What is drug abuse and dependence?
Drug abuse is using drugs in a way that harms you or that leads you to harm others. You can abuse illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.
When you abuse drugs, you are not always able to meet work, home, or school duties. You may be late to work. You may use drugs in dangerous situations, such as when driving or operating machines, or drugs may cause problems in your relationships.
Drug abuse can lead to drug dependence, where you are addicted to a drug. The drug controls your life. Any of the following can happen:
- You take more of the drug over longer periods of time and need more of the drug to feel "high."
- You spend a lot of time trying to get the drug, and you give up other activities to do this.
- You try to quit using the drug, but you are not able to.
- You continue to use the drug even though it harms your relationships and causes you to develop physical problems.
- If you stop using the drug, you feel sick. This is known as withdrawal.
Drug dependence is a disease. It's not a weakness or a lack of willpower. It's your choice to begin using a drug. But as you use it more, your brain begins to change. This change can lead to a craving to use the drug, and this can influence how you act.