Drug Abuse Issues

What is Drug Abuse?

Drug abuse or substance abuse involves repeated and excessive use of drugs, usually to achieve a euphoric feeling or a “high” and to escape reality.

Drug abuse or substance abuse involves maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to disturbance in fulfilling major roles in daily life.


A drug abuser tends to continue the use of the drug despite:

  • Recurrent interpersonal or social problems related to the substance use
  • Recurrent involvement in legal problems related to substance use, and
  • Recurrent usage in situations which is dangerous to the self


Drug addiction is also known as drug dependence.

Drug addiction is when a person starts to develop tolerance to the substance i.e:

  • Needing an increased dose in order to achieve the same desired effect, or
  • Develops characteristics of withdrawal symptoms when usage is stopped or
  • Starting to use the substance in larger amounts and for longer period

In drug addiction, a person loses control over the use of drugs, and usually spends a great deal of time in activities related to drug-taking such as finding the drug, buying it and using it, as well as getting money to buy the drug.

When a person is physically and psychologically addicted or dependent on drugs, he or she has an overpowering desire or need to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means.

This effect is detrimental to the individual and society.


What are some Terms that I should know?

Psychoactive drugs

  • Drugs that doesn’t affect mood. Low tendency for addiction.

Non-psychoactive drugs

  • Drugs that doesn’t affect mood. Low tendency for addiction.


  • Physiological and psychological longing for the drug to feel euphoric (high) and to avoid withdrawals
  • In psychological dependence, drug is central to a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors, leading to a psychological craving of the drug
  • In physical dependence, the drug effects such as euphoria leads to a craving for more of it, while withdrawal symptoms lead to negative feelings so much so that the more drugs are needed to feed the addiction

Withdrawal symptoms

A syndrome where negative physical and psychological feeling occurs when there is a sudden disruption to drug taking in a person who has already developed an addiction or a dependence on the drug.


The need to increase amount/dose of a drug in order to obtain the same psychological effects.


Why do people take drugs?

  • Curiosity
  • Modeling others
  • Cultural practice
  • Social acceptance – e.g. as part of war, nightclubs
  • Group / peer pressure / challenge
  • For medication purposes
  • To enhance self-control and performance

What are common types of drugs that are abused?


  • Morphine, Heroin – euphoria, painkiller


  • Cocaine, Amphetamine – euphoria, confidence


  • Anxiolytics / Anti-anxiety drugs – Benzodiazepines

Hallucinogens – psychedelics

  • Cannabis / Marijuana / Hashish / Ganja / Weed
  • LSD – lysergic acid diethylamide, acid

Nicotine / Tobacco

  • Increases arousal in small doses

Alcohol – depressant

  • Stimulate in small doses, but disinhibition sets in when more taken


Inhalants/Solvent – glue or petrol sniffing

Others – kratom leaves


Signs & symptoms

How can we know when a person could be involved in or using drugs?

  • Appearing restless
  • Decline in work or school performance
  • Stealing money or items from home, school or workplace
  • Sudden changes in behavior such as eating habits, sleeping habits, and daily activities
  • Sudden changes in mood such as anger outbursts, mood swings, being highly emotional
  • Talking nonsense or incoherent
  • Neglecting physical appearance and dressing inappropriately
  • Ignoring friends who do not take drugs
  • Engaging in suspicious behavior such as spending a lot of time in the toilet or room, seemingly paranoid of others
  • Easily tired, exhausted or spaced out


Effects of drug abuse include long term impairments in::

  • Physical health and hygiene
  • Psychological health
  • Study performance
  • Social relationships
  • Financial status

Drug abuse habits can become more complicated when it involves:

  • Multiple drug use
  • Criminal activities
  • Family members
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Minors (children and adolescents under 18)


Addiction is a psychological illness. Substance abuse is a chronic and often relapsing illness. Professional help should be sought.

Treatment for addictions can be sought from most hospitals and clinics, as well as the National AntiDrug Agency (Agensi AntiDadah Kebangsaan, AADK).

Treatment includes:


  • Cleaning the bodily system of any trace of drugs

Behavior therapy

  • To encourage healthy behavior and discourage dependent behavior

Counseling – to deal with emotional difficulties, motivation in managing the drug problem, and managing relapses.

  • Methadone replacement therapy for opiate addictions
  • Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking addiction


What can influence the start or end of a drug habit?

  • Commitment to other activities
  • Socioeconomic Status / Class
  • Peer influence
  • Parental influence
  • Culture and ethnicity
  • Moderation as life value
  • Achievement motivation / fear of failure
  • Social isolation / alienation

What can help some one to stop abusing drugs?

  • Believing in oneself
  • Having self – efficacy in coping mechanisms and adaptive behaviour skills development
  • Ability to cope with failure
  • Ability to hone up personal strengths
  • Valuing health
  • Developing new interests and activities
  • Maturation
  • Adequate family support
  • Assertiveness training
  • Social support
  • Spiritual development


Rehabilitation involves treatment procedures such as:

  • Drug replacement therapy
  • Behavior management
  • Counseling
  • Relapse prevention
  • Assertiveness training
  • Social support
  • Spiritual development

After care is a very important component of drug addiction rehabilitation.

This involves plenty of support from family, social circles and spiritual circles.

Areas of social work support include:

  • Skills development
  • Job placement
  • Drop-in centre’s


Support groups

Addictions centers:

  • Agensi Anti Dadah Kebangsaan
  • Teachers


  • Specialist Counselors in Addiction Issues
  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Parents
  • School teachers

Last Reviewed : 27 April 2012
Content Writer : Prof. Madya Dr. Alvin Ng Lai Oon
Reviewer : Dr. Iskandar Firzada b. Osman