SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDER
WHAT ARE SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDERS?
People often get confused between Drug Abuse and Substance Abuse. Substance Abuse disorder is the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including legal drugs, over-the-counter prescription drugs, and illicit drugs like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. The recurrent consumption of psychoactive substances in excessive amounts can influence someone’s consciousness and behavior.
Drug Abuse is a chronic, relapsing disorder marked by compulsive drug seeking and use despite damaging consequences. In contrast, substance abuse is the ongoing, regular, or patterned use of drugs for any purpose or manner other than its intended use. It can create problems like clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disabilities, loss of control, and strain in one’s interpersonal life.
Substance abuse disorder is roughly divided into seven categories:
- Alcohol Abuse
- Nicotine Abuse
- Cannabis Abuse
- Opioid Abuse
- Stimulant Abuse
- Sedative Abuse
- Hallucinogen Abuse
HOW DOES IT WORK AND AFFECT AN INDIVIDUAL’S MIND?
Drugs and similar substances inhibit the way neurons send, receive, and process signals through neurotransmitters. Some drugs can imitate natural neurotransmitters and activate neurons. Drugs over-activate these neurons responsible for the pleasurable feeling experienced after positive stimulation, delivering the ecstasy of the drug “high”.
However, with repeated exposure, the central nervous system may acclimate to the presence of the drug, decreasing its sensitivity and making it difficult to feel pleasure from anything besides the drug and, ultimately, affecting a person’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their drug use. They can cause loss of control, cognitive salience, search for stimulation or pleasure, emotional triggers, damaging outcomes, and poor quality of life.
HOW DOES SUBSTANCE ABUSE AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH?
Substance abuse has been linked to mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, panic disorders and schizophrenia. Substance abuse can also cause extreme tiredness, confusion, insomnia, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, and insatiable hunger.
HOW ARE THESE DISORDERS DIAGNOSED AND TREATED?
Professionals such as doctors or psychologists can help accurately diagnose substance abuse disorders as it can be challenging for the layman to distinguish between a person actively using substances from a person experiencing a depressive or manic episode. Sometimes a patient can have a psychiatric disorder and a substance use disorder at the same time (often referred to as Dual Diagnosis).
Once an individual is diagnosed, the mental health professional can then suggest behavioral therapies, medications, or rehabilitation centers. Behavioral treatment includes Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Contingency management, Family therapy, Twelve-Step Facilitation (TSF), and Motivational enhancement therapy. For example, an individual who has been abusing opioids wouldn’t be recommended for addictive or potent drugs.
WHY DO PEOPLE CONSUME DRUGS?
The exact causes for drug abuse are unknown as of yet since everyone has their motivation, but there are a few reasons that have been speculated to be the cause of substance abuse:
- Peer pressure
- Mental illness
- Family history with addiction
- For better performance
- For recreational purposes
HOW CAN AN INDIVIDUAL PREVENT SUCH DISORDERS?
The first step is to acknowledge that one has a substance abuse disorder and seek help accordingly. A consultation with a mental health professional is key to understanding the type of substance abuse disorder that one may be experiencing, then tailoring the treatment approach based on the information uncovered during the consultation process.
In the beginning, it may feel good and feel like you’re in control of the drug, but it doesn’t take long until the drug starts controlling you.