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Article Summary

What is Drug Abuse?

What is drug abuse? Generally, when most people talk about drug abuse, they are referring to the use of illegal drugs. Drug abuse, also known as substance abuse, involves the repeated and excessive use of chemical substances to achieve a certain effect. These substances may be "street" or "illicit" drugs which are illegal due to their high potential for addiction and abuse. They also may be drugs obtained with a prescription, used for pleasure rather than for medical reasons.

What most drugs of abuse have in common is overstimulation of the pleasure center of the brain. With time, the brain's chemistry is actually altered to the point where not having the drug becomes extremely uncomfortable and even painful.? This compelling urge to abuse the drug becomes more and more powerful and may disrupt work, relationships, health, and often leads to addiction.

The majority of professionals in the field of drug abuse prevention argue that any use of illegal drugs is, by definition, abuse. Illegal drugs were made illegal in the first place because they are potentially addictive or can cause severe negative health effects. Therefore, any use of illegal substances is dangerous and abusive.

Recreational Use versus Drug abuse

Others argue that casual, recreational use of some drugs is not harmful and is merely use, not abuse. The most vocal of the proponents of recreational drug use are those who smoke marijuana. They argue that marijuana is not addictive and has many beneficial qualities, unlike the "harder" drugs. But recent research has shown that even marijuana may have more harmful physical, mental, and psychomotor affects than first believed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana users can become psychologically dependent, and therefore addicted.

Understanding Drug Abuse

Many people do not understand why individuals become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug abuse. They mistakenly view drug abuse and addiction as strictly a social problem and may characterize those who take drugs as morally weak. One very common belief is that drug abusers should be able to cease taking drugs if they are only willing to change their behavior. What people often underestimate is the complexity of drug abuse. Drug abuse is a serious problem that impacts the brain and because of that, stopping drug abuse is not simply a matter of willpower. Through scientific advances we now know much more about how exactly drugs work in the brain, and we also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop abusing drugs and resume their productive lives.

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