About Drug Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse are two very common problems in America. A 2012 government survey about drug abuse found that around 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older had abused drugs within the month the survey was taken. Additionally, about 17.7 million Americans suffer from alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and alcohol abuse (drinking so much you black out or have a medical condition because of it).

The prevalence of drug abuse is perpetuated in part by a lack of education on the subject of drugs and alcohol. In fact, some individuals and corporations who profit from prescribing and selling drugs have intentionally spread misinformation on the subject of drugs.

Here are ten misconceptions about drug abuse and alcohol abuse which can lead someone down the treacherous path of abuse and addiction:

  • Some drugs are safe to abuse.

One reason behind the prevalence of abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs is the concept that these drugs are safe to abuse. Government statistics show that when more Americans see that a drug is dangerous, less people use the drug. Conversely, when more individuals feel a drug is safe, more of them will try the drug.

Individuals who abuse prescription drugs often state they thought the drug would be safer than something obtained on the street – even though the drug they tried was not prescribed to them. However, just as with any street drug, an individual can experience very negative health effects from prescription drug abuse. They can also become addicted to the drug or overdose while using it.

Alcohol is a legal drug and is part of the “social fabric” of our society. This means the perception of danger from drinking is often less than that of another drug. Marijuana is also becoming more and more legal as time goes on – either as a medical or recreational drug. With a lowered perception of danger from this drug comes a much higher usage rate.

  • Only weak-willed people become addicted.

Drugs affect both the mind and body. When an individual tries a drug out, he or she most likely has no intention of becoming addicted. But in a certain percentage of cases, it happens anyway. Addictive drugs can take hold quickly or gradually. No matter how strong the individual is physically or mentally, the withdrawal symptoms connected to addiction often prove too much for them to handle and they keep using. To illustrate the point, common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Severe mood swings
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Mental confusion
  • Delusions, hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death (can occur when withdrawing “cold turkey” from long-term use of specific drugs)

There are many very strong people who may find it extremely difficult to fight such withdrawal symptoms without professional help and support.

  • If you’re in a safe environment, it’s okay to abuse drugs.

There is really no “safe” environment for the abuse of drugs. Drug users often don’t know what added toxins are contained in what they’re taking, the potency level or even the dosage. There are other issues such as the person’s tolerance level, physical stamina, allergies, and deadly drug combinations. Add to that the fact that a person who is high on drugs will feel invincible and will be apt to take anything handed to them. Their drug use in any environment could cause a serious and immediate medical emergency or overdose. People die in ambulances and in emergency rooms every day.

  • Just one time can’t hurt.

Different drugs affect different people in a variety of ways. This unpredictability, combined with known effects of specific substances, makes drug use – even one hit – a dangerous proposition. Drugs which are highly addictive can cause an individual to feel withdrawal symptoms after just one or two uses. Powerful drugs – legal and illegal – can produce violent effects.

Opiates like oxycodone and heroin can trigger addictive behavior at the outset. Overdose of an opiate can bring on a deadly condition called respiratory depression where the user’s respiratory organs stops functioning; they literally stop breathing. They can also choke on their own vomit while unconscious and be unable to wake up.

Powerful stimulants like cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine commonly trigger psychotic episodes which can be deadly. Drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA), angel dust (PCP), LSD and other hallucinogenic “club drugs” can cause some very erratic effects in the user. The “date rape” drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol (“Roofies”) have become known for their use in sexual assault and rape.

  • Drugs can make you smarter/faster/stronger.

Use of so-called “smart drugs” like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine) may make the user feel hyper-educated or “focused” when taking the drug. A drug like PCP or meth can make the user feel dangerously invincible. The only problem is, when the drug wears off, the user stops feeling smarter, faster or stronger. They are much more likely to experience extreme fatigue, depression, and heart problems. These symptoms are often staved off by taking more of their drug of choice, until they are emotionally and physically wrecked.

  • Combined use of more than one drug or mixing drugs and alcohol won’t harm you.

One of the most dangerous things about drug abuse an individual can do is combine substances with each other. Mixing alcohol with any drug can cause the results of the drug use to be completely unpredictable; the same goes with mixing drugs with each other.

A very popular drug mixture called a speedball (cocaine mixed with an opiate like heroin or morphine) has killed a number of famous people including River Phoenix, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Eric Show, and Hillel Slovak. Mixtures like this can cause extremely unpredictable results and make it very easy to overdose. Prescription drugs can also be used (and prescribed) in deadly combinations. Actor Heath Ledger, to cite one example, died from a deadly combination of opioid painkillers, benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) and other drugs – all of them legal.

  • You won’t get HIV/AIDS from drug abuse.

Needle sharing is one source of HIV/AIDS among those who take drugs like heroin or methamphetamine intravenously. However, a drug user doesn’t have to be taking a drug through a needle in order to contract this deadly disease. Drug abuse causes lowered judgment among users. This can lead to unprotected or promiscuous sex, which makes an individual more susceptible to contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as HIV/AIDs. Common among drug addicts is the use of sex or sexual acts in exchange for drugs or money. This too can and does contribute to transmission of STDs and STIs.

  • Getting black-out drunk is normal.

Even though binge drinking is common, does not mean it is safe. It is not “normal” for someone to get so drunk that they don’t recall portions or the entirety of their drinking experience. Not only is getting “black-out drunk” a symptom of alcohol dependence (alcoholism), it’s extremely dangerous. Going unconscious is a symptom of alcohol overdose. Common symptoms of alcoholism are uncontrolled drinking, consuming the equivalent of a quart of hard liquor or more per day, and getting black-out drunk regularly.

Alcohol poisoning means that the alcohol level in the person’s bloodstream has become toxic to their body. Drinking too much, too quickly, can result in alcohol poisoning and can in fact be deadly. A severely intoxicated person should get medical attention, and in the case of alcohol poisoning should be immediately taken to an emergency room. A “heavy drinker” could indeed be an alcoholic and should get help from an addiction specialist.

  • Drug abuse is “just a phase.”

Many parents accept that their child must go through the phase about drug abuse as a rite of passage. However, this “phase” about drug abuse does not leave children unaffected. Statistics show that one in four Americans who began using an addictive substance (cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, prescription medications, etc.) before they turned 18 become addicted. This means that 25% of children “going through a phase” of drug abuse will never get out of it. When a child or teenager dies from drug overdose, drunk driving, inhalant use (glue, paint, etc.), or other drug-related injury or crime, they certainly did not “emerge wiser”. The answer is education in the truth about drugs and making sensible decisions from the very beginning.

  • I won’t get hurt when abusing drugs or alcohol.

Many people hear stories about others who have been harmed by drug abuse, who have died from overdose, who are permanently injured or dead because of a drunk driver or other drug-related tragedy. Yet these same people feel like it couldn’t possibly happen to them, so they experiment about drug abuse and test their limits anyway. Drug abuse and overdose in America is at epidemic level. Prescription drug abuse specifically is classified as an epidemic by the federal government.

But no matter the percentages, you have to ask yourself if you really want to be in the statistic of those sent to the emergency room or who perished from drug or alcohol abuse. Is that the club you want to join? Because as soon as you start down that road, you up your chances. Life is adventurous enough. Why experiment with the human misery about drug abuse?

Recognizing the misconceptions and misinformation about drug abuse is a good start. Knowing the facts is the next logical step. Making the choice to skip the “hit that won’t hurt”, ignoring peer pressure, refusing to get in the car with a drunk driver, taking his keys away, and other sensible actions are the results of education and wisdom.

Don’t delay another second
when help is so close.

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