Substance Use Disorders: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Substance use disorders and addictions are complex conditions. They are brain diseases that are exhibited by compulsive substance use despite any harmful consequences. People who suffer from addiction will have an intense obsession with the substance or substances that they are abusing, which can include alcohol or legal and illegal drugs, and will take the abuse to the point that it takes over their life completely.

They will keep abusing the substance when though they know there are negative consequences involved because they cannot stop. People can develop a life-altering addiction to things like alcohol, marijuana, hallucinogens like LSD, Inhalants like paint thinner or glue, opioid pain killers like heroin or oxycodone, sedative and tranquilizers like Xanax, uppers like cocaine and methamphetamine, and tobacco.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

People with substance abuse disorder will exhibit distorted thinking, behavior, and bodily functions. Due to insistent drug use, the brain’s chemistry will change and causes intense cravings for the drug that make it extremely difficult to stop using the drug. These affected areas of the brain relate to decision-making, judgment, memory, learning, and behavior control.

These changes can long after the instant effects of the drug. There are many signs and symptoms to look out for if you think you or someone you love has a substance use disorder. While they may vary some for each individual, signs, and symptoms of a substance use disorder can include:

  1. Problems with controlling alcohol or drug use and taking in larger amounts of the substance very frequently and for long periods.
  2. Problems controlling substance use despite the desire to cut back or stop taking them completely.
  3. Continuing use despite the problems it causes such as persistent psychological and physical problems, reoccurring interpersonal issues and harm, to relationships.
  4. The inability to stick to obligations at work, home, or school and Isolation and withdrawal from friends and family, and avoiding important social, recreational, and occupational obligations and activities as a result of substance abuse.
  5. The development of cravings. Cravings are a strong desire to continue to use and engage in related activities. This is a symptom of abnormal brain adaptations as a result of persistent substance abuse. The brain becomes used to having the substance in your system. When it is absent, it produces a psychological desire to continue use.
  6. Building a tolerance to the substance. Tolerance results in the body’s need to increase the dosage to achieve the same original effects you once felt at a lower dose. This is a common bodily adaptation that is characterized by the brain’s attempt to accommodate for high exposure.
  7. Withdrawal symptoms when the dose is lowered or you do not take the drug. This occurs after chronic and persistent use of the substance and can result in some pretty uncomfortable side effects.
  8. Putting yourself in risky or dangerous situations.
  9. Spending very large amounts of money to feed your habit and falling into financial hardship as a result of your substance abuse.
  10. Changes in physical appearance whether it be losing or gaining large amounts of weight in a small amount of time or lack of interest in grooming and appearance.

Substance Abuse Help and Voices of Mental Health

It is important to remember that all substance abuse disorders are treatable no matter how long you have been abusing them. Treatment for substance use and abuse should include a combination of medication, therapy and counseling, and the use of support services. For most, the best first step is a medical detox at a facility where your withdrawal process can be monitored to ensure your safety and make you more comfortable. After that, it is best to participate in a rehabilitation process where you will learn the reasons behind your substance abuse and how to stay sober.

This is done with the help of therapists and counselors in a controlled environment like an inpatient or residential setting. Upon returning from an inpatient facility it is recommended that you stay on top of your substance abuse disorder by getting involved in support groups to ensure a long life in sobriety. Substance use disorder can be a hard thing to deal with, but there are resources and treatments out there to help you put your life back together.

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