Substance abuse refers to the excessive use of drugs or alcohol to the point of overindulgence or even dependence. Anyone is capable of abusing drugs or alcohol, but not every person who does so has a substance use disorder or struggles with addiction. Substance abuse can sometimes be the preliminary emergence of addictive behavior that can eventually lead to a substance use disorder. Regardless of its extent, a pattern of substance abuse should be taken seriously to prevent addiction and dependence from developing. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fifth edition, substance use disorders can be diagnosed using a system of 11 different criteria. Should an individual meet at least two of the criteria, then they likely have a substance use disorder ranging from mild to severe. Some common examples of the specific criteria include:

  • Using the substance in larger quantities than originally recommended or intended
  • Developing an increased tolerance to the substance that requires a higher dosage
  • Experiencing cravings and urges to use the substance, both physically and mentally
  • Continuing to use the substance, even when it knowingly puts the user in danger
  • Wishing to decrease or discontinue use of the substance but being unable to do so

If you or someone you care about meets any of the above criteria, then begin seeking treatment immediately to prevent the long-term damage and potential risks of a substance use disorder.

Types of Substance Abuse

According to the DSM-5, substance abuse can be broken down into 10 main drug classifications: alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, sedatives, hypnotics, stimulants and tobacco. Each class of drug produces different physical and psychological effects, including short and long-term side effects that can make the substance harmful when used regularly. At Elan, we focus on treating a select number of substance use disorders at our facility. Clients admitted into our treatment programs struggle with a variety of substance use disorders that span several classifications of drugs. Each class of drugs requires varied and specific treatment which is why we utilize individualized programming to ensure accurate and effective rehabilitation for each client.

What Causes Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse can develop from several different factors or through the combination of multiple variables. Some people are genetically predisposed to have a higher chance of developing a substance use disorder due to a family history of substance abuse. A history of mental illness can lead to a desire to self-medicate through drugs and alcohol, eventually descending into dependence and, subsequently, addiction. Peer pressure and desiring to fit in often encourages substance abuse, especially if the individual has poor social skills. Physically or psychologically traumatic events may lead to medication using prescription drugs, which often have highly-addictive properties and can easily be abused.

The Path to Addiction

Substance abuse is just one step on the path to addiction. At the onset of substance abuse, many individuals choose to use the substance voluntarily and have not yet developed an addiction. Once the individual continues to abuse drugs or alcohol, whether to self-medicate or simply for the intoxicating effects, then the abuse can progress into dependence. With dependence and regular use comes a heightened tolerance for drugs and alcohol, requiring larger quantities of the substance in order to achieve the same effects as before. Substance abuse has the potential to snowball very quickly into addiction. When the individual begins to experience a heightened tolerance, the substance has already had an effect on their body and mind. Without proper treatment, addiction can soon take hold.

The Lasting Effects of Substance Abuse

While each classification and specific type of drug comes with its own inherent risks, most of them share common long-term effects that can make continued substance abuse dangerous, if not deadly. Psychologically, substance abuse can lead to the development of a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder refers to the presence of both a substance use disorder and a mental health issue. Some individuals have a pre-existing mental health disorder that can lead to or worsen substance abuse, while others may experience mental health issues that stem directly from their drug or alcohol abuse. Common co-occurring disorders include depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, insomnia and bipolar disorder. Physically, substance abuse can take a toll on the individual’s body and have lasting ramifications. Some drug users develop eating disorders that can lead to weight fluctuations or an unsafe body weight since many substances directly affect appetite. Drugs can also have an impact on the health of many of the body’s vital organs, including the kidneys, liver, lungs and heart. The irregular blood pressure or heartbeat caused by many substances increases the risk for serious cardiovascular issues. When drugs or alcohol are used too frequently or in too large of a dose, users may suffer an overdose which can lead to coma or even death.

Detoxification and
Withdrawal Symptoms

When it comes to rectifying ongoing substance abuse, quitting is not always as simple as putting down the bottle, needle or pipe. Dependence causes the body to become reliant on the drug, leading to withdrawal symptoms that can be both physically and mentally debilitating for several days or even multiple weeks. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite or excessive hunger
  • Insomnia and night terrors
  • Paranoia and panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Sweating, tremors and chills
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Irregular heart rate

In order to properly break off a chemical dependence and purge the body of the residual effects of drugs and alcohol, a medically-monitored detoxification process is often needed. At Elan, we offer detoxification monitored by our triple board-certified Medical Director. While withdrawal symptoms are never comfortable, clients at our residential facility can safely manage and overcome their chemical dependencies in the safest manner possible.

Overcoming Substance Abuse at Elan Recovery + Wellness

Substance abuse affects millions of men and women on an annual basis, making it a prevalent and important issue worldwide. Successful treatment of substance abuse requires a personalized and clinical approach. At Elan Recovery + Wellness, we offer a range of treatment programs all designed to meet the unique needs of our clients. No two cases of substance abuse are the same which is why no two treatment strategies are the same. If substance abuse has negatively impacted your life or that of a loved one, then contact Elan Recovery + Wellness today to learn how we can help. Starting the path to sobriety is never easy, but it begins with just a single call.

Call Now