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Facts about Drugs

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 20 million Americans aged 12 or older used an illegal drug in the past 30 days.  This estimate represents 8% percent of the population aged 12 years old or older.  Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used without a prescription.

And, despite the numbers, for many people, the facts about drugs are not clear.

Cost to Society  

The estimated cost of drug abuse exceeds $190 Billion:

  • $130 Billion in lost productivity
  • $20 Billion in healthcare costs
  • $40 Billion in legal costs including efforts to stem the flow of drugs

Beyond the financial cost is the cost to individuals, families and society:

  • Spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, either through sharing of drug paraphernalia or unprotected sex
  • Deaths due to overdose or other complications from drug use
  • Effects on unborn children of pregnant drug users
  • Impact on the family, crime and homelessness

Most Commonly Used and Abused Drugs

Without question, the most commonly used and abused drug, after alcohol, is marijuana. Each year more teens enter addiction treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than all other illegal drugs combined.  Other common drugs of abuse include cocaine, heroin, inhalants, LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy), methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP), steroids (anabolic), Vicodin, OxyContin and other prescription drugs.  For additional information about specific drugs including information by drug category, street name, how it is used and health risks:  Commonly Abused Drugs.

Short-Term Effects of Drug Use

Drugs are chemicals and while each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common.  They hijack the normal function of the brain and change the way the brain responds to issues of self-control, judgment, emotion, motivation, memory and learning.

This is why the person feels differently — the signals coming and going from the brain have been changed.  Although this can cause temporary euphoria it can also cause hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, and uncontrolled behavior.  It can cause your respiratory (lungs) and cardiovascular (heart) systems to malfunction or fail.

And, there are social consequences to using drugs including losing the trust of friends and family; poor performance at school or work; quitting activities you enjoy; making bad decisions like placing yourself at risk to be a victim of violence, drugged driving; getting pregnant and surrounding yourself with other people who use drugs.

Long-Term Effects of Drug Use

Beyond the short-term risks and consequences are the potential long-term effects.  It depends on the drug, but all drugs can cause negative health effects and can lead to addiction.

Whether you become addicted to marijuana, OxyContin, heroin, Xanax, cocaine, methamphetamine or Vicodin, the effect on the brain and your life is the same:  an uncontrollable craving to keep using that is more important than anything else in your life, including your family, friends, co-workers, career, school and even your own health, security and happiness.

Last modified onSunday, 26 April 2015 21:04