Drug dependence (addiction) is compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences which can be severe. Drug abuse is excessive use of a drug or use of a drug for purposes for which it was not medically intended.

Physical dependence on a substance is not necessary or sufficient to define addiction. There are some substances that don't cause addiction but do cause physical dependence (for example, some blood pressure medications) and substances that cause addiction but not classic physical dependence (cocaine withdrawal, for example, doesn't have symptoms like vomiting and chills, it is mainly characterized by depression).

Treatment for the person with drug abuse or dependence begins with the recognition of the problem. Though previously "denial" was considered a symptom of addiction, recent research has shown that this symptom can be dramatically reduced if addicts are treated with empathy and respect, rather than told what to do or "confronted."

Treatment of drug dependency involves detoxification, support and abstinence. Emergency treatment may be indicated for acute intoxication or drug overdose. Often, there may be a loss of consciousness and the person may need to be on a mechanical respirator (breathing machine) temporarily. The specific treatment depends on the drug.

Detoxification is the gradual withdrawal of an abused substance in a controlled environment. Sometimes a drug with a similar action is substituted during the withdrawal process to reduce the unpleasant symptoms and risks associated with withdrawal. The process can be managed on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

If depression or other mood disorder exists, it should be treated appropriately. Very often drug abuse develops from efforts to self-treat mental illness.

Many support groups are available in the community. Most of them rely on the 12-Step program used in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups.

The information provided in this web site or via links, is for informational purposes only. It does not take the place of, nor is it intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a professional.

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