What is Substance Abuse?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

What is substance abuse and how can you get the appropriate help to treat your particular addiction?

Have you wondered “what is substance abuse?” Or, thought that maybe suffering from it has no remedy at all? If these questions sound familiar to you, it is time that you learn more about the issue and find out the many ways in which help is available today.

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse can be described as the harmful and/or dangerous use of psychoactive substances like alcohol and drugs. They are mainly used to provoke a chemical reaction on the brain that is often characterized by a euphoric episode. The danger of substance abuse is that, precisely because of the addictive nature of the euphoric state, a person will fall into a dependency to the substance, thus being trapped in an addiction cycle.

Whether the preferred substance is alcohol, or any kind of drug (illicit, prescription and over the counter medication), substance abuse symptoms are telling when someone is suffering from an addiction. To understand exactly “what is substance abuse” and how it affects your body and your mind, we need to look at the following facts:

  • An addiction is a disease of the brain: the danger of substance abuse is that it changes your brain’s chemical balance, thus, making you crave the substance in an uncontrollable way despite the harmful consequences
  • Substance abuse symptoms change from person to person: everyone will react different to a particular substance, but there will always be telling signs when someone is abusing. Moreover, there are many long-term effects to substance abuse that can be lethal if the problem is not treated
  • You can get help and recover: there are many high-quality and effective detoxification and rehabilitation programs to get you clean and help you regain your sobriety.

Now that we have a foundation to work from, we can analyze the actual substance abuse symptoms that are present when someone is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. These symptoms may be physical and behavioral. Some of the physical substance abuse symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of appearance
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors or muscle spasms
  • Changes in size of the pupils, red eyes
  • Itchiness
  • Sweating
  • Fidgeting

While these are complex signs, the danger of substance abuse really lies in the behavioral symptoms. These include:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Erratic or uncommon behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Taking part in dangerous or risky situations
  • Isolation

These symptoms are particularly more dangerous because substance abuse impairs the addict’s judgement. Therefore, the person is more prone to participate in illicit activities; driving under the influence, robbery, assault, other violence, suicidal thoughts, etc.

In addition, substance abuse symptoms have a prolonged effect on someone’s health. If not addressed promptly, an addict may suffer from:

  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory failure
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma
  • Death

Thankfully, a good and comprehensive rehabilitation program can help an addict recover and regain control of their life, maintaining their sobriety in the long-run. Effective treatments are those customized to fit the individual needs of each patient, while promoting healthier habits that prevent relapse.

If you are interested in learning more about what is substance abuse, and what approaches are available to help someone you love get better, call us at (800) 429-7690, and get help finding drug treatment centers.