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Drug abuse

drug of abuse testDrug Abuse General: Description

Drug abuse, also known as substance or chemical abuse, is a chronic brain disease, unhealthy necessity in taking of psychoactive substances. Drug substances are the substances or drugs having specific influence onto central nervous system (stimulating, euphoria, changing the perception of the surrounding world).

Problem of drug abuse exists for a long time and it is quite hard to fight it.

Drug abuse and addiction have several biological,   psychological and social risk factors that increase individual’s probability of developing a chemical abuse disorder.  Among these factors experts usually single out the following factors:

  • family surrounding that influence early development of a child;
  • disorderly home environment;
  • genetic inheritance;
  • lack of breeding and parents’ attention;
  • lack of social coping skills.

Abuse of drugs may plays significant role in most social problems, such as violence, stress, drugged driving and child abuse. It can lead to conviction of crime, loss of job and home.

There is a description of the most widespread drugs below.


Amphetamine is wide used drastic stimulant of the central nervous system by increasing the rate of certain chemicals in the body. It is a synthetic analogue of the cocaine which can provoke strong elation, aspiration for action and give self-confidence and feeling of fearlessness. It also increases blood pressure and heart rate and decreases appetite.Drug abuse

In medicine amphetamine is used for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy. It has been given to soldiers and pilots to keep them awake during the significant periods of time.

Signs and symptoms:

  • high body temperature;
  • state of euphoria;
  • faster breathing;
  • dry mouth;
  • mydriatic pupils;
  • burst of energy and increased alertness;
  • bad appetite.

Abuse of amphetamine may lead to the most serious consequences. As a result of intensive use or heavy abuse serious mental effects regularly occur, such as aggression and hostility. Some people suffer from hallucinations.

Physically, the effects of amphetamine abuse include chest pain, heart failure and convulsions. A person using the drug may be unaware of these effects and will find out of what’s happening only in case if he or she stops taking them.


Methamphetamine, or meth, crystal, chalk and ice, is a very addictive  stimulant of central nervous system having high potential for abuse. Taking small doses of methamphetamine result similar effects to such stimulants as cocaine or amphetamine.

Meth users feel more energetic, may not sleep for a long time. Depending on administration method a fast rush of euphoria is followed by quite long period of less intensive euphoria. When the drug was swallowed the high may last for about ten hours.

Signs and symptoms:

  • increased wakefulness;
  • increased breathing;
  • weight loss;
  • insomnia;
  • unusual activity;
  • irregular heartbeat;
  • high body temperature;
  • nervousness and anxiousness.

Abusers may have sores on their face and body. The intensive use of this drug prevents the proper salivation and as a result of this teeth get rotten and brown. This is often called as “meth mouth”.

Related: Drug of abuse saliva test


Cocaine, other names are coke, flake, candy etc., is a powerful stimulant produced from coca leaves, the plant originally growing in South America. It belongs to the list of the most dangerous drugs as addiction to it may appear after one use. A person using this drug feels short-term euphoria lasting from five to thirty minutes, burst of energy and loquacity, which is followed by the intense depression, anxiety and a strong desire for more of the drug.

Signs and symptoms:  

  • dilated pupils;
  • talkativeness;
  • sexually excited;
  • burst of energy;
  • loss of appetite;
  • insomnia;
  • increased heart rate and body temperature;
  • runny nose.

By reason of the purity of cocaine various heart problems may occur, such as ischemia, convulsions, arrhythmia, and heart attack. Smoking it regularly usually leads threat of lung infections and other respiratory issues and injections of the drug are likely to cause allergic reactions and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis in case of use of the contaminated needles.

Cocaine problems also include kidney damage, malnutrition and sexual problems.


Opiates are a group of drugs, natural, synthetic or partially synthetic, used medically for treating pain. There are a great variety of opiates from legal fentanyl, codeine and morphine to illegal opium and heroin. If used as prescribed legal opiate are extremely effective remedies for pain relief. But even taken as prescribed the opioids have a high potential for abuse.

Repeated use of the drug leads to physical dependence after 4-6 weeks of use, and psychological addiction may come out is two days. The first sign of the opiate abuse is a tolerance to the drug.

Signs and symptoms:

  • anxiety attacks;
  • euphoria;
  • psychosis;
  • irritability;
  • depression;
  • improved alertness;
  • constricted blood vessels;
  • increased heart rate; high blood pressure;
  • burst of energy;
  • lowered appetite;
  • insomnia;
  • increased sexual arousal.

Other signs and symptoms appear after withdrawal from the drug including mild-flu symptoms, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. A strong desire to get more of the drug also appears.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the physiologically active component in cannabis preparations (marijuana, hashish etc.) obtained from the Indian hemp or produced synthetically.

Marijuana is probably the most commonly used drug on the planet. People usually smoke marijuana in cigarettes, pipes or water pipes. Other methods are to mix it in food or smoke or eat different forms of THC-rich resins.

Marijuana has short- and long term effects on the human’s brain. Among short-term effects are: altered senses, changes in mood, impaired memory, impaired body movement, impaired memory.

Marijuana affects brain development, especially if used by teenagers. It may reduce memory, thinking and learning functions.

Among physical effects next problems should be named: breathing problem, increased heart rate, problems with child development during and after pregnancy.


Barbiturates are a group of sedative-hypnotic drugs with effects of sleep-inducing and anxiety decreasing. Drugs from this group may be very dangerous as it is quite difficult to determine the right dose. Overdosing may cause coma or even death.

There are many barbiturates with different period of acting from a few minutes up to the two days. Effects from taking barbiturates are similar to the effects of alcohol drinking. Symptoms of barbiturate use are similar to the symptoms of sleeping pills, pain medicines and antihistamines.

Signs and symptoms:

  • slow and shallow breathing;
  • difficulty thinking;
  • slow talking;
  • poor judgement;
  • poor coordination;
  • extreme sleepiness or even coma;
  • drunken gait, stumbling.

This drug gives a person a relaxed and sleepy feeling. The blood pressure of a barbiturate abuser is low; he or she breathes slowly and experiences a lowering of anxiety.


Benzodiazepines, also called “benzos”, are a family of minor tranquilizers acting against anxiety and convulsions, and producing muscle relaxation and sedation. These drug abuse have a very high potential for abuse and addiction.

People usually start abusing benzodiazepines in one of two possible ways: they start taking the drug as prescribed and then progress to taking more than they need to, or they start taking them illicitly and become addicts.

People using benzos are lack of coordination, look sleepy and drowsy and may be hostile and irritable. As a rule, they have vivid and disturbing dreams.

Signs and symptoms:

  • drowsiness;
  • dizziness;
  • confusion;
  • blurred vision;
  • poor judgement;
  • slurred speech;
  • lack of coordination;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • coma.

After withdrawal from benzos a person may experience difficulty walking, paraesthesia, anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.


Phencyclidine, short name PCP, was developed in 1950s as an intravenous anaesthetic but due to its side effects its development was stopped.

PCP is illegally marketed under numerous street names such as angel dust, hog, rocket fluid etc. These names reflect bizarre and volatile effects of the drug using.

A moderate dose of PCP make users feel detached and estranged from their surroundings.

Signs and symptoms:

  • immobility;
  • sedation;
  • numbness;
  • amnesia;
  • speech difficulties;
  • rapid and involuntary eye movements;
  • blank stare;
  • hallucinations.

Physiological effects of the drug use are slight increase of breathing rate, more pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Breathing becomes shallow. Person’s getting flushed and sweating a lot.


Methadone is a synthetic narcotic drug, less addictive than heroine or morphine and used as a substitute for these drugs in treatment courses.

Methadone is a very long-lasting medication and that is why it is used for the relief of severe pain. Taking doses very often it is easy to overdose. Thousands of people die because of this every year.

Signs and symptoms:

  • slowed or troubled respiration;
  • dry mouth;
  • drowsiness;
  • impaired concentration;
  • irregular heart-beat;
  • facial flushing;
  • urinary retention;
  • unstable gait;
  • seizures.

The opiate users often experience drowsiness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and constipation. He or she may also have dry mouth, headache, itchiness or loss of appetite.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants were the earliest antidepressants developed in 1950s. They affect brain to ease symptoms of depression. Tricyclic antidepressants are amitriptyline, amoxapine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortriptyline, protriptyline, trimipramine. Tricyclic antidepressants may be recommended for the treatment if obsessive-compulsive disorder and enuresis. They are also used to treat anxiety disorders (panic disorder and chronic pain).

TCAs are not characterized by addictive potential of other psychoactive drugs, such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Most people can stop taking them without any problem. But the risk of fatal overdose abusing these antidepressants is very high. People taking tricyclic antidepressants must be monitored carefully by therapists.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • drowsiness;
  • blurred vision;
  • dry mouth;
  • constipation;
  • dizziness.

These symptoms are unlikely to occur if the dose is reduced gradually. In case if such symptoms occurred, they would last less than two weeks.


Drug abuse is serious but still treatable medical problem. Proper treatment reduces the effect of drugs onto the brain and body and help people improve their functioning and physical health.

Nowadays many ways to treat substance abuse exist. Depending on the drug used the treatment may comprise medication, behavioural treatments and a combination of both. A substance abuse counsellor will determine the proper course of medical treatment for a patient.

Medications are able to treat addictions to opiates, but they are not effective in treating addiction to stimulants or depressants. In this case behavioural therapy is much more helpful (such as cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational incentives and writings, and group therapy).

Similar to the most chronic illnesses, relapse is a part of the treatment cycle. It doesn’t mean that the treatment was ineffective, but that it should be adjusted or that different ways of treatment should be applied too.

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