Lambton Public Health

This page was reviewed or revised on Friday, January 06, 2012 2:26 PM

What is a drug?

"A drug is a substance, other than food, that changes the way the body or mind functions."

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse means taking alcohol or other drugs in a way that puts you or others at risk. It is harmful and very dangerous.

The use of alcohol and other drugs is not just an adult problem or a phase youth go through. It affects males and females; teens, adults and seniors; all professions from homemakers to lawyers; and at school or at work.

People start taking drugs for many reasons:

Anyone can slip into problem with alcohol and other drugs; the good news is, it can be treated.

Alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs affect everyone - families, friends, neighbours and even people you’ve never met. Drug use, especially alcohol, is the major cause of social, economic and health concerns. Drug use can:

When most people talk about drug problems, they think about illegal drugs like marijuana, hashish, LSD and ‘Club Drugs’ like ecstasy and GHB. Today, the substances used in our community are not just alcohol or marijuana; fixing the problem isn’t simple.

Some substances being abused for their mood-altering effects are not drugs at all, like inhalants – glue, gasoline, spray paint. Some drugs have no mood-altering or intoxicating properties, like steroids.

Alcohol, caffeine and tobacco are legal, but they are drugs. Even prescription and over-the-counter medications, to help us get over things like a cold, can be misused. Anything can be abused.

Despite what some say about the “recreational use” of drugs, such as marijuana, studies show marijuana is more harmful than first thought.

The line between use and abuse is not always clear. For instance, if you have two (2) drinks every day after work to relax, is that use or abuse? Or is drinking two (2) pots of coffee in the morning to kick-start your day use or abuse? Only that person can tell where use ends and abuse begins.

Not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, but substance use problems can create problems whether they are addicted or not. There are many levels of substance use. All can be dangerous; all can be treated.

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