Many people assume that substance abuse refers to simply alcohol, but this is not the case. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined substance abuse as the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. This may include alcohol, tranquilizers, opiates, stimulants, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, club drugs, and more, according to WebMD. Understanding the definition and characteristics of substance abuse can help you identity for yourself and loved ones if immediately help or treatment is necessary.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that by year 2020, mental and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide. Substance abuse has the potential to negatively impact not only the person abusing, but those around them as well. If an individual is taking a substance to “get away” from life problems, those problems will not only remain, but new problems may arise and may leave a person feeling helpless, isolated, and ashamed. Help Guide has provided several symptoms of substance abuse:

Physical symptoms may include the following:

  • Blood shot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than normal
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Physical appearance deterioration; not taking care of physical health and hygiene
  • Unusual smell on breath, clothes, or body
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination

Behavioral symptoms may include:

  • A significant drop in attendance from school or work
  • Unexplained need for money
  • Engaging in secretive behaviors
  • Sudden change of friendship circle
  • Getting into frequent trouble such as fights, accidents, etc.

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings and irritability
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation or cheerfulness
  • Lack of motivation, appears “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid

Substance abuse occurs when a habit becomes more of a dependency, when the substance becomes harmful in any or all aspects of life, and when the person loses control over their use. Substance abuse can easily lead to addiction, and if you or someone you know is displaying various symptoms listed above, diagnosis and treatment is necessary.

To speak with a healthcare professional, call us today at 855-517-2669. New Vista Behavioral Health provides world-renowned treatment centers for both mental health and addiction recovery. We believe in holistic, integrated treatment, meaning that we want to help improve your overall health and wellbeing. Receiving treatment today could save your life. Take that first step and call.



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