Substance abuse is a term that describes the misuse or overuse of any substance. This can apply to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. For example, taking one pill as your prescription specifies when you have a headache is the appropriate use of that drug. Taking three pills, even when the pill bottle and your doctor indicate that one is enough, because you believe that they work better when you take more, is substance abuse. The consistent abuse of a substance is what becomes addiction.
Not everyone who abuses a substance becomes an addict. There are those who will participate in some binge drinking in college, then graduate and never “party” again. There are others who will over-indulge at a wedding or football game, recognize they made a fool of themselves, and act more moderately in the future. However, people who show a pattern of substance abuse very often become addicts. Many who are abusing substances may already be addicted, but are still early enough in their addiction to hide the full extent of their habit. Anyone showing a propensity toward substance abuse should be evaluated and appropriate treatment should be sought.
Fighting Substance Abuse
Those who are early in their addictions may not see the need for treatment. They may say, “I can handle this on my own,” or “I don’t party that much” and sincerely mean it. They may be right. Those who are not full-fledged addicts may be able to overcome their habit and change their behavior before the ravages of long-term substance abuse and addiction take hold. These people can receive help before their lives are completely devastated by their actions. It is not necessary to lose everything in order to get help. There are many levels of care available for those who have developed various levels of addictive behavior. A candid conversation with and evaluation by an addiction specialist is the best way to determine what level of care your loved one may need.
The line between substance abuse and addiction is blurring. Street drugs are much more potent than they ever were in the past. Prescription medications are also killing people at an alarming rate. In a late 2012 report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, the time between the beginning of prescription medication abuse and death from accidental overdose is now averaging only three years. The Los Angeles Times has reported that by their calculations, accidental overdose of prescription drugs is now a leading cause of death in most age groups. The mixing of even small amounts of prescription medications with alcohol or other substances can result in death. A carefully supervised detox is often required even for those who have been abusing prescription medications only a short time. Thus, it is important not to look the other way if someone you care about is abusing any substance. Seek help now.
Substance Abuse Treatment
It is no longer necessary for someone to admit that they have a problem before seeking treatment and support for substance abuse. You or your loved one needs only the willingness to honestly discuss what substances are being abused, in what quantities, and for what duration. Then, a caring, supportive expert can determine whether or not a medical detoxification program is required and what level of support you will need to help you understand why it is that you are abusing substances instead of using healthier, more productive ways to deal with your problems. If you are willing to try this, you may well prevent years of agony and the development of a full-blown addiction problem. We are available to help you determine what your needs are and find the best level of care for you.