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A depressant that acts on the central nervous system and produces a variety of sensations that many people experience as pleasurable including relaxation, euphoria and loss of inhibitions among others


A standard drink in the United States

12 g pure alcohol


Safe drinking limits

No more than 4 standard drinks in a day for men (14 weekly) and no more than 3 standard drinks per day for women (7 weekly).
Drinking levels in excess of these limits place individuals at risk for negative health effects and problem drinking.


Problem drinking

Encompasses a wide range of drinking behaviors from at-risk drinking to binge drinking to alcohol dependence.


Binge drinking

Defined by blood-alcohol content (BAC) but is generally considered 5+ drinks in one setting for men and 4+ drinks for women


At-risk drinking

Drinking in excess of the limits defined above by NIAAA


Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are what type of disorder?

Substance abuse disorders


Alcohol abuse

Maladaptive pattern of alcohol use causing impairment or distress as manifested by at least one of the following criteria in a 12-month period:
Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations at home, work or school
Recurrent use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems
Continued use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems known to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol use


Alcohol dependence

Three or more of the following criteria in a 12-month period:
Alcohol taken in larger amounts or over longer periods than intended
Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
Great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, use or recover from effects of alcohol
Social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or greatly reduced because of alcohol use
Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of persistent physical or psychological problems that are known to be caused or exacerbated by alcohol use



Need for more alcohol to achieve the same effect, or reduced effect from the same amount of alcohol



Characteristic alcohol withdrawal syndrome in absence of alcohol or consumption of alcohol to avoid withdrawal symptoms


List two factors that are associated with effective alcohol treatment programs.

Factors include six to eight weeks of participation, identification of triggers and skills to cope with them, provision of aftercare and involvement of significant others in treatment.


Leading cause of preventable death in the United States

There is no safe level of cigarette smoking like alcohol.


Illicit drugs

Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), or ecstasy, among others


Prescription medications

Can also be abused and lead to addiction.
Primary among these medications are narcotics or opioids



Most commonly abused drug in the world, with the highest rates of use in the United States, Canada and Australia
Achieves its effects on the body by mimicking the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain.
One of the functions of dopamine is to regulate sensations of pleasure. The rewarding features of dopamine are the prolonged sensations of pleasure as it floods the brain, which is what causes many people to want to use it repeatedly
NOT a harmless drug
Health effects of repeated use of marijuana include short-term memory deficits, increased blood pressure and consequent risk of heart attack, sexual dysfunction, weakened immune functioning and increased risk of cancer.
Contains 50–70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco cigarettes



Cocaine and its less-refined version, crack, are derived from the coca plant most prominently found in South America.
Both forms are extremely addictive.
Acts on the dopaminergic system of the brain; blocks the ability of neurons to reuptake dopamine, thereby producing prolonged feelings of elation and euphoria.
Negative health effects: increased body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and irregular heartbeats; increased risk of heart attack or cardiac arrest, can cause seizures, abdominal pain, nausea, nosebleeds and other gastrointestinal problems.



Heroin produces an initial feeling of euphoria, followed by an extremely sedated period that alternates between low-level wakefulness and drowsiness.
Negative health consequences: collapsed veins from repeated injections, increased risk of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, liver disease, infection of the heart lining and risk of death from depressed respiratory system when users stop breathing.



Stimulant that is exceptionally addictive and produces many sensations similar to those of cocaine
Acts on the dopamine receptors of the nervous system.
Health risks: damage to the central nervous system, increased heart rate, blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. Hyperthermia, convulsions, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and confusion.


MDMA (ecstasy)

Produces an intense high and stimulation.
Negative health effects: interference with the body's ability to regulate its temperature, extreme thirst, liver, kidney and cardiovascular complication


Prescription Drugs

3 main classes of prescription medication that are commonly abused: opioids, depressants and stimulants



Aka narcotics; are prescribed to treat pain and include morphine-based and codeine-based medicines.
Common opioids: hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet).
Inhibit the experience of pain by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Also produce a sedative effect and when taken in higher doses than prescribed can lead to respiratory depression, cognitive problems, drowsiness, constipation and even death



Medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety and include barbiturates (phenobarbital) and benzodiazepines.
Barbiturates are prescribed much more rarely than benzodiazepines because of the dangers associated with overdose.
Common benzodiazepines: alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).
Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the function of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain and produce a sedative, hypnotic effect as well as muscle relaxation.
Run a high risk of addiction and can produce tolerance and withdrawal.
Other negative effects when misused include lowered blood pressure, dizziness and disorientation as well as unconsciousness and death.



Prescribed to enhance energy and increase attention and are often prescribed for individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When misused, they can produce feelings of increased motivation, wakefulness and productivity as well as improving mood and inducing feelings of euphoria. Common stimulants: amphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin).
Can increase blood pressure and heart rate as well as body temperature and feelings of irritability and paranoia.


Theories of Addiction

Social Learning
Conventional Commitment
Personality Trait


Cognitive-Affective theory of addiction

Three factors that increase likelihood of substance use:
1. Positive attitudes about substance use
2. Endorsement of use by others
3. Perception that benefits outweigh costs


Social learning theory of addiction

Role models, such as friends, parents and so on, who model use of substances


Conventional commitment theory of addiction

Commitment to conventional social institutions (school, family, etc.) buffer against substance use. Weak ties increase likelihood of use.


Personality Trait theory of addiction

Stress and low self-esteem increase likelihood of substance use as means of coping.


Integration theory of addiction

Includes elements of all of the above theories as well as problem-behavior theory which states involvement in one problem behavior (e.g., truancy) increases likelihood of other problem behaviors such as substance use.