Resources for parents of at-risk and troubled teens.



March 2011

Definition of Drug Abuse and Dependence Signs in California Teens

by Staff, on abuse, california, dependence, drug, substance, teen, teenagers, teens

Drug abuse is compulsive, excessive, and self-damaging use of habit forming drugs or substances, leading to addiction or dependence, serious physiological injury (such as damage to kidneys, liver, heart) and/or psychological harm (such as dysfunctional behavior patterns, hallucinations, memory loss), or death. It is also called substance abuse.


Drug abuse definition can classify three categories:


1. Use - It is when teens or adults use drugs occasionally, weather legal or illegal, without developing tolerance or withdrawal symptoms when they are not using it. They often believe that this is completely harmless and no bigger deal then occasional drink and that it is ok to use it as long as there is no development of addiction.

2. Abuse – It refers to the continued use drugs even when a teenager knows that this routine is creating social, physical, or psychological problems. Teens continue to use drugs, as they are still young, healthy and strong, and don’t feel any consequences yet.  Many teens actually believe that it is normal for a teen to experiment and abuse drugs, confident that they will not make a habit out of it. Unfortunately, it is not a long time before they develop a strong dependence.

3. Dependence – drug abuse definition describes several factors of dependence and if at least three of the following factors are present drug abuser is dependent on drugs. It can also be a good sign that a teenager is on a way to become addicted if:

- Teen has withdrawal symptoms – they can differ from drug to drug but usually they are depression, craving and anxiety; while physical symptoms are sweating, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Withdrawal can also have some dangerous symptoms like heart attacks and strokes.


- Teen takes substance sooner than intended, in larger amounts. This means that teen is already developing physical tolerance, but also that one time satisfaction is not enough. It is not something he does to relive stress or get away from problem, but only for pure pleasure.

- Efforts to control the use are less and less successful; teen doesn’t even think about it after some time and takes drugs whenever there is a chance for it, no matter how long it has been since the last time. 


- Teen spends a lot of time obtaining, taking, or recovering from the substance. He or she spends more time related to drugs then to studying, friends or family.


- Teen already had health, social and other problems related to drug abuse, but is abuses it.


- Teen takes other substances to reduce symptoms of withdrawal.


- Teen often borrows money, or spends money on drugs, instead of something else, previously intended.


Every parent from California should know the definition of drug abuse, and learn to recognize these signs of drug abusing and dependence, in order to control his or her teenagers, since there are many teens from California developing dependence every day. Staff