Drug Abuse: Nonmedical Use of Dependence-Producing Drugs

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It can lead to intense cravings and compulsive drug use. Over time, this behavior can turn into a substance dependency or drug and alcohol addiction. These can influence mood, behavior and other cognitive function. Brain damage may also occur through alcohol-induced nutrition deficiencies, alcohol-induced seizures and liver disease. In pregnant women, alcohol exposure can impact the brains of unborn babies, resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. It is reported that alcohol-induced brain problems can often be corrected with proper treatment.

Abstinence from alcohol for months or years can help partially repair thinking abilities, like memory skills. Substance use disorders can lead to multiple behavioral problems, both in the short- and long-term, which can include:.

Nonmedical use of prescription drugs in the European Union

These effects of drug abuse have serious consequences, like missed work, punishable offenses, accidents and injuries. In fact, alcohol and drugs are partly to blame in an estimated 80 percent of offenses leading to jail time in the U. These incidents include domestic violence, driving while intoxicated and offenses related to damaged property.

Legal and illegal drugs excluding alcohol are involved in about 16 percent of motor vehicle crashes. In the past year, almost 12 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs, and almost 4, fatally injured drivers tested positive for drug involvement. Illicit drug use poses risks for pregnant women and their babies.

Drugs may contain impurities that can be harmful to an unborn baby. Pregnant women who use drugs may be more likely to harm the fetus with risky behaviors and poor nutrition. Drug use can lead to premature birth or low birth weight. It can also cause the baby to have withdrawal symptoms sometimes in the form of neonatal abstinence syndrome , birth defects or learning and behavioral problems later in life.

Prescription drugs can be easier to get than street drugs: Family members or friends may have them.

Opioid Abuse

But prescription drugs are also sometimes sold on the street like other illegal drugs. In , 1 in 7 teens surveyed said they have taken a prescription drug without a doctor's prescription. But prescription drugs are only safe for the people who have prescriptions for them.


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That's because a doctor has examined these people and prescribed the right dose of medicine for their medical condition. The doctor has also told them exactly how they should take the medicine, including things to avoid while taking the drug. They also are aware of side effects and can watch patients closely for these.

The likelihood that someone will commit a crime, be a victim of a crime, or have an accident is higher when that person is abusing drugs — no matter whether those drugs are medicines or street drugs. Like all drug abuse, using prescription drugs for the wrong reasons has serious risks for a person's health.

Opioid abuse can lead to vomiting, mood changes, decrease in ability to think cognitive function , and even decreased respiratory function, coma, or death. This risk is higher when prescription drugs like opioids are taken with other substances like alcohol, antihistamines, and CNS depressants. Several studies 1 - 11 have reported recent increases in the prescription rates of abusable medications in the United States, including stimulants, opioids, and benzodiazepines. These increases are likely the result of many factors, including improved awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of several disorders, increased duration of treatment, availability of new medications, and increased marketing.

There is growing evidence that college students who report nonmedical use of prescription drugs are heavily involved with alcohol and other drug use behaviors eg, cigarette smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana and other illicit drug use.


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In response to the gap in knowledge, the main objectives of the present study were to 1 assess the medical and nonmedical use of 4 classes of prescription drugs opioid, stimulant, sleeping, and sedative or anxiety medication among undergraduate college students and 2 compare probable drug abuse among 4 mutually exclusive categories of medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs. After the study received institutional review board approval, a random sample of full-time undergraduate students was drawn from the total undergraduate population.

Informed consent was obtained online from each participant. Nonrespondents were sent up to 4 reminder e-mails.

The Web survey was maintained on an Internet site running with the secure socket layer protocol to ensure privacy and security. By participating in the survey, students became eligible for a sweepstakes that included cash prizes, travel vouchers, tickets to athletic events, and iPods. The sample consisted of undergraduate students The mean SD age of students in the sample was The sample was made up of The demographic characteristics of the sample closely resembled the overall student population at this university.

The family income distribution for the sample was as follows: A total of The response scale for each question ranged from 1 never to 7 on 40 or more occasions. Similar variables were used to assess past-year medical use of prescription medication. On how many occasions in your lifetime have you used the following types of drugs, not prescribed to you? Similar variables were used to assess past-year nonmedical use of prescription medication. Lifetime prescription drug use status was assessed by creating 4 distinct groups of lifetime prescription medication use: 1 never used 1 or more of the 4 classes of prescription medication nonuse ; 2 used only 1 or more of the 4 classes of prescription medication as prescribed by their physicians medical use only ; 3 used 1 or more of the 4 classes of prescription medication as prescribed by their physicians and prescription medication that was not prescribed to them both medical and nonmedical use ; and 4 used only 1 or more of the 4 classes of prescription medication that was not prescribed to them nonmedical use only.

Similar 4-level variables were developed for each specific drug class and past-year prescription medication use.

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Screening for probable drug abuse was assessed using the Drug Abuse Screening Test, Short Form DAST , which is a self-report instrument that can be used in clinical and nonclinical settings to screen for probable drug abuse or dependence on a wide variety of substances other than alcohol. The DAST items were not drug specific, and respondents were informed that drug refers to use of prescription drugs not prescribed to you or in a manner not intended by the prescribing physician or use of other drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, lysergic acid diethylamide, or Ecstasy.

On the basis of previous research, if a respondent positively endorsed 3 or more DAST items, this was considered a positive screening result, denoting risk for probable drug abuse or dependence. Data analyses included respondents, and all statistical analyses were performed using SPSS statistical software, version To begin, prevalence rates of lifetime medical and nonmedical use of 4 classes of prescription drugs pain, sleeping, sedative or anxiety, and stimulant medications among undergraduate college students were examined.

As indicated in Table 1 , the lifetime use of at least 1 in 4 classes of prescription drugs was as follows: Notably, most students reported lifetime medical use of at least 1 in 4 classes of prescription drugs, whereas approximately 1 in every 5 students reported lifetime nonmedical use.

As indicated in Table 2 , significant bivariate associations were found between every DAST item and lifetime prescription drug use.

Drug Abuse Symptoms, Facts, and Statistics

For each DAST item, the prevalence was higher among individuals who reported lifetime nonmedical drug use only than those who reported medical use only of prescription drugs. For example, simultaneous polydrug use was more prevalent among nonmedical users only Furthermore, not being able to stop using drugs when they wanted was more prevalent among nonmedical users only In particular, the past-year prevalence of having a positive drug abuse screening result was 3.

Multiple logistic regression results reinforced the bivariate findings; the odds of a positive screening result for drug abuse were significantly higher among individuals who reported lifetime nonmedical use only of prescription drugs after adjusting for covariates Table 3.