Drug Abuse 

Use and abuse of drugs or medicines may lead to addiction or dependence. Illegal drugs include marijuana, amphetamines (speed, crank), cocaine, heroin, MDMA, ecstasy, bath salts, PCP, mescaline, and LSD. Medicines include prescription medicines, sedatives, and sleeping pills. Once addiction or dependence happens, you are at greater risk for any of the following.

Social and personal problems

  • Craving for the drug and not able to stop using even though you think you want to stop (psychological addiction)

  • Drug withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug (physical dependence)

  • Loss of friends or family

  • School or work problems

  • Arrest, conviction, and jail sentence for possession of an illegal substance or for driving under the influence

Health problems

  • Strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure

  • Accidental injuries to yourself or others while you are under the influence of the drug (in a car or at home)

  • HIV infection. This is a much greater risk if you use IV drugs.

  • Skin infections

  • Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea

  • Severe and fatal infection of the heart valves if you use IV drugs

  • Hepatitis B or C

  • Death from overdose

Home care

The following suggestions can help you care for yourself at home:

  • Admit you have a drug problem. Ask for help from your family and close friends.

  • Seek professional help. This could be one-on-one therapy or counseling. There are also outpatient, inpatient, and residential drug treatment programs.

  • Join a self-help group for drug abuse.

  • Stay away from friends who abuse drugs or tempt you to continue abusing drugs.

  • Eat a balanced diet and start a regular exercise program.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Contact one of the resources below for help:

  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, www.ncadd.org, 800-622-2255

  • Narcotics Anonymous, www.na.org, 818-773-9999

  • National Alcohol and Substance Abuse Information Center, www.addictioncareoptions.com, 800-784-6776. This center can refer you to a treatment program.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of the following occur:

  • Seizure

  • Hard time breathing or slow, irregular breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden weakness on one side of your body or sudden trouble speaking

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Very slow heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Agitation, anxiety, or unable to sleep

  • Unintended weight loss. This means more than 10 to 15 pounds over 3 months.

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Shortness of breath

  • Cough with colored sputum

  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness at an injection site

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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