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Substance abuse isn't something you should take lightly. It occurs when you use alcohol, prescription medicine, and other legal and illegal substances too much or in the wrong way.

Substance abuse differs from addiction. Many people with substance abuse problems are able to quit or can change their unhealthy behavior. Addiction, on the other hand, is a disease. It means you can’t stop using even when your condition causes you harm.

Commonly Abused Drugs

Both legal and illegal drugs have chemicals that can change how your body and mind work. They can give you a pleasurable “high,” ease your stress, or help you avoid problems in your life.

Alcohol

Alcohol affects everyone differently. But if you drink too much and too often, your chance of an injury or accident goes up. Heavy drinking also can cause liver and other health problems or lead to a more serious alcohol disorder. If you’re a man and you drink more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 in a week, you’re drinking too much. For women, heavy drinking means more than three drinks in one day or more than seven drinks a week.

One drink is:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer

  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, which has more alcohol than beer

  • 5 ounces of wine

  • 1 1/2 ounces of distilled spirits like vodka and whiskey

Prescription and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicine

These can be just as dangerous and addictive as illegal drugs. You can abuse medicine if you:

  • Take medicine prescribed for someone else

  • Take extra doses or use a drug other than the way it’s supposed to be taken

  • Take the drug for a non-medical reason


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