What is Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?
Substance abuse is “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs,” according to the World Health Organization. A person with substance abuse disorder may develop an addiction, or a physical and mental dependence on the substance.
Drug dependence can lead to:
- Strong desire to take the drug
- Trouble controlling use of drugs or alcohol
- Continued use despite harmful consequences
- Higher tolerance
- Physical withdrawal if they try to quit
- Placing higher importance on drug use than other activities or relationships
According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), there were 12.6 drug-induced deaths per 100,000 population in 2007. Substance abuse can also contribute to problems in communities, including:
- Teenage pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS
- Domestic violence and child abuse
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Physical fights
- Crime, including homicide
ODPHP reports that an estimated 22 million Americans struggled with substance abuse in 2005. Of those 22 million, as many as 95 percent may be unaware of their problem.
What causes SUD?
A person may start using drugs as an experiment in social situations, and go on to use drugs more frequently. Others may use drugs to feel better in stressful situations. Some people may start using drugs, particularly opioids, after they have been exposed to prescribed medications.
Some factors may increase a person’s risk of substance abuse and dependency;
- Biological differences, including physical changes in the brain or genetic traits
- Environmental factors, including peer pressure or lack of family engagement
- Experimenting with drugs earlier in life
- Mental health disorder, either making a person more likely to become addicted or creating painful feelings that may prompt drug use to cope with them
What are the signs and symptoms of SUD?
Not everyone with substance abuse will show all the same symptoms, but several warning signs may indicate you or your loved one struggle with substance abuse:
- Intense need to use the drug regularly
- Financial difficulties from buying drugs
- Inability to fulfill daily tasks and responsibilities
- Unusual risk-taking or illegal behavior, such as stealing or drunk driving
- Failing to stop using the drug
- Withdrawal symptoms after trying to stop taking the drug
Different types of substances also create different symptoms. For example, cannabis-containing substances, such as marijuana, may cause slowed reaction time, unusual anxiety or paranoid thinking, and strong, unusual food cravings. In contrast, stimulants like meth or cocaine may cause feelings of euphoria and overconfidence, increased energy, or rapid speech.
How do I learn if I have substance abuse?
If you feel that your substance use is beyond your control and causing problems in your life, it is important to get help as soon as possible to improve your chances of recovery. Make an appointment with your primary doctor, a mental health professional, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.
It is especially important to seek help if you:
- Continue to use drugs in spite of the harm they cause
- Engage in unsafe behavior, like unprotected sex or sharing needles
- Have felt withdrawal symptoms after trying to stop using drugs or alcohol
- Have experienced an overdose
We also offer an anonymous online screening that can help you learn more about your substance use and if an evaluation is needed.
What if my child or loved one shows symptoms of substance abuse?
Adolescents may experiment with drugs or alcohol, which increases their risk of further substance abuse. Mood swings and rebellious behavior are normal for children and teenagers, so substance abuse may be difficult to identify.
Some signs of substance abuse in adolescents include:
- Unusually severe mood swings
- Behavior that is especially impulsive, aggressive, silly, or socially inappropriate
- Unusually risky behaviors
- Trouble sleeping or less need for sleep
- Problems with school or work, such as skipping school, missing work, or declining academic performance
- Reduced energy and motivation
- Unexplained weight changes
- Neglected appearance
- Unusually secretive or isolated behavior
- Money issues, such as unexplained, increased requests for money or missing valuables
If you suspect substance abuse, schedule an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider as soon as possible. Your child’s provider may refer you to a mental-health professional who specializes in children and adolescents.
If you suspect or know of substance abuse in a loved one of any age, there are ways you can help:
- Gently and talk to them about symptoms that concern you. You may need to bring in other loved ones for a group intervention.
- If they haven’t done so already, suggest that your loved one contact a health provider about their symptoms.
- Help your loved one contact a professional or accompany them to appointments, if appropriate.
- Be supportive and encouraging, listening without judgment if they need to talk.
What are the treatments for substance abuse?
Different treatments are available for substance abuse, depending on your individual needs and the substances involved. Treatment can help you overcome and avoid future substance abuse. With any substance abuse treatment, long-term follow-up is vital for continued success.
MindPath Care Centers Addiction Recovery Center (ARC)
The experienced, knowledgeable professionals at MindPath Care Centers are committed to helping you get on the path to a better life. Our ARC provides compassionate treatment in a judgment-free zone, with the goal to help you feel confident in your choices.
The MindPath Care Centers ARC includes:
- Outpatient program, meaning you do not stay overnight, but continue to go to work, sleep at home, and otherwise live your life as you progress in your recovery
- Individualized approach to treatment that uses the best neuroscience available with a combination of respect and compassion
- State-of-the-art technology and treatments, including medications to help reduce chemical dependencies and avoid severe withdrawal symptoms
- Group & individual therapy options, as well as community support networks, which provide the most effective combination for lasting change
This ARC was designed and continues to be led by Dr. Dewayne Book, MD, of Mercer University School of Medicine, who has more than 20 years specializing in addictive disorders, having studied neurobiology and biochemistry to understand chemical brain functions.
Medication for substance abuse
Depending on the substance that has been abused, there may be medications to help people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. These options include:
- Medication to treat underlying health concerns that may prompt substance abuse, such as depression or anxiety
- Drugs to counteract overdose, such as naloxone for opioid overdose
- Treatment medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone for opioid misuse; or disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone for alcohol dependence
Your doctor or other healthcare provider can help determine if medication is right for you. Never stop or change your medication without consulting your prescriber.
Behavioral therapy or psychotherapy
With psychotherapy, you and your therapist work to uncover and manage substance abuse triggers and symptoms, and to develop effective coping skills. Therapy may be done with a psychologist or psychiatrist, or even a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.
Get help for substance misuse and abuse
Substance misuse is considered highly treatable. Survey data released in 2012 by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services indicate that about 23.5 million American adults are overcoming substance use that they previously believed was problematic.
Unfortunately, there is still a social stigma around substance abuse, which may make someone reluctant to seek treatment. MindPath Care Centers are dedicated to assisting individuals and families struggling with substance abuse disorders, free of judgment and stigma. Our only role is to help you get the treatment you need.
If you or your loved one struggles with substance misuse or abuse, there is help and hope for you. The experienced specialists at MindPath Care Centers are ready to help you live your best life. Call us today at 1-919-929-9610 to schedule an evaluative appointment, or simply a time to talk.