Substance abuse is characterized by a pattern of harmful use of alcohol or drugs, most of which are mood-altering substances. Although an individual may initially make a conscious choice to take drugs or drink to excess, in time they will no longer have control over their cravings. Addiction is an illness that develops slowly and it is very difficult to overcome without seeking out a drug and alcohol rehab center.
What Is Harmful Use?
It is often very difficult for people using drugs or alcohol to know how much is too much, there are some tell-tale signs that they are engaging in harmful use including the following:
- Health issues
- Failing to meet responsibilities
- Loss of self-control
- Risk-taking behavior
- Social issues
Generally speaking, if a person drinks enough to experience hangovers or uses enough drugs that they miss work or school or regularly drink more than intended to; their substance abuse is almost certainly at a harmful level. It is always best for the individual to enter inpatient alcohol rehab as soon as possible after recognizing they have a problem.
The Dangers of Prescription Meds and Illegal Drugs
Generally, when people refer to substance abuse, they are referencing illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine or heroin. However, today we are witnessing a significant increase in people becoming addicted to prescription drugs. These highly potent meds use synthetic versions of illegal drugs which are prescribed for a range of chronic pain conditions.
Whether in the original form or synthetically made, drugs do much more than alter a person’s mood. When used for medicinal reasons, they interrupt the brain’s communication system to deflect from pain signals elsewhere in the body. When used recreationally, illegal drugs stimulate dopamine production in the brain which sends signals of intense pleasure to the body. Whatever the reason for using mind-altering drugs they can all result in clouding judgment, distorting perceptions and altering reaction times, all of which put the individual at risk of accident, injury and severe health problems.
Recreational Use: Is it Abuse?
Because alcohol is socially acceptable, it is often harder for people to determine when they are abusing it. Many people argue that casual or recreational use of both drugs or alcohol is not harmful, which is based on the common belief that daily use is considered substance abuse. Many people who drink heavily believe that they don’t have a problem because they don’t drink at home or they manage to go for a few days of abstinence. The problem is that addiction is primarily a mental illness that is often driven in an individual in subtle ways they are not aware of.
Drugs and alcohol have a cumulative effect on a physical, mental and psychological level. Some people become physically dependent on substances, whereas others have psychological reasons for continued abuse. Every individual has a different experience of substance abuse and although they may exhibit classic characteristics of an addict, they need a personalized treatment program in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center to overcome their illness.
Is It Causing Harm?
One of the classic characteristics of addiction is that an individual will continue to abuse substances even though it is causing damage across all areas of their lives. This is because addiction is driven by a compulsion to use drugs or alcohol that is beyond the control of the sufferer. When a person has become addicted to substances, they are very likely to be experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop using that lead to them using again in order to reduce them.
When substance use is causing harm to a person’s life and creating financial, legal, familial and emotional problems, they are very likely to be addicted. Usually, it is the individual themselves who has to recognize they have an issue before they are in a position to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. This isn’t always possible for people to achieve without help and many families hire an intervention specialist to help them get their addicted loved one into a drug and alcohol rehab center.
Society Pays a Price for Substance Abuse
In terms of the effects substance abuse has on society, they are widespread. It is very often the family of a person with substance use disorder who are also affected by the illness. Relationships can be harmed beyond repair as a result of the negative behaviors of a person who is abusing drugs or alcohol. In this respect, the cost of addiction to society is very high for affected individuals.
Society also pays for substance abuse with related healthcare costs, lost productivity in the workplace, the spread of disease, crime and also homelessness. These are issues that ultimately have a ripple effect on the whole country and so it is easy to see how damaging the issue of addiction continues to be in 2019. However, despite the complexities of addiction as an illness, there are numerous treatment routes to sobriety available at outpatient and inpatient drug and alcohol rehab.
It is fortunate that there are now around 15,000 drug and alcohol rehab centers offering treatment programs for people struggling with substance abuse, with services that extend to counseling families through addiction recovery. Although challenging, there is a clear route to sobriety for everyone motivated to make the change by attending a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.