Drug Abuse is generally defined as the use of a drug with such frequency that the user has physical or mental harm or it impairs social abilities. The substances that are discussed in this report are called psychoactive drugs; those drugs that influence or alter the workings of the mind, affect moods, emotions, feelings, and thinking processes. .
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There are three basic characteristics that indicate that the user is dependent on a drug. First, the user continues to use the drug for an extended period of time. Second, the user finds it difficult to stop using the drug. They may drop out of school, steal, go to jail, lose their jobs, or leave their families in order to keep using. Finally, the user has withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped. They may undergo physical pain or mental distress. The drug mimics a natural process in the brain called neurotransmission. This is when a brain cell releases a signal to another brain cell. The signal then returns to the first brain cell. The signal is called a neurotransmitter. One major neurotransmitter is called dopamine, which is involved in feelings of pleasure. When the drug is released into the brain, it blocks the dopamine from returning to the first brain cell. Repeated use changes the brain cells so that normal messages can’t be sent between brain cells. The drug must always be present in order for neurotransmissions to take place. The user is only able to feel pleasure from the cocaine rather than the things he/she used to find pleasurable. This is called drug addiction or dependence. .
Drugs are generally categorized into two groups, stimulants and depressants. Stimulants are drugs that speed up signals through the nervous system. They produce alertness, arousal and excitability. They also inhibit fatigue and sleep. They include the amphetamines, such as cocaine, caffeine, and nicotine. Depressants slow down the signals through the nervous system.