Substance Related Disorders

Substance related disorder, or drug abuse as it is more generally referred to, is when you use any substance, whether prescribed or recreational, excessively to a point that it leads to significant problems or even long-term damage. When you consume any substance in a manner, or amount, that is harmful to yourself or others, it is seen as substance abuse.

The substances involved in this type of abuse are those that can cause intoxication, poor judgment, changes in perception, and, in some cases, loss of physical control. In most cases, the abused substances are alcohol and illegal drugs, however, it is not uncommon for prescription drugs and legal substances, such as cigarettes and coffee, to be abused.

You may, or may not, know it but substance related disorders such as substance dependence and abuse can lead to serious issues, both for yourself and others around you. In the UK, more than 2 million people are suffering from one form of substance related addiction or another, with the primary demographic being those aged between 18 and 25. There is also a higher prevalence of substance related disorders among men, and they are also more common in cities and urban areas than in the countryside. The number of people admitted to hospitals across the UK for drug-related disorders has gone up in recent years, with statistics revealing that more than 60% of patients in recovery and treatment centres are there because of addiction and substance related issues. A good number of individuals with these disorders will usually have what is known as a “dual diagnosis”, which involves substance abuse as well as a psychiatric diagnosis, the most common being depression, anxiety, personality disorder and/or dysthymia. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from substance related disorders or substance abuse, it can lead to psychiatric and health complications in the future if not dealt with immediately.

Signs and Symptoms

As a general rule, substance related disorders are divided into two groups, those being substance induced disorder and substance use disorder. You can tell if a person is suffering from substance induced disorder by looking out for signs such as intoxication and withdrawal, as well as mental complications, such as sleep and psychotic disorders. Substance use disorder can be spotted by looking out for significant problems in the individual’s life, such as problems with work, school, friends, and family.

There are several ways you can tell if someone is struggling with drug or substance abuse. While some of the signs and symptoms may match those of other health complications, they are also a sign that the individual is abusing one or more substances.

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Breaking it down further, this is what to look out for:

  • Sudden changes in behaviour, such as engaging in secretive and suspicious activities.
  • Sudden and unexplained mood changes ,including sudden anger towards others and a sense of paranoia.
  • Problems with performance in school or work.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Unexplained weight changes, including rapid weight loss or weight gain.
  • Sudden change in the people they spend time with.
  • Sudden and unexplained change in their financial situation and always needing money.

This is in no way an exhaustive list. There are a lot of symptoms that are both physical and psychological, although these depend on the type of drugs, and the amount, taken. It is, however, not uncommon for people with substance related disorders to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using on their own, or if the drug is taken away from them. This is why it is advisable to seek professional help in cases like these, as a professional will be better able to provide the level of care and treatment the individual needs.

You may also notice that you, or the person suffering from these disorders, will begin to have strong cravings after not using the drug or substance for a long time. Scientists have carried out multiple tests using mice, in a bid to discover how the brain triggers these cravings. It is now assumed that these cravings, in substance related disorders, have something to do with a type of personality disorder known as DSM-5.

Causes of Substance Related Disorder

Researchers have not yet discovered a singular reason why people get involved in taking illicit substances or drugs. What is understood, though, is that some people develop these disorders more easily than others. You are more likely to develop mental complications and cross addiction if you suffer from substance related disorders. However, this varies from person to person. Only know that, as a parent, if you abuse drugs, your children are more likely to do so, and eventually develop these disorders themselves.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with drugs and substance abuse, chances are you or they got involved for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Wanting to belong
  • Peer pressure
  • Curiosity
  • A need for extra confidence
  • As a sign of rebellion
  • To ease pain and/or worry
  • As a sign of change in status

Whatever the causes are, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that, to some extent, socio-economic and environmental factors play a significant role in the process.

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Risks and Complications

Whether you know it or not, there are several potential complications associated with substance abuse. The habit, if not controlled, can lead to psychological changes, physiological damage, health complications, and social changes that can impact you and the people around you.

The most obvious is the physiological damage. These are abnormal conditions that can affect your body as a result of excessive drug use or consuming harmful substances. For example, there are several well known and well-documented diseases caused by alcohol, such as liver disease, hepatitis, and heart disease. Similarly, substance abuse is often related to premature ageing, infertility, decline in cognitive function, and a higher risk of other health complications due to a weakened immune system.

Long-term use has also been linked to changes in personality such as paranoia, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, drug misuse has also been linked to personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder.

You are likely to have become a social pariah as a result of your substance abuse. This is because in the UK, as in the majority of countries, drug and substance abuse is seen in a negative light. As pointed out earlier, you are likely to face criminal charges, including possible incarceration, if caught with, or using, any illegal substances. There is also the possibility that you, or someone else, may partake in criminal or anti-social activity while under the influence of these substances.

Help and Treatment

The one good thing about substance related disorders is that they can be treated just like every other disease. While some forms of abuse and disorder may not require medical attention, such as those that involves the overuse of substances such as tobacco, caffeine or cannabis, other forms of addiction require special intervention, that may involve recovery programmes and therapy, as well as support groups and, in some cases, the use of hypnosis and other alternative non-medical options. These processes will help diminish cravings for drugs, and reduce withdrawal symptoms, ultimately helping to put an end to addiction and abuse once and for all.

Getting addicted to substance can happen suddenly or over a long time. Most of the time time, it will happen without you even knowing.

If you are battling with any form of substance abuse, or know someone who is, it is important that you take the steps to help yourself, or the person, immediately. Substance related disorder can escalate and result in severe complications for everyone involved if not handled on time. Fortunately, professional help is always available for these situations.

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