Substance Abuse happens when a substance like drugs, alcohol or tobacco produces some form of intoxication that alters perception, judgment, attention or physical control. When usage ceases or the amount used is reduced, many substances can bring on withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild anxiety to hallucinations, seizures, and even death in cases of a drug overdose. Over time, many substances such as alcohol, tranquilizers, stimulants and opiates can also produce tolerance – a phenomenon where a larger amount of the drug must be used to produce the same level of intoxication.
Substance abuse has more to do with the consequences of drug or alcohol use. Family members, friends and co-workers are often hurt by the disease. Tragically, there are literally thousands of people who are injured and killed in accidents that are caused by substance abuse. Addiction can occur when continued use becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities such as work, relationships or health. Users may not even recognize that their behavior is out of control and causes problems for themselves and the people around them. Early recognition of substance abuse greatly increases the chance for effective treatment and education can play an important role in prevention. Many substance abusers think that they can stop on their own, but most who try do not succeed.
Use and abuse of substances may begin as early as childhood or adolescence. Often, friends and family are the first to notice the signs, which may include the following:
Other signs to look for include disappearing money or valuables and finding paraphernalia such as baggies, rolling paper, small pipes and small boxes.
There are certain risk factors that may increase a person’s likelihood to abuse substances:
The road to recovery begins with recognition of the problem; however, the process is often complicated by a lack of understanding about substance abuse and addiction and/or denial. Treatment is often initiated by intervention of family and friends and can include:
The most important thing in dealing with substance abuse is to know it is a treatable condition and the road to recovery begins with recognition.
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