Basic Terminology of Substance Abuse & Drug-Taking Behavior

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

If you'd like to learn some basic but very important terminology related to substance abuse, what counts as a drug, and how you can spot substance abuse behaviors, then read this lesson!

Substance Abuse Terminology

If you're unsure if a beloved brother, sister, parent, or friend is potentially abusing drugs, then rest assured, this lesson will help you out quite a bit!

You'll first learn some basic but important terminology related to substance abuse. The terminology will be explained in such a way that you'll also understand the technical definition as well as what it means in a wider sense.

Then, you'll learn what signs and behaviors to look out for, ones that may indicate your friend or family member is indeed abusing drugs.

So let's get to it.

Drugs, Drug Misuse, and Drug Abuse

What are drugs? Drugs are chemical substances, other than food, that can affect the physiological and/or psychological processes of the body. This means they can alter how a person feels physically and their behaviors.

Josh had two choices when it came to drug use.

  • He could've inappropriately used prescription drugs or he could have obtained illicit substances, like cocaine. This is called drug misuse, which is the improper use of legal drugs intended for therapeutic medications. An example of this would be someone crushing and then snorting a pill their doctor prescribed, as opposed to swallowing it with some water, which is what the doctor's orders were. That's drug misuse.
  • But Josh chose a different form of drug use. He decided to abuse illicit drugs. This is called drug (substance) abuse refers to an inappropriate pattern of using any drug (legal or illegal) in such a way that their use results in a negative impact upon a person's physical and/or psychological functions. This definition also encompasses the consequences that occur as a result, like losing one's job, friends, and so forth.

Withdrawal, Drug Tolerance, & Drug Overdose

As Josh abused drugs, he noticed that as he used the drug over a long period of time he needed to take more and more of the drug in order to achieve the same effect he once had.

This is evidence of drug tolerance, a state where a person no longer responds to a drug in a way they originally had responded using the same concentration. This means they need to take higher concentrations of the drug (or more of the drug in general) in order to achieve the same effect they were able to with much smaller amounts in the past.

Josh realizes that he's also become dependent on the drug. If he doesn't take enough, he doesn't even feel good. He just takes the drug now just to function in some minimally normal capacity. This is evidence of drug addiction, a persistent physiological and/or psychological dependence on a drug.

Realizing that he's become an addict, he tries his best to stop. After a long period of using, he stops taking the drug outright. Because of this jarring change to his system, he suffers from withdrawal, a set of physical and emotional problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and fever, associated with the sudden discontinuation of, or large reduction in, drug use.

Because of this reaction, he feels horrible, and takes a large amount of the drug to compensate. Unfortunately, he overdoses as a result of this, and dies. A drug overdose is a state where a toxic amount of a drug in the body leads to adverse effects, like a coma, or even death.

Behaviors Associated With Drug Abuse

Could anyone have helped Josh avoid such a terrible end? Maybe. If you know some basic behaviors associated with substance abuse, you might be able to seek professional help for a person in need.

If you notice that someone has lost interest in once pleasurable hobbies, has had a change of friends or lost friends outright, has lost their job, is performing worse in school or in sports, those may all be signs of substance abuse. This is doubly true if they occur in combination.

Other things to look out for include, but are not limited to:

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