordination that can cause grave injury.
- Hallucinogens. This class of drugs includes phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and psilocybin mushrooms (“magic mushrooms” or “shrooms”). These drugs are taken for their psychedelic effects, which many find both relaxing and stimulating to their senses. However, bad trips with hallucinogens can cause unpleasant, even unsettling hallucinations, erratic behavior, and shifts in mood.
- Opioid painkillers. This category of drugs, which comprises morphine, heroin, codeine, and oxycodone, is derived either from natural or synthetically made opium. They are highly powerful and highly addictive. Those that can be obtained legally by prescription are still prone to abuse. These drugs can also result in changes to one’s perception of pain, confusion, problems with memory and attention span, and depression.
- Substituted cathinones. Colloquially referred to as “bath salts,” these are mind-altering psychoactive substances that are similar to amphetamines. They can be snorted, eaten, inhaled, or injected, and they also have highly addictive qualities. Side effects of these synthetic cathinones include hallucinations, panic attacks, extreme agitation, and shifts in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Even ordinary products that contain high-inducing but toxic substances, like aerosol sprays, cleaning fluids, felt-tip pens, gasoline, and glue, can be considered “drugs” if misused. Substances like these can induce rashes, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and other side effects due to their toxic nature.
The Risk Factors of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is a complex problem, and its roots can often run very deep. Some types of people may already be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of drugs than others. It depends on a number of factors, such as the following:
- The type of drug taken. One important thing to note is that some types of drugs are more potent and more addictive than others. The risks that a marijuana user has may not necessarily be the same as the risks a methamphetamine user has, and so on.
- Polydrug use. Another important thing to pay attention to is whether the person is engaging in polydrug use, or mixing two or more drugs on the same occasions. Their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing may become even more compromised because of this.
- Genetic predisposition. A family history of use also matters. If there’s someone in the person’s family who has their own history of drug use, that person may be more vulnerable to drugs, too.
- Early use of a dangerous substance. Drug use alters the development of the brain. The earlier the person was exposed to the substance, the more susceptible to substance use disorder they may be.
- Mental health disorder. A person’s drug use may also be tied to any mental health disorder they are trying to cope with or self-medicate. Examples are bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
- Environment and socioeconomic circumstances. Drug use may be more than an individual person’s problem. It may also be a social or cultural one as well. A person is likely to turn to drugs if drugs have always been in their home or in their community..
The Complications of Drug Abuse
There are many complications that arise from drug abuse. The severity of the complications depends on the drugs taken, frequency of use, the presence of existing physical ailments, and so on. But common health-related complications include the following:
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Brain damage
- Memory loss
- Comatose state
- Death by overdose
These complications are bad enough to deal with if you know exactly what type of drug the person is taking. The risks are heightened even further by the fact that many obtain drugs from illicit sources, such as off the street. These drugs may be illegally manufactured and mixed with other harmful substances that the user may not know about.
Drugs can also deal other types of damage in one’s personal life. If drug abuse goes unaddressed, a person may suffer the following consequences:
- Increased vulnerability to communicative diseases, such as HIV, through sharing needles or unprotected sex.
- Injury to oneself or to others because of violent or psychotic behavior.
- Risk of injury to oneself or to others because of an accident, due to a physically or mentally impaired state.
- Financial problems, such as spiraling debt, because of the need to sustain a harmful drug habit.
- Problems with law enforcement because of illegal activities pertaining to drugs.
- Continued problems with family, friends, romantic partners, coworkers, and others in the community.
- Loss of good reputation.
- Increased risk of death by suicide.
When Does Drug Use Become a Serious Problem?
Oftentimes, it may take a while to discern whether a person has a serious problem. People cannot be quick to judge based on the consumption of one beer, one joint, or one prescribed pill alone. But some cases will require careful attention and a swift response. Situations in which you should be firm about declaring a problem include:
- when the use of a drug is illegal in the first place according to the laws of the community or country.
- when you’ve noticed a pattern in the person’s actions that can be attributed to their use of a substance.
- when the physical, mental, and emotional effects of drug use are starkly apparent, such as if the person gets involved in a violent situation.
It is also time to seek medical help for a drug-related problem if you can spot these signs:
- The person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms after ceasing to take a drug for a short period of time.
- The person cannot stop using drugs despite their harmful effects.
- The person is using drugs in increasingly risky situations, therefore endangering themselves and others.
In the following situations, the best recourse is to call an ambulance or go straight to the emergency room:
- If the person has overdosed and lost consciousness.
- If the person is having problems with their breathing.
- If the person is having seizures or convulsions.
- If the person is exhibiting signs of a heart problem, like chest pain or pressure.
How Rehabilitation Services Can Help Address the Problem of Drug Abuse
If it has gotten to the point in which someone is suffering from substance use disorder, they will need to seek professional rehabilitation services. A rehab center will provide a structured, drug-free, and peaceful environment that is far away from the environment that encouraged drug use in the first place. It is also in a rehab center that the person can get assessed, get prescribed the right treatment, and be in the company of supportive peers.
Rehabilitation services will help address the problem of drug use in the following ways:
- They will afford the person proper medical treatment. The person will not be able to solve this problem on their own and will need the care and attention of medical professionals.
- They will help the person learn more about how to preserve their physical, mental, and emotional health without depending on drugs.
- They will give the person access to therapy and counseling. The person can use this to address other underlying problems and repair the relationships that were broken because of drugs.
- They can act as a network for 12-step self-help groups, like Narcotics Anonymous.
Better Addiction Care is an information service that will help you and your loved ones recover from the damage wrought by drug abuse. We provide listings of accredited rehabilitation services in your area, as well as local chapters of Narcotics Anonymous, so you get the care you deserve. By knowing who to call and where to go, you will be one step closer to helping someone heal for good. Get in touch with medical professionals and support groups that can jumpstart recovery. Call (800) 429-7690 today.
How to Keep Drugs Out of Your Community Today
Rehabilitation is one way to curb future drug use in your household and in your community. The best way to prevent drug abuse—and the damage that comes with it—is to be active in keeping drugs out of your environment.
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Here are some ways that you can do so:
- Read up on what you can. There are many resources like Better Addiction Care that you can turn to for greater knowledge on drugs. This will keep you and your loved ones up to date about what substances are dangerous, where they are found, and how to avoid them.
- Be a good example, especially to the young and to those closest to you. Show by your own example that no one needs drugs to have fun, make friends, or cope with life’s troubles. Advocate healthier and more productive ways to do so.
- Be an advocate of healing if someone you know is suffering from substance use disorder. Let them know that it is never too late for them to start recovery and that you support them. If you are in a position to make their rehabilitation treatment easier, it is good for you to do so. You can volunteer to drive them to doctor’s appointments or NA meetings. Or, you can simply talk about the healing process and let them share what they’ve learned with you. It may be a rocky journey, but if all goes well, they will eventually leave their old life for good.
Learn more today about how you can help in someone’s recovery with Better Addiction Care. Let’s work together for healthy, supportive, and drug-free environments for everyone!