Substance abuse disorders encompass a range of behaviors and problems that include both the abuse of illegal substances, such as illicit drugs, as well as the abusive use of legal substances, such as alcohol or tobacco. When an individual uses psychoactive substances in a way that’s dangerous or compulsive, it may lead to negative cognitive, behavioral, and psychological patterns that include:
- A strong desire to take the substance
- Difficulty or inability to handle the use of the substance
- Continuing to take the substance despite harmful consequences
- Increased tolerance
- Symptoms of physical withdrawal
- Placing a higher priority on substance use than on other obligations or activities
Who is Affected?
Substance abuse can affect anyone, male or female, old or young, wealthy or poor. In the past, many viewed substance abuse as a form of personal weakness. Today, most scientists and medical professionals believe that substance abuse disorders are a form of long-term illness, similar to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or asthma.
Research indicates that susceptibility to dependence on substances such as drugs or alcohol may relate to a number of factors, including:
- Genetics – biological traits passed down through families
- Stress levels
- Parental and peer substance abuse
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Emotional health issues such as depression
- Presence of physical disabilities
- Individual personality characteristics
What is Substance Abuse?
When an individual uses drugs for an extended time period, their brain actually changes, almost as if a switch turns on. Everyone has a different “switch-on” point, but once that switch flips, substance dependence begins. The earlier someone begins using drugs, the greater the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.
Though these physiological changes are not permanent (they go away after the substance abuse stops), they do last for a long time. Emotional health issues related to substance abuse may include:
Substance abuse does not just affect the individual who is doing the abusing; the abuser’s family, friends, and community are affected, too. In fact, substance abuse presents a major public health issue. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol abuse alone accounts for almost 5% of the global disease burden and causes more than 2.5 million premature deaths each year.
In the U.S. alone, more than 15 million people have substance abuse disorders. Associated problems include:
- Increased HIV/AIDS risk from injected drugs
- Child abuse
- Job loss
- Increased stress
- Crime and incarceration
- Drugged/drunk driving
What Are the Symptoms of Substance Abuse?
Though individuals display different symptoms, the most common include:
- Continued substance use in spite of negative consequences
- Recurring use in physically dangerous situations
- Continued use in spite of related legal problems
- Recurring use that results in a failure to meet obligations
One of the most common signs of substance abuse is continued use of the substance in spite of the negative consequences that use causes. For instance, an addict may repeatedly fight with their partner about their substance use, but not be able to quit.
Another symptom of abuse is when substance use puts the user in physically hazardous situations. Examples include operating machines or driving while under the influence.
Repeat arrests for drunk driving or disorderly conduct and other legal issues related to substance use are more warning signs.
Failure to meet obligations is another symptom. For example, an individual may miss school, show up late or perform poorly at work, or neglect their children or other duties due to substance use.
Other symptoms may include:
- Tolerance – needing more and more of the substance to feel its effects
- Cravings – feeling a strong urge to use the substance and experiencing negative effects, such as irritation or anxiety, if they can’t use
- Lack of control – inability to stop using, inadvertently using too much, or using the substance in unplanned situations
- Physical dependence and withdrawal – Experiencing physical effects from not using such as shaking, sweating, anxiety, nausea, hallucinations, and seizures. Taking more of the substance or taking a similar substance lessens these symptoms.
- Lying about the amount of substance used
- Avoiding friends and family
- Spending a lot of time trying to get the substance
- Preoccupation with the substance
- Unable to enjoy activities without using
- Hopeless, depressed, or suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Poor memory or black-outs
- Disappearing valuables or money
How is Substance Abuse Diagnosed?
In most cases, a qualified physician, or other medical or emotional health professional can make a diagnosis of substance abuse. Diagnoses usually depend on a number of factors, which may include:
- Type of substance(s) used
- Length of use and time since last use
- Frequency of use
- Weight loss
- Poor hygiene
- Red eyes
- Constant fatigue
- Recurring cough
Which Substances are Commonly Abused?
Commonly abused substances include, but are not limited to:
- Amphetamines – Speed, bennies, uppers
- Anabolic steroids – Roids, juice, gym candy
- Club drugs – Ecstasy, roofies, GHB
- Cocaine – Crack, coke, snow, rock
- Hallucinogens – LSD, acid, mescaline, peyote, mushrooms, psilocybin
- Inhalants – Solvents, whippers, laughing gas, aerosol propellants
- Ketamine – K, vitamin K, special K
- Marijuana – Grass, pot, weed, herb, cannabis, ganja, joint, bud, Mary Jane
- MDMA – Ecstasy, STP, Adam
- Methamphetamines – Meth, ice, speed, crystal, crank
- PCP – Angel dust
- Prescription drugs – Painkillers, central nervous system depressants, stimulants
- Opiates – Heroin, smack, horse, dope, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, narcotics
- Tobacco – Nicotine
Though many substance abusers say they can stop anytime they want to, the brain changes that occur as a result of substance abuse make overcoming addiction difficult. Best Drug Rehabilitation can help. Contact us today for a complete assessment of your or your loved one’s addiction. We are available to help immediately. Start the healing today with Best Drug Rehabilitation.