Drug abuse can mean the use of illegal drugs or a knowing misuse of legal drugs – and continuing to do so despite the negative consequences. Unfortunately, few people recognize the moment or day that they cross over from drug abuse to living a life of drug addiction. The line can be blurry, especially when viewed through the hazy effects of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. The fact is that both drug abuse and drug addiction bring with them a long list of risks and dangers that can be life-threatening. Often, the only way to break free is to seek and receive addiction treatment at a drug rehab center that is equipped to provide drug detox and comprehensive psychotherapeutic care.
The Definition of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse is defined as an unhealthy relationship with a substance of any kind that alters your consciousness – any substance that could lead to drug addiction. For those who drink alcohol, this could mean bingeing and drinking more than five drinks in an evening on a regular basis or drinking multiple drinks per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For illegal drugs of addiction, any use is considered drug abuse since there is no regulation of processing or distribution and a single use can be deadly. For legal drugs other than alcohol (e.g., prescription stimulants, painkillers, and sedatives), any use outside the bounds of a legitimate prescription for the treatment of a medical issue is defined as drug abuse.
Drug abuse can be life-threatening, but not in the same way that drug addiction is deadly. Acute health problems related to drug abuse are common, but chronic health ailments take much longer to develop. Issues at home and work may mean problems but rarely mean losing a job or a family situation. The biggest risk of drug abuse is death by accident. Driving while under the influence of any drug is one of the most common causes of death, followed by violence under the same circumstances and unprotected sex that leads to transmission of deadly diseases like HIV, according to AIDS.gov.
When Abuse Turns Into Addiction
When drug use and abuse begins to infect every aspect of the patient’s life and becomes a daily or almost-daily occurrence or obsession, it has clearly turned into drug addiction. Here are just a few of the most common signs:
- Children are regularly neglected, abused or abandoned because a parent is under the influence.
- Divorce or separation is threatened or occurs due to one spouse’s drug addiction.
- A job is lost due to the inability to get addiction under control.
- An inability to find or maintain new employment while addiction continues.
- Family finances disappear due to addiction.
- Health problems, both chronic and acute, begin and develop as drug addiction continues.
- Legal issues arise due to purchasing or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The signs of drug abuse may be less stark and harder to recognize, making it a far more difficult issue to pinpoint. If you or someone you care about is living with the following issues or living a lifestyle characterized by some of the following and drug use is a part of the picture, drug abuse may be a treatable causative problem:
- Isolation from friends, family or loved ones
- Suddenly poor performance at work or school
- Encounters with law enforcement
- A constant need to borrow money
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Secretive behavior pertaining to whereabouts, drug usage and current state (e.g., under the influence or not)
The good news is that it is possible to find treatment for drug abuse before it turns into a deadly overdose or debilitating drug addiction that is far more difficult to come back from. The key is early identification and immediate rehab assistance.
Who Is Abusing Drugs?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, large percentages of people across age groups and gender are abusing legal drugs like alcohol and prescription pills as well as illegal drugs of addiction. Here are a few statistics on drug abuse and usage in the United States as stated by the NSDUH:
- About 30.2 million Americans over the age of 12 reported driving while intoxicated at least once in the past year – about 12 percent of the population.
- Marijuana abuse and Ecstasy abuse among high school aged teenagers rose significantly in 2010 after a noticeable decline in the decade previous, with more teens reporting that they don’t believe that either of the drugs is dangerous. About 6.1 percent of high school seniors reported daily abuse of marijuana.
- Cocaine abuse among those over the age of 12 was reported by about 1.6 million people.
- Amphetamine abuse and methamphetamine abuse remain a threat both among high-school-aged kids and adults over the age of 18 – more than eight percent of people between the ages of 12 and 18 report use of amphetamines.
- Prescription drug addiction and abuse is clearly the front-runner in terms of increased abuse over the past decade. Painkillers, especially OxyContin and Vicodin, were the drugs of choice among those over the age of 12, and the non-medical abuse of Adderall was reported by 6.5 percent of high school seniors.
Associated Costs of Untreated Drug Addiction and Abuse
The costs of drug abuse are sometimes hard to define in dollars. How do you put a price on lost opportunity, lost relationships and lost self-esteem? In the ongoing discussions about health care and how to pay for drug abuse treatment, more focus is being placed on the true costs of drug abuse when it goes untreated. Here are just a few:
Medical costs. Chronic use of toxic substances, like heroin, cocaine, alcohol, prescription painkillers and other drugs of addiction, destroys the liver and the kidneys. Your body simply can’t process that many toxins on a regular basis without breaking down. If you use needles, you can add circulatory system problems into the mix as well as blood borne disease transmission, abscesses and infections. If you smoke your drug of choice, respiratory problems and cancers of the lungs, throat and mouth are common. The cost of doctors’ visits, ambulances, emergency room visits for drug-related accidents and overdoses, and medications to try to stave off these deadly diseases in their early stages are significant.
Relationship costs. Few functional relationships include one or more persons who abuse drugs. Whether the relationship you damage is with your spouse or partner, one or more children, parents, coworkers, bosses, neighbors or friends, there is no price tag on the effects of losing that support and companionship. Ending up isolated in your drug addiction can take a heavy toll on the mind and mental health weakens because of it.
Psychological costs. Drugs and alcohol create imbalances in brain chemicals, and it is not uncommon to have psychological problems directly related to drug abuse, such as paranoia, depression, mania, anger or rage, and extreme fluctuations from one emotion to the next. The costs associated with these issues double those related to the original drug addiction.
Social costs. It’s impossible to calculate how your life would have turned out if had chosen drug rehab. Would you have gotten a new job? Gone back to school? Had a healthy child or two? How many positive people would you have met? How many relationships from the past could you have mended? How many new and bright opportunities that haven’t even occurred to you yet would have come your way?
Why is it So Important?
Studies have found that during the span of 15 to 25 years old, young bodies are going through a crucial period of development. The brain, the bones and internal organs that control reproduction are just some of the crucial bodily functions that are developing during this period of an individual’s life. Doing drugs can significantly impede this development and lead to a wide variety of health problems including poor bone and muscle development and even sterility or non-functioning reproductive organs.
Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse
According to DrugAbuse.gov, drug addiction is a brain disease, but it’s also a disease that can contribute to the development of a host of other diseases and disorders. The changes in brain function, chemical release and production, and the alteration of gene expression over the course of long-term drug abuse can cause a multitude of problems. Here are some of the most common:
- HIV, Hepatitis and other infectious diseases. The immune system is lowered by all drugs of addiction but the use of needles and the increased rate of unprotected sex under the influence can increase the chances of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases.
- Cardiovascular system. Abnormal heart rate, arrhythmia, heart attack, heart disease – all of these can be traced back to drugs of abuse. When needles are the method of injection, issues like collapsed veins and bacterial infections that affect the heart are a risk as well.
- Respiratory system. Bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and an increase in asthma symptoms are all related to drugs that are smoked, including crack, marijuana and heroin.
- Gastrointestinal system. Nausea and vomiting can be an issue during the abuse of different substances while others cause significant cramping and abdominal pain.
- Musculoskeletal effects. The largest risk for musculoskeletal issues occurs when those under the age of 18 abuse drugs and alcohol. Muscle weakness and muscle cramps are associated with a number of different drugs at all ages.
- Kidney damage. Increased body temperature and muscle breakdown caused by different drugs can lead to kidney problems and kidney failure.
- Liver damage. When any drug or toxin is abused heavily, the liver can be overwhelmed with the task of processing it out of the body, resulting in liver damage and liver failure.
- Neurological effects. Seizures, stroke, brain damage and an alteration in the production of neurotransmitters can result from the abuse of almost every drug.
- Mental health issues. Repeated use of high doses of different substances can lead to paranoia, auditory and visual hallucinations, depression, anxiety, violence and other mental health problems.
- Hormonal effects. Steroid abuse especially negatively impacts the production of hormones and can cause changes across body systems – many of which are irreversible.
- Cancer. Though the presence of toxins in a number of drugs can be a contributing factor to the development of many types of cancer, smoking marijuana and other drugs exposes the lungs, mouth, throat, neck and stomach to cancer-causing carcinogens.
- Prenatal issues. Drug abuse of all kinds has been linked to spontaneous abortion, low birth weight, preterm labor, and a range of cognitive and behavioral development issues.
- Death. Either directly or peripherally caused by drug abuse, deaths associated with drugs have doubled since the 1980s. No other issue causes more preventable deadly health problems or accidents. It is estimated that 25 percent of all deaths in the United States can be attributed to the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
Help Is Available at Michael’s House
Located near the heart of beautiful Palm Springs, California, Michael’s House offers residential drug treatment for those individuals who want to enact real, positive change in their lives. The staff at Michael’s House understands that in order to be truly successful, a program must take a whole body approach to treatment that enriches the mind, body and spirit. For more information or a private consultation, contact Michael’s House today.
If you have questions about treatment for drug abuse, please call our call center 24 hours a day at 877-345-8494.
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