To many, substance abuse is only a problem if it involves dangerous substances. That could not be further from the truth! A chemical dependency is a problem anytime a substance is used inappropriately or in excess. Substance abuse does not just refer to common problems like alcoholism and illegal drug addiction.
Defining Substance Abuse
In the very simplest definition, substance abuse is the inappropriate use of any substance. Often, this phrase means drug or alcohol abuse as well as addiction.
Technically, abusing substances doesn’t need to only refer to illegal street drugs or alcoholic beverages. In fact, some might argue that inhaling coffee grounds, as a odd example, would be the abuse of the substance of coffee. Clearly, not every example of substance abuse is illegal, but it can be unhealthy.
It is important to make this distinction because some people abuse substances, but don’t think it is a problem. Just because something isn’t illegal, it doesn’t mean it is right, healthy or safe.
Take marijuana as another example. In many states, marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes, and in other states marijuana can be consumed recreationally. Smoking marijuana multiple times a day, and feeling symptoms of marijuana withdrawal, might be legal in some states. However, it is a clear example of abusing a substance that could detract from happiness, life fulfillment and health.
Understanding Chemical Dependency
A chemical dependency is anytime that the body requires some kind of chemical response in order to function as desired. A common misconception is that those suffering from a chemical dependency regularly consume chemicals – namely drugs. In reality, all kinds of substances can create chemical responses in the body and brain.
Some people would argue that a chemical dependency can even be a relatively harmless substance. Sugar, for instance, gets immediately broken down into certain chemicals, many of which create a dramatic response in the brain and the body. For many people, of course, sugar is not a chemical that causes significant worry.
However, it is important to note that sometimes, chemical dependencies are things that might go unnoticed. Nicotine, for example, causes a chemical response whenever it is consumed. Try to take nicotine away from a long-time smoker, and it becomes clear that withdrawal symptoms are likely!
Anytime that a person needs a chemical response to feel better, or to function, it is a dependency. This could mean caffeine, nicotine or more harmful, risky substances like heroin and alcohol.
Comparing Physical and Psychological Dependence
There are two common types of dependence that people struggle with. The first is a physical dependence and the second is a psychological dependence.
A physical dependence is when a person requires a certain dose of a medicine, or a certain amount of any substance, in order to feel physically okay. Often, this is what develops among patients with acute injuries or pain.
If a person is diagnosed with a pain medication, and then takes it daily, a dependence can form. Over time, trying to stop taking that medication will make it clear that a physical dependence has occurred.
In contrast, a psychological dependence is less physical in nature and more mental or emotional. For example, a person that takes an anti-anxiety medication might not be in pain if a dose is forgotten. However, they might struggle to function on a psychological level.
In some cases, it is possible for a person to be dealing with both physical and psychological dependence. This is especially true with chronic drug or alcohol addiction, particularly when large amounts are consumed regularly.
How Chemical Dependencies Develop
From a scientific perspective, it is relatively straightforward to see how a chemical dependency develops. Essentially, the body adjusts to the substance being taken. In doing so, it forgets how to function without that chemical dose or release.
Certain chemicals and substances make more of an impact than others. Heroin, as one example, can result in a heroin addiction for 23 percent of all first-time users. Other substances may be less addictive or they can cause dependencies in a slower fashion.
Commonly Abused Substances
There is a long list of substances that are abused by people around the world. All illegal drugs, as well as alcohol, are abused by millions. Also, prescription medications are widely abused substances.
Of course, not everyone who drinks or takes prescription medication is abusing that substance. A patient who is prescribed painkillers by their doctor isn’t abusing the medication if they follow all instructions. However, lying about consumption, or taking the medication for longer than needed, would qualify as abuse.
Drinking a glass of wine would certainly not be considered the abuse of alcohol. Binge drinking, on the other hand, would likely be considered abuse of the substance.
A brief list of some of the many different abused substances can include the following:
- Anabolic steroids
- Prescription painkiller
- Prescription stimulants
The Consequences of Abusing Substances
Abusing substances is not a harmless act. In fact, it can lead to physical, emotional, psychological, financial, career, relationship and legal problems.
The biggest issue of note is that the abuse of many substances can cause substantial health concerns. A major health concern is often addiction. Becoming addicted to any substance can result in obsessive patterns of thinking and dangerous, risky behavior.
The health problems can also impact the function of the brain and the body. Side effects are numerous, and they depend on the type of substance being consumed. In many cases, long-term health effects can include things like the development of cancer or heart failure. In the worst cases, they can lead to overdoses and even death.
Substance use, abuse and addiction can also lead to psychological concerns. It is common for those dealing with addiction to also struggle with mental health issues. Mental illness can include things like anxiety, depression and paranoia.
The abuse of substances can also result in addiction, which can derail many goals and responsibilities. Substances can become more important than family, friends, work or education.
Treating Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependency
Substance abuse treatment always has to start with one crucial element–detox. It is through a detox that patients can break that chemical dependency and end the abuse of their substance of choice.
The best way to accomplish a detox is in a quality detox facility. This allows for safe withdrawal and medical attention around the clock. It also offers comfort to patients in a challenging time.
To end substance abuse once and for all, visit Serenity House Detox. Call 866-294-5306 to learn more about how the right medical detox program and begin your journey to sobriety.