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Drug Addiction

by Nancy Wenzel, M.A., LCDC

Addiction is now one of our society’s major public health and social problems.  Psychoactive drugs kill untold number of humans every year.  What type of drugs are we referring to?  According to Gorski a drug is a chemical agent that changes the brain functioning by altering the chemistry of the brain.  In the book, “Uppers, Downers and All Arounders” a psychoactive drug is a substance that directly alters the normal functioning of the central nervous system.

As an addiction counselor I define an addictive drug as any substance that keeps a person from functioning normally when used compulsively.  Using drugs causes physical, psychological and behavioral changes as a direct result of the drug use.  These changes also negatively affect a person’s relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

Since drugs affect the brain in different ways, there are these three classifications:             

I.          UPPERS

Cocaine
Amphetamines (speed)
Caffeine
Nicotine

II.        DOWNERS

Opioids
Barbiturates
Benzodiazipines
Alcohol

III.     PERCEPTION DISTORTERS

Marijuana
Hashish
LSD
PCP
Mushrooms

 Families are frequently the first to notice behavior changes.  They experience confusion over what to say or do concerning the drug addict.  Fearing that their own behavior will cause the addict to use again or use more, they often do or say nothing.  They feel responsible for the addict’s behavior.  Learning about the signs and symptoms of drug addiction is a critical first step for families.  This can be achieved by contacting an addiction counselor or an agency specializing in addiction treatment.  Many communities have Councils on Alcohol & Drug Abuse that can assist with education, referral and intervention. 

               The following are some books that will assist in the educational process. 

SUGGESTED READINGS 

Inaba, D.S., Cohen, W. E. & Holstein, M. (1997).  Uppers, Downers, All Arounders
CNS Publications: Ashland, Oregon.

Gorski, T T.  &  Miller, M.  (1986).  Staying Sober. 
Harold House/Independence Press: Independence, MO.