Substance abuse is defined as an unhealthy or dangerous use of mind-altering substances. These substances include alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs, as well as prescribed drugs not used as intended by the doctor. For example, taking more pain pills than directed or needed is considered drug abuse. This can quickly become a problem when abuse turns into dependence.
And if you develop an addiction or alcoholism, it can take over your life. A dependence on alcohol or other drugs comes with many risks. Over time, the use of these substances can cause both physical and mental health problems. Of the many risks involved, overdose and death are the most serious. In 2017, more than 70,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose, and each year, the rates seem to go up.
What Leads people to drug addiction and alcoholism?
There are many reasons why people chose to use drugs and alcohol. The use of psychoactive substances will make the user feel good. Nicotine and alcohol are legal and easy to obtain. They seem to come with more social acceptance due because of this. Some people may decide to try drugs to self-medicate or to escape reality. Some users feel pressure to fit in with their peers. No matter the reason, the initial choice to use commonly transforms into needing and using more and becoming physically or psychologically dependant on the drug.
There are social, biological, environmental, and psychological risk factors that contribute to a person developing a dependence or addiction. Genetics can also play a big part in addiction. Someone whose parent is an addict is more likely to develop an addiction themselves, compared to someone without addiction in the family. However, this does not mean someone is guaranteed to become an addict based solely on heredity.
Addiction and Alcoholism
Addiction is a chronic disease. The abuse of drugs causes dopamine, the brain’s “happy chemical,” to fill the brain in excess amounts. This is what creates the high feeling and what makes use so appealing. Over time, the brain learns to adapt and adjust to the high amounts of dopamine and it needs larger amounts of the drug to feel the same effect. Once someone has reached a tolerance, they will seek more and more. When a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on drugs and alcohol, it makes it hard to stop using it.
Are you or someone you love struggling with addiction or alcoholism? Signs and symptoms of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) include but are not limited to:
- intense urges or cravings to use drugs or drink
- needing more to feel the effects
- neglecting hygiene or appearance
- problems with school, work, or relationships
- doing risky things unlikely to do when sober
- unable to stop using drugs or drinking
Sometimes drug and alcohol dependence tend to go together. When a person is dependent on both drugs and alcohol, it is referred to as co-occurring disorders. Someone with this is likely to have more severe problems related to drug and alcohol dependence than someone with one or the other. co-occurring disorders are most common within the age range of 18 to 24.
Treatment and Recovery
Fortunately, drug addiction and alcoholism are treatable. There are quite a few forms of treatment including medications, therapy, and counseling. Medications used to help treat addiction can include detoxification and withdrawal aids. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an addict learn to recognize triggers as well as how to avoid and cope with certain situations. Family therapy can also be very helpful in addiction treatment. It is important to be able to have healthy family relationships and support systems. Twelve-step facilitation programs are another valuable type of treatment. Here, an addict can find accountability and a support group while learning how to accept and surrender to their recovery.
Recovery is often a lengthy, complex process. However, it is possible. The most important part of recovery is to stay committed to treatment. Relapse is common but it is not a sign of failure. Stress, social pressures, and temptations will most likely always be present but learning to cope and avoid these risk factors will help a person become stronger in their fight against addiction. Addiction hurts. We understand how hard it is to quit. The first step to a healthy, sober future is to reach out for help. Ready to get started? Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 833-497-3808 and begin your journey of healing.