Substance abuse describes a harmful pattern of using substances to alter your mood. These substances vary from legal or illicit drugs and alcohol to things that aren’t drugs at all, like inhalants and solvents.
Abusing substances significantly affects your life and causes a variety of complications, including:
- Disabilities or sickness
- Difficulty meeting responsibilities
- Lack of self-control causing risky behaviors
- Social issues, like damaged relationships
If you are experiencing warning signs of substance abuse, our experienced team at City Care Family Practice can help. Working closely with a Family Doctor who knows your personal and medical history can help you make those difficult first steps so you can start your journey towards sobriety today.
Substance use versus substance abuse
It can be hard to know when someone is “using” substances versus “abusing” substances. In fact, people often wonder if having a drink or two each day qualifies as substance abuse.
The answer to that question varies from person to person because everyone has their own personal risks of developing a substance abuse disorder.
A substance abuse disorder, or addiction, involves your brain chemistry. This complex condition interferes with your self-control, common sense and ability to stop using certain substances, even if they’re obviously harmful to you.
If you have a substance abuse disorder, it causes an intense focus on both getting and using the specific substance that makes you feel good. That’s because using the substance triggers chemical changes in your brain that create a sense of euphoria. With continued use, you need to keep taking -- or even using more of -- the substance to feel normal or good.
When you have a substance abuse problem, brain changes occur which interfere with your self-control and ability to stop using certain substances. That’s because the substance impacts the specific regions of your brain associated with judgment, learning, decision-making, memory, and impulse control.
While anyone can develop a substance abuse disorder, your chances are higher if you have another mental health disorder -- like depression or anxiety -- or a family history of addiction. Your risk also increases if you’ve lived with poverty, abuse, or neglect.
Signs of substance abuse
If you or someone you know has a substance abuse problem, it’s common to see a variety of symptoms, including:
- Spending money on the substance, even when you can’t afford it
- Reducing social or work activities; decreased interest in things previously enjoyed
- Doing things out of character to get the substance, like stealing
- Participating in risky behavior while under the influence
- Making sure you always have the substance on hand
- Being unable to think about other things
- Experiencing drastic behavioral changes, like being secretive
- Looking neglected or ungroomed
- Undergoing physical changes, like weight gain or loss
- Having changes in your energy or motivation
A substance abuse disorder or addiction can also make it increasingly hard to function without the specific substance. You can even experience intense cravings or physical symptoms of withdrawal when you try to stop.
Regular yearly physicals, when drug and alcohol screening is always performed and building a personal and comfortable relationship with your family doctor is a way to discover abuse problems then facilitate a definitive plan for treatment. The family doctors at City Care Family Practice are sensitive to the warning signs and trained in finding specialists to help support your recovery.
For more information on the warning signs of substance abuse, call us at City Care Family Practice or schedule an appointment online today.