Drug Use

What is Drug Use?

Drug use is when one does drugs for a non-intended purpose, including recreationally. It may involve alcohol or a variety of medication or illicit drugs.

Drug use is when an individual uses drugs for reasons other than medical or the intended purposes. Drug use, for many, leads to drug addiction. What begins either as a way to treat a medical condition (such as using prescription drugs or painkillers) or drug use for fun and socializing can often lead to full-blown drug addiction. And while some people may think that those who develop substance use disorder lack willpower or have low morals, this simply isn’t true.

People can develop substance abuse issues after experimenting with drugs for many reasons. No one plans to develop a drug use problem. A person may want to stop drug use but the addiction alters regions of the brain, making it even harder for the person to stop or cut down.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) divides drug use into three main categories. These are:

  • Drug use is any scope of use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, LSD, PCP, Cannabis, bath salts, Ecstasy, heroin, or others. It can also involve inhalants that use common household and industrial products for their drug use via snorting through plastic bags and other apparatus.

  • Drug misuse is essentially drug abuse and is defined as the improper or unhealthy use of any medication (prescription drug or over-the-counter med) as well as alcohol.
  • Drug addiction refers to a severe substance use disorder in which the individual is unable to cut down or stop drug use despite the negative consequences they are experiencing. The NIDA’s definition of drug addiction closely parallels the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) definition of substance use disorder but the DSM-V doesn’t use the word addiction.

In addition to these terms, there are also terms used commonly when it comes to drug use. These are more layman’s terms but are important to understand as well. These are:

  • Recreational drug use is the occasional or infrequent use of drugs usually in social settings. This can include smoking marijuana once in a while, having the occasional glass of wine, or even using LSD or cocaine on occasion. With recreational drug use, the individual can control the drug use and indulges safely and infrequently.
  • Chronic drug use is when the individual who started off recreationally using drugs progresses to using the drug or drugs more regularly. With chronic drug use, the individual may or may not be addicted but is misusing the drug and drug addiction is very likely.
  • Addictive drug use is when the person engaging in drug use has developed a physical or psychological drug addiction or both. With addictive drug use, the individual is most likely experiencing the negative consequences of substance use. In addition, drug-seeking behaviors have become compulsive and the person is unable to stop or cut down the drug use. Another characteristic of this type of drug use is tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, reflecting that physical dependence on substances has developed.

Once a person has developed a physical drug addiction, it is very difficult for them to stop on their own without professional help. One reason for this is that the brain is often changed with chronic drug use. These brain changes can impede the individual’s self-control as well as their ability to control cravings and urges to take their drug of choice. Withdrawal symptoms and the cycle of reward cravings contribute to this loss of control. Addiction is a complex and chronic brain disease in which the person using drugs is unable to stop despite the detrimental consequences they are experiencing. These detrimental impacts may include problems such as:

  • Family and relationship problems
  • School or work issues
  • Legal problems
  • Financial problems
  • Physical and mental health issues

However, no matter how many problems have been encountered and how difficult daily life has become, treatment for chronic drug use and drug addiction with the right health provider can be effective in overcoming drug dependence and enjoying a drug-free life.

Commonly Abused Drugs

Generally, when it comes to drug use there are certain prescription drugs and illicit drugs that are commonly used and abused. These are:

  • Opioids or opiates including heroin, prescription painkillers (fentanyl), and morphine
  • Hallucinogens such as LSD and PCP
  • Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines or benzos such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan
  • Synthetic drugs such as spice, bath salts, and Ecstasy
  • Cannabis or marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Steroids
  • Over-the-counter drugs such as cough, cold, and flu medicines and weight loss medications

This list includes substances that are legal such as alcohol, steroids, prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and marijuana which is legal in some states. While some may think that these drugs are safe, it’s important to realize they are generally safe when used as directed. However, even first-time users of prescription painkillers can become almost immediately addicted, especially when it is an opioid drug such as fentanyl. Another prescription drug family, amphetamines, often prescribed for brain disorders, are also highly addictive.

There are many prescription drugs and illicit drugs that an individual can become addicted to today. And, with deadly fentanyl being added to many other drugs, the risk of taking drugs—even just once—is increasingly dangerous and deadly.

Drug use kills thousands of people each year and the impact is far-reaching. Affecting thousands of families including loved ones and children, the community as a whole, and even our entire nation, drug use is a serious issue.

When you or your loved one are ready to get help and reclaim your life, Caron is here for you. Our team of compassionate experts use evidence-based, specialized addiction treatment approaches through signature and core programming that might include psychotherapy for mental illness, group therapy, behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, medical health care, or combinations of inpatient and outpatient addiction treatments. At Caron, we are Real About Recovery and offer real results. Call us today at 844-260-1324 to discuss a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

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