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Preventing Substance Use & Addiction Begins with Knowledge

05-02-2020

According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a complex condition—a brain disease manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with a substance use disorder or addiction often have an intense focus on using a particular substance to the point where it takes over their lives. Even if substance use causes problems in their lives, they may continue to use it.

This is because the substance is causing distorted thinking, behavior, or body functions. Changes in the brain cause people to have intense cravings for the substance and make it hard to stop using it. These changes can impact their judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control. Substance use and disorder can cause harmful changes in how the brain functions and can last long after the intoxication of the drug has worn off.

People can develop substance use and addiction to:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • PCP, LSD, and other hallucinogens
  • Inhalants like paint thinners and glue
  • Opioid pain killers like codeine and oxycodone
  • Heroin
  • Sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics, including medicines for anxiety like tranquilizers
  • Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants
  • Tobacco

There are many reasons that cause people to use and become addicted to substances. These include a variety of factors like environmental, trauma, hereditary, and legitimate needs for a drug to treat a condition that leads to use for other non-related reasons; sometimes, it is a combination of these factors or not even identifiable. They may experience feelings of pleasure or stress relief, improved performance, have a curiosity to try the substance, or experience peer pressure from others.

Symptoms of substance use and addiction are often grouped into four categories:

  • Impaired control—a craving or strong urge to use the substance, which may include a desire or failed attempts to cut back or control use
  • Social problems—a failure to complete major tasks at work, school, or home; social, work, or leisurely activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
  • Risky use—substance is used in risky settings, and there is continued use despite known problems
  • Drug effects—tolerance or the need for larger amounts of the substance to get the same effect, and withdrawal symptoms

Visible symptoms of substance use may include:

  • Abnormal pupil size
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Convulsions
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness or unconsciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Staggering or unsteady gait
  • Sweating or extremely dry, hot skin
  • Tremors

Symptoms of withdrawal from substance use or addiction may include:

  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Agitation
  • Cold sweat
  • Convulsions
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking

Often, people with substance use disorders and addiction are aware of the problem but are unable to stop it. Some people experience both mental illness and addiction. The mental illness may be present before the substance use, or the addiction may trigger it and/or make it worse.

Depending on your needs, treatment for substance use disorders and addiction may include outpatient or inpatient visits, peer support groups, religious or spiritual support groups, detox, rehabilitation, and more.

If you or a loved one needs help for substance use and addiction, there are a few things you can do:

COVID-19 and Substance Use/Addiction

As people across the world contend with coronavirus (COVID-19), Frederick Health is aware that some people with substance use disorders and addiction may be hit particularly hard. Not only can the virus be an especially serious threat to those who smoke, vape, or use opioids and methamphetamine, but individuals with a substance use disorder are more likely to experience homelessness or incarceration, have decreased access to healthcare, and are more susceptible to the current health threat of COVID-19.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorders or addiction or in recovery and need additional resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse or contact Frederick Health immediately. You may also visit the Resources section of our website.