drug addiction and drug abuse
substance abuseis now frequently used because of the broad range of substances (including alcohol and inhalants) that can fit the addictive profile. Psychological dependence is the subjective feeling that the user needs the drug to maintain a feeling of well-being; physical dependence is characterized by tolerance (the need for increasingly larger doses in order to achieve the initial effect) and withdrawal symptoms when the user is abstinent.
Definitions of drug abuse and addiction are subjective and infused with the political and moral values of the society or culture. For example, the stimulant caffeine in coffee and tea is a drug used by millions of people, but because of its relatively mild stimulatory effects and because caffeine does not generally trigger antisocial behavior in users, the drinking of coffee and tea, despite the fact that caffeine is physically addictive, is not generally considered drug abuse. Even narcotics addiction is seen only as drug abuse in certain social contexts. In India opium has been used for centuries without becoming unduly corrosive to the social fabric.
The United States has the highest substance abuse rate of any industrialized nation. Government statistics (1997) show that 36% of the United States population has tried marijuana, cocaine, or other illicit drugs. By comparison, 71% of the population has smoked cigarettes and 82% has tried alcoholic beverages. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug.
Sections in this article:
- Types of Abused Substances
- Motivations for Drug Use
- Effects of Substance Abuse
- Fighting Substance Abuse
- Legalization and Decriminalization
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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