Drug Abuse Facts: Signs, Causes, and Treatment – The terms drug abuse or substance abuse refers to the use of drugs or alcohol to induce pleasurable feelings or as a means of “self-medication.” Drug abuse can be very dangerous, however, and cause many immediate adverse effects on one’s health, mental and emotional state, and overall quality of life.
Abuse vs. Addiction
Drug abuse occurs when a person misuses legal substances, such as prescription drugs or alcohol, or uses any form of illicit drugs. People may engage in this behavior to feel good, relieve stress, or avoid reality. But at this stage, people are usually able to manage unhealthy habits to some extent or discontinue use altogether.
Addiction is characterized by the inability to stop using a substance, despite numerous attempts to do so. At this stage, people are often chemically and/or psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol. Likewise, they cannot control their use even in the face of physical, emotional, financial, legal and other devastating problems.
Effect on the Brain
The human brain is designed to make people want to repeat experiences that produce pleasure, increasing the motivation to do them again and again. These include basic needs such as eating, receiving affection, and having sexual encounters. Drugs with the potential for abuse or addiction target the brain’s reward system.
They overwhelm the brain with chemicals responsible for pleasure, such as dopamine. Thus, users may keep taking a drug to re-experience or intensify that high. Over time, the brain gets used to the extra chemicals, and other things once enjoyed, such as food and hanging out with friends, may not produce as much pleasure.
When drugs are used for an extended period, they can cause changes in other brain systems and circuits as well. They can negatively impact judgment, decision-making and learning abilities, and compel a person to seek out and use drugs in ways that are beyond his or her control.
Causes of Drug Abuse
Drugs of abuse are psychoactive drugs that are used by people for various reasons, among which includes the following:
- Curiosity and peer pressure, especially among adolescents and young adults
- The misuse of prescription drugs that were initially intended to treat pain or anxiety
- Chemicals may be used as part of religious practices or rituals, such as ayahuasca
- Recreational purposes
- As a means of fostering creativity or spirituality
Who Is Most Likely to Abuse Drugs?
Everyone is different, and therefore, people also react in different ways to drugs. Some enjoy the feeling the first time they try it and seek more. Others dislike it, feel out of control, and never try it again. Not everyone who uses drugs actively engages in drug abuse for an extended period, but it can happen to anyone at any age.
Some risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood of drug abuse include the following:
Genetics are responsible for about half of the odds. If a person’s parents or siblings abuse alcohol or drugs, the chances that he or she will also use increases.
Early Experimentation with Substances
Young people’s brains are still developing, and exposure to psychoactive drugs or alcohol can adversely affect this process. Using drugs at an early age may make a person more likely to abuse drugs or become addicted when they get older.
Mental Health Disorders
People who are depressed, anxious, or have other mental health problems have a higher risk of abusing substances as a means to relieve stress or to self-medicate.
Family Dysfunction or Childhood Trauma
People who grew up experiencing dysfunction in their families, such as arguments, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or even just emotional coldness, may raise a person’s chances that they will become a substance abuser.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse
- Bloodshot or glazed eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Abrupt weight changes
- Shaking or tremors
- Dependence and withdrawal
Drug abuse tends to affect a person’s behavior and habits dramatically. Many drugs can undermine the brain’s ability to focus and think clearly.
Adverse changes in behavior can indicate a problem with drug abuse and may include the following:
- Social isolation
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Depression or anxiety
- Involvement in crime
- Deceptive or secretive behavior
- Increased aggression or irritability
- Changes in attitude or personality
- Sudden changes in social groups
- Changes in habits and priorities
- Shabby appearance or poor hygiene
Treatment for Drug Abuse
Effective treatment for drug abuse is based on a comprehensive approach to substance use, addiction, and mental health. This approach includes therapeutic services vital to recovery, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, education, medication-assisted treatment, group support, and holistic practices like art therapy and yoga.
Harmony Ridge Recovery employs caring addiction and health professionals who render these services to clients both residential and partial hospitalization formats. Our goal is to provide all clients with the resources and support they so urgently need to achieve a full recovery and experience long-lasting sobriety and well-being.
Contact us today to discuss treatment options and discover how we can help you begin your journey to recovery and reclaim the fulfilling life you deserve – one step at a time!