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Blogs from September, 2014

Woman holding a straw

The use and abuse of drugs is a very serious problem for many people in California and throughout the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, illicit drug use continued to increase in 2012 and shows no signs of slowing down. Approximately 23.9 million Americans over the age of 12 used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication. Drug abuse is associated with financial problems, lost jobs, family disruptions, domestic violence, failure in school, child abuse, and crime.

Because drug abuse affects society as a whole rather than just the person using drugs, it has become one of the most complex and costly public health issues in the United States. One estimate concluded that the economic cost to society (factoring in increased healthcare, crime, and lost productivity costs) due to substance abuse and addiction is $559 billion per year.

In addition to the social and financial destruction that drug abuse causes, having a drug problem has a major impact on the health of the individual abusing as well as others in their care. Health problems associated with the abuse of drugs include but are not limited to:

  • Suicide
  • Child abuse
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Domestic violence
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS)
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Homicide
  • Premature deaths

The list of problems caused by the abuse of drugs is endless as research continues to find links between drug abuse and various health and psychological conditions.


There are conflicting points of view when it comes to having a drug problem; while some people believe that using drugs at all is a sign of having a drug problem, others believe that having a drug problem results from being unable to control their ability to stop using drugs.

The following are some questions to ask yourself when you are trying to evaluate whether or not you have a drug problem:

Can I quit right now?

  • If you don’t have a drug problem, quitting shouldn’t be a big deal. Try to stop using narcotics and if you find yourself struggling to do so, seek professional assistance.

Are drugs negatively affecting my life?

  • Are you drinking when you shouldn’t? Are you ignoring responsibilities while being drunk or high? If your life is becoming too difficult to handle because of drug use, you should consider quitting.

Why am I taking drugs?

  • Many people take drugs because they are struggling with something else in their life, but they do not know how to handle it. If you are taking drugs, for this reason, you can expect it to eventually become a problem.


If you suspect a loved one is abusing drugs or if you feel that you may have a problem with drug abuse, the first step is to get help. However, some individuals do not want to admit that they have a problem with drugs until they are presented with hard evidence of their drug abuse. Unfortunately, evidence often comes too late and those suffering from addiction hurt themselves or their loved ones.

The best way you can help someone is to know the signs and symptoms of drug abuse so that you can get that person the help that he or she needs before something horrific happens.

Physical symptoms of drug abuse:

  • Tremors or impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in appetite including sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (i.e. sleeps odd hours, sleeps too much, or sleeps too little)
  • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than normal
  • Changes in personal appearance that indicate a lack of personal grooming habits

Behavioral symptoms of drug abuse:

  • Sudden mood swings including sudden angry outbursts or unexplained irritability
  • Suddenly changing friends, hobbies or where you hangout
  • Getting into trouble more frequently (i.e. fights, illegal activities, accidents, etc.)
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Stops going to school or quit work
  • Performance at school or work declines suddenly
  • Needs money all of the time and will steal money if necessary or take items to sell for money

Psychological symptoms of drug abuse:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Appears to be “spaced out??? and/or lethargic
  • Appears to be paranoid, fearful, or anxious for no reason
  • Unexplained change in attitude or personality
  • Unusual periods of giddiness, hyperactivity, or agitation
  • Sudden and violent mood swings and angry outbursts

Of course, these are not the only signs and symptoms; however, they are the most common based on what medical experts have devised through years of study. In addition, each type of drug may present specific symptoms and side effects that are inherent to that particular drug. For example, inhalants such as aerosols, vapors, and glues will often cause impaired vision, impaired memory, rashes around the nose and mouth, and watery eyes.

On the other hand, the use of marijuana is associated with glassy, red eyes, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness and lack of interest or motivation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a list of the commonly abused drugs including their street names, how they are administered, the effects, and health risks.


If you or a loved one are unable to control your drug use, you are not alone. There are help and support available to you through a variety of local, state, and federal agencies as well as private and non-public organizations. The key is to understand that you cannot do this alone because support is essential and vital to recovering from addiction.

The first step in overcoming drug abuse is to get help. Below is a list of local, state, and national organizations that will provide assistance and put you on the right path to recovery.

  • Orange County Social Service Agency
  • County of San Diego Alcohol and Drug Services
  • California Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs
  • California Department of Health Care Services
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)