Drug abuse occurs when a person begins a consistent pattern of use of a substance beyond what is recommended if the substance is prescribed. If the substance is not prescribed, abuse occurs when the quantity of the substance used is increased to achieve a high that was once achieved at a lower quantity. There are many dangers to abuse of drugs including physical and psychological addiction, change in brain chemistry and functioning, and death.
Danger of Addiction
When a drug is abused, the potential for addiction is increased due to the physical need that the body develops once the drug's effects are achieved. Abuse turns into addiction through chemical changes that the drug supplies to the body when used regularly. Additionally, an emotional and mental attachment develops, causing preoccupation with gaining the pleasurable effects that the drug brings. The body misses the drug when it is not present, causing the person to seek that feeling through ongoing drug use. Addiction has the unfortunate side effects of mental and physical withdrawal, depending on the drug abused. This can lead to need for medical and psychological intervention in order to break free from the addiction that develops.
Danger of Brain Change
The brain is a natural messenger system with chemicals being created to provide the rest of the body with the tools needed to feel, think, function and thrive. Drugs provide additional or an overload of chemicals to the brain causing interference with the natural process. This occurs due to the drug imitating an already-occurring chemical provided by the brain and through over-stimulation of the pleasure circuits of the brain. Ultimately a process called flooding the circuits happens during drug abuse, which creates an imbalance in the normal body process. Initially the overstimulation feels good, causing euphoria during early drug abuse. With time the body and the brain come to rely on the drug for feeling pleasure and stop creating the natural flow of chemicals that were once present. The danger of brain change leads to depression, anxiety, disrupted communication patterns, memory impairment, poor appetite, reduced or increased sleeping, and isolation from once pleasurable people and activities.
Danger of Death
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 19,000 people died of accidental poisoning or drug overdose in the United States in 2004 and by 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 22,000 people losing their lives to death by overdose. It is unknown how many of those deaths were suicide and how many were accidental, but this is an attestation to the severe danger of abusing drugs no matter if prescribed or illegal.