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Substance Abuse: Drug Addiction & Help Information

  • Synopsis: Information regarding drug abuse and addiction including prescription drug abuse and rehabilitation centers.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse - Also known as drug abuse, or drug addiction, is defined as a patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others, and is a form of substance-related disorder. Widely differing definitions of drug abuse are used in public health, medical and criminal justice contexts.

Substance dependence - Also known as drug dependence is an adaptive state that develops from repeated drug administration, and which results in withdrawal upon cessation of drug use. A drug addiction, a distinct concept from substance dependence, is defined as compulsive, out-of-control drug use, despite negative consequences. An addictive drug is a drug which is both rewarding and reinforcing.

NOTE: 'Drug abuse' is no longer a current medical diagnosis in either of the most used diagnostic tools in the world, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and ICRIS Medical organization Related Health Problems (ICD)

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Results of the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and Addiction revealed that while millions of Americans habitually smoke pot, drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and swallow prescription drugs, many drug users do not recognize that they have a painkiller or other drug addiction problem. The figure of those "in denial" about their drug addiction is estimated at more than 4.6 million.

Almost 12 percent of young Americans aged 18 years old are now addicted to illicit drugs and approximately 27 million Americans use illicit drugs regularly.

Individuals who struggle with drug addiction do not set out to destroy themselves, or everyone and everything in their path. Rather, these disastrous consequences are the effects of the vicious cycle of drug addiction. For many, drugs seem to be a means of averting emotional and physical pain by providing the user with a temporary escape from life's sometimes uncomfortable realities such as depression and stress.

Physiological sensations are abused to create a new reality or a "high" when one does not wish to correct one's physical, emotional, and spiritual reality. An addicted person does not believe that it is possible to have a satisfying, happy life without the use of narcotics.

Addiction or substance abuse is a complex psycho-chemical problem.

A person with an addiction experiences cravings that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences. During a craving, a person with an addiction misses the habit-forming drug terribly, and often he or she experiences symptoms of withdrawal.

Withdrawal refers to the physical problems and emotions you experience if you are dependent on a substance (such as alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal drugs) and then suddenly stop or drastically reduce your intake of the substance. Symptoms of withdrawal are caused by decreased amounts of alcohol or drugs in the blood or tissues of a person who has grown accustomed to prolonged heavy use and who then suddenly stops. Withdrawal syndrome is a set of symptoms that occur when you decrease or stop drinking or using drugs after using alcohol or drugs for a long time.

Symptoms of withdrawal from either illegal drugs or medications such as antidepressant prescriptions depend on the drug or combination of drugs.

Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

Withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks and may include nausea or vomiting, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms only occur if a person has regular, heavy use of a drug.

Drug withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable without professional help. Treatment for withdrawal from alcohol or drugs may require a medical professional to be present.

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation is often the best way to overcome withdrawal symptoms and recovery from drug addiction.

There are a number of different signs to signify withdrawal symptoms depending on the drug of abuse. More noticeable signs are associated to certain drugs. However, there are some withdrawal symptoms that are associated with all drug use.

If you are dependent on alcohol or drugs and are experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, you may need a visit to your health professional to help you manage your symptoms.

ASAM New Definition of Addiction - Addiction is a chronic brain disease, not just bad behavior or bad choices

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition of addiction highlighting that addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex. This the first time ASAM has taken an official position that addiction is not solely related to problematic substance use.

When people see compulsive and damaging behaviors in friends or family members - or public figures such as celebrities or politicians - they often focus only on the substance use or behaviors as the problem. However, these outward behaviors are actually manifestations of an underlying disease that involves various areas of the brain, according to the new definition by ASAM, the nation's largest professional society of physicians dedicated to treating and preventing addiction.

"At its core, addiction isn't just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It's a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas," said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of ASAM who oversaw the development of the new definition. "Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It's about underlying neurology, not outward actions."

The new definition resulted from an intensive, four-year process with more than 80 experts actively working on it, including top addiction authorities, addiction medicine clinicians and leading neuroscience researchers from across the country. The full governing board of ASAM and chapter presidents from many states took part, and there was extensive dialog with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The new definition also describes addiction as a primary disease, meaning that it's not the result of other causes such as emotional or psychiatric problems. Addiction is also recognized as a chronic disease, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, so it must be treated, managed and monitored over a life-time.

Two decades of advancements in neurosciences convinced ASAM that addiction needed to be redefined by what's going on in the brain. Research shows that the disease of addiction affects neurotransmission and interactions within reward circuitry of the brain, leading to addictive behaviors that supplant healthy behaviors, while memories of previous experiences with food, sex, alcohol and other drugs trigger craving and renewal of addictive behaviors. Meanwhile, brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is also altered in this disease, resulting in the dysfunctional pursuit of rewards such as alcohol and other drugs. This area of the brain is still developing during teen-age years, which may be why early exposure to alcohol and drugs is related to greater likelihood of addiction later in life.

There is longstanding controversy over whether people with addiction have choice over anti-social and dangerous behaviors, said Dr. Raju Hajela, past president of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and chair of the ASAM committee on the new definition. He stated that "the disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them. Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause."

"Choice still plays an important role in getting help. While the neurobiology of choice may not be fully understood, a person with addiction must make choices for a healthier life in order to enter treatment and recovery. Because there is no pill which alone can cure addiction, choosing recovery over unhealthy behaviors is necessary," Hajela said.

"Many chronic diseases require behavioral choices, such as people with heart disease choosing to eat healthier or begin exercising, in addition to medical or surgical interventions," said Dr. Miller. "So, we have to stop moralizing, blaming, controlling or smirking at the person with the disease of addiction, and start creating opportunities for individuals and families to get help and providing assistance in choosing proper treatment."

Substance Abuse Awareness Information

Red awareness ribbonThe awareness ribbon color for substance abuse awareness is red - Red Ribbon Week is commonly held in American schools. Red Ribbon Week is an alcohol, tobacco and other drug and violence prevention awareness campaign observed annually in October in the United States.

U.S. National Substance Abuse Prevention Month - In 2011 President Obama issued the first-ever Presidential Proclamation designating October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. The President's Drug Control Strategy promotes the expansion of national and community-based programs that reach young people in schools, on college campuses, and in the workplace with tailored information to help them make healthy decisions about their future.

U.S. National Recovery Month - Every September, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) sponsors Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use issues and celebrate the people who recover.

Statistics: Substance Abuse



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