Substance Use Disorder Signs & Symptoms

Millions of people abuse legal or illegal substances like medicine, alcohol, or marijuana to the point that their lives spin out of control. If you think you have a substance abuse disorder, one of the best ways to fight is to arm yourself with information, recognize the symptoms, and be willing to get help.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder, more commonly referred to as addiction, is a disease affecting someone’s brain and behavior and causes losing control when using a legal or illegal medicine. Substances like alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine are regarded as drugs. Addiction means you continue using the substance even with the harm it causes. It could have started innocently in social settings before it became frequent. Or, it may have begun with a medicine you were prescribed or by getting prescribed medicine from someone else.

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Substance use disorder doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Anyone can become addicted. According to one study, more than 20 million people in the U.S. over 12 have substance use disorder, while almost 10 million adults also have a diagnosed mental illness. Certain people can be predisposed to substance use disorder based on family history, mental wellness, peer pressure, absence of family involvement, using the substance at an early age, and highly addictive substance.

There are many warning signs and symptoms of substance abuse, some of which can be treated. General symptoms may include:

  • Believing that you must use the drug regularly, daily, or even multiple times a day
  • Urges to use the substance to block out other thoughts
  • Extended use means you need more of the substance to derive the same effect
  • Using larger amounts over a longer period than you intended
  • Always keep a supply of the substance on hand
  • Spending more money than you can afford
  • Not maintaining personal or work responsibilities or self-isolation due to substance use
  • You keep using the substance, even though it causes issues like personal strife or physical or psychological harm
  • Taking illegal action to obtain the substance or otherwise doing things to get it you normally wouldn’t do
  • Risky behavior while under the influence
  • Spending time getting the drug, using it, or recovering from its aftereffects
  • You can’t stop using whatever you are addicted to
  • Intense withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral issues
  • Financial difficulties resulting from loss of employment

Signs of substance abuse can be different based upon what the person is addicted to. Other symptoms can include:

  • You experience a sense of euphoria
  • You are more in tune with visual, auditory, or taste stimuli
  • You may have high blood pressure and a racing heartbeat
  • Lack of coordination
  • You have trouble with cognitive functions, like concentration or memory
  • You react slower than normal, such as answering your phone or a question from someone
  • You’re driven by anxiety and paranoia
  • You don’t do as well at school or work as you used to, and it’s becoming noticeable
  • You have fewer friends
  • You’re not interested in things you used to enjoy going to
  • You’re easily agitated or irritated or have other mood changes
  • Substance abuse disorder may also result in hallucinations, drowsiness, slurred speech, or even fast or rambling speech
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • You’re not inhibited the way you used to be about trying things you never considered before
  • Substance abuse disorder can also result in slowed breathing and low blood pressure
  • You may be prone to falls or accidents
  • Dilated pupils
  • Poor judgment
  • Nasal congestion and damage to your nose’s mucous membrane
  • Chills, sweating, and involuntary shaking

If you recognize warning signs of substance abuse, reach out to loved ones, friends, or faith-based or local or national support groups for help. The next step would be to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing a substance use disorder always depends on the severity and frequency of your symptoms, how it affects your physical and mental health, and other factors. Your healthcare provider or someone trained in addiction is best equipped to diagnose your problem, usually through medical examinations and psychiatric assessments.

In some cases, treatment may include self-help strategies, chemical dependence treatment programs, behavioral therapy, support groups, or even ketamine therapy to help control the symptoms of substance abuse. Depending on how bad the addiction is, your healthcare provider may recommend in-patient treatment or, in some instances, even hospitalization. But in many cases, recovery is possible over time.

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