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Substance Abuse

Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse or misuse—excessive or inappropriate use of a substance—can be difficult to define, and people’s opinions, values, and beliefs vary significantly on the topic. For some, any use of an illegal drug or any use of alcohol with the primary purpose of intoxication constitutes abuse. For others, abuse is indicated by recurring, negative consequences, such as:

  • Failure to meet social, work, and academic obligations.
  • Physical injury or illness.
  • Alcohol- or drug-related legal problems, such as arrest for driving while intoxicated.
  • Relationship problems with intimate partners, friends, and family.
  • Impulsivity, such as spending money excessively.
  • Diminished interest in other activities.
  • Short-term memory loss or blackouts.
  • Signs that Abuse Has Become Addiction
  • Mood swings that can include depression, irritability, and aggressive behavior.
    Significant cravings for the drug of choice.
    Turning to substance use as a coping method for stress or difficult emotions.
    Beginning to think that your substance use is normal for you even if it results in a number of negative consequences such as financial issues, legal issues, problems with relationships, and problems at work.
    Becoming defensive and aggressive when someone tries to discuss your substance use with you.
    Displaying periods of uncharacteristic hyperactivity, overexcitement, or cheerfulness, or agitation and irritability.
    Displaying periods of lethargy, lack of motivation, or being highly distractible (e.g., spaced out).
    Having periods where you are anxious, fearful, or suspicious or paranoid with no discernible reason for this behavior.
  • Changes in your behavior such as suddenly becoming unreliable; not being as involved as you once were with friends or family; not fulfilling important personal obligations; and isolating yourself from people who you normally enjoy spending time with.
  • Physical changes such as losing weight; sores on your face, arms, or legs; issues with your dental health; nosebleeds; or a general overall disheveled appearance.
  • A lack of attention to your appearance or personal hygiene.
  • Red, bloodshot, or glassy eyes.
  • Being congested all the time.
  • Your basic lifestyle patterns are altered, such as sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Sudden intermittent complaints of feeling ill or having flulike symptoms.
  • Needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect that was once achieved at lower doses (a warning sign of tolerance).
  • Experiencing depression, anxiety, or severe cravings after attempts to quit your drug of choice (warning signs of withdrawal symptoms). You frequently begin using your drug of choice to alleviate these symptoms.

Substance abuse can lead to substance dependence or addiction when both the amount of substance used and the rate of use increase. People who experience drug or alcohol addiction feel unable to control the impulse to use, and they often experience withdrawal symptoms in the sudden absence of the substance. Alcoholism, for example, occurs when people become chemically dependent on alcohol, and those who are addicted may become ill if they suddenly stop drinking. People may also feel psychologically dependent on a substance and continue to use it, particularly under stressful circumstances or to alleviate other psychological problems. Some people deny or are unaware that they have a problem with addiction, and sometimes a person’s substance dependency and abuse remains hidden from loved ones.

Signs of include:

  • Increasing tolerance, or the need to consume more of the substance to reach the desired altered state.
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  • Requiring the substance throughout the day.
  • Seeking the company of other users and cutting off social ties with non-users.
  • Dismissing or resenting expressions of concern from loved ones.
  • Avoiding other activities and failing to meet obligations.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the substance.
  • Hiding use from family and friends.
  • Binging—using heavily—for many hours or several days.
  • Feeling unable to quit.

Can I Really Overcome Substance Issues?

Um yes! Therapy can help overcome substance use issues. Addiction Therapists who specialize in addiction recovery can often help people who are addicted set achievable and empowering short-term goals as they work to overcome their addiction. Once sobriety is achieved, adaptive skills can be developed as the person works to regain physical and emotional health, and the therapist can begin to explore the source or cause of the addiction with the person in treatment as the person begins to employ the new coping strategies. Together, the therapist and the person being treated can work to set long-term goals that may include rebuilding damaged relationships, accepting responsibility for actions, and releasing guilt.

With therapy, a person who has become dependent on drugs or alcohol is often more likely to overcome an addiction, and several types of therapy are helpful in this process. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing therapy—a person-centered therapy that relies on the person's inspiration to change—have demonstrated effectiveness in this arena. Sometimes therapy provides a supplemental form of support for someone who is attending a self-help group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous; in fact, some therapies are specifically geared toward facilitating 12-step programs. Rehab, or inpatient treatment, is also an option for some of those who may experience difficulty achieving sobriety as an outpatient.

People sometimes fear seeking help for drug addiction due to concerns of legal consequences or, when the person who is addicted is a parent, the involvement of Child Protective Services. However, privacy and confidentiality in substance abuse treatment is mandated not only by professional ethical guidelines and, usually, state law (like all mental health treatment), but also by special federal laws.

Source: www.goodtherapy.org

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