Drug Abuse

Drug abuse is the inappropriate and continued use of drugs, even when they cause work-related, legal, health or family difficulties.

Drug addiction is the long term compulsive consumption of drugs. The user will possibly try to stop using drugs but will return to them repeatedly in spite of the social, physical and emotional damage that they cause.

Drug dependency means that the body begins to need higher doses of the drug to achieve the same effect and to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Commonly abused drugs include the following: Cocaine, Heroin, Morphine, LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), Marijuana, methamphetamines (Speed) , PCP (Phencyclidine, also known as Angel Dust), Ecstasy, GHB ("date rape” drug), Ketamine, steroids, inhalants, prescribed medicines used incorrectly such as opiate pain killers, amphetamines, sleeping pills or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medicines).

The exact cause of drug abuse and dependency is not known. Nonetheless, there are many theories on the subject. For example, it is possible that some people inherit certain genes which make them more disposed to drug abuse. Another theory suggests that a person learns to consume drugs copying the behavior of others. Additionally, the changes that take place in the brain due to long term drug use can reinforce a person´s desire to continue using drugs.


It is common for a person to deny drug abuse or drug addiction. Drug abuse can take place without a physical addiction to a drug.

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

The symptoms of drug abuse include the following:

  • Continuous problems at work, school or at home due to drug use.
  • Continued drug use despite the risk to ones physical safety.
  • Recurring problems with authorities related to drug use (ex.: driving under the influence of drugs)
  • Continued drug use despite the problems generated in personal relationships due to drug use.

The symptoms of drug addiction include at least three of the following:

  • Cravings for drugs
  • Inability to stop or limit use
  • Drug tolerance (use of larger quantities to achieve the same effects).
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking certain drugs
  • Dedicating significant amounts of time in acquiring drugs and getting over their effects.
  • Continued use of drugs even when they cause physical or mental problems or worsen existing problems.


To reduce the risk of drug abuse or drug addiction, you should

  • learn about the risks related to drug use.
  • avoid spending time with persons who abuse drugs.
  • practice alternative ways to deal with social pressure.
  • have a good relationship with your children/parents in order to reduce the risk of drug use.
  • get treatment for anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

Gene or region studied

  • FAAH
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