Welcome to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs

Substance Use Disorder

Research increasingly suggests that women may be more vulnerable than men to particular consequences of drug abuse, including addiction. This greater vulnerability may stem from gender-specific differences in motivations for drug use, differing sensitivities to drug effects, and a host of other biological and environmental factors.

- Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Women's Health Week, 2009
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A three-year study on women and young girls (ages 8–22) from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University revealed that girls and young women use substances for reasons different from boys and young men. The study also found that the signals and situations of higher risk are different and that girls and young women are more vulnerable to abuse and addiction—they get hooked faster and suffer the consequences sooner than boys and young men. Learn more


Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, affects women differently than men. Heavy drinking, in some ways, is much more risky for women than it is for men. Chronic heavy alcohol consumption exacts a greater physical toll on women than on men. Female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than male alcoholics do. A greater percentage of female alcoholics also die from suicides, alcohol-related injuries, circulatory disorders, and cirrhosis of the liver. Learn more


Cocaine can wreak havoc on your body and mind with just a single use. Every time you use the drug, you are putting yourself at risk for a number of short and long-term effects as well as death. Learn more


Crack is the most potent form of cocaine and the riskiest. It is between 75 and 100 percent pure, far stronger, and more potent than regular cocaine. Crack is much more addictive than cocaine, enabling the user to become addicted after the first try. Learn more


Surveys among women suggest that they are more likely than men to be attracted to methamphetamine for weight loss and to control symptoms of depression. Among women, methamphetamine-related drug disorders may present different challenges to their health and may progress differently. Learn more

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is short for crystal methamphetamine. Crystal meth is snorted, injected, or smoked in a pipe. It is taken to produce feelings of euphoria or a “high” that can last between 2 and 16 hours. Crystal meth is extremely addictive and using crystal meth causes severe, often irreversible, physical, and psychological damage. Learn more

Prescription Drugs

Women are more likely than men to be prescribed an abusable prescription drug, particularly narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs—in some cases, 55 percent more likely. Women are at increased risk for non-medical use of narcotic analgesics and tranquilizers (e.g., benzodiazepines). Learn more

Over-the-Counter Drugs

Over-the-counter drugs are drugs requiring no prescription. Some of these drugs have dangerous interactions with other drugs or alcohol, posing a significant risk to the user's health. Learn more

Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Alcoholic energy drinks contain alcohol, caffeine, and stimulants. Marketed towards younger people and packaged to look like non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic energy drinks pose serious risks. Learn more


People rarely consider the negative side effects of caffeine. A caffeine overdose can make you feel dizzy and disoriented. While small doses of it help one to concentrate, larger doses do the opposite. Your body begins to feel dizzy and weak and as much as you want to do things, the feeling is very unpleasant. Learn more


Ecstasy is a synthetic drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Long-term use of ecstasy damages the parts of the brain critical to thought and memory. Learn more


Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug. It enters the body, affects the receptors in the brain dealing with pain, and affects the brain stem, which is important for the automatic processes critical to life such as breathing and blood pressure. When a heroin user overdoses, it is typically because they are unable to breath due to the effects heroin has on the brain stem. Learn more


Inhalants refer to the vapors from toxic substances which are inhaled to reach a quick high. The substances inhaled are often common household products that contain volatile solvents, aerosols, or gases (learn more). If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Learn more


LSD distorts perceptions of reality and produces hallucinations; the effects can be frightening and cause panic. It is sold as tablets, capsules, liquid, or on absorbent paper. LSD produces unpredictable psychological effects lasting about 12 hours. Learn more


Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. A survey conducted in 2007 found that 14.4 million individuals in the US alone had smoked marijuana at least once during the previous month. Long-term effects include reduced ability to learn and retain information, drowsiness, and lack of motivation. Learn more


Most anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone (learn more). Steroids may cause mood swings in the user. A steroid user may become hostile, violent, and angry for no reason. Major effects of steroid abuse can include liver damage; jaundice; fluid retention; high blood pressure; increases in "bad" cholesterol. Learn more


Tobacco use is the leading cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States (learn more). Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general. The tar in cigarettes increases a smoker's risk of lung cancer, emphysema, and bronchial disorders. Learn more