What are the consequences of substance use disorder?
Are you concerned about substance abuse and how it can affect your mental health? You may have started out using a psychoactive drug for a variety of reasons. Eventually, the use of an addictive substance can lead to drug addiction.
Have you taken a drug that alters your state of mind or mood? The substance works by activating specific receptors in the central nervous system.
Over time, the imbalance in brain chemistry starts to cause trouble. Also, there is the over stimulation of certain regions of the brain. For example, the reward center of the brain becomes altered with repeated use of an addictive substance.
Is it a mood disorder or the consequences of substance use disorder?
Have you been a substance abuser for a long time? Binge drinking or daily alcohol abuse is an example of substance misuse. Even prescription medication abuse can lead to a substance abuse problem.
So, whether it is a legal drug or illegal drug, substance abuse can lead to addiction. An addiction, or substance abuse disorder, involves a prolonged attack on the neurochemical balance in the brain.
Over time, you may develop depressive symptoms, or exhibit symptoms of other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder. Your doctor may not be certain at first if you have a dual diagnosis or not.
The effects of a psychoactive drug on the brain can mimic mental illness. It will take time for your brain to heal after quitting drugs. Then, your doctor will be able to evaluate you for a co occurring disorder. Or, they may note that it was the drugs causing you to appear to be depressed, anxious, or paranoid.
Can an illicit substance cause the spread of infectious diseases?
Drug use can cause the spread of diseases in specific circumstances. You are likely already aware that sharing dirty needles can lead to HIV or hepatitis infections. Yet, when under the influence of addictive behavior, you may not care about consequences.
Addiction can cause you to make poor decisions. The obsession with drugs and the compulsion to continue using drugs in spite of self-harm can lead you to do whatever it takes to get the drug into your body.
If you are exposed to an infectious disease, such as HIV or hepatitis, because of illicit drug use, the consequences can be severe. Even after you quit using drugs, a chronic infectious disease can pose serious long-term health issues.
What are the causes of substance abuse in the first place?
If you have a co occurring disorder, you may find that an illicit substance provides relief from a mental health disorder. Self-medicating with substance abuse is dangerous and often leads to addiction.
Other causes of substance abuse include childhood or adult trauma, or even boredom and a desire to get high. Recreational substance misuse with an addictive substance can also progress to drug addiction.
The negative consequences of being a substance abuser can take years to become an issue. If you are a substance abuser and you have not had any health or legal consequences of drug use, it may just be a matter of time.
What are the worst consequences of drug addiction?
If I were to ask you this question, you might first think of three common answers. Jails, institutions, and death are consequences of drug addiction that are listed in the Narcotics Anonymous literature.
While these are very serious consequences of drug addiction, with death being the worst of the three, there are other consequences of substance abuse that are more likely to scare drug abusers. It is not easy to scare someone addicted to drugs. But, if you can get through to someone who uses drugs, you might plant the seed of recovery.
One thing that scares many people who struggle with addiction is regret over lost time. It is hard to imagine that, more than fearing death and prison, an addicted person would fear growing old and wasting years on endless drug abuse. Yet, like any other human being, a person with a substance abuse disorder started out with dreams of what they wanted to do in life.
Many of us know exactly what we want to be when we grow up, and then we later make compromises. For some people, this might mean going into a career that is not in line with their childhood dreams. For others, it could mean years of substance abuse.
Are the consequences of substance abuse worse for certain drugs?
Alcohol is one of the most damaging drugs of abuse. Just because it is legal does not mean that it is safer than any illegal drug.
The consequences of long-term alcohol abuse and the harm to the body are severe. Alcohol can cause damage to the brain, heart, liver, and other organ systems. Even occasional binge drinking can cause irreversible damage to the brain.
With everyone talking about the opioid epidemic and drug overdose incidents, you would think that opioids are among the most harmful drugs. In some ways, you would be correct.
For example, heroin is an illicit substance that is only available on the streets in the US. The drug is often mixed with fentanyl. A substance abuser might overdose on a potent fentanyl/heroin mix. Or, they might get a chronic infection. Heart valve damage, or endocarditis, is also a possibility.
Yet, if a patient is given pharmaceutical grade heroin and safe supplies, under careful supervision, it is not a very dangerous drug. Opioids, unlike alcohol, do not typically cause progressive damage to the brain and body with prescribed use.
What drug addiction treatment is best to prevent further consequences of substance abuse?
If you are addicted to alcohol or another drug, you may have found that quitting is hard to do. It takes more than will power or a brief intervention from family, friends, or coworkers.
When you quit ongoing use of a psychoactive drug, you will likely suffer from withdrawal symptoms. With alcohol and opioids, withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous.
Asking for help in quitting an addictive drug is a good idea. Some people go to recovery meetings and ask the group for help in supporting their recovery. Others may choose rehab to help them quit drugs.
For alcohol addiction and opioid addiction, there is effective treatment that you can get from a doctor. With the help of medication-assisted treatment, your transition off of drugs can be easier. And, your chance of avoiding relapse will be higher with medical treatment.
What options are available for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder?
Drug abuse treatment medications such as ZubSolv, Subutex, Bunavail, and Suboxone, can help greatly in recovering from opioid addiction. These medications all contain the ingredient, buprenorphine. The prescription drug, buprenorphine is a unique opioid receptor blocker that is also a partial opioid agonist. In addition to taking a prescription medication, your doctor will talk to you about getting individual therapy.
Your doctor may also recommend group therapy or peer support groups. While they do not have the highest success rates by themselves, group meetings can be helpful in addition to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Group meetings include the traditional spiritual groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). AA and NA are known as 12-step groups. Besides going to meetings, group members work with a sponsor to get through the 12-steps.
What is a sponsor and what are the 12 steps?
A sponsor is like a mentor or a life coach. In some cases, a sponsor may become a close, personal friend. They may be there to guide you through difficult life choices and provide advice that is in line with the principles of the 12-step program.
Yet, there is no guarantee that your sponsor will be like a friend or parent to you, getting involved in all aspects of your life. The basic purpose of having a sponsor is to help you to work through the 12 steps.
A sponsor is not there to function as your psychiatrist. They cannot diagnosis or treat a psychiatric disorder or address a mental health problem. Your sponsor will help you work the steps so you can live a better life without the need for addictive drugs.
The 12 steps of AA and NA are very similar. They are literally a list of 12 statements that are listed in the text books of the program and are often posted in meeting rooms. At first glance, it does not seem like there is any work to be done regarding the steps.
When you first read through the steps, you may believe that you can simply read and contemplate them. After reading them once or twice, you might think you have “worked the steps.”
Working the steps involves a great deal of writing and introspection. Your sponsor may provide special worksheets to guide you and prompt you to write on topics related to each step.
Your sponsor may even recommend that you pray before getting to work, writing about the steps. The process of working the steps is a spiritual journey.
Are 12-step groups the only way to meet people who are recovering from addiction?
It is good to be surrounded by new friends who have no interest in taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Recovery group meetings are a great place to meet these people and get to know them.
However, you may not be comfortable with the practice of working the steps in AA, NA or any other 12-step group. Praying, meditating, and believing in a higher power may make you uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are other groups where you can meet people who have suffered the consequences of substance use disorder and are now working to get better. There are groups such as Smart Recovery, where the meetings are based on cognitive behavioral therapy. There is also LifeRing, another non-12-step group.
As you can see, there are alternatives to the traditional AA and NA meetings. AA was founded in 1935. NA was founded in 1953. Newer groups are more modern and may be better aligned with the scientific and medical advances of the past few decades.
Is it a good idea to see a psychologist or drug counselor for help?
A psychologist is someone who has studied the vast field of psychology for many years. They have credentials to allow them to work with patients. In most cases, when we think of a psychologist, we think of someone who has a PhD in the field, making them a doctor of psychology. A doctor of psychology is highly trained in many forms of therapy and schools of thought in treating patients with mental health issues.
While a psychologist can be very helpful as part of a medication-assisted treatment program, there are reasons why someone might not see a psychologist. One reason might be financial. Psychology sessions are expensive and early on in treatment, it might be recommended that you see the psychologist every week.
Another issue could be that the psychologist prefers certain types of therapy that happen not to work well for you. Psychology is a large field that has volumes of text books that teach many forms of psychotherapy. You could possibly go to a psychologist who limits practice to only certain types of therapy.
What about a drug counselor?
There are certification programs for becoming a drug counselor that can be completed in a very short time. It may be possible to finish a drug counselor program in a month or less.
Often, the criteria for being a drug counselor includes being in recovery from addiction and little else. A psychologist goes to school for many years. Likewise, a medical doctor or osteopathic physician goes to school for years and then completes a residency that typically takes at least an additional three years to finish.
It is hard to imagine a drug counselor being prepared to work with patients overcoming substance abuse and addiction. While they may share similar experiences to some clients, they simply do not have the set of tools and years of experience that a licensed healthcare professional has.
Is it possible to ever fully get past the negative consequences of substance abuse?
When you first quit drugs, it may seem as if you are never going to get back to feeling normal again. You may even believe that drug use caused you to develop a mental disorder. People tell you that you just have to worry about getting through one day at a time.
Taking things one day at a time is great advice. Yet, it will take longer than a few days for your brain to heal and for you to start feeling like yourself again.
It might take months for you to start feeling good, and it could take years until you realize that you do not even think about drugs most of the time. The recovery and healing process takes time.
Do you feel as if a great deal of damage was done to your mental and physical functioning by years of drug misuse and drug dependence? You will be surprised to see, as time passes, how much you are able to recover and function better.
If you are concerned about a particular symptom that indicates anxiety disorder or depression, give yourself time. The consequences of substance dependence can be long lasting, but they do subside.
In time, you will see that it is possible to recover and get back to feeling normal again. One day, if you stick with it long enough, you will realize that you are fully capable of realizing your dreams.