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  • Writer's pictureSophia Carter

How to Know When Substance Use Has Escalated into Substance Abuse

It is not uncommon to find people experimenting with drug or alcohol use for fun, celebrations, tough times, or cultural events. They may have a drink here or there. They may even give in to the peer pressure of giving a recreational drug a try. There are tons of instances in which one participates in substance use. Most people, however, can control their substance use. What happens when the substances begin to control you, though? While most people have participated in substance use at one point in their lives or another, some experience an addiction that begins to take over their lives.

Substance abuse can happen to anyone. It can happen to your father- the man who seems invincible. It can happen to your best friend- the girl who appears to have her whole life together. It can happen to anyone.

Now, substance use does not automatically lead to the development of a substance abuse issue. It is possible to participate in substance use without experiencing any issues or developing a problem. However, some people just so happen to be at a higher risk for developing an addiction or substance abuse problem than others.

There is a fine line between substance use and substance abuse. If you are curious about whether a loved one or yourself has escalated their substance use into substance abuse, you should examine the quality of life.

Addiction and substance abuse can take over your life. It can become an obsession and a crutch. Those suffering from an addiction may begin to feel as though they cannot properly function without their substance, which will lead to the development of many problems in their lives.

If your substance use has begun to take its toll on your quality of life, from your relationships to your reputation, your career, and your health, your substance use may have escalated to substance abuse.

Who’s at Risk for Developing an Addiction?

Anybody can develop an addiction regardless of their how old they are, sex, reputation, or social status. However, certain factors will put one person at a higher risk of developing an addiction than another. These risk factors include:

Family history - Those born to families with a history of addiction are at a higher risk than those who were not. There is a lot of research that suggests that addiction can be caused by genetics, and environment. These facts strengthen the argument that family history is a risk factor for substance abuse.

Mental health issues - It is not uncommon for those who experience mental health issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression to develop a substance abuse problem. The substance use may become a crutch to help them deal with their mental health disorder which could eventually lead to a substance abuse problem.

Substance use at a young age - The brain is not considered fully developed until around the age of 25. Those who use substances like drugs and alcohol before their brains are completely developed are at a higher risk of addiction and substance abuse.

Traumatic experiences - Those who have experienced traumas like abuse or neglect tend to be at higher risk for developing an addiction.

Use of highly addictive substances - Certain substances are more addictive than others, such as cocaine and opioids. There are also certain methods for administration, like smoking or injecting drugs, that place one at a higher risk of developing an addiction.

Signs of Substance Abuse

Recreational substance use and substance abuse are not as black and white as you may believe. There is a very fine line one crosses when they escalate from substance use into substance abuse. When you find that substance use begins to create problems in your life, it may indicate that you are beginning to step into substance abuse territory.

As substance use begins to escalate into substance abuse, one will often find that they are beginning to rely more and more on substances to fulfill certain needs. Some may depend on alcohol when in social settings. Others may depend on prescription drugs to cope with anxiety. Depending on a substance to feel better can begin to take a toll on your physical health and overall quality of life.

Addiction causes physical changes within your brain. Most substances send a surge of dopamine that brings pleasure to your brain. The more surges of dopamine your brain experiences, the more desensitized it becomes to pleasure. This desensitization will increase one’s desires for drugs or alcohol, leading to the escalation of substance abuse. Substance abuse can consume you, leading to issues with your relationships, career, health, and overall quality of life. Signs that you or a loved one have escalated from substance use into substance abuse include:

Neglecting your responsibilities - Your grades may drop in school, your work may begin to suffer, or you may neglect your children. Instead of taking care of your responsibilities, your mind will be consumed with thoughts of substance use.

Irresponsible use of drugs or alcohol - When substance use escalates into substance abuse, you may begin to participate in more risky behaviors, whether you are seeking intoxication or are already intoxicated. This can include risky behaviors like driving under the influence or having unsafe sex.

Legal troubles - The risky and neglectful behaviors linked to substance abuse typically lead to run-ins with law enforcement. You may find yourself in legal trouble for actions like stealing, assault, or driving under the influence.

Relationship problems - Drug abuse can cause many issues in relationships due to irresponsible or aggressive behaviors. When alcohol or drugs become more and more important in your life, your relationships will suffer.

Negative impact on your overall quality of life - If drug or alcohol use seems as though it is beginning to take a toll on your health and wellness, your substance use may have escalated into abuse.

Seeking Help

If you are worried that a loved one has escalated to substance abuse, try to speak to them about your concerns in a loving, nonjudgmental way. Substance abuse worsens over time, both for one’s mental health and physical health. The quicker your loved one can find help, the better. Do not, however, put yourself in danger to help them. You must take care of yourself first in order to be able to take care of anybody else properly.

If you are worried that you may have escalated into substance abuse, know that you are not alone. There are many treatment options that have been shown to be effective in substance abuse recovery. Substance abuse will worsen over time, so do not wait to seek the help of a certified addictions counselor at Rhapsody Behavioral Healthcare. The earlier you seek help, the quicker you can recover. As always, we are here to help.

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