People abuse substances such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco for varied and complicated reasons, but it is clear that our society pays a significant cost. The toll for this abuse can be seen in our hospitals and emergency departments through direct damage to health by substance abuse and its link to physical trauma. Jails and prisons tally daily the strong connection between crime and drug dependence and abuse. Although use of some drugs such as cocaine has declined, use of other drugs such as heroin and “club drugs” has increased.
- Finding effective treatment for and prevention of substance abuse has been difficult. Through research, we now have a better understanding of the behavior. Studies have made it clear that drug education and prevention aimed at children and adolescents offers the best chance to curb abuse nationally.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated the number of users of illicit drugs in 2014 in the United States ages 12 and over to be about 7 million. In addition, the survey estimated that 6.4% of Americans (roughly 17 million adults) abuse or are dependent on alcohol.
Abused substances produce some form of intoxication that alters judgment, perception, attention, or physical control.
Many substances can bring on withdrawal, an effect caused by cessation or reduction in the amount of the substance used. Withdrawal can range from mild anxiety to seizures and hallucinations. Drug overdose may also cause death.