The Science of Drug Use: A Resource for the Justice Sector | National Institute on Drug Abuse (2023)

The talking points below are written in plain language as a suggested way to communicate concepts of drug use and addiction toadultsor teens.

Why do people use drugs?

People use drugs for many reasons: they want to feel good, stop feeling bad, or perform better in school or at work, or they are curious because others are doing it and they want to fit in. The last reason is very common among teens.

Drugs excite the parts of the brain that make you feel good. But after you take a drug for a while, the feel-good parts of your brain get used to it. Then you need to take more of the drug to get the same good feeling. Soon, your brain and body must have the drug just tofeel normal. You feel sick, awful, anxious, and irritable without the drug. You no longer have the good feelings that you had when you first used the drug. This is true if you use illegal drugs or if you misuse prescription drugs. Misuse includes taking a drug differently than how your doctor tells you to (taking more or crushing pills to "shoot up" or snort), taking someone else’s prescription, or taking it just to get “high.”

Drug use can start as a way to escape—but it can quickly make your life worse. Besides just not feeling well, different drugs can affect your brain and body in many different ways. Here are a few:

  • Alcohol: You might have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering,
    and learning.
  • Marijuana: You might forget things you just learned or have trouble focusing.
  • Prescription pain relievers (opioids) or sedatives: Your heart rate and breathing
    may slow to dangerous levels, leading to coma or death.
  • Heroin: Similar to opioid pain relievers, your heart rate and breathing may slow
    to dangerous levels, leading to coma or death.
  • Prescription stimulants (e.g., ADHD medications): Your body temperature could
    get dangerously high, or you may have an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, or seizures.
  • Cocaine and methamphetamine: You may get violent, have panic attacks or feel
    paranoid, or have a heart attack.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly): You may feel confused for a long time after you take it
    and have problems with attention, memory, and sleep.
  • LSD: Your emotions may change quickly, and you might not be able to recognize
    reality; frightening flashbacks can happen long after use.
  • Inhalants: Your heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain may get damaged; even a healthy
    person can suffer heart failure and death within minutes of sniffing a lot of an inhalant.

Many drugs can also make driving a car unsafe. Marijuana can slow reaction time, make you judge time and distance poorly, and decrease coordination (how you move your body). Cocaine and methamphetamine can make a driver aggressive and reckless. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can make you dizzy or drowsy.These effects can lead to crashes that can cause injuries and even death.

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is when you can’t stop taking the drug even if you want to. The urge is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm. The addiction can become more important than the need to eat or sleep. The urge to get and use the drug can fill every moment of your life. The addiction replaces all the things you used to enjoy. A person who is addicted might do almost anything—lie, steal, or hurt people—to keep taking the drug. This can lead to problems with your family and friends, and can even lead to arrest and jail. You can get addicted to illegal drugs as well as prescription drugs if you misuse them.

Drug addiction is a chronic disease. That means it stays with you for a long time, even if you stop using for a while. It doesn't go away like a cold. A person with an addiction can get treatment, but quitting for good can be very hard.

Can I just use willpower to stop using drugs?

At first, taking drugs is usually your choice. But as you continue to take them, using self-control can become harder and harder; this is the biggest sign of addiction. Brain studies of people with addiction show physical changes in parts of the brain that are very important for judgment, making decisions, learning and memory, and controlling behavior.Scientists have shown that when this happens to the brain, it changes how the brain works and it explains the harmful behaviors of addiction that are so hard to control.

If I stay off drugs for a while (e.g., in the criminal justice system or in residential treatment), will it be easy to remain drug-free?

Sometimes people quit their drug use for a while because they’re away from triggers that remind them about their drug use. Away from home, drugs might be less available. Once you go back to normal life, you’re likely to start using again unless you take action to avoid your triggers. This return to drug use is called a relapse. People recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way if they don’t take steps to avoid their triggers.

What is a trigger?

Atriggeris anything that makes you feel the urge to go back to using drugs. It can be a place, person, thing, smell, feeling, picture, or memory that reminds you of taking a drug and getting high. A trigger can be something stressful that you want to escape from. It can even be something that makes you feel happy. People fighting addiction need to stay away from the people and triggers that can make them start using drugs again, just like people with breathing problems need to avoid smoke and dust.

People who have stayed sober for a while, either because they were in jail or in treatment, should know that they are at a high risk of overdose if they relapse and take the same amount of drug they used to. Their cravings may not have decreased, but their tolerance has, meaning their body can’t handle high doses of the drug anymore. Without immediate treatment, overdose often leads to death. This is why you often hear about people dying of an overdose soon after leaving rehab.

What makes people more likely to get addicted to drugs?

  • Trouble at home.If your home is an unhappy place, or was when you were growing up, you might be more likely to have a drug problem. When kids aren't well cared for, or there are lots of fights,or a parent is using drugs, the chance of addiction goes up.
  • Mental health problems.People who haveuntreated mental health problems,such as depressionor anxiety, or untreated attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become addicted. They might use drugs to try to feel better.
  • Trouble in school, trouble at work, trouble with making friends.Failures at school or work, or trouble getting along with people, can make life hard. You might use drugs to get your mind off these problems.
  • Hanging around other people who use drugs.Friends or family members who use drugs might get you into trouble with drugs as well.
  • Starting drug use when you're young.When kids or teens use drugs, it affects how their bodies and brains finish growing. Using drugs when you're young increases your chances of becoming addicted when you're an adult.
  • Your biology.Everyone's bodies react to drugs differently. Some people like the feeling the first time they try a drug and want more. Other people hate how it feels and never try it again. Scientists don’t have a test yet that will predict how each person will react.

Can drug addiction be treated?

Yes. People who get treatment and stick with it can stop using drugs. They can change their lives so they don't go back to taking drugs. But they have to try hard and follow the treatment program for a long time. Recovery from addiction means you have to stop using drugs AND learn new ways of thinking, feeling,and dealing with problems.It’s best not to use in the first place. If you do get addicted, it’ll be a long and difficult road.

After you've stopped using the drug, you still have a lot to do:

  • You have to relearn how to live without using drugs.
  • You have to work on the problems your drug use caused with your family, your job, your friends, and your money.
  • You have to stay away from people you used drugs withand places where you used.
  • You have to learn what makes you want to take drugs again (your triggers), so you can avoid or work on those things.
  • You may also need treatment for problems that led to your drug use, such as depression, anxiety,
    or other mental health problems.

Where to Get Help

You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (toll free) or go to at any time to learn more about substance use treatment and recovery support resources near you. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe symptoms or is in immediate danger, seek immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1 or visit an emergency department.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a substance use and/or mental health crisis or any other kind of emotional distress, call or text 988 or chat to reach SAMHSA’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Trained counsellors are available 24/7 to help you.

Loved ones of people with substance use disorders may be interested in SAMHSA’s Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders.

For information and help to quit smoking, visit or call the National Cancer Institute Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).

Prevention Resources

For adults needing information for their own children or for children they care about:

For kids:


What is the main source of drug abuse? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What are the 3 types of drug prevention and control? ›

Based on a public health model, three types of strategies to prevent drug abuse can be discerned: primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.

What are two research topics on drug abuse? ›

What causes people to abuse drugs? How do drug abusers' actions affect themselves, their families, and their communities? What resources and treatment are available to drug abusers? What are the laws pertaining to drug use?

What is the purpose of research on drug abuse? ›

IBBS researchers are studying how chronic drug use causes lasting changes in the brain that can lead to addiction. Their findings may aid in the development of more effective treatments for addiction.

What are the three main sources of drugs? ›

Sources of drugs may be natural, synthetic, and biosynthetic.

What are solutions to drug abuse? ›

Structured treatment programs, substance abuse counseling, and 12-Step programs do help. While they are not the only sources of help, they are the most consistently effective, especially when combined in some systematic fashion. Treatment and counseling provide structure, support, and intervention.

What are two of the major drug prevention strategies commonly used? ›

What are the Basic Prevention Strategies?
  • Information Dissemination. ...
  • Prevention Education. ...
  • Alternatives. ...
  • Problem Identification and Referral. ...
  • Community-Based Process. ...
  • Environmental Approach.

What are the four prevention of drug abuse? ›

There are four major conceptual approaches to prevention: risk-factor, developmental, social influence, and community-specific.

What are 2 risk factors for drug abuse? ›

Risk Factors for High-Risk Substance Use
  • Family history of substance use.
  • Favorable parental attitudes towards the behavior.
  • Poor parental monitoring.
  • Parental substance use.
  • Family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Association with delinquent or substance using peers.
  • Lack of school connectedness.

What are the four major sources of drugs discuss? ›

B) Animal Source: Drugs originated from the different parts of the animals ( pancreas, stomach, liver, intestines etc.) C) Minerals: Drugs obtained from various minerals. D) Microbial Source: Drugs which we get from microbes. E) Synthetic Source: Drugs which are not of natural origin; prepared or made artificially.

What is drug abuse in basic science? ›

The use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Drug abuse may lead to social, physical, emotional, and job-related problems.

What are the benefits of study drugs? ›

Study drugs are usually prescription stimulants that are used to increase alertness and energy for a short time. They also increase heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Prescription stimulants used as study drugs include: amphetamines like Adderall, Dexedrine, or Vyvanse.

What are the effects of drug abuse among the youth? ›

Consequences of youth substance abuse. Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system.

What is drug addiction essay? ›

Essay on Drug Addiction: Drug addiction is not a disease as it may seem to many people. It is a psychological disorder that leads a person to use drugs excessively. Even though the person may know that the drugs are harming his body, he cannot control his urge to consume more and more drugs.

What are the two sources of all drugs? ›

How are drugs made? Drugs come from different sources: plants – for example, cannabis, mushrooms, or tobacco. processed plant products – for example, alcohol, or heroin.

What are the factors affecting drug action? ›

MeSH terms
  • Age Factors.
  • Body Weight.
  • Drug Interactions.
  • Drug Tolerance.
  • Genetics, Medical.
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage.
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism.
  • Pharmacology*

What are two examples of primary sources for drug information? ›

Examples of a primary source of drug information include:
  • Peer-reviewed journals.
  • Textbooks.
  • Research (books and other publications)
  • National Formulary of India.
  • Monthly Index of Medical Specialists.
  • Indian Drug Review.

What are the different types of drug information resources? ›

Drug information sources have been traditionally classified in three different categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

What are the most common drug forms? ›

Types of medicines
  • Liquid. The active part of the medicine is combined with a liquid to make it easier to take or better absorbed. ...
  • Tablet. The active ingredient is combined with another substance and pressed into a round or oval solid shape. ...
  • Capsules. ...
  • Topical medicines. ...
  • Suppositories. ...
  • Drops. ...
  • Inhalers. ...
  • Injections.

What are some credible sources of drug information? ›

Sources of information include American Hospital Formulary Service Drug Information (AHFS DI), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Micromedex,and MedFacts. Browse or search for United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription and over-the-counter drug products.

What are 5 ways to say no to drugs? ›

In a firm voice, tell the person you don't want to drink or use drugs. Say something like: - "No, I'm sorry, but I don't use...." - "No, I'm really trying to stay clean." - "No, I'm trying to cut back." Give a reason why you don't want to drink or use drugs.

How building up a tolerance for a drug can lead to addiction? ›

Multiple, frequent drug exposures cause a progressively diminishing response to a drug (i.e., the development of tolerance). This contributes to a shift in the allostatic set point and subsequently to the development of drug dependence.

What is the most effective drug prevention program? ›

School- and family-based programs are two program types that have been shown to be effective in preventing drug abuse, with media and computer technology programs beginning to demonstrate effectiveness as well.

What are 3 prevention strategies? ›

These preventive stages are primordial prevention, primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention. Combined, these strategies not only aim to prevent the onset of disease through risk reduction, but also downstream complications of a manifested disease.

What are two ways to prevent drug interactions? ›

5 tips to avoid drug interactions
  • Make sure all your healthcare providers know all the medicines you are taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, dietary and herbal supplements and vitamins. ...
  • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist the following questions before taking a new medication:

What is drug abuse prevention and control? ›

Substance abuse prevention, also known as drug abuse prevention, is a process that attempts to prevent the onset of substance use or limit the development of problems associated with using psychoactive substances. Prevention efforts may focus on the individual or their surroundings.

What are the four main drug actions? ›

Absorption: Describes how the drug moves from the site of administration to the site of action. Distribution: Describes the journey of the drug through the bloodstream to various tissues of the body. Metabolism: Describes the process that breaks down the drug. Excretion: Describes the removal of the drug from the body.

What are the six strategies of Center for Substance Abuse Prevention? ›

strategies are 1) Information Dissemination, 2) Education, 3) Alternative, 4) Problem Identification and Referral, 5) Community-Based Process, and 6) Environmental.

What makes a drug high risk? ›

High risk medications are drugs that have a heightened risk of causing significant patient harm when they are used in error. High risk medicines include medicines: with a low therapeutic index. that present a high risk when administered by the wrong route or when other system errors occur.

What are examples of protective factors? ›

Examples of protective factors include community support, parenting competencies, and economic opportunities. Protective factors help ensure that children and youth function well at home, in school, at work, and in the community.

What are the three categories of risk factors for addiction? ›

Other factors that put a person at risk for an addiction include parental substance misuse, trauma, and a lack of social attachments. These are called individual factors and they're part of the “big three” in areas of risk -- individual, environmental and genetic.

What are the 5 sources of drugs? ›

Sources of drugs may be natural, synthetic, and biosynthetic. Drugs of plant, animal, microbiological, marine, mineral, geographical origins constitute the natural sources.

What are the four common types of drug orders? ›

Types of Medication Orders  Four common medication orders are the stat order, the single order, the standing order, and the prn order.

What are the four names given to a drug? ›

There are three main types of names used for pharmaceutical substances: the chemical name, the International Nonproprietary Name (INN) also known as the approved or generic name, and the proprietary or brand name. Of these, the generic name is generally the most important for healthcare professionals and patients.

What is the science of drugs called? ›

In the broadest sense, pharmacology is the study of how chemical agents, both natural and synthetic (i.e., drugs) affect biological systems.

What are the causes and effects of drug abuse? ›

Long-Term Effects of Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Using drugs or alcohol can cause dehydration-induced seizures and damage immune systems. This increases susceptibility to infection and further complications, psychotic behavior, and serious cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and collapsed veins.

What causes drug abuse in biology? ›

Scientists estimate that genes, including the effects environmental factors have on a person's gene expression, called epigenetics, account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person's risk of addiction. Also, teens and people with mental disorders are at greater risk of drug use and addiction than others.

What is the study of drugs and their uses in treatment? ›

Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their actions. Pharmacologists, those who study drugs and their actions, consider any chemical substance that produces a measurable biological response to be a drug.

What are the importance of drugs? ›

Medicines can help control things like high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol. These drugs don't cure the underlying problem, but they can help prevent some of its body-damaging effects over time. Among the most important medicines are immunizations (or vaccines).

How do study drugs affect the brain? ›

Stimulants taken without a medical reason can disrupt brain communication according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. When used improperly or in excess, in addition to all of those side effects, they can cause mood swings and loss of sleep and can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, too.

What are the psychological causes of drug abuse? ›

A person's genes, the action of the drug, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and environmental stress can all be factors. Many who develop a substance use problem have depression, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or another mental problem.

What are the common terms related to drugs? ›

Glossary of Terms
  • Comedown. ...
  • Dependence (addiction) ...
  • Depressant Drugs. ...
  • Polydrug Use. ...
  • Psychosis. ...
  • Serotonin Syndrome. ...
  • Stimulant Drugs. ...
  • Withdrawal Effects.

What are the effects of drug abuse on family and society? ›

Addiction affects the family. It's easy to think of the ways drug addiction affects the person using substances. As addiction progresses, the impact only gets worse with time. There can be short- and long-term health effects, loss of jobs, increasing financial troubles, and run-ins with the law.

What is addiction in simple words? ›

Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.

How do you write a drug abuse speech? ›

Teenagers and every person for that matter must understand that the habit of drug abuse not only greatly affects their body and mind, but also finishes their bright future. So we should strictly say 'No' to drugs and save our lives as well the lives of our loved ones by spreading awareness in our surroundings.

What is the small topic of drug addiction? ›

Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs.

What studies the source of drugs? ›

1 Introduction. Pharmacognosy is the study and science of medicine from natural sources.

What are sources for drug information? ›

Free resources
  • ...
  • DailyMed. ...
  • Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets. ...
  • Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) ...
  • Drug Information Portal. ...
  • ...
  • Drugs@FDA. ...
  • Epocrates Online.
May 9, 2023

What is the original source of drugs? ›

The word Drug, taken from French word Drogue which means Dry Herb, strongly suggests that earliest drugs were taken out from plant sources. Earliest people used to treat diseases by some unconventional methods, using plants, animal products and minerals, of them plants were given priority.

What is the genetic cause of drug abuse? ›

More than half of the differences in how likely people are to develop substance use problems stem from DNA differences, though it varies a little bit by substance. Research suggests alcohol addiction is about 50 percent heritable, while addiction to other drugs is as much as 70 percent heritable.

What science is related to drugs? ›

Pharmacology, the science of drugs, deals with all aspects of drugs in medicine, including their mechanism of action, physical and chemical properties, metabolism, therapeutics, and toxicity.

What branch of science deals with drugs? ›

pharmacology, branch of medicine that deals with the interaction of drugs with the systems and processes of living animals, in particular, the mechanisms of drug action as well as the therapeutic and other uses of the drug.

Which resource is generally considered the most thorough list of drugs and drug products? ›

American Drug Index: The American Drug Index provides a dictionary-style reference of approximately 22,000 brand name and official USP generic drugs.

What are 3 drug information resources that can be found at the FDA website? ›

Information For
  • FDA Drug Info Rounds Video.
  • Drug Safety Information.
Aug 8, 2022


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