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How to Find Alcohol and Drug Rehab Centers

drug addiction about topic

If you’ve decided to seek help for drug or alcohol addiction, you might find the options a little overwhelming. There are three main options: Private rehab, government-funded rehab, and rehab with a non-profit organization. But that’s not the only choice you’ll need to make. You also need to decide on the best rehabilitation center for your needs. Not all addicts are the same, and fortunately neither are the types of treatment available. This guide will tell you what you need to know to make the choice that’s right for you.

Private Rehab Centers

This is the preferred option for those who need round-the-clock care. Private rehab centers generally offer the highest level of support, from detoxing to putting in place new routines to help maintain your newfound sobriety.

Don’t necessarily settle for the first one you find. This is crucial. Do your research, as a bad experience can turn you off rehab for life. This means compiling a list of the options, getting in touch to ask questions and considering what you’re able to afford.

Many private rehab centers will offer both inpatient and outpatient programs. Often, they will provide medications, group therapies and one-on-one talking sessions. If you’re opting for an inpatient program, you might want to choose somewhere with plenty of outdoor space and nature trails.

Government-funded Rehab Centers

If you find yourself unable to afford private treatment, government-funded centers may be your best bet. They’re not necessarily free; the cost may be based on your income or savings. But they’re there to help anyone with limited funding.

The best thing about government-funded rehab centers is the guarantee of qualified professionals. Because to qualify for government funding, these facilities are closely monitored for standards and high success rates.

What you need to ask yourself, though, is whether a given center is the right choice for you. If you feel you’ll benefit from group activities, for example, make sure you find a center that arranges them–or better yet, a center that actively specializes in them.

Non-profit Rehab Centers

Likewise suitable for those with limited funding, non-profit treatment centers generally do not charge fees. Ask your local social services office about the options available and contact centers yourself to find out more. Another way to find a non-profit rehab center that’s right for you is to look at a list from an organization like Guidestar.

Keep in mind that just because a service is free doesn’t mean it’s underfunded generally. Often, non-profit centers offer treatment that’s at least as good as a private center.

There may, however, be a long waiting list.

Longevity Counts

When researching your options, one of the most important things to look for is a given rehab center’s longevity. As a general rule, the longer it’s been in operation, the better. Five years should be considered the minimum because sub-par centers tend to go out of business much earlier.

The same goes for success rate, of course. But this doesn’t always indicate the quality of treatment since many addicts don’t want to recover. A track record extending back more than five years, however, is a clear indication that a center is above board.

Get Help to Get Help

You don’t have to make the choice on your own. As with every step along the path to recovery, there are people out there to help.

An assessment from a professional certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine can evaluate your specific needs and suggest the best course of treatment available. Licensed clinical social workers and psychiatrists specializing in substance use disorders can also help to decide between residential treatment, outpatient programs or 12-step meetings.

You probably don’t want to shell out a fortune for an extensive inpatient program when a 12-step meeting will suffice, for example. So it’s advisable to get an assessment and referral from a professional.


drug addiction about topic

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  • Drug addiction (substance use disorder)

Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you're addicted, you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes.

Drug addiction can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situations, and, for some people, the drug use becomes more frequent. For others, particularly with opioids, drug addiction begins when they take prescribed medicines or receive them from others who have prescriptions.

The risk of addiction and how fast you become addicted varies by drug. Some drugs, such as opioid painkillers, have a higher risk and cause addiction more quickly than others.

As time passes, you may need larger doses of the drug to get high. Soon you may need the drug just to feel good. As your drug use increases, you may find that it's increasingly difficult to go without the drug. Attempts to stop drug use may cause intense cravings and make you feel physically ill. These are called withdrawal symptoms.

Help from your health care provider, family, friends, support groups or an organized treatment program can help you overcome your drug addiction and stay drug-free.

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Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include, among others:

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day
  • Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts
  • Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect
  • Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug, even though you can't afford it
  • Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
  • Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm
  • Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you're under the influence of the drug
  • Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

Recognizing unhealthy drug use in family members

Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish normal teenage moodiness or anxiety from signs of drug use. Possible signs that your teenager or other family member is using drugs include:

  • Problems at school or work — frequently missing school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or work, or a drop in grades or work performance
  • Physical health issues — lack of energy and motivation, weight loss or gain, or red eyes
  • Neglected appearance — lack of interest in clothing, grooming or looks
  • Changes in behavior — major efforts to bar family members from entering the teenager's room or being secretive about going out with friends; or drastic changes in behavior and in relationships with family and friends
  • Money issues — sudden requests for money without a reasonable explanation; or your discovery that money is missing or has been stolen or that items have disappeared from your home, indicating maybe they're being sold to support drug use

Recognizing signs of drug use or intoxication

Signs and symptoms of drug use or intoxication may vary, depending on the type of drug. Below you'll find several examples.

Marijuana, hashish and other cannabis-containing substances

People use cannabis by smoking, eating or inhaling a vaporized form of the drug. Cannabis often precedes or is used along with other substances, such as alcohol or illegal drugs, and is often the first drug tried.

Signs and symptoms of recent use can include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling "high"
  • A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Anxiety or paranoid thinking
  • Cannabis odor on clothes or yellow fingertips
  • Major cravings for certain foods at unusual times

Long-term use is often associated with:

  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Ongoing cough and frequent lung infections

K2, Spice and bath salts

Two groups of synthetic drugs — synthetic cannabinoids and substituted or synthetic cathinones — are illegal in most states. The effects of these drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable, as there is no quality control and some ingredients may not be known.

Synthetic cannabinoids, also called K2 or Spice, are sprayed on dried herbs and then smoked, but can be prepared as an herbal tea. A liquid form can be vaporized in electronic cigarettes. Despite manufacturer claims, these are chemical compounds rather than "natural" or harmless products. These drugs can produce a "high" similar to marijuana and have become a popular but dangerous alternative.

  • Elevated mood
  • An altered sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Extreme anxiety or agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure or heart attack
  • Violent behavior

Substituted cathinones, also called "bath salts," are mind-altering (psychoactive) substances similar to amphetamines such as ecstasy (MDMA) and cocaine. Packages are often labeled as other products to avoid detection.

Despite the name, these are not bath products such as Epsom salts. Substituted cathinones can be eaten, snorted, inhaled or injected and are highly addictive. These drugs can cause severe intoxication, which results in dangerous health effects or even death.

  • Feeling "high"
  • Increased sociability
  • Increased energy and agitation
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Problems thinking clearly
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychotic and violent behavior

Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics

Barbiturates, benzodiazepines and hypnotics are prescription central nervous system depressants. They're often used and misused in search for a sense of relaxation or a desire to "switch off" or forget stress-related thoughts or feelings.

  • Barbiturates. An example is phenobarbital.
  • Benzodiazepines. Examples include sedatives, such as diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium).
  • Hypnotics. Examples include prescription sleeping medicines such as zolpidem (Ambien) and zaleplon (Sonata).
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability or changes in mood
  • Problems concentrating or thinking clearly
  • Memory problems
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Lack of inhibition
  • Slowed breathing and reduced blood pressure
  • Falls or accidents

Meth, cocaine and other stimulants

Stimulants include amphetamines, meth (methamphetamine), cocaine, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, others) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall XR, Mydayis). They're often used and misused in search of a "high," or to boost energy, to improve performance at work or school, or to lose weight or control appetite.

  • Feeling of happy excitement and too much confidence
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased energy and restlessness
  • Behavior changes or aggression
  • Rapid or rambling speech
  • Larger than usual pupils, the black circles in the middle of the eyes
  • Confusion, delusions and hallucinations
  • Irritability, anxiety or paranoia
  • Changes in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting with weight loss
  • Poor judgment
  • Nasal congestion and damage to the mucous membrane of the nose (if snorting drugs)
  • Mouth sores, gum disease and tooth decay from smoking drugs ("meth mouth")
  • Depression as the drug wears off

Club drugs are commonly used at clubs, concerts and parties. Examples include methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also called MDMA, ecstasy or molly, and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, known as GHB. Other examples include ketamine and flunitrazepam or Rohypnol — a brand used outside the U.S. — also called roofie. These drugs are not all in the same category, but they share some similar effects and dangers, including long-term harmful effects.

Because GHB and flunitrazepam can cause sedation, muscle relaxation, confusion and memory loss, the potential for sexual misconduct or sexual assault is associated with the use of these drugs.

Signs and symptoms of use of club drugs can include:

  • Larger than usual pupils
  • Chills and sweating
  • Involuntary shaking (tremors)
  • Behavior changes
  • Muscle cramping and teeth clenching
  • Muscle relaxation, poor coordination or problems moving
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Heightened or altered sense of sight, sound and taste
  • Memory problems or loss of memory
  • Reduced consciousness
  • Increased or decreased heart rate and blood pressure


Use of hallucinogens can produce different signs and symptoms, depending on the drug. The most common hallucinogens are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP).

LSD use may cause:

  • Greatly reduced perception of reality, for example, interpreting input from one of your senses as another, such as hearing colors
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Rapid shifts in emotions
  • Permanent mental changes in perception
  • Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Flashbacks, a reexperience of the hallucinations — even years later

PCP use may cause:

  • A feeling of being separated from your body and surroundings
  • Problems with coordination and movement
  • Aggressive, possibly violent behavior
  • Lack of pain sensation
  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Problems with thinking and memory
  • Problems speaking
  • Intolerance to loud noise
  • Sometimes seizures or coma

Signs and symptoms of inhalant use vary, depending on the substance. Some commonly inhaled substances include glue, paint thinners, correction fluid, felt tip marker fluid, gasoline, cleaning fluids and household aerosol products. Due to the toxic nature of these substances, users may develop brain damage or sudden death.

Signs and symptoms of use can include:

  • Possessing an inhalant substance without a reasonable explanation
  • Brief happy excitement
  • Behaving as if drunk
  • Reduced ability to keep impulses under control
  • Aggressive behavior or eagerness to fight
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appearing under the influence of drugs, with slurred speech, slow movements and poor coordination
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Lingering odor of inhalant material
  • Rash around the nose and mouth

Opioid painkillers

Opioids are narcotic, painkilling drugs produced from opium or made synthetically. This class of drugs includes, among others, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, fentanyl and oxycodone.

Sometimes called the "opioid epidemic," addiction to opioid prescription pain medicines has reached an alarming rate across the United States. Some people who've been using opioids over a long period of time may need physician-prescribed temporary or long-term drug substitution during treatment.

Signs and symptoms of narcotic use and dependence can include:

  • A sense of feeling "high"
  • Reduced sense of pain
  • Agitation, drowsiness or sedation
  • Problems with attention and memory
  • Pupils that are smaller than usual
  • Lack of awareness or inattention to surrounding people and things
  • Problems with coordination
  • Constipation
  • Runny nose or nose sores (if snorting drugs)
  • Needle marks (if injecting drugs)

When to see a doctor

If your drug use is out of control or causing problems, get help. The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances for a long-term recovery. Talk with your health care provider or see a mental health provider, such as a doctor who specializes in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.

Make an appointment to see a provider if:

  • You can't stop using a drug
  • You continue using the drug despite the harm it causes
  • Your drug use has led to unsafe behavior, such as sharing needles or unprotected sex
  • You think you may be having withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use

If you're not ready to approach a health care provider or mental health professional, help lines or hotlines may be a good place to learn about treatment. You can find these lines listed on the internet or in the phone book.

When to seek emergency help

Seek emergency help if you or someone you know has taken a drug and:

  • May have overdosed
  • Shows changes in consciousness
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has seizures or convulsions
  • Has signs of a possible heart attack, such as chest pain or pressure
  • Has any other troublesome physical or psychological reaction to use of the drug

Staging an intervention

People struggling with addiction usually deny they have a problem and hesitate to seek treatment. An intervention presents a loved one with a structured opportunity to make changes before things get even worse and can motivate someone to seek or accept help.

It's important to plan an intervention carefully. It may be done by family and friends in consultation with a health care provider or mental health professional such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or directed by an intervention professional. It involves family and friends and sometimes co-workers, clergy or others who care about the person struggling with addiction.

During the intervention, these people gather together to have a direct, heart-to-heart conversation with the person about the consequences of addiction. Then they ask the person to accept treatment.

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Like many mental health disorders, several factors may contribute to development of drug addiction. The main factors are:

  • Environment. Environmental factors, including your family's beliefs and attitudes and exposure to a peer group that encourages drug use, seem to play a role in initial drug use.
  • Genetics. Once you've started using a drug, the development into addiction may be influenced by inherited (genetic) traits, which may delay or speed up the disease progression.

Changes in the brain

Physical addiction appears to occur when repeated use of a drug changes the way your brain feels pleasure. The addicting drug causes physical changes to some nerve cells (neurons) in your brain. Neurons use chemicals called neurotransmitters to communicate. These changes can remain long after you stop using the drug.

Risk factors

People of any age, sex or economic status can become addicted to a drug. Certain factors can affect the likelihood and speed of developing an addiction:

  • Family history of addiction. Drug addiction is more common in some families and likely involves an increased risk based on genes. If you have a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with alcohol or drug addiction, you're at greater risk of developing a drug addiction.
  • Mental health disorder. If you have a mental health disorder such as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or post-traumatic stress disorder, you're more likely to become addicted to drugs. Using drugs can become a way of coping with painful feelings, such as anxiety, depression and loneliness, and can make these problems even worse.
  • Peer pressure. Peer pressure is a strong factor in starting to use and misuse drugs, particularly for young people.
  • Lack of family involvement. Difficult family situations or lack of a bond with your parents or siblings may increase the risk of addiction, as can a lack of parental supervision.
  • Early use. Using drugs at an early age can cause changes in the developing brain and increase the likelihood of progressing to drug addiction.
  • Taking a highly addictive drug. Some drugs, such as stimulants, cocaine or opioid painkillers, may result in faster development of addiction than other drugs. Smoking or injecting drugs can increase the potential for addiction. Taking drugs considered less addicting — so-called "light drugs" — can start you on a pathway of drug use and addiction.


Drug use can have significant and damaging short-term and long-term effects. Taking some drugs can be particularly risky, especially if you take high doses or combine them with other drugs or alcohol. Here are some examples.

  • Methamphetamine, opiates and cocaine are highly addictive and cause multiple short-term and long-term health consequences, including psychotic behavior, seizures or death due to overdose. Opioid drugs affect the part of the brain that controls breathing, and overdose can result in death. Taking opioids with alcohol increases this risk.
  • GHB and flunitrazepam may cause sedation, confusion and memory loss. These so-called "date rape drugs" are known to impair the ability to resist unwanted contact and recollection of the event. At high doses, they can cause seizures, coma and death. The danger increases when these drugs are taken with alcohol.
  • MDMA — also known as molly or ecstasy — can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature. A severe spike in body temperature can result in liver, kidney or heart failure and death. Other complications can include severe dehydration, leading to seizures. Long-term, MDMA can damage the brain.
  • One particular danger of club drugs is that the liquid, pill or powder forms of these drugs available on the street often contain unknown substances that can be harmful, including other illegally manufactured or pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Due to the toxic nature of inhalants, users may develop brain damage of different levels of severity. Sudden death can occur even after a single exposure.

Other life-changing complications

Dependence on drugs can create a number of dangerous and damaging complications, including:

  • Getting an infectious disease. People who are addicted to a drug are more likely to get an infectious disease, such as HIV , either through unsafe sex or by sharing needles with others.
  • Other health problems. Drug addiction can lead to a range of both short-term and long-term mental and physical health problems. These depend on what drug is taken.
  • Accidents. People who are addicted to drugs are more likely to drive or do other dangerous activities while under the influence.
  • Suicide. People who are addicted to drugs die by suicide more often than people who aren't addicted.
  • Family problems. Behavioral changes may cause relationship or family conflict and custody issues.
  • Work issues. Drug use can cause declining performance at work, absenteeism and eventual loss of employment.
  • Problems at school. Drug use can negatively affect academic performance and motivation to excel in school.
  • Legal issues. Legal problems are common for drug users and can stem from buying or possessing illegal drugs, stealing to support the drug addiction, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or disputes over child custody.
  • Financial problems. Spending money to support drug use takes away money from other needs, could lead to debt, and can lead to illegal or unethical behaviors.

The best way to prevent an addiction to a drug is not to take the drug at all. If your health care provider prescribes a drug with the potential for addiction, use care when taking the drug and follow instructions.

Health care providers should prescribe these medicines at safe doses and amounts and monitor their use so that you're not given too great a dose or for too long a time. If you feel you need to take more than the prescribed dose of a medicine, talk to your health care provider.

Preventing drug misuse in children and teenagers

Take these steps to help prevent drug misuse in your children and teenagers:

  • Communicate. Talk to your children about the risks of drug use and misuse.
  • Listen. Be a good listener when your children talk about peer pressure and be supportive of their efforts to resist it.
  • Set a good example. Don't misuse alcohol or addictive drugs. Children of parents who misuse drugs are at greater risk of drug addiction.
  • Strengthen the bond. Work on your relationship with your children. A strong, stable bond between you and your child will reduce your child's risk of using or misusing drugs.

Preventing a relapse

Once you've been addicted to a drug, you're at high risk of falling back into a pattern of addiction. If you do start using the drug, it's likely you'll lose control over its use again — even if you've had treatment and you haven't used the drug for some time.

  • Follow your treatment plan. Monitor your cravings. It may seem like you've recovered and you don't need to keep taking steps to stay drug-free. But your chances of staying drug-free will be much higher if you continue seeing your therapist or counselor, going to support group meetings and taking prescribed medicine.
  • Avoid high-risk situations. Don't go back to the neighborhood where you used to get your drugs. And stay away from your old drug crowd.
  • Get help immediately if you use the drug again. If you start using the drug again, talk to your health care provider, your mental health provider or someone else who can help you right away.

Drug addiction (substance use disorder) care at Mayo Clinic

  • Substance-related and addictive disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2013. Accessed Aug. 15, 2022.
  • Brown AY. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic. April 13, 2021.
  • DrugFacts: Understanding drug use and addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 15, 2022.
  • American Psychiatric Association. What is a substance use disorder? Accessed Sept. 2, 2022.
  • Eddie D, et al. Lived experience in new models of care for substance use disorder: A systematic review of peer recovery support services and recovery coaching. Frontiers in Psychology. 2019; doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01052.
  • Commonly used drugs charts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 16, 2022.
  • Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 16, 2022.
  • Drugs of abuse: A DEA resource guide/2020 edition. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed Aug. 31, 2022.
  • Misuse of prescription drugs research report. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 17, 2022.
  • Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide. 3rd ed. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 17, 2022.
  • The science of drug use: A resource for the justice sector. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Sept. 2, 2022.
  • Naloxone DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 31, 2022.
  • Drug and substance use in adolescents. Merck Manual Professional Version. Accessed Sept. 2, 2022.
  • DrugFacts: Synthetic cannabinoids (K2/Spice). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed Aug. 18, 2022.
  • Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 5, 2021.

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Reference Desk

Find an expert, older adults, patient handouts, what are drugs.

Drugs are chemical substances that can change how your body and mind work. They include prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines , alcohol , tobacco , and illegal drugs.

What is drug use?

Drug use, or misuse, includes:

  • Using illegal substances, such as
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Methamphetamines
  • Misusing prescription medicines , including opioids . This means taking the medicines in a different way than the health care provider prescribed. This includes
  • Taking a medicine that was prescribed for someone else
  • Taking a larger dose than you are supposed to
  • Using the medicine in a different way than you are supposed to. For example, instead of swallowing your tablets, you might crush and then snort or inject them.
  • Using the medicine for another purpose, such as getting high
  • Misusing over-the-counter medicines, including using them for another purpose and using them in a different way than you are supposed to

Drug use is dangerous. It can harm your brain and body, sometimes permanently. It can hurt the people around you, including friends, families, kids, and unborn babies . Drug use can also lead to addiction.

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic brain disease. It causes a person to take drugs repeatedly, despite the harm they cause. Repeated drug use can change the brain and lead to addiction.

The brain changes from addiction can be lasting, so drug addiction is considered a "relapsing" disease. This means that people in recovery are at risk for taking drugs again, even after years of not taking them.

Does everyone who takes drugs become addicted?

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted. Everyone's bodies and brains are different, so their reactions to drugs can also be different. Some people may become addicted quickly, or it may happen over time. Other people never become addicted. Whether or not someone becomes addicted depends on many factors. They include genetic, environmental, and developmental factors.

Who is at risk for drug addiction?

Various risk factors can make you more likely to become addicted to drugs, including:

  • Your biology. People can react to drugs differently. Some people like the feeling the first time they try a drug and want more. Others hate how it feels and never try it again.
  • Mental health problems. People who have untreated mental health problems , such as depression , anxiety , or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to become addicted. This can happen because drug use and mental health problems affect the same parts of the brain. Also, people with these problems may use drugs to try to feel better.
  • Trouble at home. If your home is an unhappy place or was when you were growing up, you might be more likely to have a drug problem.
  • Trouble in school, at work, or with making friends. You might use drugs to get your mind off these problems.
  • Hanging around other people who use drugs. They might encourage you to try drugs.
  • Starting drug use when you're young. When kids use drugs, it affects how their bodies and brains finish growing. This increases your chances of becoming addicted when you're an adult.

What are the signs that someone has a drug problem?

Signs that someone has a drug problem include:

  • Changing friends a lot
  • Spending a lot of time alone
  • Losing interest in favorite things
  • Not taking care of themselves - for example, not taking showers, changing clothes, or brushing their teeth
  • Being really tired and sad
  • Eating more or eating less than usual
  • Being very energetic, talking fast, or saying things that don't make sense
  • Being in a bad mood
  • Quickly changing between feeling bad and feeling good
  • Sleeping at strange hours
  • Missing important appointments
  • Having problems at work or at school
  • Having problems in personal or family relationships

What are the treatments for drug addiction?

Treatments for drug addiction include counseling, medicines, or both. Research shows that combining medicines with counseling gives most people the best chance of success.

The counseling may be individual, family, and/or group therapy. It can help you:

  • Understand why you got addicted
  • See how drugs changed your behavior
  • Learn how to deal with your problems so you won't go back to using drugs
  • Learn to avoid places, people, and situations where you might be tempted to use drugs

Medicines can help with the symptoms of withdrawal. For addiction to certain drugs, there are also medicines that can help you re-establish normal brain function and decrease your cravings.

If you have a mental disorder along with an addiction, it is known as a dual diagnosis . It is important to treat both problems. This will increase your chance of success.

If you have a severe addiction, you may need hospital-based or residential treatment. Residential treatment programs combine housing and treatment services.

Can drug use and addiction be prevented?

Drug use and addiction are preventable. Prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media may prevent or reduce drug use and addiction. These programs include education and outreach to help people understand the risks of drug use.

NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse

From the National Institutes of Health

  • Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder) (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • Faces of Change: Do I Have a Problem with Alcohol or Drugs? (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
  • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
  • Intervention: Help a Loved One Overcome Addiction (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
  • How to Identify Drug Paraphernalia (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • Take Action against Hepatitis C: For People in Recovery from Mental Illness or Addiction (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
  • Taking Medicines Safely after Alcohol or Drug Abuse Recovery (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
  • DEA Multi-Media Drug Library (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • Identifying Drugs (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • Substance Abuse Screening (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • Behavioral Health Equity (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • FastStats: Drug Overdoses (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • FastStats: Illicit Drug Use (National Center for Health Statistics)
  • Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

  • Article: Equine-assisted therapy effectiveness in improving emotion regulation, self-efficacy, and perceived self-esteem...
  • Article: Gender and addiction and other mental disorders comorbidity: sociodemographic, clinical, and...
  • Article: Effects of Acute Exercise on Affect, Anxiety, and Self-Esteem in Poly-Substance...
  • Drug Use and Addiction -- see more articles
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Partnership to End Addiction
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • What Are Bath Salts? (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
  • Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Man's Guide to Coping with the Effects of Childhood Abuse (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF
  • Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Woman's Guide to Coping with Childhood Abuse Issues (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) - PDF Also in Spanish
  • Drug And Substance Use Disorders (AGS Health in Aging Foundation)
  • Substance abuse (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
  • Substance use disorder (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
  • Toxicology screen (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.

Research Topics

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the largest supporter of the world’s research on substance use and addiction. Part of the National Institutes of Health, NIDA conducts and supports biomedical research to advance the science on substance use and addiction and improve individual and public health. Look below for more information on drug use, health, and NIDA’s research efforts.

Information provided by NIDA is not a substitute for professional medical care.

In an emergency? Need treatment?

In an emergency:.

  • Are you or someone you know experiencing severe symptoms or in immediate danger? Please seek immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1 or visiting an Emergency Department . Poison control can be reached at 1-800-222-1222 or .
  • Are you or someone you know experiencing a substance use and/or mental health crisis or any other kind of emotional distress? Please call or text 988 or chat to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 988 connects you with a trained crisis counselor who can help.


  • For referrals to substance use and mental health treatment programs, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit to find a qualified healthcare provider in your area.
  • For other personal medical advice, please speak to a qualified health professional. Find more health resources on .


The emergency and referral resources listed above are available to individuals located in the United States and are not operated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA is a biomedical research organization and does not provide personalized medical advice, treatment, counseling, or legal consultation. Information provided by NIDA is not a substitute for professional medical care or legal consultation.

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Drug Use and Addiction

Learn how science has deepened our understanding of drug use and its impact on individual and public health.

  • Addiction Science
  • Harm Reduction
  • Drug Checking
  • Overdose Reversal Medications
  • Overdose Prevention Centers
  • Stigma and Discrimination
  • Drug Overdose Death Rates
  • Syringe Services Programs
  • Words Matter: Preferred Language for Talking About Addiction
  • Mental Health
  • Adolescent Brain
  • Drugs and the Brain
  • Comorbidity
  • Drugged Driving
  • Trends and Statistics
  • Emerging Trends and Alerts
  • Infographics
  • Monitoring the Future
  • National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS)

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People and Places

NIDA research supports people affected by substance use and addiction throughout the lifespan and across communities.

  • College-Age and Young Adults
  • Criminal Justice
  • Global Health
  • LGBTQ Populations and Substance Use
  • Military Life and Substance Use
  • Older Adults
  • Parents and Educators
  • Women and Drugs
  • National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week Organizers and Participants

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Research by Substance

Find evidence-based information on specific drugs and substance use disorders.

  • Cannabis (Marijuana)
  • Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs
  • Tobacco/Nicotine and Vaping
  • Methamphetamine
  • MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)
  • Prescription Medicines
  • Steroids (Anabolic)
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice)
  • Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)
  • Over-the-Counter Medicines
  • Commonly Used Drugs Charts

Related Resources

  • Learn more about Overdose Prevention from the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Learn more about substance use treatment, prevention, recovery support, and related services from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration .
  • Learn more about the health effects of alcohol and alcohol use disorder from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism .
  • Learn more the approval and regulation of prescription medicines from the Food and Drug Administration .
  • Learn more about efforts to measure, prevent, and address public health impacts of substance use from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
  • Learn more about controlled substance law and regulation enforcement from the Drug Enforcement Administration .
  • Learn more about policies impacting substance use from the Office of National Drug Control Policy .

Helping Someone with a Drug Addiction

  • Choosing a Drug Rehab Addiction Program

Dual Diagnosis: Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Choosing an alcohol rehab treatment program, staying social when you quit drinking.

  • Vaping: The Health Risks and How to Quit

Women and Alcohol

  • Binge Drinking: Effects, Causes, and Help
  • Online Therapy: Is it Right for You?
  • Mental Health
  • Health & Wellness
  • Children & Family
  • Relationships

Are you or someone you know in crisis?

  • Bipolar Disorder
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  • Meet Our Team
  • Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
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Understanding drug abuse and addiction

Risk factors for drug addiction, myths and facts about drug abuse and addiction, how drug abuse and addiction develops, signs and symptoms of drug abuse and addiction, warning signs that a friend or loved one is abusing drugs, warning signs of prescription drug abuse , when a loved one has a drug problem, when your teen has a drug problem, next step: getting help for drug abuse or addiction, drug abuse and addiction.

Do you or someone you know have a drug problem? Explore the warning signs and symptoms and learn how substance abuse problems develop.

drug addiction about topic

People from all walks of life can experience problems with their drug use, regardless of age, race, background, or the reason they started using drugs in the first place. Some people experiment with recreational drugs out of curiosity, to have a good time, because friends are doing it, or to ease problems such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

However, it’s not just illegal drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, that can lead to abuse and addiction. Prescription medications such as painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers can cause similar problems. In fact, next to marijuana, prescription painkillers are the most abused drugs in the U.S. and more people die from overdosing powerful opioid painkillers each day than from traffic accidents and gun deaths combined. Addiction to opioid painkillers can be so powerful it has become the major risk factor for heroin abuse.

When drug use becomes drug abuse or addiction

Of course, drug use—either illegal or prescription—doesn’t automatically lead to abuse. Some people are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without experiencing negative effects, while others find that substance use takes a serious toll on their health and well-being. Similarly, there is no specific point at which drug use moves from casual to problematic.

Drug abuse and addiction is less about the type or amount of the substance consumed or the frequency of your drug use, and more about the consequences of that drug use. If your drug use is causing problems in your life—at work, school, home, or in your relationships—you likely have a drug abuse or addiction problem.

If you’re worried about your own or a loved one’s drug use, learning how drug abuse and addiction develops—and why it can have such a powerful hold—will give you a better understanding of how to best deal with the problem and regain control of your life. Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery , one that takes tremendous courage and strength. Facing your problem without minimizing the issue or making excuses can feel frightening and overwhelming, but recovery is within reach. If you're ready to seek help, you can overcome your addiction and build a satisfying, drug-free life for yourself.

While anyone can develop problems from using drugs, vulnerability to substance addiction differs from person to person. While your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role, risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences
  • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Early use of drugs
  • Method of administration—smoking or injecting a drug may increase its addictive potential

Speak to a Licensed Therapist

There's a fine line between regular drug use and drug abuse and addiction. Very few drug abusers or addicts are able to recognize when they've crossed that line. While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed do not necessarily constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.

If the drug fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. You may take illegal drugs to calm or energize yourself or make you more confident. You may start abusing prescription drugs to relieve pain, cope with panic attacks, or improve concentration at school or work. If you are using drugs to fill a void in your life , you're more at risk of crossing the line from casual drug use to drug abuse and addiction. To maintain a healthy balance in your life, you need to have positive experiences and feel good about your life without any drug use.

[Read: Self-Medicating Depression, Anxiety, and Stress]

Drug abuse may start as a way to socially connect. People often try drugs for the first time in social situations with friends and acquaintances. A strong desire to fit in to the group can make it feel like doing the drugs with them is the only option.

Problems can sometimes sneak up on you, as your drug use gradually increases over time. Smoking a joint with friends over the weekend, or taking ecstasy at a rave, or painkillers when your back aches, for example, can change from using drugs a couple of days a week to using them every day. Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you.

As drug abuse takes hold, you may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you may start to neglect social or family responsibilities. Your ability to stop using is eventually compromised. What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need.

Eventually drug abuse can consume your life, stopping social and intellectual development. This only reinforces feelings of isolation.

Drug addiction and the brain

While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain functions . This includes commonly abused prescription medications as well as recreational drugs.

  • Taking the drug causes a rush of the hormone dopamine in your brain, which triggers feelings of pleasure. Your brain remembers these feelings and wants them repeated.
  • When you become addicted, the substance takes on the same significance as other survival behaviors, such as eating and drinking.
  • Changes in your brain interfere with your ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, control your behavior, and feel normal without drugs.
  • No matter which drug you're addicted to, the uncontrollable craving to use grows more important than anything else, including family, friends, career, and even your own health and happiness.
  • The urge to use is so strong that your mind finds many ways to deny or rationalize the addiction. You may drastically underestimate the quantity of drugs you're taking, how much it impacts your life, and the level of control you have over your drug use.

With the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of drug use and regain control of your life. The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem, or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects drug use is having on your life.

Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are similar. If you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms, talk to someone about your drug use.

Common symptoms of drug abuse

Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children).

Using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high , such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.

Experiencing legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit.

Problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of friends.

Common symptoms of drug addiction

You've built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.

You use to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.

Loss of control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn't. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.

Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, or recovering from the drug's effects.

You've abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.

You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it's hurting you. It's causing major problems in your life—blackouts, financial issues , infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. If you're worried that a friend or loved one might be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs:

Physical warning signs 

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

Behavioral warning signs 

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained financial problems; borrowing or stealing.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs 

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”.
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid.

Warning signs of commonly abused recreational drugs

Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.

Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.

Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.

Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.

Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

In recent years, prescription drug abuse has become an escalating problem, most commonly involving opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications , sedatives, and stimulants . Many people start taking these drugs to cope with a specific medical problem—taking painkillers following injury or surgery, for example. However, over time, increased doses are needed to achieve the same level of pain relief and some users can become physically dependent, experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.

One of the earliest warning signs of a developing problem is going through the medication at a faster-than-expected rate. In other cases, people start abusing medication not prescribed for them in order to experience a high, relieve tension, increase alertness, or improve concentration.

[Read: Anxiety Medication]

To avoid developing problems with a prescription medication, it's important to take it only as directed, use the lowest dose for the shortest period possible, and to talk to your doctor about other methods of treating the problem. Being aware of any signs of dependency can help identify prescription drug problems at an early stage and help to prevent them progressing into an addiction.

Warning signs of commonly abused prescription drugs

Opioid painkillers (including OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco):  Drooping eyes, constricted pupils even in dim light, sudden itching or flushing, slurred speech; drowsiness, lack of energy; inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, decline in performance at work or school; neglecting friendships and social activities.

Anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and hypnotics (including Xanax, Valium, Ambien):  Contracted pupils; drunk-like, slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, clumsiness; poor judgment, drowsiness, slowed breathing.

Stimulants (including Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine):  Dilated pupils, reduced appetite; agitation, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature; insomnia, paranoia.

If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do:

Speak up. Talk to the person about your concerns, and offer your help and support without being judgmental. The earlier addiction is treated, the better. Don't wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom! List specific examples of your loved one's behavior that have you worried and urge them to seek help .

Take care of yourself. Stay safe. Don't put yourself in dangerous situations. Don't get so caught up in someone else's drug problem that you neglect your own needs. Make sure you have people you can talk to and lean on for support.

[Read: Helping Someone with a Drug Addiction]

Avoid self-blame. You can support a person with a substance abuse problem and encourage treatment , but you can't force an addict to change. You can't control your loved one's decisions. Letting the person accept responsibility for their actions is an essential step along the way to recovery.

  • Attempt to threaten, punish, bribe, or preach.
  • Make emotional appeals that only add to the user’s feelings of guilt and increase their compulsion to use drugs.
  • Cover up or make excuses for the drug abuser, or shield them from the consequences of their drug use.
  • Take over the drug abuser’s responsibilities, diminishing their sense of self-worth.
  • Hide or throw out drugs.
  • Argue with the person when they are high.
  • Use drugs with the person.
  • Feel guilty or responsible for a drug abuser's behavior.

Discovering your child uses drugs can generate fear, confusion, and anger. It's important to remain calm when confronting your teen, and to only do so when everyone is sober. Explain your concerns and make it clear that your concern comes from a place of love. It's important that your teen feels you are supportive.

Warning signs of teen drug abuse

As with adults, teenage drug abuse isn't limited to illegal drugs. In fact, teens are more likely to abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including painkillers, stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers. In many cases, these drugs are much easier for teens to procure, yet they can have dangerous, even lethal, side effects.

While experimenting with any kind of drug doesn't automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction down the road. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:

Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils ; using eye drops to try to mask these signs

Skipping class ; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school

Missing medications, prescriptions, money or valuables

Acting uncharacteristically isolated , withdrawn, angry, or depressed

Sudden mood changes or repeated health complaints, constant fatigue

Dropping one group of friends for another ; being secretive about the new peer group

Loss of interest in old hobbies ; lying about new interests and activities

Demanding more privacy ; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around

7 steps parents can take to curb teen drug use

  • Talk openly about the dangers of both illegal and prescription drug use with your kids. Providing a safe and open environment to talk about these issues can make a real difference in the likelihood that they'll use or abuse drugs.
  • Lay down rules and consequences. Your teen should understand that using drugs comes with specific consequences. But don't make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce—and make sure your spouse agrees and is prepared to enforce the rules. Remind your teen that taking someone else's prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal.
  • Monitor your teen's activity. Know where your teen goes and who they hang out with. It's also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, in DVD cases or make-up cases. Monitor your teen's online activity to check for illegal purchases.
  • Keep prescription medicines in a safe place, avoid stockpiling them, and dispose of any unused prescription medicines. Monitor your prescription refills carefully.
  • Encourage other interests and social activities. Expose your teen to healthy hobbies and activities, such as team sports and after-school clubs.
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drug use can be the result of other problems. Is your teen having trouble fitting in? Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce causing stress?
  • Get help. Teenagers often rebel against their parents but if they hear the same information from a different authority figure, they may be more inclined to listen. Try a sports coach, family doctor, therapist, or drug counselor.

Addiction is a complex problem that affects every aspect of your life. Overcoming addiction requires reaching out for support and making changes to the way you live, deal with problems, and relate to others. Recovery is within your reach but don't try to go it alone; it's very easy to get discouraged and rationalize “just one more.”

Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential.

Read: Overcoming Drug Addiction .

Support organizations

Most of these 12-step programs have worldwide chapters:

Narcotics Anonymous

Cocaine Anonymous

Crystal Meth Anonymous

Marijuana Anonymous

Read: NA and Other Peer Support Groups for Drug Addiction

Professional help for drug treatment and recovery

Use the  Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator  , call the  SAMHSA helpline  at 1-800-662-4357,  Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use , or call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids helpline at 1-855-378-4373.

Find  NHS drug addictions support services  or call the  Frank helpline  at 0800 776600.

Finding Quality Addiction Care   (Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction)

Find  drug and alcohol services in your State/Territory  (Department of Health & Aging).

More Information

  • How can prescription drug addiction be treated? - Treatment options for prescription drug addiction including addiction to opioid painkillers. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Drugs: What to Know - Information on drug and alcohol abuse for teens. (TeensHealth)
  • If You Have a Problem with Drugs: For Adults - Step by step guide to getting treatment. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction - Booklet on drug addiction, including its effects on the brain. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • One Breath, Twelve Steps - Buddhism-inspired mindful practices for overcoming addiction from a  HelpGuide affiliate . (Sounds True)
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . American Psychiatric Association. Link
  • 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Releases | CBHSQ Data. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2021, from Link
  • Lipari, R. N. (2019). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Link
  • GBD 2016 Alcohol and Drug Use Collaborators. (2018). The global burden of disease attributable to alcohol and drug use in 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet. Psychiatry, 5(12), 987–1012. Link
  • Lopez-Quintero, Catalina, José Pérez de los Cobos, Deborah S. Hasin, Mayumi Okuda, Shuai Wang, Bridget F. Grant, and Carlos Blanco. Probability and Predictors of Transition from First Use to Dependence on Nicotine, Alcohol, Cannabis, and Cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence 115, no. 1–2 (May 1, 2011): 120–30. Link
  • Hallfors, D. D., Waller, M. W., Ford, C. A., Halpern, C. T., Brodish, P. H., & Iritani, B. (2004). Adolescent depression and suicide risk: Association with sex and drug behavior. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3), 224–231. Link
  • Grant, Bridget F., Frederick S. Stinson, Deborah A. Dawson, S. Patricia Chou, Mary C. Dufour, Wilson Compton, Roger P. Pickering, and Kenneth Kaplan. Prevalence and Co-Occurrence of Substance Use Disorders and Independent Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Archives of General Psychiatry 61, no. 8 (August 2004): 807–16. Link
  • Santucci, Karen. Psychiatric Disease and Drug Abuse. Current Opinion in Pediatrics 24, no. 2 (April 2012): 233–37. Link
  • NIDA. 2018, August 1. Comorbidity: Substance Use Disorders and Other Mental Illnesses. Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse on July 15, 2021. Link
  • Self-medication of anxiety symptoms with drugs or alcohol associated with increased risk of developing substance use disorders. (n.d.). ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 15, 2021, from Link
  • Harris, Katherine M, and Mark J Edlund. Self-Medication of Mental Health Problems: New Evidence from a National Survey. Health Services Research 40, no. 1 (February 2005): 117–34. Link

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Essay on Drug Addiction in English for Children and Students

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Essay on Drug Addiction: Drug addiction is not a disease as it may seem to many people. It is a psychological disorder that leads a person to use drugs excessively. Even though the person may know that the drugs are harming his body, he cannot control his urge to consume more and more drugs. The addiction may start with a small quantity but gradually it increases with time. The person becomes a slave of drugs and cannot live without them. He may start stealing money to buy drugs. In some cases, he may even sell his body to buy drugs.

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Target Exam ---

A drug is any substance that changes how a person feels or acts, whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally, or behaviorally. Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, happens when someone loses control over using drugs or medications, whether legal or not. Drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine fall into this category. When someone is addicted, they might keep using the drug even if it harms them.

Long and Short Essay on Drug Addiction in English

Here are long and short essay on Drug Addiction of various lengths to help you with the topic in your exam.

These Drug Addiction essay have been written using very simple and easy language to convey the facts on Drug Addiction among people.

After going through these essays you would be able to know what Drug Addiction is, how Drug Addiction is harmful to health, what are ways to overcome Drug Addiction, impact of Drug Addiction on human behaviour, etc.

Essay on Drug Addiction in 200 words – Essay 1

Drug addiction is a common problem these days. Vast number of people around the world suffers from this problem. Drugs offer an instant pleasure and relief from stress. Many people begin taking drugs as an escape from their painful reality. Others take drugs just to experience how it feels.

Yet others take it just to give company to their friends so that they don’t get left out. Whatever be the reason, before a person knows, he gets addicted to drugs and it is hard to get rid of this addiction. Short-term pleasure caused by the use of drugs can lead to serious long term problems. It can cause severe health issues and behavioural changes.

Some of the symptoms of drug addiction include loss of appetite, impaired coordination, and restlessness, loss of interest in work, financial issues, and change of social circle, secretive behaviour, frequent mood swings and anxious behaviour.

Many people argue that overcoming addiction just requires will power and determination. However, this is not it. It requires much more. Drug addiction alters the brain and causes powerful cravings. Will power alone cannot help overcome this strong urge. It is essential to seek professional help and take proper medication in order to get rid of drug addiction. It can take years to overcome this addiction and the chances of a relapse cannot be ruled out completely.

Essay on Drug Addiction: Harmful for Health (300 words) – Essay 2

Drug addiction weakens a person’s immune system. It causes various mental and physical illnesses. The problems can be both short term and long term. The kind of drug a person consumes, how he consumes it, how much he consumes it and the period of time for which he takes it form the basis of different health problems.

Drug Addiction: Impact on Physical Health

Drug addiction can take a toll on a person’s physical health. It harms various parts of the body including brain, throat, lungs, stomach, pancreas, liver, heart and the nervous system. It can cause health problems such as nausea, heart problem, damaged liver, stroke, lung disease, weight loss and even cancer.

Drug addicts also stand a high risk of contracting AIDS. This is because they usually share needles to inject drugs. Driving or even walking on the road while you are under the influence of drugs can be risky. Such a person has a high chance of meeting with accident.

Drug Addiction: Impact on Mental Health

Drug addiction has severe impact on a person’s brain. Drugs interfere with decision making and impact a person’s psychomotor skills. They can cause mental health issues such as depression, Alzheimer, insomnia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, conduct problems and psychosocial dysfunctions. Drug addicts have suicidal thoughts and often attempt suicide.

Drug Addiction: Effect on Unborn Babies

Addiction can put the unborn babies in high risk. Pregnant women addicted to drugs can harm the fetus. Unborn babies are likely to develop birth defects and both mental and physical abnormalities. Drug addiction can also result in premature birth. Some babies even display behavioural issues later in life. It is highly recommended to get rid of drug addiction before planning a baby.

Essay on Drug Addiction

Essay on Drug Addiction – Ways to Overcome Drug Addiction (400 words) – Essay 3

People belonging to different age groups and varied walks of life fall prey to drug addiction. While some are able to overcome this addiction with some difficulty, others get thrown in the dark world of drugs forever. One needs to be truly willing to get rid of drug addiction and put as much effort to overcome this abuse.

Essay on Drug Addiction

While anyone can develop drug addiction some people have a greater chance of developing this. Here is a look at people who are at high risk of developing drug addiction:

  • Those who have suffered some heart wrenching/ traumatic experiences in life.
  • who have a family history of drug addiction.
  • Those who have suffered mental or physical abuse or neglect.
  • Those suffering from depression and anxiety.

Ways to Overcome Drug Addiction

Here are some of the ways to overcome drug addiction:

List the Reasons to Quit

As you decide to quit drug addiction, make a list of the problems you are facing due to your addiction. This can include problems at work front, problems with your spouse, kids and parents, physical and mental health issues and more. Read this list everyday as you embark on your journey to quit this hazardous habit. This will motivate you to leave it.

Enroll at a Rehabilitation Centre

This is one of the main steps to overcome drug addiction. Good rehabilitation centres have qualified and experienced professionals who know just how to deal with the addicts and help them get rid of their drug addiction. Meeting other drug addicts and seeing how hard they are trying to leave this addiction to get back to normal life can also be encouraging.

Seek Support from Friends and Family

Love and support from our near and dear ones can play an important part when it comes to getting rid of drug addiction. It can help the drug addict stay determined and motivated to leave this detestable habit. So, do not hesitate to discuss this problem with them. They will be more than willing to help you get rid of the addiction.

As you stop the consumption of drugs, you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Medication is required to deal with these symptoms. Medication also helps in preventing relapse. Health issues that may have been caused due to drug addiction also need to be cured. Medicines will help cure them.

Drug addiction can be extremely hard to leave. However, it is not impossible to do so. Strong determination and support from friends and family can help in getting rid of drug addiction.

Essay on Drug Addiction – Impact of Drug Addiction on Human Behavioral (500 words) – Essay 5

Drug Addiction impacts the physical health badly. It puts the addict at the risk of incurring health problems such as cardiac arrest, stroke and abdominal pain. It also causes mental health issues such as depression, insomnia and bipolar disorder to name a few. In addition to impacting a person’s health, drug addiction also impacts the human behavioral. All kinds of drugs including cocaine, marijuana and weed, impact the brain instinct and cause mood swings that result in behavioral issues.

Common Behavioral Issues Faced by Drug Addicts

Drug addiction messes with a person’s brain function. It interferes with the way a person behaves and the kind of choices he makes.


A person who is under the influence of drugs can get highly aggressive. Drug addicts often get enraged on the smallest of things. This behaviour is not just seen when they are experiencing a high. Continual use of drugs somehow embeds aggressiveness in their personality. It is difficult to get along with such people. You need to be highly cautious around them as they can throw frequent bouts of anger and aggression.

Impaired Judgement

Drug addiction bars a person’s ability to think rationally. Drug addicts are unable to take proper decisions. Their judgement is impaired. They can no longer distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.


Drug addicts also display impulsive behaviour. They act and react without thinking much. This behaviour is usually displayed when they are feeling a high. However, they may even display impulsive behaviour when they return to their normal state. Drug addicts mostly take decisions that they regret later.

Loss of Self Control

Drug addiction takes over the addict’s brain and they lose self control. They cannot control their actions even if they wish to. Grow strong craving for drugs and it is hard to resist even though they wish to. They also cannot control their reaction to things. Drugs overpower their decisions, actions, reactions and behaviour.

Low Performance at Work

A person who grows addicted to drugs experiences a drop in performance at work/ school. He is unable to concentrate on his work and continually thinks about taking drugs . He feels lethargic and low on energy when he doesn’t get his supply. All this is a big hindrance to work.


It has been noted that those under the influence of drugs often hallucinate. They see things and hear noises that do not really exist. The drugs that are particularly known for causing hallucinations include Salvia, Mescaline, LSD, Psilocybin Mushrooms and Ketamine.

In an attempt to hide their drug addiction from family and friends drug addicts often grow secretive. They usually avoid spending time with their parents/ kids/ spouse. They often socialize with other drug addicts and stop hanging out with other friends. This often makes them socially awkward.

Drug addiction can cause behavioural issues that can impact a person’s personal as well as professional life negatively. It is an addiction that one must get rid of as soon as possible. A person may struggle to make positive changes in his behaviour long after he has left drug addiction.

Long Essay on Drug Addiction: The Worst Addiction (600 words) – Essay 5


Drug intake releases large amount of dopamine that puts a person in an ecstatic state. People love experiencing this happy state and wish to get here time and again which is one of the main reasons of drug addiction. Initially most people take drugs voluntarily however it soon turns out to be an addiction. Drug addiction is the worst kind of addiction. It is hard to leave and the negative repercussions it has may last even after a person gets rid of this addiction.

Types of Drugs

Drugs have broadly been categorized into three types. These are depressant, stimulants and hallucinogens. Here is a look at the impact each one of them causes on a human mind and body:

  • Depressants : Depressants include cannabis, opiates, benzodiazepines and alcohol. They are known to slow down the speed of the messages going to and from the brain and thus lower the ability to take charge of a situation. When taken in small amount, depressants can make a person feel relaxed. However, when taken in large quantity, these can cause nausea, vomiting and unconsciousness.
  • Stimulants : Stimulants, on the other hand, speed up the messages going to and from the brain. They have the power to boost a person’s confidence level instantly. On the downside, they can cause high blood pressure, increase heart rate and cause restlessness, agitation and insomnia. Continual use of such drugs causes panic attacks, anxiety and paranoia. Stimulants include nicotine, caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines.
  • Hallucinogens : Hallucinogens include LSF, PCP, cannabis, mescaline and psilocybin. These drugs cause hallucination and distort a person’s sense of reality. When taken continually, these drugs can cause high blood pressure, nausea, paranoia and numbness.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

A person who grows addicted to drugs is likely to show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Change in appetite
  • Unexpected weight gain or weight loss
  • Change in sleep pattern
  • Slurred speech
  • Change in friend circle
  • Sudden bouts of anger
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Loss of interest in work
  • Low performance at work/school
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Being lethargic, distant and disinterested
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxious behaviour

Drug Addiction Hampers Professional Life

Drug addiction has an adverse impact on a person’s brain. People lose their self control. They become so addicted to drugs that all they can think about is consuming them. This is the only thing that interests them. They are unable to concentrate on work and lose interest in it. Even if they try to work they feel lethargic and withdrawn.

Drugs have an impact on their cognitive skills, analytical skills and decision making power. This impacts their professional life adversely. Drug addicts also display irrational behaviour. They grow aggressive, develop impaired judgement and become impulsive. Such behaviour is unacceptable in an office setting. It puts them in a bad light and bars the chances of professional growth.

Drug Addiction Ruins Personal Relationships

A person addicted to drugs loves the company of those who take drugs and tries to spend most of his time with them. He is no longer interested in his family and friends. Often distances himself from them. He becomes irritable and aggressive. This leads to frequent arguments and quarrels which disturb his family life as well as his equation with his friends. A person addicted to drugs does not only spoil his own life but also of those around him.

Related Information:

Essay on Addiction

Essay on Drug Addiction FAQs

How do you write a drug essay.

To write a drug essay, start with an introduction about the topic's importance, include information about various types of drugs, their effects, and the consequences of drug abuse. Discuss prevention, treatment, and societal impact. Conclude with your thoughts or recommendations.

What is drug addiction in one sentence?

Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.

What is drug addiction class 9?

In a class 9 context, drug addiction is typically introduced as the harmful and unhealthy dependence on substances like drugs or alcohol, which can lead to physical, mental, and social problems.

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Drug Abuse, Addiction, Substance Use Disorder

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Use the words below to search for useful information in   books  and  articles .

  • substance use disorder 
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Background Reading:

It's important to begin your research learning something about your subject; in fact, you won't be able to create a focused, manageable thesis unless you already know something about your topic.

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Use some of the questions below to help you narrow this broad topic. See "substance abuse" in our Developing Research Questions guide for an example of research questions on a focused study of drug abuse. 

  • In what ways is drug abuse a serious problem? 
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  • What resources and treatment are available to drug abusers?
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  • Based on what I have learned from my research what do I think about the issue of drug abuse?

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  • National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA's mission is to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction. This charge has two critical components. The first is the strategic support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines. The second is ensuring the rapid and effective dissemination and use of the results of that research to significantly improve prevention and treatment and to inform policy as it relates to drug abuse and addiction.
  • Drug Free America Foundation Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. is a drug prevention and policy organization committed to developing, promoting and sustaining national and international policies and laws that will reduce illegal drug use and drug addiction.
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy A component of the Executive Office of the President, ONDCP was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. ONDCP advises the President on drug-control issues, coordinates drug-control activities and related funding across the Federal government, and produces the annual National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines Administration efforts to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.
  • Drug Policy Alliance The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization promoting alternatives to current drug policy that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

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What Is Drug Addiction?

Substance use disorder (SUD) or drug addiction is a disease that negatively affects a person’s brain and behavior. A person can become obsessed with any legal or illegal drugs. Some people can get addicted to certain medications . This addiction gradually starts developing when the individual continues to consume the drug despite the impairment it causes. Nicotine, marijuana and alcohol are commonly misused drugs in today’s world.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

An action performed once as an experiment in a social situation can soon develop into a habit. An experimental use of alcohol at a college party can be used as an example. Substances such as alcohol and nicotine can affect the way one feels. Some people enjoy the physical and mental stimulations these substances create. In most cases, it is highly likely for the individual to get obsessed with such feelings. This condition ultimately leads the person to develop an addiction to that particular substance. Some people get addicted to even more than one substance. However, such a lifestyle often leads to a series of mental, physical and social impairments.

Drug Addiction Facts & Stats

Most people who suffer with substance abuse disorder (SUD) tend to hide their condition and prefer not to be vocal about it.

However, a staggering number of people in the U.S. struggle with the same condition.

  • As per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 19.7 million adults in the U.S. battled SUD in 2017 (individuals who are aged 12 and older).
  • About 74% of those adults struggled with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2017.
  • About 38% of adults battled an illegal drug use disease in 2017.
  • One out of every eight adults had both SUD and AUD in the same year.
  • 5 million adults in the U.S. had both SUD and mental health disorders or co-occurring disorders in 2017.
  • Drug addiction causes the U.S. a $740 billion annual loss.

– The extent of SUD in the U.S. is shown in the facts above –

Drug Addiction Common Symptoms

The common symptoms seen in drug addiction can vary from person to person while also depending on the type of drug that has been abused.

It is encouraged to pay heed to the below mentioned symptoms:

  • Having the urge to consume the drug frequently.
  • Having to increase the quantity of the drug to get the same effect.
  • Spending more money on the drug even when one can’t afford it.
  • Neglecting one’s own responsibilities such as work, family, etc.
  • Going to the extent of stealing cash in order to purchase the drug, when one doesn’t have sufficient funds.
  • Spending hours to have the drug in possession. Making sure that one has a stock at home.
  • Coming to a realization where one intends on stopping drug consumption because of its negative effects, yet, being unable to resist the urge, returns back to the same old habits.

Well-Known Causes of Drug Addiction

In most cases, substance abuse disorder is usually developed due to many social, personal, and environmental causes. However, some of these causes give the victim no control over them due to the size of their complexity.

Mentioned below are the most common causes of drug addiction:

Environmental Factors:

  • Having a group of friends who consume drugs. Peer pressure is considered to be one of the top causes of alcoholism and SUD. Many young individuals are reported to have started consuming drugs for the first time due to peer pressure from a group of friends who were frequent consumers themselves.
  • One’s family’s attitudes and beliefs.
  • Lack of family support or being ignored by parents.
  • The life incidents one witnesses as a child tend to play a significant
  • A person’s genetics can affect the progress of his/her drug addiction. They play a vital role in increasing or decreasing the speed of the progress.
  • A family history of any addiction is a risk factor here.
  • Some highly-addictive drugs frequently lead to this disorder .

An early use: If someone uses a drug at an early age, the changes in their brain development make the user more defenseless to the addiction he/she may have to that particular drug.

Intervention for Drug Addiction

Keeping their disorder to themselves and not willing to open up to other people about it are common causes of complications seen in those suffering with SUD. An intervention for SUD is a structured opportunity for you or a loved one to share thoughts about the addiction. Staging an intervention may be difficult at first. But the victim’s family and friends are encouraged to initiate it. In pressing cases, where the victim is unwilling to listen to family or friends, an alcohol/drug counselor or a treatment specialist is advised to be brought in. The heart-to-heart conversations brought out in this intervention usually show positive results and help those struggling in progressing towards recovery.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

The aim of this treatment is to make things better for the individual and their loved ones. Once diagnosed, the treatment doctor/specialist can suggest one or more of the following treatment plans:

  • Detoxification & withdrawal therapy : This combined treatment shows promising results in many cases. This treatment is advised to be carried out by healthcare professionals.
  • Chemical dependency treatment programs: These combined therapies explain the danger of drug addiction. The treatment specialist usually decides on which treatment elements to include in the program.
  • Behavior therapy: Another combined treatment plan performed by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a licensed alcohol/drug counselor.
  • Self-help groups: Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are support groups available for people with drug addiction disorders.

Conclusion: Substance use disorder (SUD) or drug addiction is a major issue in the world we live in today. You or your loved ones may be struggling with this condition. Even though there is no specific treatment for SUD, with the help of heart to heart conversations and evidence-based treatment plans under specialist supervision there is a high chance of overcoming this addiction and claiming your life back.

Don’t lose hope because help for you is right here!

Headquartered in New Jersey, Pinnacle Treatment Centers is a recognized leader in comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment serving more than 28,000 patients daily in California , Indiana , Kentucky , New Jersey , Ohio , Pennsylvania , and Virginia . With more than 110 community-based locations, Pinnacle provides a full continuum of quality care for adult men and women which includes medically-monitored detoxification/withdrawal management, inpatient/residential treatment, partial hospitalization/care, sober living, intensive and general outpatient programming, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder. For more information, visit or call 800-782-1520.

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