QUESTION: WHAT IS DRUG ADDICTION?

Answer: Drug addiction is a complex brain disease. It is characterized by compulsive, at times uncontrollable, drug craving, seeking, and use that persist even in the face of extremely negative consequences. Drug seeking becomes compulsive, in large part as a result of the effects of prolonged drug use on brain functioning and thus, on behavior. For many people, drug addiction becomes chronic, with relapses possible even after long periods of abstinence.

QUESTION: WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL SIGNS OF ABUSE OR ADDICTION?

Answer: The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic conditions. THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for producing its effects, is associated with weakening the immune system which makes the user more vulnerable to infections, such as pneumonia. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects; stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.

QUESTION: ARE THERE EFFECTIVE TREATMENTS FOR DRUG ADDICTION?

Answer: Drug addiction can be effectively treated with behavioral-based therapies and, for addiction to some drugs such as heroin or nicotine, medications. Treatment may vary for each person depending on the type of drug(s) being used and multiple courses of treatment may be needed to achieve success.

QUESTION: WHAT IS DETOXIFICATION, OR DETOX?

Answer: Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.

QUESTION: WHAT IS WITHDRAWAL?

Answer: Withdrawal is the variety of symptoms that occur after use of some addictive drugs is reduced or stopped. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression, or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria), that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.


QUESTION: WHAT DRUGS ARE COMMONLY ABUSED?

Answer: The following list of drugs and substances are the most commonly abused in the United States, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

    • Cannabinoids – Hashish, Marijuana
    • Hallucinogens – LSD, Mescaline, Psilocybin
    • Opioids and Morphine Derivatives – Codeine, Fentanyl, Heroin, Morphine, Opium
    • Stimulants – Amphetamine, Cocaine, Ecstasy(MDMA), Methamphetamine, Methylphenidate(Ritalin), Nicotine
    • Depressants – Barbituates, Benzodiazepines(Rohypnol),GHB, Methaqualone(Quaaludes), Dissociative Anesthetics, Ketamine, PCP
    • Other Compounds – Anabolic Steroids, Inhalants