Drug abuse and Addiction

Drug abuse is a disorder characterized by a destructive pattern of using a substance that leads to distress and significant health problems. These problems involve tolerance to or withdrawal from the substance. Drug addiction is the development of drug dependence  leading to psychological and physical effects of the drug taken.


Drug addiction is not immediate, it takes time to form the habit. The earlier you stop taking the drugs, the higher the chances of your system cleaning itself up. However, people are different and some get hooked quicker than others while others have a higher tolerance to some drugs.

Although we know what happens to the brain when someone becomes addicted, we can’t predict how many times a person must use a drug before that happens. A person’s unique genetic makeup and his or her environment both play a significant role. What we do know is that a person who uses drugs (including alcohol) risks becoming addicted, craving the drug despite its terrible consequences. In the end, if addiction occurs, it is extremely painful and difficult to quit regardless of what drug you take.


Many drugs lose their effectiveness if you keep taking them. A person becomes tolerant to a drug when they have to take more of it or take the same dose more frequently, to get the same effect as they got at first. For example, if you take a decongestant for a cold over several days, the effective time becomes shorter and shorter. Similarly, if you take opiate medications to control pain, you may need to take more to achieve the same level of pain control. In such a case, developing tolerance does not mean that you are addicted to the drug.


Drugs alter your perceptions and your judgment. Different drugs do this in different ways. Some drugs make you overconfident, and some drugs decrease your ability to pay attention to the things going on around you, even when those events are critical to your health and safety (like seeing a red light while driving). Other drugs, like LSD, can change your perceptions so much that you can't recognize people and things in your environment at all.


You can do some key things to stay off drugs. Three big ones are:

  1. Avoid situations where there are likely to be drugs, if possible, and instead do activities that are enjoyable and drug free.
  2. Hang out with people that don't use drugs
  3. Say 'no thanks' when offered drugs.

Science has shown that the earlier a person starts using drugs, the more likely he/she is to become addicted and suffer serious social and medical consequences. The reasons are complex. First, drugs affect the brain, and the brain is still maturing when a person is young—until early adulthood in fact. Thus, drugs can alter normal brain development.


Second, people who use drugs when they are very young often have other problems that led to their drug use in the first place. For example, they may have difficult family situations or problems with depression or anxiety and use drugs to help them cope. Unfortunately, drug abuse just makes things worse in the long run and does not fix these problems. Third, using drugs can interfere with success in school, in sports, and in relationships with friends and family, creating more problems down the road.


Since early drug use can lead to later drug addiction and other problems, the best advice is not to even experiment with drugs. However, if someone is already using a drug, he/she should know that the earlier he/she stops, the more likely he/she is to avoid addiction and the other bad consequences associated with it