Drug dependence

Alternative Names

Drug addiction; Addiction – drug; Dependence on drugs

Definition of Drug dependence

Drug dependence means that a person needs a drug to function normally. Abruptly stopping the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms. Drug addiction is the compulsive use of a substance, despite its negative or dangerous effects.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Drug abuse can lead to drug dependence or addiction. People who use drugs for pain relief may become dependent, although this is rare in those who don’t have a history of addiction.

Symptoms

Some of the symptoms and behaviors of drug dependence include:

Signs and tests

Drug tests (toxicology screens) on blood and urine samples can show many chemicals and drugs in the body. How sensitive the test is depends upon the drug itself, when the drug was taken, and the testing laboratory. Blood tests are more likely to find a drug than urine tests. However, urine drug screens are done more often.

Treatment

Treatment for drug abuse or dependence begins with recognizing the problem. Though “denial” used to be considered a symptom of addiction, recent research has shown that people who are addicted have far less denial if they are treated with empathy and respect, rather than told what to do or “confronted.”

Expectations (prognosis)

Drug abuse and dependence may lead to a fatal drug overdose. Some people start taking the drugs again after they have stopped. Relapses can lead to continued dependence.

Review

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 2/11/2010

Depression and men

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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