The term substance abuse refers to the harmful and often habitual use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. There are several stages of substance abuse disorder. The most commonly referred to are substance use, substance abuse and addiction.
Substance use consists of use of alcohol or drugs and it does not always lead to abuse and addiction. However, any time a substance is used, there is always a risk that abuse will develop. This is particularly true with some types of prescription and street drugs that are highly addictive due to the effects they have on the human mind and body. Drugs that produce a fast, intense high followed by depression and other negative side effects may be more likely to be taken repeatedly in order to maintain the euphoric effects. This can lead to tolerance and addiction, as well as an increased risk of overdose.
Street drugs can be particularly hazardous, even the first time they are taken, because it is difficult to know the specific ingredients in each hit. For example, drugs like heroin are often mixed with other substances that can cause harm to the body or even death. Even marijuana can be laced with different drugs to make it more potent and often more dangerous.
When use of a substance becomes more than occasional, it can be very damaging to a person’s mind and body, as well as to their professional and personal life. Despite problems seen as a result of the substance use, the person continues to consume the substance in question. This is considered substance abuse and it can have serious consequences.
People that abuse drugs or alcohol may encounter health issues as a result of their use of the substance. They may have difficulty keeping up with their obligations at home, work or school. Relationship problems are also common for those abusing substances, as well as legal problems due to driving under the influence or possession of illegal drugs. Despite the problems, the person continues to abuse, paving the way for addiction.
Often the first sign of true addiction is a developed tolerance for the drugs or alcohol. This means the person will need higher quantities to achieve the same effects, increasing their risk for overdose in some cases. If the person stops taking the drug, physical and psychological withdrawal effects can occur. In some cases withdrawal symptoms can become potentially dangerous to the individual if they try to stop taking the substance without medical supervision.
At this stage, the person is likely spending a great deal of time thinking about the drug, trying to obtain it and recovering from its effects. They may withdraw from friends or family as their focus is solely on using. They typically experience significant physical symptoms from regular use of the drug, which are often obvious to others. Without professional help, the addicted individual may face even more serious consequences and the possibility of death as a result of their ongoing substance use.
Substance addiction does not happen overnight; it is a progressive problem that continues to worsen if left unchecked. Substance abuse and addiction can lead to many challenges such as legal issues, health issues, employment issues and relationship issues if left untreated. Professional treatment is usually the key to overcoming the addiction and moving forward in a life of healthy recovery and sobriety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available. Contact LEAD Recovery Center today at 800-380-0012.