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Drug Abuse

Drug Abuse in Georgia
There are many different reasons why people start using and abusing illicit drugs: underlying mental health conditions, easy access to drugs, hanging out with people who use them. The problem is, though, that many of these substances are highly addictive. Once a person begins taking them, it is often difficult to stop. In Georgia, approximately 6.5% of people say they used drugs within the past month (not taking into consideration the number of people who did not report their use).

Drug Abuse in Georgia

Illicit drugs are classified based on the way they affect the central nervous system. There are stimulants, depressants, opioids, hallucinogens, and cannabinoids. The DEA further breaks these classifications down into:

  • Schedule 1: drugs that do not have medicinal or medical use and have “a high potential for abuse.” This would include LSD, heroin, or ecstasy.
  • Schedule 2: drugs that have a high potential for abuse and can lead to dependence. Cocaine, meth, fentanyl, Adderall, and oxycodone are schedule 2.
  • Schedule 3: these drugs have “moderate to low potential” for dependence. This includes ketamine and anabolic steroids.
  • Schedule 4: drugs with low potential for dependence and abuse if taken as prescribed such as Xanax or Ambien.
  • Schedule 5: these drugs have the lowest potential for abuse. Cough suppressants or Lyrica.

Despite these classifications, there has been an increasing abuse of prescribed drugs such as Xanax and Adderall. Because they are accessible, it is easier to take more than the prescribed amount and create tolerance and dependence.

In Georgia, illicit drug use looks like:

  • Marijuana is the most used substance in the state, followed by cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, and amphetamines
  • In 2010, around 1,100 people died from drug use which is about the same as people who died from car accidents and firearms
  • Almost 3% of residents report using illicit drugs other than marijuana
  • 14.8% of people 12 and older living in the Atlanta-Marietta-Sandy Springs area use illicit drugs

Stories of Recovery

Drug abuse does not discriminate between “normal” people and those who are famous. In fact, drug use and addiction can take control of anyone’s life and make it seem like sobriety is impossible to obtain. The following videos show that recovery from drug use is possible, no matter who you are or what you suffer from.

Physical Signs of Use

The signs of drug use are often going to depend on what substance is being abused and for how long. There are some commonalities, however, and those include:

  • Change in appearance or lack of hygiene
  • Noticeable lack of energy or increased energy
  • Appetite changes that lead to increased or decreased weight
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Shaking hands
  • Unusual smells on the body or clothes
  • Needle marks or skin lesions
  • Excessive sweating
  • Runny nose or frequent rubbing of the nose

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse can take on many different forms and cause a variety of life-changing symptoms. These are important to look for in your loved ones, especially if you feel that they have been abusing substances.

  • Financial problems that lead to borrowing money or stealing
  • Change in a friend group or hangout spots
  • Poor performance at work or in school
  • Continued use of the drug even after the prescription has ended
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is not used
  • Loss of interest in things they once enjoyed
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family to hide the drug use
Signs of Drug Abuse

What is Withdrawal Like?

Withdrawal symptoms are going to vary depending on several different factors, including:

  • Which drug(s) was used
  • How long the drug was used
  • Amount of drug that was used
  • Pre-existing or co-occurring conditions

In general, withdrawal is going to happen because the brain and body have become dependent upon that substance. Most drugs, especially when they are used in abundance and for a long period, change brain chemistry and function. The worst withdrawal is going to come from alcohol or benzodiazepine addiction. Both of these substances can result in seizures and death if left untreated.


  • Cravings
  • Sweating or Shaking
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Pain
  • Irritability
  • Nausea, Stomach Cramps, Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations


Seeking professional help for drug withdrawal and recovery is the most effective way to remain sober long term. Not only can these programs help you withdrawal as comfortable and safe as possible, but they can help treat underlying conditions that cause substance abuse. Treating these simultaneously provides a better outcome than if someone tries to get sober on their own.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Different methods are going to be used for different drugs and co-occurring mental illnesses. That being said, talk therapies such as motivational interviewing, CBT, and DBT can help clients address problems in thinking and behavior. When those are addressed, changes can be made and skills can be implemented for sobriety to stay in place.



Again, the types of medications used are going to be dependent on which drug was abused and which conditions accompany that addiction.

  • SSRIs are great for treating anxiety and depression that are often seen in withdrawal. This can also help treat anxiety disorders that may be leading to self-medication.
  • Naltrexone can reduce cravings for a variety of different drugs such as alcohol and crystal meth.
  • Sleep aids may help clients regain a normal sleeping schedule.

Support Resources

  • Georgia Council on Substance Abuse: provides resources and a variety of meetings for individuals struggling with substance abuse. They also have resources for loved ones.
  • NAMI Georgia: Lists a variety of different support groups for different drugs and mental illnesses.
  • Helpline Georgia: The justice department has put together a list of resources and helplines for those struggling with drug abuse.