Substance abuse is a growing global concern. It results from the excessive and maladaptive use of drugs, alcohol, and other substances, which if not monitored, leaves a devastating impact on addicts and their loved ones. Such individuals may be unable to control substance use and rate even though they are aware of the consequences attached to it.
People who suffer from this condition can experience a variety of physical, emotional, and social problems. There is information in this guide about the various types of substance abuse, as well as how to get help to cope with addiction. As a general rule, substance abuse can affect most people, whether they are direct victims or relatives of affected individuals.
What is Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse is the use of any substance, legal or illegal, to alter one’s mood or state of mind. It includes using drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances in ways that are harmful to the body or mind. Substance abuse can lead to addiction, which is a “disease” that changes the way the brain works. People who are addicted to these substances crave them to feel normal.
Common Substances Abuse
It is most common for people to abuse drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. But then, any substance can be abused regardless of the source, including prescription remedies, OTC medications, and even household products. Alcohol and drug addiction are more serious issues since they cause a long-lasting, serious problem in the brain. Hence, addicts find it difficult to regulate their thoughts, feelings, or actions.
Prescription and OTC Medications
Prescription and over-the-counter medications are misused by people who believe they are safer than illicit drugs. However, these medications can just be as dangerous as illegal drugs if taken in high doses or when used without a doctor’s supervision. Commonly abused prescription medications include:
- Painkillers (such as OxyContin and Vicodin)
- Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax and Valium)
- Stimulants (such as Adderall and Ritalin)
OTC medications aren’t excluded as the most commonly abused types are sleeping aids (like Ambien and Lunesta), cough medicines (such as dextromethorphan or DXM), and weight loss pills, including phentermine.
Substance abuse with medications happens when a person:
- Uses them for non-medical reasons, an example being promethazine-codeine cough syrup. Since this product contains codeine, a mild opioid, it is not uncommon for addicts to consume them for narcotic highs and not for treating cough or cold.
- Uses them unorthodoxly or beyond the medically prescribed dosage.
- Takes someone else’s medication.
Asides from seeking personal gratification, people abuse prescription and OTC medications for other underlying reasons.An addict might have a more difficult time dealing with life stressors, like an illness, the death of a loved one, or personal problems. Hence, these medications serve as a getaway from stress, depression, and anxiety.
Also known as crack, cocaine is one of the most popular types of stimulants used. It comes from the coca plant. There are two main categories of cocaine usage: medical and recreational purposes. The former comes into play in local anaesthesia. As a recreational drug, cocaine stimulates the central nervous system, increases blood flow, and can produce intense feelings of alertness and energy.
Cocaine, when smoked or snorted, produces a rapid intense euphoria for the user. For this reason, it is generally used as a party drug, often associated with social drinking, dancing, and sexual activities. The downsides to this drug include paranoia, anxiety, and agitation. Regular use causes the brain to adapt to it. As such, users can’t feel good or normal without it, leading to addiction.
Abusing this substance can result in serious problems, like high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, kidney and liver damage, to mention a few. It is associated with addiction to other substances, such as alcohol.
Most recreational drugs are taken with the intent to alleviate a negative condition, like anxiety or stress. Marijuana is not exempt and does lead to marijuana use disorder (MUD). A person suffering from MUD uses marijuana for the same reasons as any other addict, placing it next to tobacco and alcohol. Within marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive chemical.
Although it is not as addictive as other drugs, marijuana impairs judgement and can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions. Marijuana smokers can experience short-term memory loss, paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations. While many people claim to experience its benefits, regular use could result in dependence. If stopped, addicts could also experience withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol can be an addict’s substance of choice due to its affordability, ease of concealment, and availability. It stimulates the pleasure centre of the brain more than any other substance, thus providing instant gratification. Also, it numbs people from the reality of their situation, allowing them to indulge in their problems without repercussion.
When consumed in moderation, it can provide social and health benefits. Over time, users become physically and psychologically dependent on the substance. Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Incessant cravings
- Consuming at an excessive rate or in larger quantities
- Hiding consumption
- Continuous consumption despite its detrimental effects on one’s work-life or relationships
- Encountering harmful effects, including hangovers, nausea, and blackouts
- Consuming more to get the desired effect
Taking more than three drinks per day or seven in a week will constitute alcohol abuse for women. In contrast, men who binge drink consume more than four drinks a day and 14 per week.
Tobacco is another most widely abused substance worldwide. Over 19% of the world’s population consume this substance yearly. Commonly abused products are cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs. The presence of nicotine in cigarettes makes it highly addictive. When inhaled, it stimulates the release of dopamine (a compound associated with reward and pleasure) in the brain. Smokers find it challenging to quit smoking as it provides relaxing and pleasurable sensations, resulting from the compound.
Tobacco isn’t only addictive, but also deadly as it accounts for over 8 million deaths yearly. Adverse effects include cataracts, diabetes, lung disease, stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease, reproductive issues, and cancer. Addicts need to quit smoking. Many resources are available to facilitate this process, including smoking cessation programs and products.
Dealing with Addiction
The first step every addict need to take is to admit the addiction. Living in denial will only truncate the recovery process, making it challenging for the individual to quit. From there, the addict can seek help from a professional. Addiction treatment can include detox, therapy, and medication.
Dealing with addiction is never easy, but it can be done. As long as addicts have a clear idea of where they are heading, recovery is possible. Recovery comes in many different forms, and every addict can have a rewarding, successful life after addiction.