Substance Use Disorder Drug Abuse: Risks, Types of Drugs & More

what is illicit drugs

These include over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines, bought and abused because of their alcohol or DXM (dextromethorphan) content, which has sedative, stimulant, and dissociative properties. Some doctors prescribe them too liberally, and when they stop prescribing them, desperate patients buy them on the street. When they can no longer access these opioids, some people turn to heroin. Alcohol is not a scheduled drug, but it is regulated and prohibited for consumption by people under the age of 21 in the United States. Pure heroin is a white powder, but it can be a brown powder or a black, sticky material called black tar heroin. Detoxification is followed by other treatments to encourage long-term abstinence.

Implications for Low- and Middle-Income Countries

In heroin addiction, for example, your doctor may prescribe a medication called methadone or buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone). These medications can ease your recovery and help you cope with the intense withdrawal stage. Depending on the type of substance use disorder, the first stage of treatment may be medically assisted detoxification. During this process, supportive care is provided as the substance is cleared from your bloodstream. The misuse of prescription drugs has increased over the past few decades. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes substance use disorder as a brain disease.

what is illicit drugs

Population Platform Interventions

This is largely the result of a steep rise in opioid deaths in recent years. A large driver of this has been a steep rise in opioid deaths over the last decade. Diagnosing drug addiction (substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine or other lab tests are used to assess drug use, but they’re not a diagnostic test for addiction. However, these tests may be used for monitoring treatment and recovery.

what is illicit drugs

How to Get Help for a Drug Addiction

Decontrolled drugs are those that are no longer classified as restricted substances. All illicit drugs or illegal narcotics are in the V Schedule spectrum. Any data collection system that relies on self-reports must address the issue of validity—do alcohol use disorder and depressive disorders alcohol research people tell the truth (or know the truth) when they are asked to tell a stranger about their own (or another’s) use of illegal drugs? A variety of studies have been undertaken to establish the validity of such surveys (Rouse et al., 1985).

What is drug addiction?

In the United States, illegal drug use affects 9.4% of the population, or approximately 24.6 million Americans aged 12 and above. These findings were published in a landmark survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) titled the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and held in 2013. The results showed that this number had increased from 8.3% in 2002. While the use of most illegal drugs remained constant, the use of marijuana spiked, possibly leading to an increase in the overall number of illicit substance users. The other world is that of emergency rooms, morgues, drug clinics, juvenile detention centers, jails, and prisons, in which indicators of intensive drug consumption (abuse and dependence) are collected.

Treatment programs

what is illicit drugs

Illicit drug use contributes to premature mortality and morbidity on a global scale. The substantial economic costs include the health care costs of managing dependence; treating drug overdoses; and addressing the complications of BBV infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C. Observational evaluations in Vancouver and Sydney have suggested that SIFs attract risky injectors, facilitate safe-injection education, reduce syringe sharing, and increase referral and entry into withdrawal management and drug treatment. Although reviews suggest that drug use does not change among clients or among drug injectors in the areas where SIFs are located (Kerr and others 2007; MSIC Evaluation Committee 2003), the evidence of their impact on HIV transmission is uncertain (Kimber and others 2010).


Addiction Resource is not a healthcare provider, nor does it claim to offer sound medical advice to anyone. Addiction Resource does not favor or support any specific recovery center, nor do we claim to ensure the quality, validity, or effectiveness of any particular treatment center. No one should assume the information provided on Addiction Resource as authoritative and should does marijuana kill brain cells always defer to the advice and care provided by a medical doctor. In 2018, the prevalence rate of illicit drug use for 12 years old above in the United States is 11.7%. To define illicit drugs, various drug regulation and enforcement agencies, including the DEA, CDC, and FDA classify such drugs in a manner that prohibits and outlaws their manufacture, sale, or use.

  1. Club drugs are any drugs young people use to enhance their experience at a social gathering.
  2. It involves family and friends and sometimes co-workers, clergy or others who care about the person struggling with addiction.
  3. For example, the high school seniors survey asks respondents what proportion of their friends use a given drug.
  4. Amphetamine dependence rates, however, appear to be highest in Southeast Asia and Australasia (Degenhardt, Baxter, and others 2014).

Weak evidence indicates the efficacy of oral dexamphetamine maintenance (Galloway and others 2011; Longo and others 2010). No effective maintenance pharmacotherapies exist for cannabis dependence (Danovitch and Gorelick 2012); no pharmacotherapies have been approved for cannabis withdrawal. Only limited benefits are documented from trials of symptomatic medications, including antidepressants (Carpenter and others 2009); mood stabilizers, including lithium (Winstock, Lea, and Copeland 2009); and the α2-adrenergic agonist lofexidine (Haney and others 2008). Brief interventions have been found to be effective when provided through outreach services, such as needle and syringe programs. Behavioral family- and couple-based interventions have produced better abstinence rates in treatment and at follow-up (Strang and others 2012). Court-mandated treatment refers to treatment entered under legal coercion by persons who have been charged with or convicted of an offense to which their drug dependence has contributed.

Although there’s no cure for drug addiction, treatment options can help you overcome an addiction and stay drug-free. Your treatment depends on the drug used and any related medical or mental health disorders you may have. The law, abbreviated as CSA, categorizes all substances that were in some way controlled by existing federal laws into five Schedules. The law further provides for some mechanisms for controlling how various drugs are categorized by allowing them to be moved from one schedule to another. This provides a way of ensuring drugs are either properly classified within the five schedules or decontrolled.

Third-party content—The World Bank does not necessarily own each component of the content contained within the work. The World Bank therefore does not warrant that the use of any third-party-owned individual component or part contained in the work will not infringe on the rights of those third parties. The risk of claims resulting from such infringement rests solely with you.

Addiction Resource does not offer medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Only trained and licensed medical professionals can provide such services. If you or anyone you know is undergoing a severe health crisis, call a doctor or 911 immediately. Anyone who is seen with these signs and symptoms should be admitted to medical services. However, as with overall general population figures, these global characterizations mask important variations within groups. Gender differences, for example, tend to be larger within Hispanic groups than for whites and Native Americans; for blacks they are intermediate between the two (NIDA, 1991a).

Afghanistan saw large increases in heroin availability and an increased net cultivation of 36 percent from 2012 to 2013, and a 140 percent increase in estimated regular users from 2005 to 2009 (UNODC 2009). The lag time from illicit drug use to dependence is shorter than that observed for substances such as nicotine and alcohol (Behrendt and others 2009). Dependence new life house can occur within 1.5–2 years of cocaine and opioid use and within three years of cannabis use (Florez-Salamanca and others 2013; Wu and others 2011). The health risks of illicit drug use increase with the frequency and quantity of use and route of administration. Chronic use of certain illicit drugs like heroin and inhalants has been linked to liver damage.

White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta announced over $276 million in new funding for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program. The HIDTA Program supports federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. $9,502,108 of the White House’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program funding is going to New Mexico law enforcement agencies working to reduce fentanyl and violent drug-related crime. The program send money to agencies working in drug-trafficking hot spots across the nation. With repeated long-term use, meth can lead to extreme weight loss, skin sores, and severe dental issues.

In the chart, we see death rates in the United States from overdoses of different drugs. Polysubstance use complicates treatment because each drug has different withdrawal symptoms. Many patients don’t know they’ve been taking multiple substances until they begin treatment and are tested, Barnett said. If a patient is on multiple substances, Barnett will start by treating opiate withdrawal, since it is often the strongest. “Seizures of crystal methamphetamine have increased year-by-year in Cambodia for the seventh year in a row, reaching over 1.4 tons in 2023, showing the ongoing expansion of the market for the drug in the country,” the U.N. The drugs are dangerous, and usually there’s no way to know how strong they are or what else may be in them.