Substance abuse can be an obscure term, leaving much room for debate over what constitutes substance abuse rather than recreational use, orsocial use, or addiction. The word substance means physical matter or material, but when used in the addiction world, substance abuse refers to the non-medical and/or excessive use of any substance.
What is Substance Abuse?
When an individual engages in substance abuse, he or she may be using any one of dozens of substances that can come from a range of sources. Depending on the type of substance, its purpose, and who is using it, substance abuse is defined differently.
Some OTC (over-the-counter) medications contain drugs and chemicals that can have an intoxicating or sedative effect when taken in high quantities. Substance abuse with these medications occurs when an individual takes more than the medically justified amount, or uses these medications without having the symptoms for which they are intended to treat.
Prescription drugs are intended to treat specific conditions, and are prescribed to specific individuals to be taken as directed. Any individual who takes prescription drugs outside of the person for whom they were prescribed, and the exact manner in which they were directed to be taken, constitutes a substance abuser.
Although legal over the age of 21, and without any medical purpose, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in America. Substance abuse as it relates to alcohol is the consumption of alcohol under the legal drinking age of 21 in the US. Additionally, it is experiencing negative consequences as a result of drinking alcohol, such as:
- memory loss
- fights and accidents while under the influence
- shakiness when not drinking alcohol
Dangers of Substance Abuse
Substance Abuse can be just as dangerous and deadly as addiction, and in fact, the two are very similar. The only real difference between them is dependence and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when substances are not being used. For an individual who is engaging in substance abuse of any kind, the risks of developing addiction are significantly increased. Although substance abuse lacks a physical and psychological dependence, the effects of various substances on an individual can create dangerous circumstances that may result in overdose, bizarre and risky behavior, and various other health and judgment impairments.
Different substances have varying effects on individuals, but can generally be classified in two different ways, either stimulant or depressant. The drugs classified as stimulants are also known as “uppers,” and produce increased energy and alertness, while the depressant drugs, or “downers” tend to have sedative effects on users. When these substances are abused, their stimulant or depressant effects can be significantly intensified to the point at which individuals may suffer severely negative consequences. Some of the effects of substance abuse with stimulant drugs are as follows:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid heart rate and/or arrhythmia
- Dilated pupils
- Lowered inhibitions
- Obsessive behaviors
- Stroke or heart attack
- Hostility and/or violence
- Loss of appetite
Many of these signs are very common with stimulant drugs in high and frequent doses. Whether legal or illicit, stimulant drugs have similar effects, and when they are the subject of substance abuse, users tend to experience intense highs while under the influence and dramatic lows when it has worn off.
Contrarily, the effects of depressant drugs take place within the central nervous system (CNS), and the drugs that are used medicinally are intended to calm or dull an individual’s perception of pain, panic, and or anxiety. Alcohol is included in the class of depressant drugs as well. Some of the effects of substance abuse with depressant drugs include:
- Decreased heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Constricted pupils
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Slowed reaction time
- Aggression and/or agitation
- Heavy eyelids and limbs
Most commonly associated with overdose, substance abuse with depressant drugs often leads to respiratory depression and failure, which often results in coma and death.
Does Substance Abuse Require Rehab?
Substance abuse has led to devastating consequences for many individuals, including death in several unfortunate circumstances. While substance abuse does not indicate dependence on a substance, the abuse alone is enough to produce consequences that are just as dire and dangerous as if dependence were present. Contrarily, if an individual is not dependent on a substance, theoretically he or she can stop using it if negative consequences occur as a result. While this seems to be logical, in most cases, this is only in theory and not what happens most of the time. Often, individuals who engage in substance abuse continue to do so, even when they do experience negative consequences. Lack of dependence on a substance does not preclude an individual from needing drug rehab. While addiction is characterized as dependence and withdrawal symptoms when not using a substance, the need for addiction rehab is associated with how substance abuse is affecting the life of an individual. Some ways in which substance abuse necessitates addiction rehab are as follows:
- If the individual is unable to get or maintain employment as a result of substance abuse
- If relationships are troubled and/or broken as a result of substance abuse
- If frequent financial difficulties are occurring resulting from substance abuse
- If substance abuse is causing legal trouble and criminal charges
- If health issues and complications are arising from chronic substance abuse
The aforementioned effects of continued substance abuse are often the gateway leading to addiction. The purpose of addiction rehab is to help individuals change their destructive and addictive behaviors. When an individual is continuing to engage in substance abuse, despite repeated negative consequences, the causal issue is behavioral, and not necessarily substance related.
So, does substance abuse require addiction rehab? If life has become unmanageable in any way as a result of substance abuse, the answer is yes.
Find Substance Abuse Rehab
When substance abuse has resulted in repeated negative consequences for an individual, and rehab becomes necessary, it is important to be able to make the best choice in rehab for the individual, based on need, preference, and belief system. The reason for this is because of the personal nature of substance abuse and addiction. Since both as behavioral, the root cause is within the individual, and not necessarily the substance of abuse. In order for a rehab program to be effective, an individual must be able to understand the message and feel comfortable within his or her surroundings and environment. Some of the things rehab programs aim to provide for individuals suffering from substance abuse and addiction are as follows:
- Individual therapy to identify and address the root causes for destructive behaviors that lead to substance abuse and addiction
- Group therapy to facilitate supportive friendships and fellowship among individuals with substance abuse and addiction issues. Here, people learn of the struggles of others and can begin to understand that they are not alone in their problems.
- Various individualized therapies based on needs and preferences to establish healthy habits and activities to continue once the program has been completed. The purpose for this is to keep individuals focused on their health and leading a productive life, rather than becoming bored, or depressed and returning to substance abuse.
- Classes and courses for individuals to learn about why people engage in substance abuse, how addiction develops, and how to cope with life without the use of substances to feel better.
- Aftercare programs are established to develop a plan for each person to return to his or her home environment, and cope with pressures and triggers while remaining sober and abstaining from further substance abuse.
If you, or a loved one are suffering repeated negative consequences from continued substance abuse, please get help before addiction develops. Although addiction can also be treated, it is just an added layer of destruction on top of the dangers and unmanageability of substance abuse. Both conditions can be effectively treated with the right choice in an individualized and structured rehab program that best relates to the individual, his or her needs, preferences, and belief system. Please call us now to speak with a trained counselor about your situation. We will work with you to assess the severity of substance abuse and unmanageability in life to determine the most effective course of addiction treatment and rehab services.
Substance abuse is just as dangerous as drug addiction, and should not be taken lightly, so please don’t wait for disaster. Call now and get the help you, or your loved one, need and deserve. We are here to help.