Substance Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Addiction Center helps individuals struggling with drug addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Alcohol & Drug Addiction

Learn About Substance Abuse & Addiction

Some individuals can use alcohol and drugs without developing an addiction or negative effects. For many others, however, alcohol and substance abuse can lead to a multitude of problems. These can include interpersonal challenges, difficulties fulfilling responsibilities at home, work or school, and may lead to harmful or dangerous activities. Chronic substance abuse may result in feelings of shame, guilt, helplessness and pessimism.

Substance abuse occurs when an individual continues using the substance despite the negative cognitive, behavioral, physical, social and frequently mood-related symptoms.  These may include difficulty with decision-making, impulsive control, a worsening physical condition, social withdrawal, or irritability and anger outbursts.

There is a direct link between substance abuse and physical trauma. Other corollaries of substance abuse can be found in our nation’s prisons and jails where the irrefutable link between drug dependence, crime and abuse cannot be ignored. Some drug use such as cocaine and heroin has declined in recent years, while abuse of marijuana, prescription drugs heroin and “designer” or “club drugs” has increased. Drug dealers, in order to increase their products mix already-developed drugs together such as heroin and cocaine to produce a unique effect. This phenomenon has led to an increase in more potent types of drugs and an upsurge in overdose-related deaths.

People abuse all types of substances, legal and illegal for a variety of complex reasons.  The consequences of this abuse can be observed in hospitals and emergency rooms through the enormous number of lives affected. Substances are abused to create some type of desirable altered mental status or pleasurable effect.  They also lead to intoxication which results in poor judgment, distorted perception, decreased attention, loss of physical control and impaired decision making. Drug use ultimately changes the brain, thus inhibiting the user’s ability to immediately stop the behavior entirely without help.

Long-term use of even legally prescribed medication can result in withdrawal symptoms, negative physical and psychological symptoms when stopped or reduced.  Withdrawal from can range from mild anxiety and depression to seizures, delusions, hallucinations, coma, seizures and death. Thankfully, treatment professionals have extensive experience helping individuals who are struggling with substance abuse and substance use disorders.

Many times the psychological withdrawal symptoms are worse than the physical symptoms due to their long-lasting effects and the inability to use drugs to alter thought patterns about the substance. Individuals who have abused substances for a lengthy period of time may come to believe they can’t function normally without the drug. Others fear they will no longer be able to function at school or work, while others are concerned they will lose their self-confidence and ability to interact socially.

Our world has become increasingly competitive and economic conditions have made it harder for even educated and skilled individuals to find employment. This has led to many people turning to drugs in an effort to give them an edge. Unfortunately, people using drugs for these purposes often develop a tolerance, needing more of the drug to experience the desired effect. At high doses many drugs which once helped, produce negative effects.

Statistics

Statistics for Substance Abuse

Prevalence estimates indicates approximately 8.7% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 used an illegal substance in the previous month. Past month prevalence rates of nonmedical prescription drug use for this population were estimated at 2.4%.

More than half of those who use drugs begun doing so as teenagers. Of approximately 8,500 new users per day, approximately 53% were under the age of 18. The highest rate of drug abuse is found in those ages 18-20 with 23.8% having used illicit drugs in the past month.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Alcohol & Drug Addiction

Genetic: The risk of developing substance abuse is significantly higher when a first degree relative has the disorder compared to rates in the general populations.

Brain Chemistry: Drugs generally invade the brain’s communication system and interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process information. Substances do this by either imitating natural chemicals in the brain or by over stimulating the reward center of the brain.

Environmental: In some families, alcohol and drug use are conducted in front of children. Children in such families, who already have a genetic predisposition for substance abuse normalize this behavior in their family, learning drugs decrease stress. Additionally, drugs fulfill an important need the individual can’t attain otherwise.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol & Drug Addiction

While symptoms can differ based on the substance used, common symptoms include:

Psychological/Mood:

  • Altered mood state
  • Continued drug use despite the knowledge it is causing or exacerbating a psychological disorder
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor judgment
  • Changes in personality
  • Sudden changes in mood, irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • Feeling fearful, anxious or paranoid without reason
  • Lack of motivation to pursue any goal-related activity
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities

Behavioral:

  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school
  • Engaging in risky behavior when under the influence
  • Using the substance in hazardous conditions
  • Continued drug use despite legal problems
  • Much time and effort spent obtaining, using and recovering from the substance
  • Deterioration of physical appearance
  • Hiding drugs in different places =
  • Hiding drug use from others
  • Social withdrawal to avoid negative judgments or pressure to stop using the drug
  • Unexplained financial problems.
  • Illegal acts such as stealing to buy drugs
  • Lack of participation in previously frequented activities

Physical:

  • Altered perceptual experiences
  • Continued drug use despite knowledge it is causing or exacerbating an illness
  • Tolerance – the need to take more of the substance to produce desired effects
  • Taking the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Negative effect on immune system resulting in frequent illnesses
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns

Effects

Effects of Substance Abuse

Some common effects of drug abuse include:

  • Accidents and injuries
  • Criminal activity
  • Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect
  • Physical and psychological illness
  • Lost opportunities
  • Reduced productivity
  • Risky sexual behavior and promiscuity
  • Engaging in theft, violence and vandalism which may result in incarceration
  • Drug-related medical emergencies
  • Drug-related death
  • Infectious diseases
  • Homelessness
  • Loss of employment
  • Inability to obtain employment
  • Lack of control, impulsivity
  • Disruptive and antisocial behavior
  • Increased aggression and physical altercations

Co-occurring disorders refers to two or more disorders occurring in the same person.  They may but do not have to occur at the same time as one can occur after the other.  The term also implies the two conditions interact in a way which can worsen the severity of each. Just about every type of disorder has been found to co-occur with substance use disorders.

The most common co-occurring disorders are:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Stress related disorders including PTSD
  • Personality disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Impulse control disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sleep-wake disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disruptive disorders
  • Sexual disorders

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Drugs & Alcohol

While withdrawal symptoms depend largely on the substance, common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Restlessness, agitation
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremor
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heart beat or heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Hallucinations
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Feelings of helplessness/ hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia, hypersomnia
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression

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An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

Acadiana gave me the opportunity to overcome my battle with addiction. I feel like a whole new person

– Anonymous Patient