Menu
AddictionCenter.com

Guiding You From Rehab to Recovery

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call: (877) 655-5116

Illicit Drugs

With approximately 22 million users nationwide, illicit drugs include some of the most prevalent and potentially dangerous substances around.

Drug Addiction

illicit-drugsWhile the decision to use a drug for the first time is usually a voluntary one, an unexpected addiction can make the decision to quit later significantly harder.

Addiction changes the way a person’s brain works, and consequently, the way they think and act.

The first part of an addiction is physical dependence on the drug. This can be recognized by a tolerance to and withdrawal symptoms from the drug of abuse. Tolerance occurs when you need more of the drug to get the same effects as when you started. Withdrawal is the negative symptoms that occur when a person who is used to using a drug stops using the drug.

The second part of addiction has to do with a psychological dependence on the drug. This is marked by a desire to stop using the drug and prioritization of drug use over social and familial responsibilities. An addict recognizes the negative consequences of their drug use but feels unable to stop using.

Drug Addiction Statistics

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, you’re far from alone. An estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 or older (approximately 9.2 percent of the population) had used an illicit drug or abused a prescription drug in the month prior to a study that was conducted in 2012. Rates of illicit drug use is highest among those aged 18 to 25.

Common Drugs of Abuse

  • Cocaine: A stimulant with effects similar to caffeine, cocaine is most often snorted in powder form. It is highly addictive and continued abuse can cause severe weight loss and damage to the nasal passages.
  • Crack: The more potent, freebase form of cocaine, crack is usually smoked through a short pipe that often causes blisters and burns on the mouth and hands. An addiction to crack can develop in as little as one use.
  • Ecstasy: Used by many high-schoolers and young adults, ecstasy is considered a party drug or rave drug. It is a stimulant with potentially hallucinogenic effects. Many instances of ecstasy on the black market are cut with other drugs, including much more dangerous substances heroin and LSD.
  • Heroin: One of the most addictive substances known, heroin is a synthetic derivative of morphine. Heroin comes as either a powder or a sticky gel, known as black tar heroin. Long-term abuse of this addictive drug can cause abscesses and scabs on the skin in addition to psychological and internal damage.

    Ready to Get Help?

    Call now to be connected with a compassionate treatment specialist.

  • Inhalants: Inhalants are categorized by their method of administration and include many household objects that can be abused for a brief high. Commonly abused inhalants include nail polish remover, paint thinner, gasoline and lighter fluid. Long-term abuse of inhalants can cause severe damage including muscle deterioration and psychological disturbances.
  • Marijuana: One of the most commonly abused drugs, marijuana comes from the cannabis plant and is usually dried out, rolled up and smoked. More commonly known as “weed” or “pot”, marijuana is gaining legal recognition in some states but continued abuse of the drug can cause diminished brain function and lung damage.
  • Meth: A deadly and addictive drug, methamphetamine (or meth) is a substance that can be made from easily obtained items such as lithium batteries and drain cleaner. Both making and using meth are extremely dangerous. Continued abuse of meth can cause tooth decay and the appearance of accelerated aging.
  • Hallucinogens: LSD, PCP, mushrooms and salvia are all examples of psychoactive or mind-altering drugs. While addiction to this type of drug is less common than other drugs, use and abuse of these substances can cause severe negative side effects.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

If you think someone you know has a drug addiction, there are multiple options for treatment and recovery. Whether you choose to seek inpatient or outpatient treatment, finding a rehabilitation center is key to recovery from a drug addiction. Learn more about treatment options for your specific addiction.

Sources & Author Last Edited: March 1, 2016

  1. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
  2. Frances, Richard J., Sheldon I. Miller, Clinical Textbook of Addictive Disorders, Second Edition. New York, NY, The Guilford Press, 1998.
About the Writer, Kayla Smith

Kayla Smith is the editorial director for Addiction Center. After working for years as a journalist, she joined the Addiction Center team in hopes of spreading awareness about addiction and mental health issues and helping people get treatment.

Find Treatment Nearby Learn More