Substance abuse refers to the harmful use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and drugs, to the extent that it interferes with an individual’s physical, mental, and social functioning. Substance abuse can have negative consequences on an individual’s health, relationships, and overall well-being.
There are many different substances that can be abused, including:
Alcohol: Alcohol is a legal substance that is widely available and commonly consumed in many cultures around the world. However, excessive and binge drinking can lead to a range of negative health consequences, including liver damage, pancreatitis, and an increased risk of cancer.
Illicit drugs: Illicit drugs are substances that are illegal to possess, sell, or use in many countries. These drugs can include marijuana, cocaine, and opioids like heroin. Illicit drug use can lead to a range of negative health consequences, including addiction, overdose, and long-term physical and mental health problems.
Prescription drugs: Prescription drugs are legal substances that are available only with a doctor’s prescription. These drugs can include painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants. Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs can lead to negative health consequences, including addiction, overdose, and negative interactions with other medications.
Substance abuse can have a range of negative consequences on an individual’s health, including:
Physical health problems: Substance abuse can lead to a range of physical health problems, including liver damage, pancreatitis, and an increased risk of cancer. Substance abuse can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections and other illnesses.
Mental health problems: Substance abuse can lead to a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and psychosis. Substance abuse can also worsen pre-existing mental health conditions.
Social problems: Substance abuse can lead to problems in an individual’s relationships and social functioning. It can lead to conflicts with friends and family, financial problems, and difficulty maintaining employment. Substance abuse can also lead to criminal activity, such as driving under the influence or selling drugs.
Substance abuse can be treated through a range of interventions, including therapy, support groups, and medications. The most appropriate treatment approach will depend on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.
It’s important to note that substance abuse is different from substance dependence, which is characterized by a strong desire to use a substance, difficulty controlling use of the substance, and negative consequences as a result of substance use. Substance dependence is often referred to as addiction.
Substance abuse can lead to substance dependence, but not all individuals who abuse substances will develop an addiction. It’s also important to note that not all substance use is problematic or harmful. Some individuals may use substances in a responsible and controlled manner without experiencing negative consequences.
Substance abuse is a pattern of repeated use of alcohol, drugs, or both, even though this use causes unpleasant or distressing events in the user’s life.
A person has a substance abuse problem if one or more of the following have occurred within the past 12 months.
Substance use has interfered with the person’s ability to meet his or her obligations at home, school, or work. The person may not show up for, have poor performance at, or be fired or expelled from work or school. The person may neglect family members or the home.
Alcohol, drugs, or both have been used repeatedly in dangerous situations, such as while driving a car or operating machinery.
The person has incurred legal problems related to substance abuse, such as arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) or disorderly conduct.
The person continues to use alcohol, drugs, or both, despite social or personal problems caused by or made worse by use of the substance. This includes everything from arguments with a family member about drug use to physical fights with strangers.
Someone who has a substance abuse problem may suffer serious withdrawal symptoms if he or she stops drinking alcohol or using a drug suddenly (“cold turkey”). Once dependency develops, it may become very difficult to stop drinking or using a drug without outside help. Medical detoxification may be needed.