Health Topics

Substance abuse problems

Drug Abuse
National Library of Medicine
Hallucinogens
Substance Abuse

Drug abuse is a serious public health problem that affects almost every community and family in some way. Each year drug abuse causes millions of serious illnesses or injuries among Americans. Abused drugs include

  • Methamphetamine
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs, including opioids

Drug abuse also plays a role in many major social problems, such as drugged driving, violence, stress, and child abuse. Drug abuse can lead to homelessness, crime, and missed work or problems with keeping a job. It harms unborn babies and destroys families. There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But the best is to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Drug Misuse
Substance-Related Disorders
Substance Abuse Problems
Drug abuse is a serious public health problem that affects almost every community and family in some way. Each year drug abuse causes millions of serious ...
Pregnancy and Substance Abuse
National Library of Medicine
Alcohol Abuse in Pregnancy
Drug Abuse in Pregnancy
Smoking in Pregnancy
Substance Abuse in Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, you are not just "eating for two." You also breathe and drink for two. If you smoke, use alcohol or take illegal drugs, so does your unborn baby.

To protect your baby, you should avoid

  • Tobacco.Smoking during pregnancy passes nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other harmful chemicals to your baby. This could cause many problems for your unborn baby's development. It raises the risk of your baby being born too small, too early, or with birth defects. Smoking can also affect babies after they are born. Your baby would be more likely to develop diseases such as asthma and obesity. There is also a higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Drinking alcohol. There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe for a woman to drink during pregnancy. If you drink alcohol when you are pregnant, your child could be born with lifelong fetal alcohol syndrome disorders (FASD). Children with FASD can have a mix of physical, behavioral, and learning problems.
  • Illegal drugs. Using illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines may cause underweight babies, birth defects, or withdrawal symptoms after birth.
  • Misusing prescription drugs. If you are taking prescription medicines, carefully follow your health care provider's instructions. It can be dangerous to take more medicines than you are supposed to, use them to get high, or take someone else's medicines. For example, misusing opioids can cause birth defects, withdrawal in the baby, or even loss of the baby.

If you are pregnant and you are doing any of these things, get help. Your healthcare provider can recommend programs to help you quit. You and your baby's health depend on it.

Dept. of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health


Pregnancy
Substance-Related Disorders
Substance Abuse Problems
Pregnancy and Reproduction
Female Reproductive System
When you are pregnant, you are not just "eating for two." You also breathe and drink for two. If you smoke, use alcohol or take illegal drugs, so does your ...
Drugs and Young People
National Library of Medicine
Substance Abuse
Teen Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is a serious public health problem. It affects almost every community and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater hazard than in older people. This is because their brains are not yet fully developed. As a result, the brains of young people may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than adult brains.

Abused drugs include

  • Amphetamines
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

There are different types of treatment for drug abuse. But it is better to prevent drug abuse in the first place.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Substance-Related Disorders
Children and Teenagers
Substance Abuse Problems
Drug abuse is a serious public health problem. It affects almost every community and family in some way. Drug abuse in children and teenagers may pose a greater ...
Homeless Health Concerns
National Library of Medicine
Runaways

Poor health can contribute to being homeless, and being homeless can lead to poor health. Limited access to health care can make it worse. That's why the health of homeless people in the United States is worse than that of the general population. Common health problems include

  • Mental health problems
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Problems caused by being outdoors
  • Wound and skin infections

Many homeless women are victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Homeless children have high rates of emotional and behavioral problems, often from having witnessed abuse.

Help such as shelters, health centers, and free meals are available. Contact your local homelessness assistance agency.


Homeless Persons
Social/Family Issues
... emotional and behavioral problems, often from having witnessed abuse. Help such as shelters, health centers, and free meals are available. Contact your local homelessness assistance agency.
Prescription Drug Abuse
National Library of Medicine
Drug Abuse, Prescription

If you take a medicine in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed, it is called prescription drug abuse. It could be

  • Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else
  • Taking a larger dose than you are supposed to
  • Taking the medicine in a different way than you are supposed to. This might be crushing tablets and then snorting or injecting them.
  • Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high

Abusing some prescription drugs can lead to addiction. These include opioids, sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants.

Every medicine has some risk of side effects. Doctors take this into account when prescribing medicines. People who abuse these drugs may not understand the risks. The medicines may not be safe for them, especially at higher doses or when taken with other medicines.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Substance-Related Disorders
Prescription Drug Overuse
Drug Prescriptions
Substance Abuse Problems
If you take a medicine in a way that is different from what the doctor prescribed, it is called prescription drug abuse. It could be Taking a medicine that ...
Methamphetamine
National Library of Medicine
Amphetamines
Chalk
Crystal
Glass
Ice
Meth
Speed
Tina

Methamphetamine - meth for short - is a very addictive stimulant drug. It is a powder that can be made into a pill or a shiny rock (called a crystal). The powder can be eaten or snorted up the nose. It can also be mixed with liquid and injected into your body with a needle. Crystal meth is smoked in a small glass pipe.

Meth at first causes a rush of good feelings, but then users feel edgy, overly excited, angry, or afraid. Meth use can quickly lead to addiction. It causes medical problems including

  • Making your body temperature so high that you pass out
  • Severe itching
  • "Meth mouth" - broken teeth and dry mouth
  • Thinking and emotional problems

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Methamphetamine
Substance Abuse Problems
Methamphetamine - meth for short - is a very addictive stimulant drug. It is a powder that can be made into a pill or a shiny rock (called a crystal). The powder can be eaten ...
Cocaine
National Library of Medicine
Crack
Blow
C
Coca
Coke
Flake
Snow

Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called crack. Crack is smoked in a small glass pipe.

Cocaine speeds up your whole body. You may feel full of energy, happy, and excited. But then your mood can change. You can become angry, nervous, and afraid that someone's out to get you. You might do things that make no sense. After the "high" of the cocaine wears off, you can "crash" and feel tired and sad for days. You also get a strong craving to take the drug again to try to feel better.

No matter how cocaine is taken, it is dangerous. Some of the most common serious problems include heart attack and stroke. You are also at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, from sharing needles or having unsafe sex. Cocaine is more dangerous when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

It is easy to lose control over cocaine use and become addicted. Then, even if you get treatment, it can be hard to stay off the drug. People who stopped using cocaine can still feel strong cravings for the drug, sometimes even years later.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Cocaine Smoking
Cocaine-Related Disorders
Substance Abuse Problems
Cocaine is a white powder. It can be snorted up the nose or mixed with water and injected with a needle. Cocaine can also be made into small white rocks, called ...
Club Drugs
National Library of Medicine
Amphetamines
Ecstasy
GHB
Hallucinogens
MDMA
Rohypnol

Club drugs are group of psychoactive drugs. They act on the central nervous system and can cause changes in mood, awareness, and how you act. These drugs are often abused by young adults at all-night dance parties, dance clubs, and bars. They include

  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as Ecstasy XTC, X, E, Adam, Molly, Hug Beans, and Love Drug
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), also known as G, Liquid Ecstasy, and Soap
  • Ketamine, also known as Special K, K, Vitamin K, and Jet
  • Rohypnol, also known as Roofies
  • Methamphetamine, also known as Speed, Ice, Chalk, Meth, Crystal, Crank, and Glass
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), also known as Acid, Blotter, and Dots

Some of these drugs are approved for certain medical uses. Other uses of these drugs are abuse.

Club drugs are also sometimes used as "date rape" drugs, to make someone unable to say no to or fight back against sexual assault. Abusing these drugs can cause serious health problems and sometimes death. They are even more dangerous if you use them with alcohol.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse


Sodium Oxybate
Flunitrazepam
N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
Substance Abuse Problems
Club drugs are group of psychoactive drugs. They act on the central nervous system and can cause changes in mood, awareness, and how you act. These drugs ...
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Treatment
National Library of Medicine
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Alcoholism Treatment
What is an alcohol use disorder?

An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is drinking that causes distress and harm. It is a medical condition in which you

  • Drink alcohol compulsively
  • Can't control how much you drink
  • Feel anxious, irritable, and/or stressed when you are not drinking

Types of AUDs include alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence), and alcohol abuse.

What are the treatments for alcohol use disorder?

Most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment. Medical treatments include medicines and behavioral therapies. For many people, using both types gives them the best results. People who are getting treatment for AUD may also find it helpful to go to a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). If you have an AUD and a mental illness, it is important to get treatment for both.

Some people may need intensive treatment for AUD. They may go to a residential treatment center for rehabilitation (rehab). Treatment there is highly structured. It usually includes several different kinds of behavioral therapies. It may also include medicines for detox (medical treatment for alcohol withdrawal) and/or for treating the AUD.

Which medicines can treat alcohol use disorder?

Three medicines are approved to treat AUD:

  • Disulfiram causes unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and skin flushing whenever you drink alcohol. Knowing that drinking will cause these unpleasant effects may help you stay away from alcohol.
  • Naltrexone blocks the receptors in your brain that make you feel good when you drink alcohol. It can also reduce your craving for alcohol. This can help you cut back on your drinking.
  • Acamprosate helps you avoid alcohol after you have quit drinking. It works on multiple brain systems to reduce your cravings, especially just after you have quit drinking.

Your health care provider can help you figure out if one of these medicines is right for you. They are not addictive, so you don't have to worry about trading one addiction for another. They are not a cure, but they can help you manage AUD. This is just like taking medicines to manage a chronic disease such as asthma or diabetes.

Which behavioral therapies can treat alcohol use disorder?

Another name for behavioral therapies for AUD is alcohol counseling. It involves working with a health care professional to identify and help change the behaviors that lead to your heavy drinking.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you identify the feelings and situations that can lead to heavy drinking. It teaches you coping skills, including how to manage stress and how to change the thoughts that cause you to want to drink. You may get CBT one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy helps you build and strengthen the motivation to change your drinking behavior. It includes about four sessions over a short period of time. The therapy starts with identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment. Then you and your therapist work on forming a plan for making changes in your drinking. The next sessions focus on building up your confidence and developing the skills you need to be able to stick to the plan.
  • Marital and family counseling includes spouses and other family members. It can help to repair and improve your family relationships. Studies show that strong family support through family therapy may help you to stay away from drinking.
  • Brief interventions are short, one-on-one or small-group counseling sessions. It includes one to four sessions. The counselor gives you information about your drinking pattern and potential risks. The counselor works with you to set goals and provide ideas that may help you make a change.
Is treatment for alcohol use disorder effective?

For most people, treatment for an AUD is helpful. But overcoming an alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process, and you may relapse (start drinking again). You should look at relapse as a temporary setback, and keep trying. Many people repeatedly try to cut back or quit drinking, have a setback, then try to quit again. Having a relapse does not mean that you cannot recover. If you do relapse, it is important to return to treatment right away, so you can learn more about your relapse triggers and improve your coping skills. This may help you be more successful the next time.

NIH: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcohol-Related Disorders
Alcohol-Related Disorders
Substance Abuse Problems
What is an alcohol use disorder? An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is drinking that causes distress and harm. It is a medical condition in which you Drink ...
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
National Library of Medicine
Alcohol Dependence
Alcohol Withdrawal
Binge Drinking
Drinking
Substance Abuse

For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that their drinking causes distress and harm. It includes alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that causes

  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've started
  • Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance - the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect

With alcohol abuse, you are not physically dependent, but you still have a serious problem. The drinking may cause problems at home, work, or school. It may cause you to put yourself in dangerous situations, or lead to legal or social problems.

Another common problem is binge drinking. It is drinking about five or more drinks in two hours for men. For women, it is about four or more drinks in two hours.

Too much alcohol is dangerous. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It can cause damage to the liver, brain, and other organs. Drinking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Alcohol also increases the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.

You may have an AUD if you can answer yes to two or more of these questions:

In the past year, have you

  • Ended up drinking more or for a longer time than you had planned to?
  • Wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
  • Spent a lot of your time drinking, or recovering from drinking?
  • Felt a strong need to drink?
  • Found that drinking - or being sick from drinking - often interfered with your family life, job, or school?
  • Kept drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed just so you could drink?
  • Gotten into dangerous situations while drinking or after drinking? Some examples are driving drunk and having unsafe sex.
  • Kept drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious? Or when it was adding to another health problem?
  • Had to drink more and more to feel the effects of the alcohol?
  • Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off? They include trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, and sweating. In severe cases, you could have a fever, seizures, or hallucinations.

If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more serious the problem is. If you think you might have an AUD, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Your provider can help make a treatment plan, prescribe medicines, and if needed, give you treatment referrals.

NIH: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcoholism
Substance Abuse Problems
For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that ...