Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is probably one of the most publicized aspects of pharmacology—and the least understood by patients. Patients who are in pain frequently avoid taking medication because they are fearful of becoming addicted to the drug. Rarely do patients become addicted. However, should a dependency develop, the medication is gradually reduced until the dependency subsides. Patients—and healthcare professionals—can become dependent on medication. This chapter explores drugs that are commonly abused and discusses how to detect substance abuse.

Substance abuse affects all socioeconomic groups and has become a major medical, social, economic, and interpersonal challenge for society. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 people in the United States is a substance abuser and 19.5 million people over the age of 12 use illegal drugs resulting in 19,000 deaths per year.

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