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Drug use, drug abuse, and drug addiction represent a continuum of how people interact with drugs. In the most literally terms, almost everyone is a drug user. All people, unless they have some religious or medical reason not to use medications, use drugs to treat disease, pain, or other treatable conditions. In addition to the legitimate use of medications, drug use may also refer to the use of alcohol, which is also a drug. In 2006, 61 percent of Americans used alcohol (National Center for Health Statistics, 2007). Some, but not all, of these people abused alcohol and some were alcoholics or addicts.

Others were social drinkers who did not abuse alcohol. Drug abuse occurs when an individual uses a prescription medication in a manner that was not intended by the manufacturer of the medication or of the doctor who prescribed the medication, or when an individual uses an illegal drug. An example of prescription medication would be a person who has a legitimate prescription for pain pills but takes more than the prescribed amount. In the case of alcohol, abuse would occur when the drinker uses alcohol to excess. Marijuana abuse is somewhat different.

Since marijuana is an illegal substance, all marijuana use is, by definition, drug abuse (U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency), although some marijuana users would argue that their drug has the same potential for abuse as alcohol. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), drug abuse is characterized by use that leads to a failure to fulfill major obligations, recurrent legal problems that are related to drug or alcohol use, recurrent social problems or problems with relationships, and use that is physically hazardous.

Drug abuse is a major public health problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2008) 3. 7 million Americans in 2007 either abused or were addicted to illicit drugs other than alcohol, 15. 5 million either abused or were dependent on alcohol, and another 3. 2 million abused or were addicted to both alcohol and illicit drugs. Drug abuse may lead to drug addiction. In many cases, addiction develops along with the individual and may begins in childhood or adolescence (National Institute of Health, 2007).

Drug addiction occurs when the individual develops a dependence for the drug. Addiction is characterized by increased tolerance for the substance; withdrawal symptoms when the user is unable to obtain the substance; neglecting family, work, and other obligations because of the substance; and preferring to use the drug instead of engaging in other activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). References American Psychiatric Association (2000).

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed: DSM-IV. Washington, D. C. American Psychiatric Association Press. National Center for Health Statistics (2007). Alcohol use. Fast Stats A to Z. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://www. cdc. gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol. htm National Institute of Health (2007). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. NIH Pub No. 07-5605. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://www. drugabuse. gov/ScienceofAddiction/sciofaddiction.

pdf Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies (2008). Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings. NSDUH Series H-34, DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4343. Rockville, MD. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://www. oas. samhsa. gov/nsduh/2k7nsduh/2k7Results. cfm U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency (undated). Marijuana. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://www. usdoj. gov/dea/concern/marijuana. htm

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