Substance abuse – Overview, Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Substance Abuse is not the same as addiction. Many individuals who struggle with addiction can kick the habit or modify harmful behaviors. Abuse of substances may be described as a habit of risky drug use to change one’s state of mind. Alcohol and several other drugs, whether legal or illicit, and certain chemicals that are not substances at all may be classified as substances. To clarify, someone may use drugs without being addicted to them or even having a condition related to their substance use.

Significant types of substance abuse

The two main types of substance use disorders involve alcohol and those that involve drugs. While some individuals are addicted to both drugs, others are just dependent on one of them.


Alcohol is America’s most widely misused drug. Seventeen million individuals, one in every 12 adults, are affected by alcohol consumption and its severe repercussions. Alcohol use disorder, also called alcoholism, is marked by drinking too much, not being able to control how much alcohol is drunk and having withdrawal symptoms.

Two forms of drinking problems that often result in alcohol dependence are binge drinking and heavy drinking, which involves consuming high quantities of alcohol each month.

The following are symptoms of alcohol consumption disorder:

  • Extreme mood swings and irritability are symptoms of this condition.
  • Relaxation or coping with stress are common reasons given for drinking.
  • Being cut off from the world.
  • Inflating a person’s alcohol consumption.
  • Abandoning one’s duties at home, work, or school is unacceptable.
  • Being a lone wolf or drinking in secret.
  • Short-term memory loss or blackouts.


Illegal substances and prescribed pharmaceuticals may all be part of a person’s addiction to narcotics. In addition, substance use disorders may develop fast with using any of the drugs mentioned earlier or a combination of them.

People with such a drug use problem continue to use despite the negative consequences to their wellbeing, relationships, and employment because drugs alter the brain’s wiring and conflict with its regular reward system.

  • The disappearance of money or possessions.
  • Changes in behavior that are dramatic.
  • Frequent absences from both school and work.
  • A lack of energy and enthusiasm.
  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Speaking is difficult for me.
  • Hygiene and overall appearance were neglected.


Nicotine is a drug that is abused more than any other substance on the whole planet. Despite the widespread awareness of the hazards associated with nicotine use, it is believed that forty million people in the United States continue to be dependent on the substance. However, smoking rates have decreased in recent years. But, it is legal and does not imply that it cannot be misused one more time.

It takes a long time for nicotine’s adverse effects on health to become apparent, which likely contributes to the widespread use of tobacco products as recreational drugs.


Caffeine is the most commonly used mood-altering stimulant globally, whereas tobacco is the most misused drug. As a result, caffeine overdose is a real possibility.

According to research, caffeine-induced poor sleep and chronic anxiety are two more mental diseases linked to caffeine consumption. Therefore, caffeine usage is frequently recommended for those diagnosed with anxiety disorders, anxiety attacks, primary insomnia, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.


There are now manufactured and synthetic drugs in our society. Examples of designer drugs or synthetic drugs are crystal meth and synthetic marijuana. Although they may not be banned just yet, these substances have the potential to be misused and are likely more hazardous.

Other types of designer substances that are often abused include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • Rohypnol (date rape drug)
  • PCP
  • Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are one example of a class of drugs that may be misused even though they cannot affect one’s mood or cause drunkenness. In sports and bodybuilding, using performance-enhancing drugs helps improve performance and build muscle and strength. However, they are considered abusive because using them can cause unpleasant side effects ranging from annoying to life-threatening.

Warning Signs of Addiction

Some of the signs or behaviors of substance abuse are as follows, among others:

  • Feel that you must take medicine on a daily or perhaps multiple-day basis.
  • The amount of treatment needed to provide the same effect increases with time.
  • Taking more medication than you anticipated for a more extended period
  • Ensure that you have plenty of drugs on hand.
  • Making a purchase even when you are unable to do so financially.
  • Not fulfilling duties at home and work or cutting down on social and leisure activities due to drug usage.
  • Maintaining your use of the substance, although it is causing you bodily or psychological harm.
  • Doing things you usually wouldn’t do, like stealing, to get the medication.
  • Driving or engaging in other potentially hazardous activities while under the influence of the substance
  • Acquiring the medicine, using it, and then recuperating from its effects takes time.
  • Refusing to quit using the drug.
  • Withdrawing from the medication and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Medication for Substance Abuse

Abuse of substances may be treated using behavioral therapy, medicine, or a mix of these and other techniques. Several different kinds of treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management, may be used in the treatment process.

People addicted to opioids, nicotine, or alcohol also have access to treatment options through medication. Antabuse, also known as disulfiram, was the first medicine to be licensed by the FDA to treat ADHD and has been on the market for more than half a century.

When treating alcoholism on a more long-term basis, naltrexone is an excellent example of an anti-craving medicine. Naltrexone is a potent opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of alcohol by filling up opioid receptors. As a result, it keeps the body from feeling the sound effects of alcohol.

In 2004, the FDA approved acamprosate as a medicine to prevent relapse in alcoholism. Unfortunately, there is no single drug on the market that the FDA has agreed to treat addiction to cocaine, methamphetamine, or cannabis. Although the anti-anxiety medicine buspirone effectively lowered cannabis dependence in one clinical experiment, more research is needed.

Modafinil, a dopamine agonist medicine, is a moderately stimulating drug with a low risk of addiction. It is beneficial in reducing cravings for cocaine and has a low potential for misuse. As a result, a concentrated effort has been put into the research, development, and clinical testing of novel drugs that treat certain types of drug addiction.


Substance Abuse is a chronic disease that calls for treatment over a prolonged period. In recent times, pharmacotherapies have been created. They are now an essential part of treating all levels of substance use disorders, such as detox, early recovery and preventing relapse.

Medication amplifies the positive effects of psychological therapy and complements the therapeutic effects of behavioral treatments in a more effective way overall. Unfortunately, even though there have been improvements in making effective drugs for SUDs, doctors don’t use them enough. Therefore, pharmacotherapy should also be a more significant part of the practice.

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