Substance abuse is a massive problem in our society, and it needs to be taken seriously.
Substance abuse occurs through the use of alcohol, prescription medicine, or other legal or illegal substances that are abused too much (or not at all) by an individual.
The difference between substance addiction and just abusing these substances can differ dramatically. Some people with substance abuse problems find ways to stop their behaviour. In contrast, others cannot quit when needed, which leads them down the path towards addiction, where they become entirely dependent on some form of substance and unable to function without regular doses throughout everyday life.
How does substance abuse work?
It is usual for people in drug addiction or alcohol substance abuse to undergo expected stages of abuse. A proper understanding of these different stages will significantly help you determine and recognise the addiction and look for help before the victim becomes dependent.
Below are the stages of substance abuse:
- Experimentation - most alcohol addiction and drug abuse started with just a simple voluntary use. Those individuals thought that there is nothing wrong with experimenting to see and feel the actual effect of the substance. Little did they know that this first stage usually leads to regular use.
- Regular use - this stage is marked by the use on a regular or daily basis. It may not have to be every day, but a continuous pattern like every weekend characterises it. It could be predictable also if you notice someone is using whenever they feel lonely or stressed.
- Problem use - in this particular stage, the user starts to suffer emotional, physical, and legal challenges. For example, having problems at work or relationships may trigger adult users to take drugs or use a substance.
What is the difference between drug abuse and substance abuse?
Substance abuse is the repeated use of harmful substances such as alcohol and drugs. Often, the substance may be legal prescription drugs or, in some cases, may be banned medicines. Abuse occurs when a person is not utilising the substance the way it should be or the way it was recommended, such as taking more than the required dosage.
Substance abuse is characterised by the experiences of the following consequences in the previous months or years:
- Substance abuse resulted in specific legal issues.
- It has caused physical damage to anyone due to substance use.
- Inability to handle responsibility at home, at work, and even at school.
- Despite being apprehended, the user continues to use the substance.
- The self-denial of the severity of substance abuse.
Pragmatically, substance abuse is synonymous with drug abuse. This is how we differentiate substance or drug with behavioural addiction. The differentiation is between abuse and dependence or addictive use.
Though they are correlated to each other since certain substances like alcohol or prescription drugs can alter chemicals in the brain, the said chemical changes might trigger drug addiction.
Unknown to many, over-the-counter and prescription medicines are just as addictive and dangerous as illegal substances or drugs. You can be categorised in drug abuse if you are doing the following:
- Taking or consuming prescription drugs that are intended for another person
- Taking or consuming prescribed medicines more than the required dosage
- Taking medications for reasons outside medical concerns
What qualifies alcohol addiction?
Currently, alcoholism is known as alcohol use disorder. In this condition, an individual has a craving to consume alcohol, despite experiencing negative consequences on their lives.
Though we use the term "alcoholic" in the past, experts view this as unfavourable and unhelpful labels. So instead, health professionals now suggest the word "alcohol use disorder (AUD)” for such individuals.
The World Health Organization reported that globally, there are 3.3 million deaths annually that resulted from the abuse of alcohol. And spotting someone to have the signs or qualifications of alcohol addiction may sometimes be tricky and challenging. However, if you notice someone close to you exhibiting the following symptoms, then they may be suffering from alcohol addiction:
- They seem to be tired and irritable most of the time
- Always sports an intoxicated appearance
- Suffering from depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges
- Inability to decline alcohol
- Craving for more alcohol to achieve the same psychological and physical effects.
- Sudden ask for money which can’t be explained. It may indicate that they will use them for alcohol purchases.
Where to find help
If the drug or alcohol use is totally out of control, you should immediately seek professional help from a doctor. The sooner you ask for help, the greater the chance of long-term recovery.
Also, there are lifelines where you can seek help and support regardless of smoking, alcoholism, or drug abuse. The following organisations can significantly help you in establishing an effective treatment plan.
A worldwide, self-funded organization that offers an effective structure for alcoholics to sustain each other in achieving abstinence. Telephone number: 6475-0890
Address: 1 Commonwealth Drive, Singapore 149603
Email: [email protected]
Al-Anon family groups
The group provides assistance and support to friends and relatives of a person involved in alcoholism.
Telephone number: 9894-1201
Email: [email protected]
National Addictions Management Service (NAMS)
NAMS offers treatment for various addictions - drugs, gambling, alcohol, and others. A multidisciplinary team of specialists manages the group. Patients are subject to thorough assessment to analyze the best suitable treatment plan.
For inquiries: 6389-2000
For appointment: 6389-2200
All Addictions Helpline: 6-RECOVER (6-7326867)
National Problem Gambling Helpline: 1800-6-668-668
Email: [email protected]
Drug abuse and substance abuse, which are now changed to substance use disorder, have already cost millions of lives all over the world. If you know someone being trapped in this pitfall, try to suggest going to a support group. If they are unwilling, you can offer a confidential telephone service. There is no doubt that you are also affected if someone you care about is trapped in addiction. Act now before it’s too late.