What Is Substance Abuse?

What are Substance-Abuse Disorders?

Substance abuse is a common disorder that impacts one’s brain and renders one incapable of controlling the usage of drugs and substances. According to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), there are 10 classes of drugs detailed including: 

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis 
  • Hallucinogens (such as LSD)
  • Inhalants 
  • Opioids 
  • Sedatives
  • Hypnotics 
  • Stimulants (such as Amphetamines, Cocaine)
  • Tobacco 

Substance abuse can trigger by increased use of recreational drugs to feel the effect i.e as one uses a drug more, they require a larger amount in order to feel it. This escalation can quickly lead to a dependency on the drug, making it difficult to exist without it. 

Classification of Substance-Abuse Related Disorders

There are two types of substance abuse disorders: 

  1. Substance-Use: Involving the continuation of use of a substance despite its debilitating effect on one’s life
  2. Substance-Induced: Involving the effects of a substance such as withdrawal, intoxication, and other mental disorders 

Symptoms of Drug Addiction

  • An intense need to use the drug regularly 
  • Requiring an increased dosage to feel the effects 
  • Experiencing Cognitive Dissonance: Engaging in activities one normally would not e.g theft or violence due to the overpowering need for the drug
  • Spending all of your money on obtaining the drugs, whether it’s affordable or not
  • Avoiding or failing to complete obligations, work, or school responsibilities 
  • The harmful impact on your social life and personal relationships due to drug usage
  • Unable to stop consuming the drug even if you wanted to 
  • Withdrawal symptoms on stoppage 

These are a few common symptoms that can be seen in someone struggling with drug addiction. However, one may experience the symptoms of the drug in different ways depending on the type of drug used. Some specific symptoms can include: 


A commonly abused substance is alcohol. Alcoholism occurs when one has difficulty controlling their consumption of alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if they go too long without drinking or rapidly stop.  Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to:

  • Liver Damage: Heavy drinking can impact one’s liver and cause enough damage to lead to improper functioning of the liver.
  • Heart Problems: Drinking can cause high blood pressure, heart failure, or strokes. 
  • Diabetes: Alcohol consumption can lead to low blood sugar which is dangerous in diabetic patients. 
  • Neurological Effects: Drinking can affect your nervous system, and lead to disoriented thinking, and memory problems. It can cause difficulty in cognitive function as well. 


Although caffeine intake is normal, such as through drinking your morning coffee, it is important to understand that an excessive amount of caffeine consumption can affect you adversely. Some of the symptoms include: 

  • Headaches, dizziness 
  • Nervousness 
  • Affects sleep, and can disrupt sleep cycles 
  • Excess caffeine can lead to increased anxiety, worry, irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing 

Caffeine withdrawal also includes troubling symptoms such as low energy, decreased cognitive function and concentration, and irritability. 

Cannabis, Marijuana: 

There are various forms of cannabis consumption, such as smoking, inhaling, and eating. Signs of consumption of cannabis can include: 

  • Increased paranoia, anxiety 
  • Heightened senses e.g visual, auditory, taste 
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure 
  • Difficulty in cognitive function such as concentration 
  • Reddened eyes 

Stimulants: Cocaine, Meth, Amphetamines 

Stimulants such as cocaine, meth, and amphetamines are drugs that can be misused to experience a high, or increase energy and concentration levels to improve performances and affect the central nervous system in various ways. Some symptoms of stimulant use can include:

  • Increased alertness, energy
  • Restlessness 
  • Exhilaration, confidence 
  • Speech Changes
  • Delusions, Hallucinations, Confusion
  • Increased irritability, anxiety, paranoia 
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure
  • Impaired concentration and judgment 
  • Sleeping Issues 


Hallucinogens are a group of drugs that can affect one’s perceptions, thoughts, and feelings and cause sensations that appear to be real, or hallucinations. Common examples include LSD. Some symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations: experiencing perceptions that are not real 
  • Impulsivity 
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure 
  • Tremors 
  • Aggressive, Violent 
  • Issues with motor skills 
  • Impaired concentration and judgment 


Common inhalants include glue, paint thinners, marker fluid, and gasoline. They are toxic substances that can have imperative effects on one’s health, such as:

  • Brain related damage 
  • Intoxication
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting 
  • Slurred speeches
  • Poor motor skills and coordination 
  • Tremors 
  • Loss of control 

What Can Lead to a Dependence on Drugs?

  • Diseases: One may get addicted to a drug after using them for a prescription 
  • Family History: A history of drug addiction is common in some families and leads to genetic disposition i.e, makes one genetically more likely to develop a drug addiction 
  • Mental Health Disorders: Having a mental health disorder can sometimes push people to use drugs in order to cope with their feelings 
  • Peer Pressure: One can be pressured into taking drugs 

How Can Drug Addiction Affect One’s Life? 

  • Health Problems: Drug addiction can lead to mental and physical diseases. 
  • Suicide: Often people addicted to drugs may be experiencing severe depression and commit suicide 
  • Family: Due to behavioral and emotional changes brought on by substance abuse, there are many family-related conflicts and issues 
  • Occupation: It is difficult for people using drugs to sustain a job, or perform as expected 
  • Education: Drug usage can adversely impact one’s academics
  • Money: People addicted to drugs often spend all their earnings to sustain their addiction

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