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Top 8 Most Commonly Abused Drugs

8 Most Commonly Abused Drugs

Drug abuse remains a prominent problem throughout society. Among those 12 and older, millions fall victim to substance abuse each year. Because of this, it is important for all people to know the most common substances of abuse and the general signs that an issue with these substances is present.


Approximately 17.7 million people abuse alcohol. Alcohol abuse can result in damage to the brain, as well as most other organs in the body. With the brain, it is possible to have issues with coordination, thinking problems and behavior and mood changes. The liver is commonly affected and may include fatty liver, cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis. There is an increased risk for hypertension, arrhythmias, stroke and cardiomyopathy. When a person is abusing alcohol, they might show the following signs:

• Slurred speech
• Being secretive and drinking in private
• Drunk driving and other risky behavior
• Impaired thinking
• Distress when alcohol is not present


Approximately 4.3 million people abuse marijuana. With many states legalizing this substance for both medical and recreational purposes, many wrongfully view it as completely safe. With long-term abuse, it is possible to experience impaired memory, thinking and learning functions. Other possible effects include lung irritation, breathing problems, increased heart rate, intense vomiting and nausea and temporary paranoia or hallucinations. When a person is abusing marijuana, they might show the following signs:

• Impaired coordination
• Constant cough that includes mucus
• Distorted perceptions
• Issues with problem solving

Pain Relievers

Approximately 2.06 million people abuse pain relievers. These drugs include those, such as morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. They are classified as narcotics and the abuse of them has grown over the last decade. With abuse can come frequent drowsiness, slowed breathing rate, organ damage, memory issues and frequent constipation. When a person is abusing pain relievers, they might show the following signs:

• Depression
• Mood swings
• Risky behavior, such as stealing
• Neglecting responsibilities


Approximately 1.12 million people abuse cocaine. This drug is a type of stimulant that speeds up the nervous system. In the short-term, this drug can cause increase heart rate, convulsions and muscle spasms. Those addicted to this drug will need to take larger doses over time due to developing a tolerance. With prolonged abuse, it is possible to experience kidney, lung and liver damage, blood vessel damage, nasal tissue destruction and high blood pressure. When a person is abusing cocaine, they might show the following signs:

• Loss of appetite
• Severe depression
• Mood disturbances and irritability
• Risky behavior


Approximately 0.92 million people abuse heroin. This drug has increased in abuse in the last decade. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 70 percent of hepatitis infections are among those who inject drugs into their veins. When a person abuses heroin over the long-term, it can lead to heart valve and blood vessels infections, collapsed veins, arthritis, muscle weakness, immune system deficiency and gun inflammation. When a person is abusing heroin, they might show the following signs:

• Depression
• Itching
• Facial pustules
• Insomnia
• Loss of appetite


Approximately 0.76 million people abuse depressants. These drugs are those, such as Xanax, Rohypnol and Valium. When abusing these types of drugs long-term, it is possible to experience impaired sexual function, breathing problems, depression, insomnia and convulsions. Alcohol is also classified as a type of depressant. When a person combines other depressants with alcohol, it increases the risk of experiencing an overdose. When a person is abusing depressants, they might show the following signs:

• Drowsiness
• Lack of self-control
• Slurred speech
• Confusion
• Impaired mental function


Approximately 0.33 million people abuse hallucinogens. These drugs include those, such as mushrooms, LSD and mescaline. Hallucinogens can cause extreme mood swings and alter reality. For example, users can experience losing track or time, colors changing and inanimate objects appearing to either change shape or come to life. When these substances are abused long-term, people might experience depression, fatal liver damage, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder and an increased risk of psychotic episodes. When a person is abusing hallucinogens, they might show the following signs:

• Tremors
• Dilated pupils
• Poor coordination
• Heavy sweating
• Seizures


Approximately 0.16 million people abuse inhalants. The abuse of these substances may also be referred to as “huffing.” Those abusing these might inhale various chemicals, such as butane, aerosol products, air conditioning coolant and propane. With long-term abuse, there is the risk of irreversible effects, such as issues with the bone marrow, hearing loss, central nervous system damage and limb spasms. Other long-term effects might include lack of coordination, muscle weakness and depression. When a person is abusing inhalants, they might show the following signs:

• Lethargy
• Severe mood swings
• Slurred speech
• Loss of consciousness

Drug abuse remains a major issue throughout the country, as well as the world. Knowing more about the substances that are abused can make it a bit easier to know when a loved one might be in trouble and require detox and other treatment.

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