There are many justifications for consuming legal substances. For example, consuming prescription drugs to relieve pain is a logical decision. Consuming alcohol for a short-term escape is also a common validation.

Whilst recommended consumption guidelines can be safe in most cases, abusing such parameters can be damaging.

Substance misuse is where a substance is used beyond its role with the intention to experience greater effects. For most, the motivation to get high will be lacking. Yet the motivation to relieve pain, to feel the reward of consumption, or to manage a condition is there.

The misuse of a substance isn’t a conscious decision to churn the addiction cycle, but a desperate decision to battle a tolerance. Over the course of consumption, the effects of a drug can begin to reduce as the body and brain become accustomed to its relief. For someone who’s living with symptoms of physical or psychological illness, or any form of personal battle, substance misuse comes across as a rational way to improve quality of life.

In the moment, this action seems like a good idea. Yet the effects of substance misuse can be long-spanning and can turn into abuse and addiction is enabled.

Here’s some insight into the effects of substance misuse, its symptoms and how to break the cycle here at Asana Lodge.


Misuse, abuse, and addiction

Prescription drugs come with dosage parameters. Sensible alcohol consumption is communicated through guidelines. Even some illicit drugs carry usage recommendations. Whilst advice is present, for someone who’s misusing an addictive substance, guidelines will be discredited.

Some will consider substance misuse as ignorance. Whilst it is a conscious decision, to increase consumption levels, it will usually be controlled by a higher power of pain, cravings, or emotional distress.

Substance misuse begins when the effect of a substance starts to dwindle. For example, pain relief is used to manage the severity of pain. Over the course of a prescription, the body and brain can become used to such management, building a tolerance to the painkiller. For a user to encounter even greater relief, prescription drug misuse will be the answer. Prescription guidelines will be unintentionally abolished to benefit from the exposure.

Such action can come across as logical, yet there are many dangers behind substance misuse, from aggravating health problems and severe side effects to inducing additional ill-health. The greatest worry is how substance misuse can increase the risk of abuse and addiction, reflecting a fine line between pain relief and reward.

Abusing a substance is usually linked to experiencing a high, fulfilling the reward system, and catering to cravings. With such habit-like actions, abuse is diagnosed where consumption begins to damage and disrupt areas of life.

If exposure continues, a drug or alcohol addiction can amount, where a user lacks control over their consumption, feelings, and choices. Becoming dependent on drugs and alcohol is possible, without any form of intent.

Whilst a substance abuse disorder is the worst-case scenario, the effects of substance misuse can still be rife. Found to start the addiction cycle for many individuals, substance misuse is the starting point, which can aggravate the rebound effect and heighten many health problems.

Without awareness and control, substance misuse can turn into abuse, requiring intervention, treatment, and ongoing management.


Physical signs and symptoms of substance abuse

Substance abuse is where the control over consumption and its necessity begins to dwindle. This can occur whilst consuming prescription drugs, substances that are legal to purchase and deemed as harmless, and illicit drugs. A drug problem can develop where an addictive substance carries some form of reward for a drug user, whether that’s a genuine need for pain relief to the high of illicit exposure.

Signs, symptoms and the effects of substance misuse and abuse can vary depending on the drug of choice, consumption method and individual circumstances. There are however some physical changes that are commonly found once misuse turns to substance abuse.

  • A lack of physical control over the association
  • Poor physical health
  • Recurrent ill-health/symptoms of illness
  • Hangover-like symptoms
  • Physical cravings of drugs and alcohol
  • Insomnia and sleep problems
  • A short-term feeling of reward, followed by cravings and regret
  • Short-term effects such as a neglect to hygiene and appearance
  • Long-term effects to health and wellbeing such as liver disease, the rebound effect and, increased risks of cancer and co-existing disease
  • Withdrawal symptoms where consumption is paused/stopped
  • Reduced quality of life


Mental signs and symptoms of substance abuse

There are also some mental signs and symptoms of substance abuse to consider, indicating that psychological changes and possible dependence are occurring.

  • Mental health problems, co-occurring with substance misuse 
  • Using higher quantities of a substance to manage poor mental health
  • Short-term memory problems and clouded outlooks
  • Signs of depression, anxiety, and panic
  • Symptoms of paranoia and a change in emotional regulation
  • Impulsive behaviours
  • Chasing the reward of consumption
  • A lack of control over decisions
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Changes to behaviours, personality, and commitments
  • A lack of interest in relationships, work, and hobbies

Without breaking the cycle, misuse can turn into substance abuse, which can increase the risk of a disorder diagnosis. If a substance use disorder is diagnosed, this reflects a drug or alcohol addiction, where both control is lacking and where damages are increasing.

Misusing any type of drug can spiral behaviours, choices, and quality of life, by turning action into a habit. Breaking the cycle will be imperative in order to regain control.


Breaking the cycle of substance misuse

Intervention and treatment will be key across the addiction cycle. Whether someone is currently misusing a drug or feels completely controlled by its presence, a degree of treatment will be required.

Depending on the level of association between the drug user and the drug itself, various treatments and therapies will be available. At Asana Lodge, we assess the needs of our rehab clients, followed by a range of effective and safe treatment recommendations.

The majority of clients will need to taper off drugs or alcohol, even at the misuse stage. Withdrawing from heightened quantities will be key. Understandably, for someone who requires the assistance of medication, full withdrawal may be discouraged, or alternative therapy may be recommended in place. For those who do not rely on prescriptions, detoxification will be recommended.

Talking therapies and holistic therapies are also used to break the cycle. Getting to the bottom of the underlying motivation, rebalancing the internal reward system, and adapting outlooks will all be possible through therapy.

For drug users who display signs of addiction, a comprehensive treatment programme will be required, also including relapse prevention planningdual diagnosis treatments for those also suffering from mental health issues, and aftercare.

We treat each client individually here at Asana Lodge, offering the type and level of treatment that is required. The effects of substance misuse can materialise very differently, can discontinue at that point, or can intensify to resemble abuse and addiction. We’re here to understand your individual struggles and to offer a recovery plan towards withdrawal.

If you’re misusing a substance or feel controlled by its effects, reach out for medical and emotional support.


John Gillen - Author - Last Updated: 11 February 2022

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of Nad+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. his passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases.

The journey continues, in recent times john has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with Nad+ scientists and the very best of the medical profession in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Clinics own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists, Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with Nad+ therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.

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