Drugs Issues

13 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
Fact checked

Illicit drugs, often referred to as illegal drugs or controlled substances, are substances that are prohibited by law due to their potential for harm and abuse. They encompass a wide range of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and more.

Illicit drug abuse is a global concern, with millions of people affected by addiction and its associated consequences. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available to help individuals struggling with illicit drug addiction.

Some seek recovery through traditional addiction treatment programs, while others opt for specialized luxury rehab facilities that provide a high-end and holistic approach to rehabilitation. Our state-of-the-art illicit drug abuse luxury rehab center offers highly effective treatments with upscale amenities for comfort and personalized care to support individuals on their journey to recovery.


Illicit drugs are substances that are illegal to possess, use, or distribute. They are banned by governments because of their harmful effects on individuals and society as a whole.

The use of illicit drugs can lead to serious health problems, and addiction, and can even result in criminal charges and incarceration. Illicit drugs can take many forms, but they all share one thing in common: they are against the law.

Types of Illicit Drugs

Illicit drugs come in various shapes and forms and can be broadly categorized into different types. Here are some of the most common ones:

Stimulants: These drugs speed up the central nervous system, leading to increased energy and alertness. Examples include cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

Depressants: These drugs have the opposite effect of stimulants. They slow down the central nervous system, causing relaxation and sedation. Examples include heroin and some prescription medications when used without a prescription.

Hallucinogens: These drugs alter perception, thoughts, and feelings, often leading to vivid hallucinations. LSD, magic mushrooms, and PCP fall into this category.

Cannabis: Marijuana, though legalized in some places, is considered an illicit drug in many regions. It can have both relaxing and hallucinogenic effects.

Designer Drugs: These are synthetic substances created to mimic the effects of other illicit drugs. They are often sold as "legal" alternatives but can be just as dangerous. Synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts are examples of designer drugs.

Illegal Drug Use Statistics

Understanding the prevalence of illegal drug use is crucial to address this issue effectively. Here are some eye-opening statistics:

According to a report from the Australian government [1], approximately 15% of people aged 14 years and older in Australia have used an illicit drug in the past year.

In the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA] reports that in 2020, 50.4 million Americans aged 12 and older had used illicit drugs in the past year.

Globally, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] estimates that 269 million people used drugs at least once in 2018, with 35 million suffering from drug use disorders [2].

These statistics highlight the widespread nature of illegal drug use and emphasize the importance of addressing this issue through education, prevention, and treatment.

Most Commonly Abused Illicit Drugs

The most commonly abused illicit drugs can vary by region and demographics, but some of the frequently abused substances include:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription opioids used non-medically
  • Synthetic drugs (e.g., synthetic cannabinoids, bath salts)
  • Hallucinogens (e.g., LSD, magic mushrooms)

Mental Health Issues Related to Illicit Drugs

The use of illicit drugs can have severe consequences for mental health. Here are some common mental health issues associated with illicit drug use:

Depression and Anxiety: Many illicit drugs can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. These feelings can persist long after the drug's effects have worn off, contributing to mental health disorders.

Psychosis: Some drugs, such as methamphetamine and hallucinogens, can induce psychotic symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia. These can be frightening and disorienting experiences.

Addiction: Illicit drugs are highly addictive. Regular use can lead to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to quit. Addiction can profoundly impact mental health, often leading to a cycle of drug use and deteriorating mental well-being.

Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged use of illicit drugs can impair cognitive function, affecting memory, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities.

Suicidal Thoughts: Individuals using illicit drugs may be at a higher risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The combination of drug-induced mental health issues and the social consequences of drug use can contribute to this risk.

Illicit drug addiction is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. In this article, we'll explore how illicit drug addiction develops, who is at risk, the timeline of addiction, potential health complications, and the risks of overdose.

How Illicit Drug Addiction Develops

Illicit drug addiction isn't something that happens overnight. It develops gradually, often involving biological mechanisms within the brain.

Here's how it typically unfolds:

Initial Use: It all starts with the first use of an illicit drug. For many, it might be curiosity or peer pressure that leads them to try it.

Brain Changes: When the drug enters the body, it can hijack the brain's reward system. Drugs like cocaine or heroin flood the brain with dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. This surge in dopamine makes the user feel euphoric and reinforces the desire to use the drug again.

Tolerance: Over time, the brain adjusts to the constant flood of dopamine, and users may need more of the drug to achieve the same high. This is called tolerance.

Physical Dependence: With continued use, the body becomes physically dependent on the drug. When someone tries to quit or reduce their use, they experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, anxiety, and intense cravings.

Psychological Dependence: Addiction isn't just physical; it's also psychological. Users become emotionally reliant on the drug to cope with stress, anxiety, or other life challenges.

Addiction: At this stage, a person's life can revolve around obtaining and using the drug. They may neglect responsibilities, relationships, and their health due to their addiction.

Who Gets Addicted to Illicit Drugs

Illicit drug addiction can affect anyone, but certain factors increase the risk. Some key factors include:

Genetics: A family history of addiction can predispose someone to substance abuse issues.

Mental Health: Individuals with mental health disorders, like depression or anxiety, may turn to drugs as a way to self-medicate.

Environment: Growing up in an environment where drug use is prevalent or having easy access to drugs can increase the likelihood of addiction.

Peer Pressure: Social influences, such as friends or acquaintances who use drugs, can significantly influence initiation.

Early Use: Starting drug use at a young age can increase the risk of addiction.

Timeline and Duration of Illicit Drug Addiction

The timeline for illicit drug addiction can vary from person to person, and it depends on several factors, including the type of drug, frequency of use, and individual susceptibility. However, addiction often follows a similar pattern:

Initial Use: This can happen in a single instance, leading to experimentation.

Regular Use: Continued use over a few weeks or months can lead to tolerance and dependence.

Addiction: Full-blown addiction typically develops within a year of regular use.

The duration of illicit drug addiction can vary widely, from a few months to several years or even decades. Recovery is possible, but it often requires professional help and a strong support system.

Health Complications from Illicit Drug Addiction

Illicit drug addiction can take a severe toll on physical and mental health. Here are some potential complications:

Mental Health Disorders: Addiction often co-occurs with conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Physical Health: Drug addiction can damage vital organs, including the heart, liver, and lungs. It can also lead to infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS from shared needles.

Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged drug use can impair memory, decision-making, and cognitive function.

Relationship Problems: Addiction can strain relationships with family and friends, leading to isolation and loneliness.

Can You Die from Illicit Drug Addiction and Overdose?

Yes, illicit drug addiction can be life-threatening. Overdosing on illicit drugs is a real and serious risk. Here's why:

Overdose: Taking a larger dose than the body can handle can overwhelm the system. This can lead to respiratory depression, seizures, and, in severe cases, death.

Unknown Ingredients: Illicit drugs are often mixed with other substances, making it hard to know what you're taking. These unknown additives can increase the risk of overdose.

Injecting Drugs: Sharing needles or using contaminated ones can lead to infections and deadly diseases.

Polydrug Use: Many users mix different drugs, which can have unpredictable and dangerous effects.

Illicit drug addiction can often fly under the radar, but it's essential to be able to identify the signs and symptoms early. Let’s explore how to recognize illicit drug addiction and the dangers it poses.

Understanding the Dangers of Illicit Drugs

Before we delve into identifying addiction, let's first highlight the dangers associated with illicit drugs:

Health Risks: Illicit drugs can have severe health consequences, including physical and mental health issues.

Legal Consequences: Possession and use of illicit drugs are illegal in most places, leading to potential legal troubles.

Financial Burden: Maintaining a drug addiction can be expensive, leading to financial strain.

Strained Relationships: Addiction often strains relationships with friends and family.

Now, let's look at how to recognize illicit drug addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Illicit Drug Addiction

Recognizing illicit drug addiction can be challenging, as it varies from person to person. However, there are common signs and symptoms to watch for:

Behavioral Changes: Common behavioral changes include drastic shifts in daily routines and responsibilities, withdrawal from social activities and isolation from friends and family, frequent mood swings and erratic behavior, and neglecting personal hygiene and appearance.

Physical Symptoms: Frequent bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual, unexplained weight loss or gain, tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination, andfrequent sniffing or a runny nose (for drugs that are snorted).

Psychological Symptoms: These include increased anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, extreme irritability or aggression, and episodes of euphoria followed by depression.

Social and Interpersonal Signs: These include sudden changes in social circles and new, potentially secretive friends, borrowing money frequently financial problems, neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school, and legal issues related to drug possession or use.

Drug-Related Paraphernalia: Discovering drug-related items like syringes, pipes, or small bags with drug residue.

Tolerance and Withdrawal: A need for larger doses of the drug to achieve the desired effect (tolerance) and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug, such as nausea, sweating, anxiety, and cravings indicate the development of tolerance and withdrawal.

Loss of Interest: Loss of interest in hobbies, activities, or relationships that were once important.

Denial and Secrecy: Often, individuals with addiction will deny their drug use or become secretive about it.

Health Problems: Frequent illness or infections, especially if the drug is injected.

Financial Troubles: Unexplained financial difficulties, such as unpaid bills, debt, or selling personal belongings.

Illicit drug addiction is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors. To better comprehend why some individuals become addicted to illicit substances, we need to examine the various causes that play a role in this challenging condition.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics can influence a person's susceptibility to addiction. Some individuals may inherit a genetic predisposition that makes them more vulnerable to substance abuse.

When there's a family history of addiction, the risk of developing illicit drug addiction may increase. Specific genes can affect how a person responds to drugs and their ability to control impulses.

Mental Health Factors

Mental health plays a significant role in illicit drug addiction. Individuals with certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, may turn to illicit substances as a way to self-medicate and alleviate their emotional pain.

The relationship between mental health and substance abuse can become a destructive cycle, as drugs may provide temporary relief but worsen the underlying mental health condition over time.

Environmental Influences

Environmental factors can strongly influence the development of illicit drug addiction:

Peer Pressure: Friends or acquaintances who use illicit substances can exert substantial influence on an individual's decision to try drugs.

Family Environment: Growing up in a household where drug use is prevalent or where there is limited parental supervision can increase the likelihood of substance abuse.

Accessibility: Easy access to illicit substances, either due to living in an area with high drug availability or having connections to drug dealers, can contribute to addiction.

Stress and Trauma: Experiencing significant stress, trauma, or adverse life events can lead individuals to turn to drugs as a coping mechanism.

Early Drug Use and Sensation-Seeking

Starting drug use at a young age, often during adolescence or early adulthood, can increase the risk of illicit drug addiction. This is because the brain is still developing during these years, and exposure to drugs can disrupt its normal development.

Additionally, some individuals are naturally more prone to sensation-seeking behavior, making them more likely to experiment with illicit substances.

Lack of Education and Awareness

A lack of education and awareness about the dangers of illicit substances can contribute to addiction. Individuals who are not adequately informed about the risks of drug use may be more inclined to experiment, believing that drug use is harmless or that they can control their consumption.

Social and Cultural Factors

Social and cultural factors can also influence drug addiction:

Cultural Acceptance: In some communities or subcultures, drug use may be normalized or even celebrated, making it more likely for individuals to engage in drug-related activities.

Media Influence: Media portrayal of drug use can glamorize it and inadvertently encourage experimentation.

Personality Traits and Coping Mechanisms

Certain personality traits and coping mechanisms can contribute to illicit drug addiction:

Impulsivity: People with impulsive tendencies may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including drug use.

Low Self-Esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem may use drugs to boost their confidence or escape from negative feelings.

Inability to Cope with Stress: Some people turn to drugs as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or emotional pain.

Sensation-Seeking: A desire for intense experiences and thrills can lead to experimentation with illicit substances.

Illicit drug addiction is challenging, but it can be won with the right strategies and support.

Let’s explore various methods and strategies to cope with illicit drug addiction, helping individuals take the first steps toward recovery.

Support Groups and Peer Support

Support groups and peer support can be invaluable in the journey to recovery. These provide a sense of community and understanding among individuals facing similar challenges. Here's how to utilize this approach:

12-Step Programs: Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offer structured support and a step-by-step recovery plan.

SMART Recovery: This program focuses on self-empowerment and teaches practical skills to manage addiction.

Peer Mentoring: Having a peer mentor who has successfully overcome addiction can provide guidance and inspiration.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Making positive changes in one's lifestyle can significantly aid in coping with addiction:

Regular Exercise: Physical activity can boost mood, reduce cravings, and improve overall well-being.

Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet helps restore physical health and provides the body with essential nutrients for recovery.

Adequate Sleep: Getting enough quality sleep aids in physical and mental recovery.

Stress Management: Learning healthy ways to manage stress, such as through mindfulness, yoga, or relaxation techniques, can prevent relapse.

Avoid Triggers and High-Risk Situations

Identifying and avoiding triggers that may lead to drug use is crucial for recovery:

Environmental Triggers: Stay away from places or people associated with drug use.

Emotional Triggers: Recognize emotional states that trigger cravings and develop strategies to cope with them without drugs.

Social Support: Surround yourself with supportive friends and family who encourage sobriety.

Set Realistic Goals

Setting achievable goals is essential in the recovery process:

Short-Term Goals: Start with small, manageable goals, such as attending support group meetings regularly or completing a week without drug use.

Long-Term Goals: Work towards long-term objectives like regaining employment, mending relationships, and achieving lasting sobriety.

Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders

Many individuals with illicit drug addiction also have co-occurring mental health disorders. It's vital to address both issues simultaneously. Seeking treatment that addresses both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders to ensure comprehensive care is essential.

Relapse Prevention

Relapse can happen, but it doesn't mean failure. Relapse prevention strategies are key:

Recognize Warning Signs: Learn to identify early warning signs of relapse, such as increased stress or cravings.

Seek Immediate Help: If a relapse occurs, don't hesitate to reach out for support and professional assistance.

Learn from Relapses: Use relapses as learning experiences, adjusting your strategies to prevent future setbacks.

Overcoming illicit drug addiction is a challenging journey, but with the right treatments and support, it's entirely possible. Let’s explore the various therapies and medications used to treat illicit drug addiction.

Therapies for Illicit Drug Addiction

Therapies play a crucial role in treating illicit drug addiction. They address the psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction, helping individuals understand and manage their cravings, triggers, and underlying issues.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to drug use. It equips them with skills to manage cravings and cope with high-risk situations.

Motivational Interviewing (MI): MI is a client-centered therapy that enhances motivation for change. It helps individuals explore their reasons for quitting drugs and encourages them to set achievable goals.

Contingency Management (CM): CM provides positive reinforcement for drug-free behaviors. It often involves reward systems, like earning vouchers for clean drug tests, which can be exchanged for desirable items or privileges.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is particularly helpful for individuals with co-occurring disorders. It combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness to improve emotion regulation and interpersonal skills.

Family Therapy: Addiction doesn't just affect the individual; it impacts their family too. Family therapy helps repair relationships, improve communication, and create a supportive environment for recovery.

Group Therapy: Group therapy provides a sense of community and shared experiences. Participants can learn from one another, receive peer support, and practice essential social skills.

Medications for Illicit Drug Addiction

Medications can be valuable to addiction treatment, particularly for opioid and alcohol addiction. They can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it easier for individuals to focus on recovery.

Methadone (Opioid Addiction): Methadone is a long-acting opioid agonist that can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to opioids. It's often administered under medical supervision in a specialized clinic.

Buprenorphine (Opioid Addiction): Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It can be prescribed by qualified healthcare providers and is available in various forms, including sublingual tablets and injections.

Naltrexone (Opioid and Alcohol Addiction): Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids and reduces alcohol cravings. It's available as an oral tablet or a once-monthly injection (Vivitrol).

Acamprosate (Alcohol Addiction): Acamprosate helps individuals with alcohol addiction maintain abstinence by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

Disulfiram (Alcohol Addiction): Disulfiram works by creating unpleasant reactions (such as nausea and vomiting) when alcohol is consumed. This deterrent can help individuals abstain from drinking.

Luxury Rehab For Illicit Drug Addiction

Luxury rehab facilities offer a high-end, holistic approach to addiction treatment. We provide an exclusive environment with upscale services and amenities for recovery.

Here's what you can expect from our luxury rehab for illicit drug addiction:

Comfortable Accommodations: Our illicit drug abuse luxury rehab often provides luxurious rooms and amenities, ensuring a comfortable and relaxing environment.

Personalized Treatment: Treatment plans are tailored to each individual's needs and preferences, ensuring a highly personalized approach.

Additional Therapies: In addition to traditional therapies, our luxury rehab may offer complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and equine therapy.

Gourmet Meals: Nutritious and gourmet meals are provided to support overall health and well-being.

Holistic Approach: We focus on holistic wellness, addressing physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of recovery.

Privacy and Confidentiality: Our facility prioritizes privacy and confidentiality, offering a discreet setting for individuals seeking treatment.

1.  Positive Choices. Drug & Alcohol Information. What are illegal drugs? https://positivechoices.org.au/students/what-are-illegal-drugs

2. Healthline. Illicit Drug Addiction. https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/illicit-drugs

3. Very Well Mind. An Overview of Substance Use. https://www.verywellmind.com/substance-use-4014640