16 September 2009

Drug Dictionary

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) regulates five classes of drugs: narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids. Each class has distinguishing properties, and drugs within each class often produce similar effects. However, all controlled substances, regardless of class, share a number of common features. It is the purpose of this introduction to familiarize the reader with some of these shared features and to give definition to terms (printed in bold) frequently associated with these drugs.

With the exception of anabolic steroids, drugs in the other classes are utilized to alter mood, thought, and feeling through their actions on the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). For example, some of these drugs alleviate pain, anxiety, or depression. Some induce sleep and others energize. Though therapeutically useful, the "feel good" effects of these drugs contribute to their abuse. The extent to which a substance is reliably capable of producing intensely pleasurable feelings (euphoria) increases the likelihood of that substance being abused.

When drugs are used in a manner or amount inconsistent with the medical or social patterns of a culture, it is called drug abuse. In legal terms, the non-sanctioned use of substances controlled in Schedules I through V of the CSA is considered drug abuse. While legal pharmaceuticals placed under control in the CSA are prescribed and used by patients for medical treatment, the use of these same pharmaceuticals outside the scope of Sound medical practice is drug abuse.

In addition to having abuse potential, most controlled substances are capable of producing dependence, either physical or psychological. Physical dependence refers to the changes that have occurred in the body after repeated use of a drug that necessitates the continued administration of the drug to prevent a withdrawal syndrome. This withdrawal syndrome can range from mildly unpleasant to life-threatening and is dependent on a number of factors. The type of withdrawal experienced is related to the drug being used; the dose and route of administration; concurrent use of other drugs; frequency and duration of drug use; and the age, sex, health, and genetic makeup of the user. Psychological dependence refers to the perceived "need" or "craving" for a drug. Individuals who are psychologically dependent on a particular substance often feel that they cannot function without continued use of that substance. While physical dependence disappears within days or weeks after drug use stops, psychological dependence can last much longer and is one of the primary reasons for relapse/initiation of drug use after a period of abstinence).

Youths are especially vulnerable to drug abuse. According to N IDA, young Americans engaged in extraordinary levels of illicit drug use in the last third of the twentieth century. Today, the majority of young people (about 55 percent) have used an illicit drug by the time they leave high school and about 25 percent of all seniors are current (within the past month) users. The behaviors associated with teen and preteen drug use often result in tragic consequences with untold harm to others, themselves, and their families. For example, an analysis of data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicates that youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17 who have smoked marijuana within the past year are more than twice as likely to cut class, steal, attack people, and destroy property than are those who did not smoke marijuana. The more frequently a youth smokes marijuana, the more likely he or she is to engage in these antisocial behaviors.

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