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About Illicit Drug Addiction

Illicit drug addiction has become a growing epidemic in the United States over the past few decades. Many addicts admit to using drugs as an escape from stress caused by what feels to be overwhelming situations personally or professionally. The use of illegal street drugs has exploded since the 1990’s as access has become easier and they types of illicit drugs have increased. A recent study by the NIDA, or National Institute on Drug Abuse, revealed that more than half of new drug users were less than 18 years old. This fact is quite sobering for our youth as it appears that exposure and access to illicit drugs has become mainstream. Illicit drugs are opioids, depressants, stimulants, cannabis, and hallucinogens.

Many are not aware that illicit drug abuse and addiction often begins with experimental and seemingly innocent use, often just for fun or because their peers were also trying it. The first high an individual experiences often triggers cravings and urges that can be almost impossible to fight when exposed to the same drug again. This is due to the chemical response within the brain to these altering substances and drives individuals down the road of full blown addiction.

Illicit Drug Addiction is a Disease

Addiction to illicit drugs is a disease. Substances like meth, heroin, and cocaine rewire the brain’s response to naturally occurring mood balancing chemicals such as dopamine. The individual’s brain then perceives that the newly introduced chemical is essential for function, and will compel users to drug seek, often at great risk to themselves. When an individual is drug seeking, they are often blind to the consequences of their actions and the negative consequences that might result. A loss of self-control is common with addicts, and can quickly land individuals in trouble with the law.

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Initial Stages of Illicit Drug Addiction

After initial experimentation with illicit drugs, two things happen. First, the user will begin to experience a physical dependence on the drugs they had been socially using. Often, an increased tolerance to the drug is the initial sign, followed by symptoms of withdrawal when not using. These withdrawal symptoms feed into the brain’s response to chemical changes and become a catalyst for drug seeking behavior when symptoms become uncomfortable.

The second issue is a growing psychological dependence on the illicit drug.  This often manifests itself as a growing inability to prioritize work and social commitments over drug seeking and use. Unfortunately, it is often at this point that individuals realize that their social use has become problem use, and will likely end up as addiction without intervention.


List of Illicit Drugs Commonly Abused


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The drugs classified as stimulants cause mental and physical changes that can cause individuals to experience increased focus, energy, and attentive, and are used to treat conditions such as narcolepsy and ADHD. Because of their effectiveness, these drugs are often abused. There are street drugs that mimic the medicinal qualities of prescription stimulants. Several of these commonly abused stimulants are:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Crack-Cocaine
  • Ecstasy


Classified as a stimulant, cocaine can be taken several ways including snorting and injecting. It’s common street names are Coke, Blow, Nose Candy, Flake, and Snow. Cocaine is very addictive, and repeated snorting can cause significant intranasal damage, cardiovascular collapse, psychosis, and death. It’s high is intense, but lasts only about 15-30 minutes, meaning that users often take multiple hits in one day, increasing their risk of complications. Cocaine suppresses appetite which can result in alarming weight loss, putting users at risk of other


This powerful stimulant is almost exactly like it’s sister drug, cocaine. The difference between the two is in the chemical makeup. Powder cocaine contains hydrochloric acid, while crack does not. Crack- cocaine is smoked or injected directly into the bloodstream, and it’s euphoric effects reach the brain rapidly. Crack is known on the street as Rock, Kryptonite, Apple Jacks, and Base. The high an individual experiences when smoked through a glass pipe is immediate and intense. Lasting less than 30 minutes, this euphoria increases cravings for the

Lasting less than 30 minutes, this euphoria increases cravings for the drug and contributes to its highly addictive nature. Continued abuse of Crack can cause depression, unprovoked aggression, extreme paranoia, hallucinations and sudden death. Because of how Crack immediately affects the brain chemistry of its users, it is considered more addictive that cocaine, and as a result, possession charges and penalties are higher with much smaller amounts.



Another stimulant, Methamphetamine is often known on the street as Meth, Crystal, Crank, Speed, and Ice. This drug can also be snorted, smoked or injected directly into a vein. The high achieved when using Meth are short lasting, and have dangerous side effects such as seizures, paranoia, extreme irritability, and decreased inhabitations. The long term side effects are much more damaging and include homicidal and suicidal tendencies, weakened immune system, tooth loss, dangerous blood pressure rises, and permanent brain damage. Death is not uncommon for Meth users, and sudden death when abused is a known risk factor.


Chemically known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, this illicit street drug is often referred to as Ecstasy, E, Molly, X, or ADAM. Ecstasy can be taken a few different ways including orally as a tablet or powder, inhaled, smoked, and even anally. Working quickly to release serotonin, the effects of MDMA are not as instant as Crack or Meth, but the high lasts significantly longer, up to 6 hours. Some of the side effects of using MDMA are memory problems, teeth grinding, blurred vision, dangerous dehydration, and unsafe body temperature fluctuations. When abused repeatedly, Ecstasy permanently alters serotonin levels in the brain, causing extreme mood issues and impulsivity.


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