When Substance Use Becomes Substance Abuse

Substance use in and of itself isn’t inherently a reason to worry. After all, most adults consume alcohol regularly: That is a prime example of substance use. It’s substance abuse, however, that can be so dangerous. Uncover how to spot the difference between use and abuse.

Increasing Consumption and Tolerance Points to Substance Abuse

It is not always easy to draw the line between substance use and substance abuse. One way to tell the difference is when it comes to the rate of consumption. An increase in consumption, especially a sharp increase, is a warning sign of abuse and dependence.

This happens because the body and the brain can begin to form a tolerance for certain substances. A dose that once caused euphoria and a serious high might not feel like enough. When this occurs, users might begin to take more and more of a given substance. This increased tolerance and increased consumption mean that a physical dependence is already in place.

Spotting an increase in consumption is usually easy to do. Whether you yourself are abusing a substance or you are trying to help a loved one, more of any substance is likely a concern. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be an increased dose. It could also be more frequent doses. You may not see a loved one drinking heavily, but they might be starting earlier and earlier in the day without anyone knowing about it.

Substance Abuse is Using Despite Ongoing Consequences

One way to identify substance abuse is when use continues despite negative consequences. Picture, for example, a man who uses cocaine. Without any consequences, he might not realize that cocaine use is impacting his life. If those consequences become clear, and he persists in cocaine use, then there is a bigger disorder at play.

The consequences of substance abuse are nearly impossible to list because the list would be so long. Financial consequences are common since the use of many substances can become expensive. If individuals are bankrupt or missing bill payments and still allocating money for substances like drugs or alcohol then substance abuse and dependence is all but guaranteed.

Health, career, and relationships are still more types of consequences that can arise from substance abuse disorders. When people choose substance abuse over meaningful relationships, or they are late to work routinely, then they are choosing the substances over what really matters in life. That is an unmistakable sign that there is a problem.

Substance Abuse Brings Behavioral Changes

Substance use doesn’t necessarily impact behavior. If the substance use isn’t problematic, then it shouldn’t make any noticeable difference to routine or to personality. Substance abuse, on the other hand, is very capable of changing behavior in countless ways.

Substance abuse commonly leads to an increase in anger or irritability. This may happen at any time, but it often occurs after the effects of a substance have worn off. This is known as the hangover or the comedown, and it can lead people to behave in unpleasant and unusual ways.

Substance abuse may also lead to mental health disorders or the worsening of them. Depression, anxiety and even paranoia are likely partners to the development of a substance abuse disorder.

Ultimately, any changes to behavior might be a sign of substance abuse. People might change their hygiene and grooming habits, taking less pride in their appearance. They might adjust their sleep patterns, or they might spend more time in isolation than they did previously.

Health May be Impacted by Substance Abuse

Substance use can lead to health concerns. However, substance abuse is typically far worse for physical, emotional and mental health. Often, individuals know that heavy or chronic use of certain substances causes health problems. Continuing with consumption despite this knowledge means abuse has taken hold.

There is a long list of potential health problems that can be caused by substance abuse. Substance abuse can impact sleep patterns, lead to mental health disorders, impact weight and nutrition or put users in risky, life-threatening situations.

Substance abuse can also lower the immune system and add stress to the body. This means that users will be more likely to catch other illnesses and suffer from sickness as a result of the substance abuse.

Illegal Drug Use is Abuse

The World Health Organization defines substance abuse as any dangerous or harmful use of psychoactive substances. For certain drugs, there are no safe or harmless means of consumption. That means that in some cases, any illegal drug use is drug abuse. This is regardless of frequency or even dosage.

For example, taking heroin in any amount and at any time would be classified as substance abuse. Taking heroin just once is fraught with health risks, and the chance of addiction is enormous.

Injecting any kind of drug is also a health risk, and anytime a person does so there is a bigger problem at play. Taking unmarked drugs, or anything homemade, is never a good idea. Potency and ingredients can vary so wildly that safety simply isn’t an option. This is all in contrast to drinking a glass of wine, which could be considered use rather than abuse.

Confronting and Handling Substance Abuse

Recognizing substance abuse is a positive first step, but confronting and handling the abuse may not be easy. Many people struggling with substance abuse are already dealing with addiction. When this happens, there are no safe means of consumption any longer. Moderation is out, and abstinence has to be the only option.

Many individuals will also benefit from a treatment plan to overcome substance abuse and addiction. While it is possible to recover solo, it will always be easier with support, resources and 24/7 medical attention.