Alcohol, pills, recreational drugs, and in a lot of cases a combination of different substances, are omnipresent problems among the population – are we okay with this?
There’s a lot of buzz about these issues, but rarely anyone seems to be doing anything of huge value to stop or prevent substance abuse. What’s more, quite a lot of people are not aware that this widespread problem is actually a type of mental disorder.
Why this lack of social consciousness? It mainly has to do with how people actually perceive mental disorders. When one says “mental disorder/illness”, a great number of people instantly think “mad” or “disturbed,” painting a mental picture of someone who’s not exactly in their right mind.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are severe mental disorders that significantly affect one’s behavior, and even rational thinking, the definition of mental disorder actually refers to all conditions that negatively affect one’s mood, behavior, and thinking. This includes depression and anxiety. You wouldn’t say that someone who’s depressed is, in fact, mad, would you?
How Are Substance Abuse and Mental Health Connected?
Substance abuse and mental disorders are very closely related, but one doesn’t necessarily cause the other. If a person has any kind of mental illness, it doesn’t mean that they are definitely going to start drinking or using drugs.
However, drinking a lot and using drugs may increase the risk of underlying mental disorders. They may also worsen an existing mental health issue. And, of course, if someone already has a mental health disorder, they often do abuse various substances to self-medicate, and try and cope with the problem.
So, it all comes down to both genetics, and the way someone thinks and feels. If they perhaps feel depressed, or they’re already at risk of developing any other mental health issue, they turn to substance abuse to alleviate the symptoms. However, they often fall down the rabbit hole and make things worse, even triggering new symptoms.
What Drives Substance Abuse?
There are many causes of substance abuse, but the greatest one seems to be the genes. Genetic factors account for 40-60% of a person’s vulnerability to drug addiction, so genetics definitely play a huge role.
Other causes include family or relationship problems, stress, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, chronic pain, problems with sleep, poor financial situation, a family history of mental disorders or addiction, traumatic experiences, neglect, or abuse.
Furthermore, there’s peer pressure, which has always been a quite common factor contributing to substance abuse. If a person wants to fit into a friend group, and feel accepted, they may give in to peer pressure, and start using drugs or alcohol.
Last but not least, there’s the desire to try something new, to experiment. But just like all these other causes, this one too comes from a place where a person is suffering for any reason and wants to deal with the problem using various dangerous substances.
Call it escapism, if you will, but it definitely isn’t a way out. It makes both mental health and physical health worse, and it’s a problem that should be effectively dealt with.
Warning Signs of Substance Abuse
If you’re ever worried that someone you know may have turned to alcohol or drugs for any reason, you should be able to spot the warning signs, so that you can actually help them. The most common telltale signs of substance abuse include:
- Drastic changes in behavior (impulsive, volatile, angry)
- Sudden mood swings and irritability
- Sudden hyperactivity and euphoria
- Lack of motivation, energy, and interest
- Excessive and loud talking or trouble talking
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Twitching or excessive sweating
- Appetite changes
- Deterioration of hygiene
- Difficulty concentrating and coordinating
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Contracted or dilated pupils
- Watery or glassy, red eyes.
There are definitely more warning signs that you could spot, but you definitely couldn’t miss any of these. They differ from one substance to the next, but being aware of all these will absolutely help you gain a much clearer picture of whether or not someone you know has an alcohol or drug problem.
Can Substance Abuse Be Treated Effectively?
A lot of people are under the assumption that heavy alcohol or drug users can never fully get better. Others think that they need massive willpower to even try to overcome their addiction.
The truth is that substance abuse is a mental disorder that can be treated effectively. Granted, prolonged substance abuse is much more difficult to treat, but it’s far from untreatable.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, and need help getting better, you’re not alone. Reading this is an enormous step forward, but be sure to really ask for help. Talk to your family, because they love you and will certainly do anything to help you.
The next step is to seek professional help. You can talk with an expert counselor, but be sure to visit a doctor as well, because they’ll know exactly how to help you detoxicate and heal. Group therapies are also very helpful and effective. Peer support can really do wonders for your recovery, so be sure to join a support group.
Remember that asking for help doesn’t show weakness. It shows strength. So, don’t hide and think that the problem will go away. Step up, and decide to make a change, but let others support you and offer you a helping hand.
Do You Know Someone Who Is Struggling with Substance Abuse?
If someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, speak with them and offer your support. Visit together a professional who can help, and be there for them to make sure they stay sober during treatment.
Don’t lose hope if relapses happen. They’re actually often part of the process of recovery, and they don’t indicate that the problem is untreatable.
Substance abuse is one of the most serious problems in our society but, just like many other mental disorders, it can be treated effectively. The road to recovery may be long and grinding, but it’s more than worth for a long-term goal for a healthier life.