Substance Abuse: Causes and Effects

Substance abuse ranges from addictions to alcohol or narcotics to any type of mood-altering drug including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. There are also solvents and inhalants that can be considered substance abuse, and there are also drugs that don’t directly affect mood like steroids. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 8.9 percent of people 12 years or older have an illicit drug use problem. Most people consider illegal drugs to be substance abuse because they have the most addictive properties and can cause severe health problems. Getting help for substance abuse can be difficult, but many addicts are able to change their lives through inpatient treatment. There are several factors for what causes addiction and how to treat substance abuse effectively.

What Causes Someone to Abuse Drugs?

Some people have a vulnerability to addiction. Genes, mental illness, family environment and social factors all play a role in determining whether you’re more inclined to be addicted to substances. Family history of addiction is one of the strongest factors for whether offspring will have the same addiction. Abuse, traumatic childhood experiences and neglect are also issues related to substance abuse and addiction. Others are influenced by movies, succumb to peer pressure, or use drugs out of boredom.

How Substances Alter Your Brain

Addiction is a complicated disorder because it is characterized by personal drug use. Therefore many addicts have their own triggers and responses to drugs that make addiction difficult to treat on one’s own. There are mental and physical effects caused by substance abuse including:

  • Increased levels of dopamine create feelings of pleasure. The brain wants to feel this pleasure more and more.
  • Survival instincts also pertain to addicts. Like food and water, addict’s bodies will need a substance to survive.
  • Substances change your brain so that your thoughts aren’t clear, and your behavior may become erratic.
  • The desire to use becomes more important than caring for loved ones, walking your dog, going to work, your health and even your happiness.
  • The brain rationalizes addiction, so an addict may think he has more control over the abuse than he actually does.

In far too many instances, an addict won’t believe he or she needs help until everything in their life is destroyed.  Loss of friends, family, job, and physical health often occur before the individual will realize something needs to be done.

Signs and Symptoms That Indicate a Serious Problem Exists

If someone close to you is going through addiction or you think that you might have a problem, there are some signs to look out for. If you think you are abusing substances, you should consider treatment options as soon as possible.

  • You don’t care about responsibilities like school, work, friends, home life or things you used to enjoy because you want to use.
  • You’re taking drugs under high risks and dangers just to get high.
  • Your drug use has caused legal problems such as being arrested or driving under the influence.
  • Your relationships with other people have deteriorated. You get into fights with your parents or significant others because of your drug use.

There are also various signs of serious addiction. You may have built up a drug tolerance or you take drugs to avoid the feeling of withdrawal. If you’ve lost control over your drug use, your life probably revolves around what time and where you’ll be using. People with drug addictions tend to replace activities they used to enjoy with doing drugs.

If you continue to use drugs even when you know it’s hurting you, your drug addiction is a considerable problem. There are dangerous implications if someone doesn’t get help for this kind of abuse before it’s too late.

Types of Treatment for Substance Abuse

Recognition that a person has a problem with substance abuse always allows for an open conversation about treatment. It’s the start of a road to recovery. Addicts must realize that they have a problem before choosing treatment, or else it likely won’t work. Facing an addiction is a difficult task because of it’s effects on the human brain and body. Once you feel like you need a drug to survive, you have to train your body away from these behaviors.

One of the best ways to get treatment is through inpatient facilities. Also called residential treatment, addicts go through a detox center before moving to a facility where they live for a period of two weeks to three months or more depending on the level of addiction. They receive the best kind of therapy and care while at the facility. They learn about their addiction, go through behavioral therapy and talk to others about their addictions. Inpatient treatment also removes an addict from an environment of abuse where everyone and everything is about moving on from addiction. This is why inpatient facilities have such a high success rate.

There are also outpatient treatment centers, which allow a person to remain at home and go to work while also getting treatment for their substance abuse. This method isn’t likely to work with most addicts. It usually leads to relapse in which it’s necessary to go to inpatient treatment. While there are a few success stories, the chance to use while going through outpatient treatment is still too high.

Support is also necessary to getting over addictions. Help from friends and family play a major role in comfort, guidance and encouragement. If you are going through substance abuse addiction, your best chance to get better is by talking with people who care about you and want to help you change your life.