What is Substance Abuse?
Substance dependency occurs when an individual becomes dependent on using drugs to function. In fact, people that are dependent on substances experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they minimize or discontinue their drug use. Substance addiction is characterized by drugs causing chemical changes to a person’s brain. Such chemical changes cause individuals to be willing to do almost anything to obtain more drugs or alcohol. That’s why many people need to attend a substance abuse treatment program.
There are many different substances, both legal and illegal, that individuals can develop an addiction towards. To best overcome such substance addictions, each person should attend a substance abuse treatment program.
It’s perfectly fine to drink alcohol or use prescription medications as directed. What isn’t fine though is abusing these substances.
Anyone of any socio-economic status is capable of developing a substance addiction. There are certain factors though, such as genetics or whether or not a person contains a co-occurring mental health disorder, that makes it more likely that an individual will develop a drug dependency and ultimately, a substance addiction.
According to statistics, as many as 20 million Americans struggle annually with addiction. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance followed by prescription medications such as hydrocodone.
Rehabilitation centers that offer substance abuse treatment programs such as Florida Center for Recovery exist to help you or your loved one combat these harmful addictions. They do so through education, detoxification, counseling, group therapy, and more.
Substance Abuse and Addiction vs. Casual Use
Individuals with substance addictions are generally very good at hiding their harmful behaviors. Thus, there are some factors to consider when deciding if you or someone you love is struggling with addictive behaviors. Generally speaking, addictive behaviors are chronic or relapsing. As a result, these behaviors lead to compulsive or unpredictable behaviors and eventually, harmful consequences.
Perhaps the most telling sign that a person contains an addiction is when that person’s behaviors become chronic or relapsing. People that suffer from addiction will most likely be unable to kick their harmful behaviors without professional help.
People that suffer from addiction will also need detox or rehab. Experts estimate that most recovering addicts will have about a 60% chance of maintaining sobriety, even when under the care of a substance abuse treatment program.
Addictive substances, such as drugs and alcohol, can change the chemistry of our brains. They can do this by the brain’s chemistry leading to compulsive, or even destructive, behaviors that may be uncontrollable. Furthermore, addiction almost always leads to negative or even deadly outcomes. Thus, individuals with substance addictions will often find it difficult to maintain normal behaviors at work or home.
Relationships with friends and family will most certainly suffer if a person contains a substance addiction. In fact, people with substance addictions will often put their lives or the lives of loved ones at risk. They’ll do so with dangerous behaviors such as reckless driving. Ultimately, though, the deciding factor in determining whether or not a person contains a substance addiction is whether or not that person can recognize and control his or her behaviors while using the substance.
Physical, Behavioral, and Emotional Signs of Addiction
While it can be difficult to discern whether or not someone is truly an addict, some tell-tale signs of addiction can be easily spotted. These tell-tale signs of addiction are either physical, behavioral, or emotional.
Physical Signs of Addiction
- Eye dilation
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Suddenly lethargic or overly energetic
Behavioral Signs of Addiction
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Inability to follow through with work or life tasks
- Missing or repeatedly canceling engagements
- Secrecy or evasive behavior
Emotional Signs of Addiction
- Increased irritability
- Argumentativeness and defensiveness
- Blaming others for behavior
- Minimizing harmful behaviors
- Up and down mood swings
Causes of Addiction
While anyone can develop an addiction, some factors can put some people more at risk than others. Some of those factors include:
Genetics- Genetics, including the predisposition of parents and grandparents to addiction, can increase the likelihood of addictive behaviors by up to 60%.
Environmental Factors- Environmental factors have a large influence on someone’s proclivity towards addiction. Family history, attitude towards substance use, proximity with substances, ease of access, peer pressure, and other community factors can all contribute to the likelihood of a person developing a substance addiction.
Mental Health Disorders- The presence of a mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety can compound the risks of addiction. As many as 50% of those struggling with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
Those struggling with a mental health issue may begin using substances to mask the difficulties of their struggles. Once you begin abusing a substance, though, you are significantly more likely to then develop depression, anxiety, or the like.
Most Commonly Abused Substances
It is perfectly legal and common to enjoy an alcoholic beverage if you are over the age of 21. However, alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances, with as many as 40% of
American adults drinking more than the low-risk guidelines on average.
Every year there are as many as 90,000 deaths related to alcohol abuse in the United States. As many as 3 million annually worldwide. This is because alcohol is legal and commonly consumed by as many as 90% of adults.
Because of how easily accessible alcohol is, alcohol addiction can be hard to notice and sneak up on a person. Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Most people can partake of a glass of wine or cocktail at dinner without risk of abuse. In fact, according to the CDC, having one drink a day is safe and normal.
Drinking to the point of losing control or drinking multiple drinks a day though can be a sign of alcohol addiction. The most obvious sign of alcoholism is when someone is unable to control his or her level or frequency of drinking.
Levels of Alcohol Dependency and Addiction
There are varying levels of alcohol dependency. Some people that are dependent on alcohol are also labeled “alcohol abusers” or “alcoholics.”
Alcohol abusers may not necessarily “need” alcohol to get through their day. Still, people that abuse alcohol are often drinking too much, too rapidly, and losing control of their behaviors. Alcoholics are abusers who develop a chemical dependency on alcohol that makes them need it to get through the day.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that about 18 million people in the United States struggle with alcohol use disorders. These disorders can be disruptive and life-threatening.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can cause serious health conditions. Because alcohol is a depressant, abusing it can lead to bouts of severe depression or suicidal thoughts. Thus, those under the influence of alcohol can be a danger to themselves or others. In fact, alcohol abuse is one of the most common causes of death among American young people.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
An alcohol substance abuse treatment program focuses on helping individuals learn how to cope with cravings. Most recovering alcoholics need to fully abstain from drinking alcohol because drinking in moderation proves too difficult.
An alcohol substance abuse treatment program also involves helping people understand their alcohol dependency and how it impacts their lives. It even involves accountability and a commitment to sobriety and developing healthy habits.
Recovery can be a long and difficult process, but it is possible. Treatment for alcohol abuse often includes therapy, learning new coping skills, group accountability (such as 12 step programs), and finding healthy ways to manage stress.
Opiate and Opioid Abuse
Opioids and opiates are two of the most commonly abused types of drugs. Both opioids and opiates are derivatives of the naturally occurring poppy plant. Only opiates though are “natural” in that they are derived directly from the poppy plant. Opioids are “synthetic” or semi-synthetic and are created in a lab.
Opioids are highly addictive, narcotic analgesic substances that can come in the form of prescription medications or illegal substances. The most commonly abused prescription opioids are hydrocodone, fentanyl, and morphine. The most commonly abused synthetic opiate is heroin.
Many people begin using opioids for prescribed pain management. As many as 30% of those who begin using opioids legally will eventually abuse them. As many as 6% of those users end up transitioning to heroin.
Opioids are the most commonly abused drug in many parts of America today. Thus, the opioid epidemic has been recognized as a public health crisis.
Opioids bind to and activate opioid receptors on cells located in many areas of the brain, spinal cord, and other organs in the body, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure.
When attached to these receptors, opioids block negative feelings from being sent to the brain.
Opioids then help release dopamine (a hormone that has a relaxing effect). This dopamine release triggers feelings of euphoria that can lead to an increased need for the drug.
A substance abuse treatment program for opioid addiction can involve medications such as methadone, as well as traditional, individual, and group therapies, 12 step programs like NA, and medically supervised detoxification.
Other Commonly Abused Substances
- Cocaine– Cocaine is a strong, commonly abused stimulant that can be ingested in many forms. It is highly addictive and illegal.
- Heroin- Heroin is an illegal synthetic opioid that has the highest rate of addiction among commonly abused drugs. It also has severe withdrawal symptoms and can lead to serious health risks.
- Marijuana- While not as addictive as some of the other substances mentioned, marijuana, or “weed”, does have addictive properties and can lead to adverse health effects. Because it is a depressant, marijuana numbs the senses and slows reaction time. This makes tasks such as driving even more dangerous.
- Benzodiazepines- Benzos such as Klonopin, Xanax, Diazepam, and Valium are prescribed as drugs that regulate mood and manage conditions like stress and anxiety. Benzos are extremely dangerous due to their powerful impact on the brain’s chemical balances. Withdrawal from benzos without medical assistance during the detox process could be extremely uncomfortable and sometimes fatal.
- Prescription Stimulants- The most commonly prescribed stimulants are for managing attention disorders such as ADHD. Usually, Ritalin or Adderall are used to help students focus or get an edge in a school setting. They can also be used and abused by professionals.
- Sedatives/Barbiturates- Millions of prescription barbiturate sedatives are given to people as sleeping pills to help treat tension and sleep disorders. Yearly, thousands of prescription sedative users will build up a tolerance. Thus, such individuals suffer from addiction to drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. Continually using sleeping pills may produce mind-altering effects that make sleeping impossible without the drug. This, in turn, can lead to long-term abuse.
Substance Abuse Treatment Plans
Substance abuse treatment plans, while different for every person and every substance, often follow the same general four steps. These may look different at different facilities but in general, each step will be utilized.
- Assessment- Treatment is a team effort from the beginning. Anyone seeking treatment for a substance use disorder will undergo professional testing from licensed counselors and doctors to determine appropriate steps.
- Detoxification- Before the actual rehab process starts, the patient must purge his or her body of the undesired substance. Detox can look vastly different depending on the abused substance. Whatever the abused substance, medically supervised detox is the ONLY safe and effective way to begin your rehabilitation journey.
- Rehabilitation- After the patient’s body has been flushed of the problem substance, the real work begins. The rehab process will involve counseling (group and individual), accountability, involvement, support from family and friends, and lots of hard work. Depending on the substance and level of addiction, patients can plan on this part of the process taking anywhere from one to six months. Rehab patients can select from inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program options. ‘
- Aftercare- The primary goal of aftercare is to ensure the transformation that came about during the rehab process continues occurring afterward. Aftercare also involves taking steps to ensure that the skills that were learned during rehab become a part of everyday life. Sobriety is a lifelong journey but the substance abuse treatment program experts here at Florida Center for Recovery are committed to helping you achieve those long-term goals.
Begin Your Recovery Journey Today at Florida Center for Recovery!
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to alcohol, opioids, or any other addictive substance, we here at Florida Center for Recovery are here to help. Our trained professionals can walk you through the addiction recovery process from beginning to end.
Beginning a journey to sobriety can be a daunting task, but there is too much at risk to put it off. Make it easier by starting that journey at an addiction treatment facility that knows what they are doing like the nationally renowned Florida Center for Recovery. Contact us today to begin a journey to a better you!