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24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice
24 hours rehab

Call Now for Immediate Confidential Help and Advice 02038 115 619

24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice

Substance Abuse

Drug abuse occurs when a person takes drugs excessively to reduce stress or physical symptoms and arouse pleasure. In some cases, the user may be involved in binge-like cycles that may be an indication of addiction. Drug abuse means that there is an abuse of a substance; using prescription medication as per the prescription is not drug abuse, but if you take the medication in larger doses than those you’ve been prescribed, more often or for a longer period – then this is a case of abuse. Illegal substances are usually abused by default since they were judged harmful by definition.

Repeated drug abuse alters some parts of the brain such as the reward centre, giving rise to addiction. When a person reaches the point of addiction, they are unable to quit drugs or alcohol even after experiencing negative impacts like physical health problems, relationship issues, legal problems and job under-performance.

What Is Drug Abuse?

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Drug abuse is the detrimental and dangerous use of legal or illegal substances. Such substances may lead to dependence syndrome, which is a collection of cognitive, physiological and behavioural phenomena. The syndrome develops after persistent drug intake and is characterised by reduced self-control, increased tolerance, consumption despite dangerous effects and painful withdrawal symptoms when the user tries to quit.

This occurs when a person uses drugs in a way that is not medically recommended, such as taking more than the amount prescribed. In many cases, the user consumes the drug for purposes of creating pleasurable effects and feelings of ecstasy in the brain.

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Drugs Commonly Abused

Legal drugs, as well as illegal drugs, contain chemicals that result in changes in the body and mind of a person. They may give the user a pleasurable high, ease stress or help the addict avoid the pressures and troubles of daily life.

Drug abuse involves street, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, which are harmful and addictive when used in the wrong way.

Legal drugs

  • Prescription opioids
  • Prescription stimulants
  • Prescription central nervous system depressants
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as loperamide and dextromethorphan
  • Tobacco

Illicit substances

In the UK, the legality of a substance is defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Schedule 3 contains a list of all controlled substances. (1)

  • Ayahuasca
  • GHB
  • Cocaine
  • Kratom
  • Marijuana (cannabis)
  • LSD
  • Khat
  • DMT
  • Synthetic cannabinoids
  • MDMA (ecstasy/molly)
  • Heroin
  • Ketamine
  • Magic mushrooms (psilocybin)
  • Mescaline (peyote)
  • Salvia
  • Rohypnol (flunitrazepam)

Common Signs of Drug Abuse

Substance abuse usually produces specific signs and symptoms in the user that may be physical or behavioural. Loved ones may lookout for these in order to confirm their suspicions. Once two or more of these are present, they would have to make sure there is not another reason, such as a sickness, which may be causing the symptoms. If the cause for the symptoms has been confirmed to be drug abuse and addiction, an eventual inpatient rehab stay could be discussed.

Physical symptoms

Notable signs of drug abuse are those that affect the user’s physiological processes and include:

  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Skin changes
  • Dental issues
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much

Behavioural symptoms

The drug may alter habits by impairing the brain’s capacity of thinking intelligently and focusing clearly. Some of these symptoms include;

  • Changes in attitude/personality
  • Sudden changes in a social network
  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Involvement in criminal activity
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities

Drug Abuse and Addiction

The terms drug abuse and addiction are commonly used interchangeably. However, they are two different concepts.

A person abusing drugs may not become addicted to them. The definition of drug abuse is concerned with how a person uses drugs (improperly and excessively). The effects of their actions may not have a remarkable impact on their life.

Drug abuse is associated with damaging behaviour. However, the user may still retain some degree of control over their drug intake.

Addiction comprises detrimental physical and psychological effects that the drug causes in the user. When a person becomes addicted, it will seem nearly impossible to quit consuming the substances. Addiction is a disease and occurs as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to physical and even psychological dependence.

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