Substance abuse, smoking, drinking, misusing prescription drugs and using illegal drugs is a public health problem of epidemic proportions, presenting danger to millions of Americans and severe and expensive long-range consequences for our entire population. Substance abuse involves the use of drugs or alcohol in a recreational setting such as binge drinking at a party or using substances for relaxation.
Addiction is a compulsive dependence on a substance. Dependence may be physical, psychological or a combination of both. People with a physical dependence on a substance will experience withdrawal symptoms as the substance disappears from their body.
What is substance abuse?
Substance abuse is a harmful pattern of use of any substance for mood altering purposes which leads to frequent and serious problems. These problems can affect performance at work or home. Often relationships begin to suffer and substance abuse users often encounter trouble with the law. Substance abuse is not simply drug abuse; it also includes the use of inhalants solvents, alcohol and many other substances.
In addition to the health risks, continued use of substances can cause havoc in a person’s life. Work attendance drops and family members are neglected in favor of hangouts where the substance can be found. Risk taking increases, threatening behavior may occur and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Other indicators of substance abuse are:
- Getting drunk or high on a regular basis
- Spending less time with others in order to get drunk or high
- Planning substance use in advance
- Drinking alone
- Needing larger amounts of substances to get drunk or high
- Blackouts, forgetting what happened while drunk or high
When substance abuse increases to the point of chemical dependence and that use is compulsive and uncontrollable, the term addiction is used.
What causes substance abuse?
People abuse substances such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco for varied and complicated reasons, but it is clear that our society pays a significant toll. The toll for this can be seen in our hospitals and emergency departments through dire damage to health by substance abuse and its link to physical trauma. Jails and prisons tally daily the strong connection between crime and drug dependence and abuse. Although use of some drugs such as cocaine has declined, use of other drugs such as heroin and club drugs has increased.
Finding effective treatment for, and prevention of, substance abuse has been difficult. Through research, we now have a better understanding of the behavior. Studies have made it clear that drug education and prevention aimed at children and adolescents offers the best chance to curb abuse nationally. Synthetic substances commonly have recently appeared on the market, sold in small plastic or foil packages and marked “not for human consumption.” They are available online and in drug product stores under various names, and have been linked to a high number of visits to emergency departments and Poison Control Centers across the country.
Additionally, a family history of substance abuse or a history of child abuse or other trauma raises a person’s risk. Negative emotions and mental health disorders such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and stress also lead many people to self-medicate through substance abuse.
Symptoms of substance abuse
- A sudden change in behavior involving withdrawal from friends and family
- Lack of interest in formerly favorite activities
- A decline in work performance
- Undertakes risky behavior