Substance Abuse: Types, Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment


Substance abuse is the excessive use or consumption of substances (drugs and alcohol) in harmful quantities. It usually goes hand-in-hand with addiction, which is uncontrollable dependence on drugs and alcohol. In the USA, drug abuse causes the largest percentage of deaths from drug overdosing. It is quite common, and often starts out of curiosity among young people – and then they get hooked. Substance abuse facts and statistics are very staggering today.

Drug or substance abuse affects more than 10% of people and it is quite difficult to quit by yourself without external help. An abrupt termination in the usage of substances may lead to ill health known as withdrawal symptoms. Some of the substances being abused are methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, marijuana, Rohypnol, Ecstasy (MDMA or MethyleneDioxyMethamphetAmine), pain killers, codeine, and alcohol, etc. There are over 40 types of commonly abused substances everywhere in our city.

Substance abuse

The general symptoms of substance addiction are:

  • Failed attempts to stop the intake of the substance
  • Belief that every problem can be solved (temporarily or permanently) by the drug
  • Going extreme miles and taking unnecessary risks just to obtain the drug
  • A general untidy appearance.

The physical symptoms of substances abuse vary from person to person. Some of them include:

Signs of Marijuana (Weed) Abuse

  • Bloodshot (red) eyes
  • Over-eating or lack of appetite
  • Struggle to concentrate and coordinate oneself
  • Paranoia due to overactive senses

Signs of Cocaine and Meth Abuse

Meth and cocaine have similar signs of abuse and are thus, grouped together. Some of the signs of abuse include:

  • A feeling of exaggerated elation (euphoria)
  • Inability to sleep
  • Rapid weight-loss due to reduced appetite
  • Edginess and restlessness
  • Mood swings (euphoria when high on the substance and depression when sober)
  • Paranoia due to overactive senses

Signs of MDMA and Rohypnol Abuse

  • A feeling of exaggerated elation
  • Overactive senses
  • Amnesia
  • Inability to suppress and coordinate oneself properly

At very high doses, Rohypnol may lead to coma and death. It is worse when taken with alcohol and thus, and is used most times before the commission of sexual assaults or other crimes.

Causes and Risk Factors of Substance Abuse

There are different factors that cause substance abuse but they can be categorized into:

  • Anatomy: There is a higher percentage of male drug abusers than females.
  • Environmental and social factors: Thisincludes peer pressure, learning from people around, Family issues etc.
  • Biological factors and genetics: Studies show that people who grow up around people who abuse drugs are more likely to turn to drugs than people who don’t have any substance abusers around them.
  • Psychological factors: People who are psychologically unstable (dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, etc.) are more likely to turn to and abuse substances than people who are stable.


Complications That Arise From Abusing Substances

  • Problems with work and relationship with others
  • Minor and major health complications
  • Self-annihilation and death
  • Vulnerability to mechanical and auto accidents
  • Monetary problems
  • Criminal and legal issues

Diagnosis of Substance Abuse

Contrary to popular belief, blood tests are not used in diagnosing substance abuse or addiction; they are only used to know if certain drugs were taken within a particular period of recent time. Diagnosis of substance abuse is done by physical evaluation by a psychologist or specialist. However, you can learn everything about drug abuse and addiction and support by visiting specialists in the field.

Treatment of Substance Abuse

The treatment of substance abuse is both physical and psychological, and they include:

  • Detoxification – A gradual process of stopping the intake of substances so as to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Guidance and therapy (by a medical specialist)
  • Joining self-help and support groups such as Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous.

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