Substance abuse, or drug abuse, happens when a person uses a drug over and over again, in ways that are harmful to their health. The person is using the drug to change his or her mood or to feel better, not for any healthy reason.
What Kind of Drugs are Abused?[change | change source]
People abuse drugs in many different ways, including:
- Taking illegal drugs (like heroin or cocaine)
- Using legal medicines to feel good, not for what they are supposed to treat (for example, taking oxycodone to feel very good, not as a painkiller)
- Taking too much of a drug on purpose (for example, taking more than a normal amount of oxycodone because it will make the euphoria from the drug even better)
Illegal Drugs[change | change source]
Some of the most commonly abused illegal drugs are:
- Cocaine, including crack cocaine
- MDMA (also called Ecstasy or Molly)
- Methamphetamine (also called meth), including crystal methamphetamine
- Synthetic cannabinoids (a man-made drug that includes the main chemical in marijuana; also called K2 or Spice)
Legal Drugs and Medicines[change | change source]
Some of the most commonly abused legal drugs and medicines are:
- Nicotine (the drug in cigarettes)
- Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines that include dextrometorphan (DMX) ("over-the-counter" means people can buy these medicines without needing a doctor's prescription)
- Prescription opioids (strong painkillers), like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone
- Prescription sedatives (drugs that make people feel relaxed or sleepy), like barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleep medicines
- Prescription stimulants (drugs that make people feel more awake and have more energy), like medicines used for ADHD
Substance Abuse and Addiction[change | change source]
In many cases, when a person is using drugs, their thinking and behaviors change. Sometimes, they commit crimes while using drugs. They may do things that are not safe, like drive a car while drunk. When people abuse drugs over a longer time, their personalities often change as well.
Substance Abuse, Depression, and Suicide[change | change source]
Substance abuse is the second most common risk factor for suicide (after major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder). People are more likely to commit suicide if they use drugs over a short time (acutely) or over a long time (chronically).
Drug or alcohol use is involved in more than half of suicides. Up to 25% of people who kill themselves are addicted to drugs or alcohol. This is much more common in younger people. Up to 70% of adolescents who kill themselves are addicted to drugs or alcohol.[source?]
This table explains more about how some commonly abused drugs relate to depression and suicide:
|Substance abused||Effects related to suicide|
|Alcohol||People who misuse alcohol are more likely to have a number of mental health disorders. Alcoholics have a very high suicide rate. Suicide from alcoholism is more common in older adults. If a person drinks 6 or more drinks per day, he or she is six times more likely to commit suicide. Many heavy drinkers have major depressive disorder, and heavy drinking itself can cause major depressive disorder in a lot of alcoholics.|
|Benzodiazepines||People are more likely to be depressed, and have a higher risk of suicide, if they have been abusing benzodiazepines (like Xanax) or using them for a long time. Depressed adolescents who were taking benzodiazepines were much more likely to hurt themselves or kill themselves.|
|Cigarette smoking||Many studies have shown a link between smoking, thinking about suicide, and suicide attempts. In studies done with 50,000 nurses and 300,000 male U.S. Army soldiers, the people who smoked between 1 to 24 cigarettes per day had twice the suicide risk, and people who smoked 25 cigarettes or more had 4 times the suicide risk, as compared with those who had never smoked.|
|Cocaine||Misuse of drugs such as cocaine often has a link with suicide. The time when the effects of a drug wear off is called the "crash" or withdrawal phase. During this phase, many people feel very bad. Suicide is most likely to occur during this phase in people who use a lot of cocaine or are addicted. In younger adults, suicide more commonly happens when two or more drugs are taken together.|
|Crystal meth||Crystal meth use has a strong link with depression and suicide as well as a range of other bad effects on physical and mental health.|
|Heroin||Deaths among heroin users that are thought to be from suicide range from 3% to 35%. Overall, heroin users are 14 times more likely than people who do not use heroin to die from suicide.|
References[change | change source]
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