In today’s demanding and fast-paced world, many suffer from stress and it’s not unusual for individuals to turn to substances like alcohol or drugs as a way to relax, cope and even escape. While casual use of drugs and alcohol may seem harmless, it’s important to note that it could soon become substance abuse, which can cause a number of complications and side effects.

Here, we explore ‘what is substance abuse?’, the signs of substance abuse as well as the transition from drug or alcohol use and explain what you can do to avoid the situation.


Signs That Substance Abuse Has Developed

It’s important to remember that anyone can suffer from substance abuse, and it may be that you don’t realise you are. Substance abuse can also manifest in a range of ways but some of the most common warning signs include:

Increased tolerance – If you require larger amounts of drugs or alcohol in order to achieve the same effect, this indicates that the body is building a tolerance to the substance. Tolerance is often a common precursor of dependency.

Loss of control – If you are struggling to stop using the substance, and often consume more than intended or for longer periods of time, this can also be a sign of abuse.

Neglecting responsibilities – Substance abuse can lead to the prioritisation of substances over other life responsibilities. This can not only strain relationships but also impact personal growth.

Continued use despite risks – Persistent and excessive substance use can lead to several physical and mental health complications and also have a bigger impact on life including legal issues, financial concerns and damage to relationships. A red flag of substance abuse is continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite these negative consequences.

Loss of interest in hobbies – As substance abuse develops, it’s not uncommon for people to lose interest in things they once enjoyed. This is because the substance typically becomes the sole focus of their life.

Withdrawal symptoms – Physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone tries to stop or cut down the substance. This can range in severity and include irritability and severe health concerns – this is a big indication that dependence has developed.


How Does Substance Abuse Start?

Knowing the signs of substance abuse is just as important as knowing the origins of substance abuse. Both can help to prevent substance use from becoming more serious. Anyone is at risk of substance abuse and it often begins as a result of casual drug or alcohol use in social or recreational settings. However, there are certain risk factors and situations that require closer attention.

Mental health conditions – Anxiety, depression or even trauma can result in individuals leaning towards a substance and using it as a coping mechanism. Therefore, treating underlying mental health concerns is important if you want to break the cycle of abuse.

Genetic predisposition – Some individuals are more susceptible to substance abuse compared to others. This includes those with a family history of mental health and substance abuse. This isn’t to say that these individuals will definitely suffer from substance abuse, however.

Environmental factors – Peer pressure, trauma and even highly stressful environments can all contribute to someone using substances and abusing them. With this in mind, it’s important to address these issues to intervene early.


The Difference Between Substance Abuse and Substance Use

It’s important to note that casual substance use and substance abuse differ hugely. While substance use is typically occasional and recreational, substance abuse often involves harmful behaviours and risky consequences. The main differences are listed below:

Frequency of Use

Substance use is usually moderate and sporadic while abuse is consistent and excessive use.

Impact on Daily Life

Substance use, which is casual, generally doesn’t interfere with day-to-day life. In contrast, substance abuse often impacts daily functioning and can lead to issues regarding work, finances, health and personal relationships.

Withdrawal symptoms

Substance abuse is identified by the development of dependence which causes withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut down or quit. Casual substance users typically don’t suffer from this.


Prevention Strategies for Substance Abuse

One way for individuals to prevent their substance use from turning into substance abuse is to use the following proactive strategies to foster a healthier lifestyle:

Education and Awareness

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, as well as any risks associated with drugs and alcohol so that you can make informed decisions about your usage.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

If you find yourself reaching for drugs or alcohol after a stressful day, try to find healthier coping mechanisms like exercise, meditation or hobbies that make you feel good.

Build a Support Network

It’s important to build and maintain strong connections with friends and family members who can provide much-needed support and encouragement. This can reduce your chances of turning to substances for relief. Be sure to be open and honest with them so they know how you’re really feeling.

Set Boundaries

Set yourself clear boundaries for substance use and communicate these to friends and family. It’s also important to be strong when it comes to maintaining them.

Understand Your Triggers

If you know that certain situations or feelings make you more prone to substance use, then you should avoid relapse triggers. Again, by communicating these to others, you are more likely to be supported in your journey.

Intervene Early

Address any signs of depression, anxiety or stress early on to prevent you from turning to substances and if you think your substance use is increasing or getting out of hand, you should also consider professional support.


How to Get Help for Substance Abuse

The first step in getting help is to recognise that you have a problem. This can often be one of the most difficult things to do but it’s important to be honest with yourself. Then, get in touch with a professional who can provide tailored advice and guidance throughout the recovery process.

Not only can a team like the one at Asana Lodge help you to get your life back on track but they can answer any questions too. This is a great way to learn about a range of treatment options including therapy and counselling, finding one that suits you best. As well as getting help for alcohol and drug dependency, you may also find it useful to surround yourself with loved ones and local support groups for extra encouragement and understanding.


Take the First Step Towards Recovery with Asana Lodge

Substance abuse is a difficult and complex issue but understanding the signs of it and knowing the difference between abuse and substance use is important. If you or someone you know is struggling with dependency on drugs or alcohol, take the first step today and get in touch with our team. Don’t wait any longer and instead seek professional help and remember that everyone has the opportunity to rebuild their life.

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