Spotting the Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

May 02, 2023
 Spotting the Warning Signs of Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is still a major crisis and is on the rise. If a loved one is dealing with this issue, you need to know the signs. Read on to find out what to look for if you think someone you know is struggling and needs help.

Addiction to controlled dangerous substances (commonly known as substance use disorder or drug addiction) has persisted in the United States for many years but was labeled a public health problem nearly 60 years ago, and continues to affect millions to this day. 

This issue sees 21.4% of people over 12 struggling with drug problems that take many forms, including illegal drug use, prescription drug overuse, and alcohol abuse. 

Worse, drug overdose deaths have increased over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the opioid epidemic, taking lives all over the country. If you live in the Chicago, Illinois, area and you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse problems or other chronic conditions, the team of doctors at Michigan Avenue Primary Care can help.

People struggling with substance use issues need our help, and if you know someone you think has problems, you should know what signs to look for. To better understand this, let’s examine substance use disorder, its causes and risks, and the symptoms to look for.

Understanding substance use disorder

Controlled dangerous substance” is a broad term for legal and illegal narcotics, stimulants, depressants, and synthetic steroids manufactured for medical use, but many can be abused through overuse or using them in inappropriate ways, leading to addiction. 

Additionally, some medications are more addictive than others. They’re broken down into schedule categories by likelihood of abuse, and drugs like heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine, and oxycodone are often the ones people get addicted to. These are Schedule I or II, meaning they either have no medical use or they have a high chance of creating dependence.

Becoming addicted to a drug affects your behavior and your brain, leading to an overall inability to control the use of a given controlled dangerous substance. The dependency generally comes from the way these substances make you feel and creates the need to continue getting that feeling. 

Some drugs, like those categorized as Schedule I or II create a higher risk of addiction and dependency, and over time, the pleasant effects wane more quickly, creating a cyclic need to get more and more. 

Causes and risks

The reasons for substance use disorder are varied and complicated and can stem from a number of factors. Prescription or experimental use is often where things start, which over time turns into use outside of recommended treatment and eventual dependency. How this process progresses depends on things like existing mental health conditions, brain chemistry, adverse childhood experiences (ACE) or trauma, genetics, and access or exposure to the substance.

Signs to look for

Signs will change depending on what substance is being used, but there are many to look for, such as:

Behavior and mood changes

Dependence on these substances can lead to numerous changes in your hobbies, friends, personal relationships, and your ability to perform normally in work and home environments. It also creates mood changes like irritability, hyperactivity, paranoia, secrecy, and anger.

Physical and health changes

Dependence also causes major changes in eating habits that can affect your health, leading to tremors, weight changes, insomnia, fatigue, and other more severe health issues.

Legal problems

To maintain a drug habit, you may start engaging in riskier behavior that leads to financial problems, divorce, breakups, and other legal issues due to the inability to control yourself or your circumstances.

Several factors affect addiction problems, including how long someone has been using a drug, the control they have over its use, the cravings it creates, and the changes it creates in your social interactions and personal choices. 

The greater the dependence, the more it will inhibit your ability to function normally at work or with other social obligations, the more you will use despite the dangers it presents, and the harder withdrawal will become. 

Substance use disorder changes lives, and left untreated, leads to tragedy and sometimes death. If you or someone you love is struggling with this problem, make an appointment with the team at Michigan Avenue Primary Care today to get help. Call our office or schedule your visit online.