Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, refers to a maladaptive pattern of use of a substance that is not considered dependent. The term "drug abuse" does not exclude dependency, but is otherwise used in a similar manner in nonmedical contexts. The terms have a huge range of definitions related to taking a psychoactive drug or performance enhancing drug for a non-therapeutic or non-medical effect. All of these definitions imply a negative judgment of the drug use in question (compare with the term responsible drug use for alternative views). Some of the drugs most often associated with this term include alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines (particularly temazepam, nimetazepam, and flunitrazepam), cocaine, methaqualone, and opioids. Use of these drugs may lead to criminal penalty in addition to possible physical, social, and psychological harm, both strongly depending on local jurisdiction. Other definitions of drug abuse fall into four main categories: public health definitions, mass communication and vernacular usage, medical definitions, and political and criminal justice definitions.
Substance abuse is a form of substance-related disorder.
Public health definitions
Public health practitioners have attempted to look at drug abuse from a broader perspective than the individual, emphasizing the role of society, culture and availability. Rather than accepting the loaded terms alcohol or drug "abuse," many public health professionals have adopted phrases such as "substance and alcohol type problems" or "harmful/problematic use" of drugs.
The Health Officers Council of British Columbia — in their 2005 policy discussion paper, A Public Health Approach to Drug Control in Canada — has adopted a public health model of psychoactive substance use that challenges the simplistic black-and-white construction of the binary (or complementary) antonyms "use" vs. "abuse". This model explicitly recognizes a spectrum of use, ranging from beneficial use to chronic dependence (see diagram to the right).
In the modern medical profession, the two most used diagnostic tools in the world, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the World Health Organization's International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), no longer recognize 'drug abuse' as a current medical diagnosis. Instead, DSM has adopted substance abuse as a blanket term to include drug abuse and other things. ICD refrains from using either "substance abuse" or "drug abuse", instead using the term "harmful use" to cover physical or psychological harm to the user from use. Physical dependence, abuse of, and withdrawal from drugs and other miscellaneous substances is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) ). Its section Substance dependence begins with:
"Substance dependence - When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed. Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. These, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders...."
However, other definitions differ; they may entail psychological or physical dependence, and may focus on treatment and prevention in terms of the social consequences of substance uses.
Drug misuse is a term used commonly for prescription medications with clinical efficacy but abuse potential and known adverse effects linked to improper use, such as psychiatric medications with sedative, anxiolytic, analgesic, or stimulant properties. Prescription misuse has been variably and inconsistently defined based on drug prescription status, the uses that occur without a prescription, intentional use to achieve intoxicating effects, route of administration, co-ingestion with alcohol, and the presence or absence of abuse or dependence symptoms. Tolerance relates to the pharmacological property of substances in which chronic use leads to a change in the central nervous system, meaning that more of the substance is needed in order to produce desired effects. Stopping or reducing the use of this substance would cause withdrawal symptoms to occur.
As a value judgment
Philip Jenkins points out that there are two issues with the term "drug abuse". First, what constitutes a "drug" is debatable. For instance, GHB, a naturally occurring substance in the central nervous system is considered a drug, and is illegal in many countries, while nicotine is not officially considered a drug in most countries. Second, the word "abuse" implies a recognized standard of use for any substance. Drinking an occasional glass of wine is considered acceptable in many Western countries, while drinking several bottles is seen as an abuse. Strict temperance advocates, which may or may not be religiously motivated, would see drinking even one glass as an abuse, and some groups even condemn caffeine use in any quantity. Similarly, adopting the view that any (recreational) use of marijuana or amphetamines constitutes drug abuse implies that we have already decided that substance is harmful even in minute quantities.
Signs and symptoms
Depending on the actual compound, drug abuse including alcohol may lead to health problems, social problems, morbidity, injuries, unprotected sex, violence, deaths, motor vehicle accidents, homicides, suicides, physical dependence or psychological addiction.
There is a high rate of suicide in alcoholics and drug abusers. The reasons believed to cause the increased risk of suicide include the long-term abuse of alcohol and drugs causing physiological distortion of brain chemistry as well as the social isolation. Another factor is the acute intoxicating effects of the drugs may make suicide more likely to occur. Suicide is also very common in adolescent alcohol abusers, with 1 in 4 suicides in adolescents being related to alcohol abuse. In the USA approximately 30 percent of suicides are related to alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is also associated with increased risks of committing criminal offences including child abuse, domestic violence, rapes, burglaries and assaults.
Drug abuse, including alcohol and prescription drugs can induce symptomatology which resembles mental illness. This can occur both in the intoxicated state and also during the withdrawal state. In some cases these substance induced psychiatric disorders can persist long after detoxification, such as prolonged psychosis or depression after amphetamine or cocaine abuse. A protracted withdrawal syndrome can also occur with symptoms persisting for months after cessation of use. Benzodiazepines are the most notable drug for inducing prolonged withdrawal effects with symptoms sometimes persisting for years after cessation of use. Abuse of hallucinogens can trigger delusional and other psychotic phenomena long after cessation of use and cannabis may trigger panic attacks during intoxication and with use it may cause a state similar to dysthymia. Severe anxiety and depression are commonly induced by sustained alcohol abuse which in most cases abates with prolonged abstinence. Even moderate alcohol sustained use may increase anxiety and depression levels in some individuals. In most cases these drug induced psychiatric disorders fade away with prolonged abstinence.
Drug abuse makes central nervous system (CNS) effects, which produce changes in mood, levels of awareness or perceptions and sensations. Most of these drugs also alter systems other than the CNS. Some of these are often thought of as being abused. Some drugs appear to be more likely to lead to uncontrolled use than others.
Traditionally, new pharmacotherapy's are quickly adopted in primary care settings, however; drugs for substance abuse treatment have faced many barriers. Naltrexone, a drug originally marketed under the name "ReVia," and now marketed in intramuscular formulation as "Vivitrol" or in oral formulation as a generic, is a medication approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence. This drug has reached very few patients. This may be due to a number of factors, including resistance by Addiction Medicine specialists and lack of resources.
The ability to recognize the signs of drug use or the symptoms of drug use in family members by parents and spouses has been affected significantly by the emergence of home drug test technology which helps identify recent use of common street and prescription drugs with near lab quality accuracy.
1 in 5 teenagers report having abused a prescription medication and over 2500 teenagers a day experiment with prescription medications taken from the home. The Massachusetts legislature just enacted a law that requires all pharmacies located within the Commonwealth to display, and offer for sale, medical lock boxes for home use and to place those products within 50 feet of the pharmacy counter. Products such as the RxDrugSAFE, a fingerprint recognition home medical safe, combat unauthorized access to prescription medications at home, thereby preventing abuse. This new law is the first such law enacted within the United States.
In 2009 in the United States about 21% of high school students have taken prescription drugs without a prescription. And earlier in 2002, the World health Organization estimated that around 140 million people were alcohol dependent and another 400 million suffered alcohol-related problems.
According to BBC, "Worldwide, the UN estimates there are more than 50 million regular users of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs."
Society and culture
Related articles: Drug control law, Prohibition (drugs), Arguments for and against drug prohibition
Most governments have designed legislation to criminalize certain types of drug use. These drugs are often called "illegal drugs" but generally what is illegal is their unlicensed production, distribution, and possession. These drugs are also called "controlled substances". Even for simple possession, legal punishment can be quite severe (including the death penalty in some countries). Laws vary across countries, and even within them, and have fluctuated widely throughout history.
Attempts by government-sponsored drug control policy to interdict drug supply and eliminate drug abuse have been largely unsuccessful. In spite of the huge efforts by the U.S., drug supply and purity has reached an all time high, with the vast majority of resources spent on interdiction and law enforcement instead of public health. In the United States, the number of nonviolent drug offenders in prison exceeds by 100,000 the total incarcerated population in the EU, despite the fact that the EU has 100 million more citizens.
Despite drug legislation (or perhaps because of it), large, organized criminal drug cartels operate worldwide. Advocates of decriminalization argue that drug prohibition makes drug dealing a lucrative business, leading too much of the associated criminal activity.
The UK Home Office estimated that the social and economic cost of drug abuse to the UK economy in terms of crime, absenteeism and sickness is in excess of £20 billion a year.
However, it does not estimate what portion of those crimes are unintended consequences of drug prohibition (crimes to sustain expensive drug consumption, risky production and dangerous distribution), nor what is the cost of enforcement. Those aspects are necessary for a full analysis of the economics of prohibition.
The Home Office has a recent history of taking a hard line on controlled drugs, including those with no known fatalities and even medical benefits, in direct opposition to the scientific community.
Treatment for binge drinking and other forms of substance abuse is critical for many around the world. Behavioral interventions and medications exist that have helped many people reduce, or discontinue, their substance abuse. From the applied behavior analysis literature, the behavioral psychology literature, and from randomized clinical trials, several evidenced based interventions have emerged:
· Behavioral Marital Therapy
· Motivational Interviewing
· Community Reinforcement Approach
· Exposure therapy
· Contingency Management
· Pharmacological therapy - A number of medications have been approved for the treatment of substance abuse. These include replacement therapies such as buprenorphine and methadone as well as antagonist medications like disulfiram and naltrexone in either short acting, or the newer long acting form (under the brand name Vivitrol). Several other medications, often ones originally used in other contexts, have also been shown to be effective including bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin), Modafinil (Provigil) and more.
It has been suggested that social skills training adjunctive to inpatient treatment of alcohol dependence is probably efficacious.