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The Symptoms of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

A person's physical, emotional, and social health are all greatly impacted by substance abuse, which includes drug and alcohol usage. A significant cause of death among those between the ages of 15 and 49, alcohol usage claims the lives of 3 million people annually worldwide. Importantly, drug abuse accounts for about 0.5 million deaths annually around the world. The majority of these drug-related deaths can be attributed to opioids.

7 Minute Read | Published Aug 22 2023 | Updated May 27 2024 Expert Verified
Wayne P. Brown
Reviewed by
Wayne P. Brown
Reviewed by


There are various risks associated with alcohol and substance abuse, such as addiction. It is estimated that around 15% of individuals who consume alcohol and up to 50% of drug users may experience addiction. In addition, the misuse of substances raises the chances of accidents, injuries, and risky actions. Alcohol, in particular, plays a major role in approximately 30% of traffic fatalities globally. In this article you will learn about the symptoms

Symptoms of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse can show in a variety of ways, including physical and behavioral changes. Alcohol physical symptoms include redness, bloodshot eyes, an alcoholic odor, motor coordination issues, and speech impairments which can potentially increase the risks of injuries. When discussing the behavioral symptoms of alcohol addiction, mood swings, aggression, and impatience are among the most prominent ones; and these can increase the risks of violence and legal problems.

Drug addiction can cause a variety of visible and easily detectable symptoms, including tremors, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, and changes in pupil size, all of which can potentially predispose to social maladaptation. These symptoms are widespread, although their strength or mode of presentation varies depending on the drug consumed. For example, with opioids, the pupils are constricted, sometimes known as pin-point pupils, whereas with cocaine, the pupils are dilated. Behavioral changes similar to those described in alcohol misuse are prevalent, with the exception of aggression, which may or may not be present depending on the drug consumed.

Even when the most obvious symptoms might or might not be present, drug and alcohol abuse can have long-term negative effects on physical and mental health. Many of the clinical manifestations of substance addiction take years to emerge; however, in many cases, the harms caused by long-term substance usage are irreversible and may present with symptoms specific to the organ that has been harmed, for example, the development of cirrhosis in people with alcohol use disorder (AUD).

What Types of Drugs Are Commonly Consumed with Alcohol?

Polysubstance use is common among people with an addiction, who often use combinations of alcohol with legal and illegal drugs. Alcohol can exacerbate the effects of drugs and can cause serious, even life-threatening, harm. Among the most common mixtures of drugs with alcohol are:

1. Prescription drugs: 

Alcohol mixed with benzodiazepines, opioids, and stimulants can cause severe combinations that could kill you. Alcohol can worsen these medications' effects, slowing breathing, increasing the risk of overdose, and possibly causing death.

2. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs: 

Antihistamines and cough suppressants can cause drowsiness or dizziness, which can be worsened by alcohol, impairing motor skills and judgment.

3. Illegal drugs: 

Alcohol and harmful drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, are regularly mixed with alcohol. Both legal and illegal drugs can cause overdose, heart problems, and bad reasoning, which can make people angry and hostile.

4. Nicotine:

Nicotine is often used with alcohol, especially in the form of cigarettes or vaping. It is not a drug or a stimulant, but it can increase the likelihood of suffering from alcohol addiction, and it can also increase the chances of suffering from cancer and heart disease.

It's important to note that mixing alcohol with any other drug is risky and could have bad effects on the body that you can't predict. Don't mix drinking with other drugs, and if you're not sure or worried about possible interactions, talk to your doctor.

Can Alcohol and Drug Abuse Alter Your Mental Health?

People who abuse drugs can have serious problems with their mental health, which can lead to a chain of bad things happening. These drugs can be rewarding in the short term, but they can cause mental health problems like depression and anxiety worse in the long term. Heavy drug use can worsen mental health issues by causing psychotic symptoms, including paranoia and hallucinations.

Long-term drug or alcohol use can impair memory, attention, and decision-making. Also, personality disorders marked by erratic mood swings and impulsive actions are more common among those who abuse substances. Substance usage impairs judgment and impulse control, making people more likely to participate in risky activities and consider suicide.

Successful recovery from substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders, which many people suffer from, requires integrated therapy. When mental health and drug abuse are treated together, health and quality of life improve.

How Can You Start Your Path to Recovery?

You must be brave and dedicated to begin drug use recovery. A happier, better life begins with acknowledging the problem. Admitting you use drugs is usually the first step to getting help. This must be realized before seeking help and implementing change. Others share your recovery journey

Contact dependable family members or sign up for a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Support and encouragement from others who understand your situation are vital.

Consider seeing a doctor, therapist, or addiction specialist. They can tailor their advice, encouragement, and connections to your needs. Patients can choose outpatient, residential, or medication-assisted treatment.

Coping with stress, cravings, and triggers is an essential part of recovery. Explore stress management ways to stay sober and manage urges. Try mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, or relaxation.

Try to avoid anything that may make you want to abuse again and surround yourself with positive people. 

You might have to change where you live, what you do, or the people you hang out with to reach this goal.

Make your goals attainable, and enjoy the little wins along the way. During the healing process, it helps to be patient and keep your goals in mind. Always remember that things will go wrong, and asking for help is okay.

It takes courage and resolve to beat addiction and make a better future for yourself, but it is possible with the right help and tools.

What is The Right Level of Care for You?

A healthcare professional can assess your condition and recommend the ideal level of care for substance abuse treatment, but you should also consider how bad your addiction is, your overall health, and your specific situation. 

In an outpatient program, you can continue to live at home and take care of your daily tasks while going to therapy. This makes the program much more flexible. Part of these programs is teaching people about addiction and recovery, managing medications, group therapy, and one-on-one coaching.

Some people want to stay at home, but their doctors - or they - feel that they require more demanding treatment; intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are designed for these cases. These programs are characterized by offering therapy and support services several times a week. 

Residential treatment is also available for those who require more structured and supervised treatment, where recovery takes place on an inpatient basis with 24-hour therapy and care in a treatment center. 

In many cases, pharmacological help is used, called medication-assisted therapy (MAT), which combines counseling, behavioral therapies, and medication for the treatment of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This treatment is offered to many types of people with an addiction, but especially to those addicted to alcohol, opiates, and nicotine. 

If you use drugs and suffer from a mental illness, you should seek dual diagnosis treatment, which simultaneously addresses both problems with methods from various fields. Regardless of the severity of the addiction, it is important to look into aftercare therapies, as they help you stay clean while avoiding relapse by offering aftercare and support services, such as support groups, sober living facilities, ongoing therapy, and routine checkups with medical professionals. 

Your particular needs and circumstances will dictate the best degree of care for you that will be determined by an addiction professional. Keep in mind that recovery is an ongoing process that requires commitment and support; work with your medical professionals to create a treatment plan tailored to your goals and obstacles.

What Type of Professional Can Help You?

Alcohol and drug abusers may benefit from professional help. Your primary care physician may improve your health through examinations, treatment, and referrals to specialists and programs. 

Addiction therapists and counselors focus on helping people overcome their drug use disorders by identifying and addressing their root causes and developing healthy coping mechanisms. They offer behavioral therapies, group therapy, and individual counseling to address these illnesses. As medical experts specializing in mental health, psychiatrists can do more than prescribe medicine; they can also provide treatment, collaborate with other doctors to manage patients' care, and more. 

Psychologists, social workers, and drug addiction counselors provide advocacy, support, and therapy, while peer support experts offer empathy and practical advice based on their own experiences. Peer support professionals advocate. Rehabilitation specialists tailor inpatient and outpatient therapy and support to the patient's needs. 

These professionals can work together one-on-one or in groups to provide comprehensive recovery care.


bullet NIAAA
"Alcohol Facts and statistic"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet UNODC
"Global overview: Drug Demand and Supply"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"The role of oxytocin in alcohol and drug abuse"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"Alcohol and Drug Abuse"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Springer
"Drug Abuse: Classifications, Effects and Risks"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Elsevier
"Alcohol and other substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Taylor & Francis
"Association between coffee, tobacco, and alcohol daily consumption and sleep/wake cycle: an actigraphy study in euthymic patients with bipolar disorders"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024
bullet Frontiers
"Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Addictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic and COVID-19-Related Restrictions"
Retrieved on May 27, 2024

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