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Drug InformationIllicit drug use increases every year, with marijuana topping the list, though illegal drugs are not the only types of drugs being abused. Prescription medications, especially pain relievers (like hydromorphine addiction or oxycodone addiction), are increasingly being used in ways other than prescribed and by those they are not prescribed to. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health on drug information, 8.7 percent of the United States population aged 12 and older were dependent on or abusing some type of drug1. Even addiction to OTC medications (addiction to over the counter medication) has been on the rise.

Types of Drugs Abused

In statistical drug information provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse2, the most commonly abused drugs include:

  • Marijuana 68%
  • Pain relievers 14%
  • Inhalants 7%
  • Tranquilizers 4%
  • Hallucinogens 3%
  • Stimulants 2%
  • Sedatives 1%
  • Cocaine and heroin 1%
Percentages are based on number of new users to each type of drug listed. Though marijuana remains at the top of the list, 22.5 million people have abused prescription drugs in the month studied for the survey. Even with the increase of drug information available, that is an increase of 500% since 1990. Since these study results were published in 2011, the most recent year a study has been published, prevalence of use may be even higher.

Dependency and Addiction

With a greater prevalence of use of illicit drugs, more cases of dependency and addiction are seen. Although dependency and addiction symptoms may overlap, they are different in their severity. A person may be dependent on a substance without being addicted.

Dependency systems include:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Higher dosing
  • Withdrawal
  • Cravings
In addition, drug effects and symptoms experienced by someone who is addicted include:
  • Insatiable cravings
  • Failure to fulfill obligations
  • Many attempts to quit
  • Continuing use regardless of consequences

Information on Drug Withdrawal

Most illicit drugs have some sort of withdrawal symptoms when use is lowered or halted.

Symptoms can include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Other symptoms
Depending on the drug, withdrawal may be so uncomfortable, or even painful, that the person begins to use drugs again just to stop feeling the misery of the withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Overdose

With more people using drugs comes the risk of more people overdosing. Overdose occurs when too much of a drug is taken or taken with other drugs that interact.

Overdosing can cause symptoms such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Slow or stopped breathing
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death
Drug information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that there were more than 5.1 million drug-related emergency department visits during 2011. Half of those visits were attributable to drug abuse, with over 1 million of those visits relating to illicit drug abuse.

With drug use, abuse and overdose numbers rising, this is an indication of the need for the dissemination of more drug information and assistance to the general public.

Specific Drug Information

Specific Drug Types


  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; Results from the 2010
    National Survey on Drug Use and Health:
    Summary of National Findings; U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse; DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends; NIH
  3. Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN); Highlights of the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Findings on Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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