There is a lot of confusion around substance use,  drug abuse, and addiction. The term “drug abuse” implies use of only the most dangerous drugs and medication, but virtually any substance can be abused.Many substances that we use every day can be abused. Abuse occurs when dependence and tolerance develop. Someone may start using a little, then increase use over time, thinking nothing has changed when everything is changing inside the brain and body as the body gets used to it and craves more.

Stigma Prevents People From Getting Help

Unfortunately, stigma and shame often prevent people from openly discussing their use of substances. Secrecy and denial, even in the most advances stages of addiction, make understanding and dealing with the stages of abuse and addiction much harder. The perception in the past has been that drug abusers are homeless people, but that is not the case. People of all ages and economic levels abuse substances and become addicted.

How Does The Abuse Start

“Use of favorite substances escalates as changes in the brain occur and a dependence develops.”

Medications, both over the counter and prescription medicines, as well as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and sugar are all substances that can be abused. They can become addictive, just like marijuana, heroin and other illegal drugs. People often start using painkillers, or alcohol or even over the counter medications to numb symptoms and feel better. Foods and other substances, alcohol especially, are used for recreation. Tolerance is also a factor in drug abuse, which means that over time more of the substance is required more to get the same “good” feeling or high. Drug abuse is commonly seen as the second stage after any substance use begins. The third stage is addiction, when people can’t stop and continue escalating use even in the face of catastrophic consequence

The Consequences of Drug (or Substance Abuse)

Drug abuse and addiction have negative consequences for individuals and for society. Estimates of the total overall costs of substance abuse in the United States, including productivity and health- and crime-related costs, exceed $600 billion annually. This includes approximately $193 billion for illicit drugs, $193 billion for tobacco, and $235 billion for alcohol.  As staggering as these numbers are, they do not fully describe the breadth of destructive public health and safety implications of drug abuse and addiction, such as family disintegration, loss of employment, failure in school, domestic violence, and child abuse. National Institute of Drug Abuse


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