Alcohol and Drug Abuse

        People abuse drugs and alcohol because they are addicted to them, because they are “self-medicating” or numbing the emotional pain of another mental illness (e.g., depression), because of peer pressure, or for many other reasons. One of the easiest ways to define alcohol or drug dependency is a need to take the drug to feel “normal.” Withdrawal symptoms may occur if the alcohol or drug is taken away. Abuse of drugs and alcohol often occurs for some time before dependence sets in. Typical warning signs include:
              A drop in school or work performance
              Deterioration of family relationships
              Isolation
              A marked change in dress or appearance
              A change in groups of friends
              Physical changes, such as red eyes, persistent cough, or difficulty sleeping
              Delinquent or illegal behavior, and thefts to obtain money for drugs
        Frequently the problems start gradually, often with “social” use of alcohol and tobacco, with an insidious increase in the use and abuse of a variety of substances, each of which may have serious effects on the mind and body, although the involved individual typically will deny that anything is wrong or defend their use of these substances. In addition to alcohol and nicotine, the most frequently abused drugs are marijuana, cocaine, PCP (phencyclidine), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), heroin, Ecstasy, mushrooms, amphetamines and other stimulants, and “downers” which include barbiturates and a variety of sedatives. Inhalants are another form of abuse that can have serious or fatal consequences. Any of a variety of volatile compounds with strong odors are inhaled to “get high.” Individuals often think their minds are functioning better on these drugs and any attempt to operate machinery or a vehicle can lead to serious injury or death due to poor judgment and slowed coordination and reaction times. 

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