Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence St Thomas - St John
COAST Helping Others to Help Themselves
Interested in learning more about substance abuse?
COAST addresses drugs and alcohol abuse in the Virgin Islands community by offering and providing innovative, successful programs and services, advocating to reduce the gaps in available services and bringing awareness about the problem of drugs and alcohol in our community
Alcohol and Drugs take a dreadful toll on the health, safety and financial resources of the Virgin Islands. As statistics rise in violent crime and homelessness and we become more and more conscious of the impending dangers of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, addiction and crime; as a community we must invest in providing the best, most successful programs and treatments plans to protect our youth and society at large.
Council on Alcoholism and Drug Depenedence ® PO Box 380, St. Thomas, 00804
Substance abuse is a chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestation. People with these disorders once were thought to have a character defect or moral weakness; some people mistakenly still believe that. Most scientists and medical researchers now consider dependence on alcohol or drugs to be a long-term illness, like asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure), or diabetes.
Substance use disorder is an illness that can affect anyone. No one knows for sure exactly what causes it, but the chance of developing a substance use disorder depends partly on genetics—biological traits passed down through families. A person’s environment, psychological traits, and stress level also play major roles, by contributing to the use of alcohol or drugs. People with alcohol or drug dependence problems can and do recover.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDERS?
One of the most important signs of substance addiction or dependence is continued use of drugs or alcohol despite experiencing the serious negative consequences of heavy drug or alcohol use. Often, a person will blame other people or circumstances for his or her problems instead of realizing that the difficulties result from use of drugs or alcohol. For example, your husband may believe he was fired from jobs because his boss did not like him. Perhaps your loved one has even blamed you. People with this illness really may believe that they drink normally or that “everyone” takes drugs. These false beliefs are called denial, and denial is part of the illness.
Are you wondering if you have a drug problem? Are you concerned about your use — or abuse — of drugs? Are you concerned about someone else? This simple 20-question self-test may help you to identify if your drug use is a problem or if a friend or family member may have a problem.
Drug dependence means that a person needs a drug to function normally. Abruptly stopping the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms. Drug addiction is the compulsive use of a substance, despite its negative or dangerous effects.
A person may have a physical dependence on a substance without having an addiction. For example, certain blood pressure medications do not cause addiction but they can cause physical dependence. Other drugs, such as cocaine, cause addiction without leading to physical dependence.
Tolerance to a drug (needing a higher dose to attain the same effect) is usually part of addiction.
Commonly abused substances include:
- Opiates and narcotics are powerful painkillers that cause drowsiness (sedation) and sometimes feelings of euphoria. These include heroin, opium, codeine, meperidine (Demerol), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), and oxycodone (Oxycontin).
- Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants include amphetamines, cocaine, dextroamphetamine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate (Ritalin). These drugs have a stimulating effect, and people can start needing higher amounts of these drugs to feel the same effect (tolerance).
- Central nervous system depressants include alcohol, barbiturates (amobarbital, pentobarbital, secobarbital), benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Xanax), chloral hydrate, and paraldehyde. These substances produce a sedative and anxiety-reducing effect, which can lead to dependence.
- Hallucinogens include LSD, mescaline, psilocybin ("mushrooms"), and phencyclidine (PCP or "angel dust"). They can cause people to see things that aren't there (hallucinations) and can lead to psychological dependence.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient found in marijuana (cannabis) and hashish.
Resource: National Institute on Drug Abuse
For most adults, moderate alcohol use is not harmful. However, nearly 17.6 million adults in the United States are alcoholics or have alcohol problems. Alcoholism is a disease with four main features:
- Craving - a strong need to drink
- Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've begun
- Physical dependence - withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating or shakiness after stopping drinking
- Tolerance - the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to get "high"
Alcoholism carries many serious dangers. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It can cause damage to the liver, brain and other organs. It can cause birth defects. It increases the risk of death from car crashes and other injuries as well as the risk of homicide and suicide.
Resource: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Facts and Information on Substance Abuse