DEFINITION--A compulsive and destructive use of mind-altering substances despite
adverse medical, psychological and social consequences.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Central nervous system; liver; kidneys; blood.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--All ages, except early childhood.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS--
Substances of abuse may produce addiction (a physiological need) or dependence (a
psychological need). The most common substances of abuse include:
- Opiates, including codeine, heroin, methadone, morphine and opium.
- Psychedelic drugs, including PCP ("angel dust"), mescaline and LSD.
- Volatile substances, such as glue, solvents and paints.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Illness that requires prescription pain relievers or tranquilizers.
- Family history of drug abuse.
- Genetic factors (possibly). Some persons may be more susceptible to addiction.
- Excess alcohol consumption.
- Fatigue or overwork.
- Psychological problems, including depression, dependency or poor self-esteem.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Don't socialize with persons who use and abuse drugs.
- Seek counseling for mental-health problems, such as depression or chronic anxiety,
before they lead to drug problems.
- Develop wholesome interests and leisure activities.
- After surgery, illness or injury, discontinue the use of prescription pain relievers and
tranquilizers as soon as possible. Don't use more than you need.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood tests.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Doctor's treatment.
- Psychotherapy or counseling.
- Hospitalization for drug-withdrawal symptoms.
- Sexually transmitted diseases, which are more likely among addicts.
- Severe infections, such as endocarditis, hepatitis or blood poisoning, from intravenous
injections with non-sterile needles.
- Accidental injury to oneself or others while in a drug-induced state.
- Loss of job or family.
- Irreversible damage to body organs.
- Death caused by overdose.
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Curable with strong motivation, good medical care and support
from family and friends.
How To Treat
- Admit you have a problem.
- Seek professional help.
- Be open and honest with your family and good friends, and ask their help.
- Avoid friends who tempt you to resume your habit.
- Join self-help groups.
- See Resources for Additional Information.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) for alcoholism. This drug produces severe illness when alcohol is
- Methadone for narcotic abuse. This drug is a less-potent narcotic used to decrease the
severity of physical withdrawal symptoms.
ACTIVITY--No restrictions. Exercise regularly and vigorously.
DIET--Eat a normal, well-balanced diet that is high in protein. Vitamin
supplements may be necessary if you suffer from malnutrition.
Call Your Doctor If
- You abuse or are addicted to drugs and want help.
- New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs in treatment may produce side effects.