Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

Drug and alcohol abuse and dependence are big problems for everyone involved. Families can be wrecked and careers destroyed. Some addicts even die from the effects of addiction. Many try again and again to quit, but addiction is hard to overcome. In this section, we discuss alcohol and several types of drugs, including street drugs and prescription drugs. If you're not sure which one you are looking for, read the brief description given for each. Where possible, we provide a link to other websites that provide more information about each substance. These websites can be helpful for the person with the drug or alcohol problem and for the person's family. We also briefly discuss psychological treatments that have been tested by scientists. Although some medications can be helpful for these problems, we do not discuss medication treatment. We recommend a visit with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss treatment options. When you meet with a professional, be sure to decide on clear treatment goals and how to measure progress toward those goals. Feel free to print this information and take it with you when you meet with your therapist.

For more information about drug and alcohol use and abuse, click on the Drug Free Resource Net.

This site covers the following topics:


Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

Alcohol is the most frequently used substance in the United States. Nearly 90% of adults report some experience with drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it reduces activity of the nervous system. Alcohol can impair judgment, mood, reaction time, physical coordination, and concentration. It can cause slurred speech and unsteady motion. Alcohol use sometimes may lead to inappropriate sexual behavior or violence. Excessive use of alcohol may cause stupor (a state where the person doesn't react normally to his or her surroundings) or coma (a state of deep unconsciousness). Moderate alcohol use can have a serious effect on a person's ability to function normally at home, work, or school. It may also lead to problems with the law. Long term alcohol use can cause major medical problems such as liver disease and memory loss.

Several approaches have been shown to be helpful for treatment of serious alcohol problems. These treatments are the Community Reinforcement Approach, cue exposure treatment, Project CALM, and social skills training. While other approaches may be helpful for treatment of serious alcohol problems, they have not been evaluated scientifically in the same way as the treatments listed here.

For more information on Alcohol Abuse, please see the Drug-Free Resource Net: Alcohol. This site is produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and has information on the effects of alcohol intoxication, frequently asked questions, and tips for talking to children about alcohol.


Cocaine Abuse and Dependence

Cocaine is a substance that comes from the coca plant. It produces extremely strong feelings of happiness or well being. Cocaine is highly addictive. Cocaine abuse can impair a person's ability to carry out his or her work at home, job or school. It can lead to problems with the law and problems in personal relationships. A person with cocaine dependence finds it hard to stop using the drug. If the person quits, he or she may have unpleasant symptoms like feeling extremely tired, nightmares, sleep problems, increased appetite, and extreme restlessness. This is called drug withdrawal.

Behavior therapy is helpful for treatment of cocaine abuse and dependence. A program called cognitive behavioral relapse prevention therapy may help people from returning to cocaine use after treatment. While other approaches may be helpful for treatment of cocaine abuse and dependence, they have not been evaluated scientifically in the same way as the treatments listed here.

For more information on Cocaine Dependence, please see the Drug-Free Resource Net: Cocaine/Crack. This site is produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and has information on the effects of cocaine, frequently asked questions, and tips for talking to kids about cocaine.


Heroin Abuse and Dependence

Heroin belongs to a group of drugs called the opioids. Other substances in this group are morphine, codeine, and methadone. The effects of heroin include sleepiness, slurred speech, and problems with attention and memory. Heroin also causes the pupils of the eye to become smaller. Finally, the heroin user does not respond much to his or her surroundings. Heroin abuse can have a negative effect on a person's work at home, job, or school and may lead to problems with the law.

Brief dynamic therapy and cognitive therapy are helpful treatments for opioid abuse and dependence. While other approaches may be helpful for treatment of heroin abuse and dependence, they have not been evaluated scientifically in the same way as the treatments listed here.

For more information on Heroin Dependence, please see the Drug-Free Resource Net: Heroin. This site is produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and has information on the effects of heroin use, frequently asked questions, and tips for talking to children about heroin.


Minor Tranquilizer Abuse and Dependence

Minor tranquilizers are used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, and sleeping problems. The benzodiazepines are one group of minor tranquilizers that can be addictive. Benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Serax (oxazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam). The effects of these drugs usually last for a brief time. A person may become dependent on these drugs even though a doctor prescribed them. A person dependent on benzodiazepines may have withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, high pulse rate, shaky hands, poor sleep, nausea, agitation, and anxiety when he or she tries to stop the drug. This is called drug withdrawal. The person may also need to take more and more of the drug to produce the effects that a smaller dose used to produce. This is called drug tolerance.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful for treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal in persons who have become addicted during their treatment for panic disorder. While other approaches may be helpful for treatment of benzodiazepine withdrawal, they have not been evaluated scientifically in the same way as the treatments listed here.


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