What is Drug Dependence? (Drugs abuse)

Drug Dependence

Drugs abuse the drug dependence or drug abuse is an addiction, specifically based on drug abuse in their frequent consumption and leading its consequences.

If you are drug abuse , you need increasing amounts of a substance to experience its effects.

This is known as tolerance, that is, your body has become accustomed to the effects of the drug / substance and needs larger amounts to produce its effects.

On the other hand, if you are a drug addict you will experience abstinence ; Negative responses and discomfort when you do not consume the substance.

 Drugs abuse

This you can easily observe in everyday life:

  • If you have headaches when not drinking coffee in the morning.
  • If you are nervous about not smoking for several hours.

There is also much more serious abstinence:

  • In delirium tremens (abstinence to alcohol), in which you can experience hallucinations and strange sensations corporal.
  • In cocaine withdrawal you experience anxiety, boredom and lack of motivation.

However, not all substances cause abstinence. For example, quitting m@rijuana or LSD does not produce physical abstinence.

Something important to note is that there may be dependence without abuse. For example, cancer patients can become dependent on morphine and not abuse it.

On the other hand, there may also be drug use without any dependency being believed. For example, there are people who drink alcohol socially or who occasionally use cocaine.

1-How is drug addiction developed?

If you experiment with a drug and continue its use is because the substance makes you feel better or a pain diminishes.

There is a fine line between people who are addicted and those who consume in the normal way. In addition, some addicts have difficulty recognizing that they have crossed that line.

1- Drug use usually increases gradually: you can start by consuming a small amount of m@rijuana, then go on to do it weekly and then daily.

2- If the drug meets a need, it is more likely that its consumption increases. For example, if you lack energy or feel depressed and a drug makes you feel more energetic, you are more likely to become addicted to it.

3- When the consumption of the drug is necessary to solve the problem (depression, anxiety, loneliness, lack of energy …) and cannot control its use, comes the dependence.

4- The tolerance of the organism towards the drug takes place . That is to say, it is necessary that you take greater amounts so that the drug provokes its benefits in you (to feel you more animated, without anxiety, calm, energetic …).

5- Increasingly takes quantities, which makes you more dependent and more difficult to leave the vicious circle. Tolerance and dependence make the consumption can be daily and up to several times per day.

6-Increased consumption and dependence deteriorates social functioning: work life, social life, family …

7- Impaired functioning can lead to more problems, which makes drug use more likely.

As you can see, drug use can become a vicious circle. A simple step like testing a small amount can lead to frequent consumption.

The good news is that it has a solution with the correct effort, support and treatment.

The first step is to admit that you have a problem and allow close and interested people to help you overcome addiction.

2-Why do some people become addicted and others do not?

People take drugs for very different reasons:

  • Have fun or feel socially accepted.
  • Improve physical performance.
  • Relieve anxiety or depression stress.

It does not matter how many drugs you are consuming. If your use is causing problems in your life, you probably have an addiction problem.

The vulnerability to becoming addicted is different from one person to another. The risk factors that increase your vulnerability are:

  • Traumatic experiences in childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Family history of addictions.
  • Disorder such as anxiety or depression.
  • Early use of drugs.

3-Symptoms of drug abuse

If you are a drug dependent person the dependency will show three main effects: psychological dependence (psychological symptoms), substance / drug seeking behaviors (behavioral symptoms) and physical symptoms.

Symptoms of psychological dependence

  • Changes in personality or attitude.
  • Periods of hyperactivity or unusual agitation.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Social isolation.
  • Fearful, anxious, paranoid appearance.
  • You may want to stop the consumption even if you cannot.

Physical symptoms

Muscular weakness.


Body pain.




Frequent nose bleeds.

Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or gain.

Eyes “injected in blood”.

Seizures without a history of epilepsy.

Impaired physical appearance.

Injuries or accidents without explanation.

Smells in body, clothing or breath.

Tremors, difficulty speaking, unstable coordination.

Behavioral symptoms,

  • Desperate need to ingest more substance.
  • Financial problems, stealing money to consume drugs.
  • Decreased attendance at work, school or university.
  • Shortage of realization of leisure activities, sports, exercises.
  • Complaints from co-workers, supervisors or teachers.
  • Social isolation, engaging in suspicious or extraneous behavior.
  • Sudden change in personal relationships, friends or hobbies.
  • Frequently participate in problems: discussions, accidents, illegal activities…

Drug Dependence


Signs of Common Drugs

  • Marijuana: red eyes, loud talking, inappropriate laughter, drowsiness, loss of interest, lack of motivation, weight gain or loss.
  • Tranquilizers (valium, xanax): contracted pupils, difficulty concentrating, poor judgment, drowsiness, difficulty speaking, clumsiness, lack of judgment.
  • Stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine): dilated pupils, hyperactivity, euphoria, irritability, anxiety, talk too often followed by depression, long periods of time without sleep or eating, weight loss, dry mouth and nose.
  • Inhalants (aerosols, glues): watery eyes, impaired vision, nosebleeds, headaches, nausea, drowsiness, muscle control, changes in appetite, irritability.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): dilated pupils, irrational thinking, paranoia, aggressions, hallucinations, mood swings, detachment from people, absorption with objects or with themselves, confusion, speech difficulties.
  • Heroin : no response of pupils to light, pupils contracted, needle marks, sleeping at inappropriate times, vomiting, coughing, loss of appetite, spasms, snot.

4-The most addictive drugs

The following classification (Franklin, 1990) is based on the inherent addictive potential of substances. 

The vulnerability of a person to develop dependence depends on individual traits; Physiology, psychology and social and economic pressures.

Although there are drugs in the list, it must be borne in mind that they are also drugs, because they produce changes at the neural level.

  1. Inhaled Mentanhetamines.
  2. Methamphetamine injected.
  3. Valium (diazepam).
  4. Seconal (Secobarbital).
  5. Crank (amphetamine ingested by the nasal route).
  6. Ecstasy (MDMA).
  7. Psilocybin fungi.

5-Types of drugs / substances

  • Tranquilizers are substances that produce a sense of tranquility and behavioral sedation. Anxiolytics may be barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and hypnotics.
  • Stimulants: substances that increase the physiological activation and the possible increase of the mood. They can be cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine and caffeine.
  • Opiates: substances that produce euphoria and a temporary reduction of pain. They can be her0in, codeine, morphine and opium.
  • Hallucinogens: substances that alter the temporal perception and can cause delusions, delusions and paranoia. They can be LSD and m@rijuana.
  • Other: prescription or over-the-counter drugs, inhalants (glue), anabolic sterolds.

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6-Effects at brain level

Although each drug produces a different physical effect, all substances that are abused have one thing in common: their repeated use can alter brain structure and functioning.

  • Taking recreational drugs can cause an increase in the level of dopamine in the brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure. Your brain becomes dependent on those sensations.
  • When you become addicted, the substance becomes as important as other behaviors like eating or drinking.
  • Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, control your behavior, or feel emotionally balanced.
  • The use of the substance becomes uncontrollable and becomes increasingly important, including work, friends or family.
  • You can deny or rationalize your addiction.

7-Diagnostic Criteria for Drug Dependence

A manipulative pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant deterioration or discomfort, expressed by three (or more) of the following items at some point in a continuous period of 12 months:

1) Tolerance, defined by any of the following items:

  1. A) A need for markedly increasing amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect.
  2. B) The effect of the same amounts of substance clearly decreases its continued consumption.

2) Abstinence, defined by any of the following items:

  1. A) the withdrawal syndrome characteristic of the substance.
  2. B) the same substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3) The substance is often taken in larger quantities or for a longer period than originally intended.

4) There is a persistent desire or inflated efforts to control or disrupt the consumption of a substance.

(5) A lot of time is spent in activities related to obtaining the substance, the consumption of the substance or the recovery of the effects of the substance.

6) Reduction of important social, labor or recreational activities due to substance use.

7) The substance continues to be taken despite being aware of relapsing or persistent psychological or physical problems, which seem to be caused or exacerbated by substance use.

Specify if:

  • With physiological dependence: signs of tolerance or abstinence.
  • No physiological dependence: no signs of tolerance or abstinence.

8-Treatment of substance abuse

Substance abuse is not easy to treat and it is advisable to have a diagnosis, evaluation and follow up by a professional.

Treatment begins when you recognize the problem. Although denial is a normal symptom of addiction, it is less likely if the addicted person is treated with respect and empathy.

The primary goal of treatment is abstinence; the substance can be withdrawn abruptly or slowly. Support for abstinence is key to treatment.

With this main goal, there are different types of treatments.

Biological treatments

  • Replacement by agonists : is to provide the person with a safe substance with a composition similar to the addictive drug. For example, methadone is used as a substitute for her0in (although it also causes dependence, in tolerance loses its @nalgesic and sedative qualities), nocitin is replaced by gum or patches.
  • Antagonist treatments : Antagonist substances block or counteract the effects of psychoactive substances . For example, naltrexone has been evaluated as a treatment for alcohol and opiate dependence.
  • Aversive treatments : this is the prescription of drugs that make the ingestion of substances unpleasant. For example, in those who drink alcohol after taking antabuse experience nausea, vomiting and high heart rate. In this way alcohol is associated with unpleasant sensations.

Other: Clonidine is used to treat hypertension caused by abstinence from opioids, benzodiazepines for withdrawal.

Psychosocial treatments

Social support or therapeutic intervention is very important to overcome drug addiction.

  • Internment: Currently most facilities for the treatment of addictions are private and usually very expensive. Research into alcoholic or drug addicts suggests that there may be no difference between these intensive and external programs.
  • Component Treatment: Most addiction treatments contain several components. For example, aversive therapy (associating substance use with unpleasant sensations), disguised sensitization (negatively associating consumption with unpleasant sensations, albeit in the imagination), contingency management (choosing behaviors that are needed to change, and the reinforces they will reward) , Community reinforcement (correcting aspects of the life of the person).
  • Support Groups: Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous provide social support and help for addicts.

Recovery from drug addiction is easier when you have social support and encouragement from other people.

You can find supports in:

  • Family members.
  • Close friends.
  • Support groups or people who have already recovered.
  • Health centers.

9-How to help drug addicts?

If you believe or know that a relative has addiction to a drug, you can act as follows:

  • Talk to him / her: Talk about your concerns and offer help / support without judgment. The sooner the addiction is treated, the better.
  • Take care of yourself: Do not deny your own needs and make sure you have support for yourself. Do not put yourself in dangerous situations.
  • Avoid guilt: it is impossible to force someone to receive treatment, you can not control the decisions of another person. Guilt is not a good way to make decisions.
  • Avoid threatening, bribing or insulting.
  • Avoid taking responsibility for your responsibilities.
  • Avoid discussing if your partner / friend / family is drugged.
  • Avoid taking drugs with the addict.
  • Avoid feeling guilty about another person’s behavior.

10-Myths about drug abuse

  1. Addiction is a disease, nothing can be done. Although experts agree that addiction is a brain disease that does not mean there are no solutions. Brain changes associated with addiction can be treated with therapy, medication and exercise.
  2. Overcoming addiction is a matter of will power: prolonged use of drugs produces brain changes that make it extremely difficult to avoid consumption simply by willpower.
  3. Addicts have to tap into funds before they recover – recovery can begin at any point in the drug process and the sooner the better.
  4. Only those who want to recover: people who are pressured to deal with their family, company or judicial system are as likely to recover as those who are voluntarily treated.
  5. If it has not been achieved before, treatment will not work: recovery from an addiction is a long process. Relapse does not mean that treatment has failed. Rather, it is a sign that it is necessary to continue the treatment or to readjust it.

11-Relapse Prevention

To prevent future consumption it is recommended:

Avoid places frequented by addicts.

Avoiding relationships with addicts.

Eliminate or change positive beliefs about drugs. Confront positive opinions with negative consequences. For example, although it may produce well-being, it causes long-term family and health problems.

Stimulate positive habits: physical exercise, healthy personal relationships, healthy eating …

Formative plans and life plan: encourage the person to set goals and motivate to achieve positive achievements for his life.