Substance abuse is the excessive and compulsive use of substances despite the impact of negative consequences.
Substance abuse is also known as substance use disorder and can be defined as an acute and potentially fatal condition if left un-treated.
Because the body eventually develops tolerance to the drug, an increasingly higher dose of the drug is needed. If the drug is stopped, it will cause physical problems. Often large quantities of the same or similar drugs are needed to get the desired effect and withdrawal symptoms occur.
Among the substances that cause addiction include illegal hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Over the counter drugs can also cause addiction, such as benzodiazepines (Drugs for the endocrine and metabolic). Two other addictive substances are nicotine and alcohol. Nicotine addiction often disrupts social life or work, but alcohol is often devastating. Addictions can cause debts, dismissals and leads to relationship problems.
What causes substance abuse?
Drugs are usually started because of the kick they give. People who find it difficult to cope with stress, are more receptive, as well as people who have a parent who used drugs or alcohol. One becomes chemically / biologically dependent to the substance over time. It is however well documented that addiction is more common in men than in women. Peer pressure in adolescence will often be the start of a drug or alcohol addiction.
The likelihood of addiction depends on the type of drugs. Heroin, for example, causes addiction after only a few doses while other substances may take years to develop the typical abuse / dependence cycles.
Signs of Substance Abuse:
If drugs are regularly injected veins may be damaged. You will find the veins on the inside of the arm clearly visible.
Each drug has its own symptoms. Almost always, however, in addiction, the person’s behavior will change.
Among the symptoms of addiction include:
- Mood swings
- Change of concentration
- Changed energy levels
- Faster or slower (drawling) speech
- Increased or decreased appetite
Withdrawal symptoms usually develop within twelve hours after the last use of the drug. The effects range from mild to very severe and may include the following:
- Fear and restlessness
- Overheating and sweating alternating with chills
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Muscle pain and cramps
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
Withdrawal from opiates can, albeit rarely, lead to a coma.
If the drug is injected, the sharing of needles spread diseases such as AIDS (HIV infection and AIDS) and hepatitis B and C (Appendicitis). Drug addiction often leads to depression.
Substance Abuse Treatment:
People with an addiction usually want no help, and a family member or friend is often the first to seek help. When speaking to a professional, they will inquire about the nature of the drug and duration and pattern of use, so take note of the user’s patterns.
If the addict has accepted that he/she needs treatment, the withdrawal process will start. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and hospitalization or rehab may be necessary. Withdrawals at home can also be carefully monitored. The doctor will often provide support and refer you to a specialized addiction expert. It is important that they not return to the area where they used, because it encourages use again.
Take a look at the substance abuse treatment centres page for more info on local clinics in South Africa.
- Prescription Drugs
Complete list here.
Treatment of an addiction is difficult and often not successful. Sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms are overcome. Withdrawal will only work if the addict is motivated and supported by the right councillors, family, friends and helpers. With a support group of peers, the chance to overcome the addiction increases.