Types of addictive substances
(cocaine, crack, amphetamines) give a temporary
illusion of enhanced power and energy. As the initial
elevation of mood fades, depression and other serious
medical problems may emerge, including heart attacks,
seizures, strokes, and violent, erratic, anxious, or paranoid
2. Cocaine use during pregnancy may result in miscarriage,
stillbirth, or low birth–weight babies who may be drug-
dependent and may later develop behavioral or learning
difficulties. Long-term amphetamine abuse can result in
psychosis with symptoms that include paranoid delusions
Heroin is an opioid drug in the same class as medications like
morphine. It can be injected with a needle or inhaled. Heroin
produces an intense feeling of pleasure when a person first
begins to use it. Occasional use of heroin often progresses to
dependence or addiction. Skipping use of heroin for an
addicted person can lead to significant withdrawal symptoms
such as chills, sweating, runny nose and eyes, abdominal
cramps, muscle pains, insomnia, nausea, and diarrhea.
Heroin use during pregnancy may result in miscarriage,
stillbirth, premature delivery, or drug-dependent babies.
Injecting heroin introduces substances into their
bloodstream, that can result in severe damage to the heart,
lungs, and brain. In addition, needle sharing spreads
diseases—this is the leading cause of all new HIV and
Opiate abuse can bring about significant and long-lasting
chemical changes in the brain.These changes cause a
person to experience intense cravings and negative
emotions when they try to stop. Several medications can be
used to treat heroin addiction including buprenorphine,
methadone and naltrexone.
Hallucinogens are drugs such as LSD (acid) or designer
drugs (ecstasy) that are taken orally and cause hallucinations
and feelings of euphoria. Dangers from LSD include stressful
flashbacks—re-experiencing the hallucinations despite not
having taken the drug again, sometimes even years later.
Excessive use of ecstasy, combined with strenuous physical
activity, can lead to death from dehydration or an
exceptionally high fever.
Addiction is a serious illness and can ruin health, finances,
relationships, and careers.The abuse of drugs and alcohol
is a leading cause of preventable illnesses and premature
death in our society.The importance of substance abuse
treatment cannot be overstated, and fortunately many
effective treatments are available.
Consequences of Use
Most adults are familiar with alcohol and its effects.
Alcohol is a legal drug that can produce pleasant effects
with lower amounts, but that can produce dangerous
effects with higher amounts. People often drink alcohol
during social occasions. Unfortunately, the reckless
behavior that often results from excessive drinking is a
leading cause of serious injury and accidental death.
Alcoholism is an illness in which a person loses the
ability to control their drinking, and it is often associated
with the development of problems in work, relationships,
and health. It is an illness that tends to run in families and
is often associated with depression. Alcoholism can have
devastating effects on health, including serious liver
damage, greater risk of heart disease, impotence, infertility,
and premature aging. Alcohol is the most common cause
of preventable birth defects, including fetal alcohol
An alcoholic who needs to drink daily should stop their
use of alcohol under the supervision of a physician, and
may need medication during their withdrawal.There are
medications that can help reduce the compelling desire to
drink alcohol.Treatment is more successful early in the
development of alcoholism than when the illness has been
allowed to progress for years.
Marijuana is the most widespread and frequently used
illicit drug and is associated with short-term memory loss,
accelerated heartbeat, increased blood pressure, difficulty
with concentrating and processing information, lapses in
judgment, and problems with perception and motor skills.
Years of marijuana use can lead to a loss of ambition
and an inability to carry out long-term plans or to function
Inhalants are breathable chemicals like glue, paint thinner,
lighter fluid.They are commonly abused by teenagers
because they are easy to obtain and because they
produce mind-altering effects when sniffed or “huffed.”
These chemicals reach the bloodstream very quickly and
can be deadly. High concentrations of inhalant fumes can
cause heart failure or suffocation and long-term abuse can
cause permanent damage to the nervous system.
Sedatives are highly effective medications prescribed by
physicians to relieve anxiety and to promote sleep.
Harmful effects can occur when taken in excess or without
a physician’s supervision. Combining sedatives with
alcohol or other drugs greatly increases the likelihood of
death by overdose. Women who abuse sedatives during
pregnancy may deliver babies with birth defects who also
may be physically dependent on drugs.
Nicotine in tobacco products has addictive properties
similar in severity to those of heroin. Quitting is difficult
because of the unpleasantness of withdrawal, which
involves feelings of irritability, frustration, anger, anxiety,
insomnia, and depression. Continued smoking may lead to
far more dire circumstances, including lung cancer, heart
attacks, emphysema, high blood pressure, and ulcers.
The first step on the road to recovery is recognition of the
problem, but often this process is complicated by a lack of
understanding about substance abuse and addiction or
denial. In these cases, the intervention of concerned
friends and family often prompts treatment.
Addiction is a chronic illness like heart disease, high
cholesterol or high blood pressure. People with these
chronic diseases are prone to relapse. Because substance
abuse affects many aspects of a person’s life, multiple
forms of treatment are often required. For most, a
combination of medication and individual or group therapy
is most effective. Medications are used to control drug
cravings and relieve severe symptoms of withdrawal.
Therapy can help addicted individuals understand their addiction.