Alternative Names:
Substance abuse, chemical dependency
Definition:
Drug abuse is the use of drugs for nonmedical purposes. Drugs are used inappropriately to alter mood, to affect state of consciousness, or to unnecessarily affect a body function, as occurs in laxative use, for example.
A person is considered a drug abuser if drug use has had a negative effect on health, social functioning, relationships or job performance over the past year. Legal difficulties related to drugs also qualify as drug abuse.
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
A person abusing drugs is less able to function at home or at work. He or she will appear erratic, moody, elated, distracted, depressed, paranoid, or anxious. The use of almost any mood-altering drug may lead to abuse. Drugs most commonly involved in drug abuse include alcohol, nicotine, cocaine and the opiates. Some people use psychedelics, marijuana, caffeine, antihistamines, steroids, laxatives, diuretics, and solvents to a degree that qualifies as abuse. 
Symptoms of drug abuse include:
· persistent fatigue.
· repeated health complaints.
· irresponsible behavior.
· red, dull eyes.
· persistent cough.
· ersonality and mood changes.
· low self-esteem.
· depression and anxiety.
· apathy.
· moodiness and difficulty following rules.
· withdrawal from family and friends, isolation.
· drop in job or school performance. This may include frequent absences.
· irritability and low frustration tolerance.
· difficulty with personal relationships.
· sexual problems.
· legal problems.
· financial problems.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Several factors can contribute to drug abuse.
These include:
· frequent exposure to social situations in which drug use is encouraged
· peer pressure
· childhood history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or conduct disorder
· a personality disorder
· childhood history of one or both parents dependent upon drugs or alcohol. This is thought to predispose a person genetically to drug abuse as well as to set an example for the behavior.