Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Substance abuse can impact individuals across all races, genders and classes.


Many of those close to substance abusers often wonder if there were any early warning signs that they should have seen or known about in order to help prevent or stop substance dependence.


While you can’t always stop or prevent such abuse, there are some signs that all of us should be aware of and look out for in our loved ones.

All types of substance abuse such as drug and alcohol abuse have many of the same signs.  Substance abuse can impact the body’s health, create changes in physical behaviors and lead to psychological changes in behavior.


Knowing the early warning signs of such abuse, you can know when to seek help for friends and family members.  Early invention for both drug and alcohol abuse are successful in stopping such abuse and preventing the lasting negative health impacts of long-term substance abuse.


Outward Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

There are a number of physical signs of drug and alcohol abuse and changes to physical appearance that can indicate someone may be involved in substance abuse.


While some of these signs can be indicators of physical illness or stress, these physical signs can also indicate the onset of a serious substance abuse problem.

•    Changes in eating habits, loss or increase in appetite
•    Bloodshot eyes, watery eyes and abnormal pupil sizes
•    Odors from the body
•    Changes in sleeping habits, insomnia or increased sleepiness
•    Needle marks on arms or legs
•    Problems with physical coordination, walking slow or swaying
•    Excessive sweat, shaking and trembling
•    Rubbing of nose and face
•    Lack of attention to physical hygiene or appearance.


Physical Behaviors

In addition to changes in appearance, those involved in substance abuse often have physical changes in their behaviors.


These changes are noticeable by those who live, work and go to school with those who are dealing with substance abuse. It might be important to ask those who are around your concerned loved ones to see if they see or notice any of the following signs:

•    Frequent lateness to school or work, high absenteeism
•    Withdrawal from others and normal activities, hiding whereabouts, keeping secrets
•    Changes in associates and friends
•    Getting into physical fights and conflicts
•    Sudden financial problems, borrowing money more frequently
•    Stealing.


Psychological Changes

Substance abuse takes a toll on mental well-being and psychological health.  People who are heavily into substance abuse change the way they engage and interact with others.

•    Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
•    Changes in personality
•    Increased moodiness and irritability, frequent mood changes
•    Paranoid behaviors, anxiousness
•    Lack of focus, no motivation.


Noticing an isolated or single change in a person’s behavior and attitude is not a good indicator of substance abuse.


Rather, persons who embody a combination of the physical, behavioral and psychological changes associated with substance abuse may indicate that they have or are developing a substance abuse problem.


All of the collective issues, can be addressed at a private clinic for rehabilitation, such as


These indicators can help you identify substance abuse in your friends and family and help them to seek early addiction treatments and interventions.



Substance Abuse Treatment Options

Depending on the severity and depth of a person’s substance abuse and the financial resources and support systems available in a particular community, there are a variety of different types of substance abuse treatment options for those in need.

Some types of treatment options are very intensive and involve residential stays and inpatient services, whereas other options are outpatient venues and involve support services and individualized or group therapies.

People often seek treatment when they recognize that their substance abuse problems are negatively impacting their lives, are strongly urged to treatment after invention by family and friends or are forced into treatment after getting into legal trouble and offered the option of treatment as an alternative to jail time.


Regardless of the reason for treatment, those who recognize that they do have a problem usually benefit more from treatment than those who deny that they have a substance abuse problem.


As a result, most programs are designed to encourage individuals to face and admit to their substance abuse problem as the first step.  Here is a look at some of the most common treatment programs.

Residential Programs

Inpatient treatment programs are intensive long-term or extended rehabilitation programs that are designed to help individuals find a new life away from substance abuse and develop the tools to resist falling back into drug and alcohol abuse due to life stressors.


These programs usually involve removing the affected individual from their current life and having them stay at a facility away from their hometown and free from their family and friends and those they engaged with while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.


While away, these individuals may under group or individual counseling, learn new coping skills and develop life patterns that don’t involve a reliance on drugs and alcohol.  These programs can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days.

Example clinics include Abbeycare – Scotland’s alcohol rehab clinic. This unit is a typical inpatient facility offering 21 beds and round the clock care.

Individuals who leave residential and inpatient care programs often need a form of outpatient program to keep them on the right track.  These programs involve a number of different options.

Group Therapy and Support

Group programs are like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous that provide sessions on a daily, weekly or monthly basis that provide a supportive environment for people to share their stories and support one another.


These programs are usually lead by a certified professional or follow a proscribed and proven program and are offered at little to no costs by nonprofit organizations, church groups and other volunteer organizations.


Individual Therapy

Those who are trained as Certified Substance Abuse Counselors provide individualized therapy to help people deal with daily stressors and triggers to substance abuse, develop individualized behavior modification programs and establish future life goals that will prevent them for relapsing back into substance abuse.


There are advantages to individual therapies that include the ability to address all emotional issues, closer examination of individual triggers to substance abuse and more personalized care.


Additional Services

Treatment may also involve a number of related care services.  There may be a need for medical interventions such as detox program to help individuals’ withdrawal from the drugs or alcohol without harm to their bodies.  This situation occurs under a physician’s care.


Additional programs can help individuals learn new skills such as anger management, job training or specific coping mechanisms.  They may also engage in random drug testing to help monitor their behaviors.


They may get involved in structured classes or activities to occupy their free time and hinder the possibilities of opportunities to engage in substance abuse.


Programs can involve a religious or faith component to help those persons of faith cope and develop a new way of life.

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Reasons for Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is not just a matter of a lack of willpower.


There are in fact several reasons why someone begins to abuse drugs and alcohol.  An examination of these reasons can go a long way towards explaining why some individuals are more likely to become addicted than others.


In addition, an understanding of the causes of substance abuse can help us understand that substance abuse to a condition that can impact anyone at any stage of life and that it is an illness that needs appropriate treatment.



Some people are more prone to substance abuse than others.  These genetic factors include an increased or more powerful reaction (a bigger high) to drugs and alcohol, a need to take more drugs or alcohol to generate a response and a tendency towards repetitive behaviors.


These “addictive personalities” are often quicker to engage in substance abuse behaviors and have a harder time staying clean and sober for long periods of time, even after attending rehab clinics.


Genes can explain how one person can experiment and occasionally use drugs, while another individual becomes addicted and unable to control their drug use.


Genetics traces of those prone to addiction can be found by examining family history and chemical responses.


Psychological Issues

Many individuals who heavily abuse drugs or alcohol may be self-medicating for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.  These individuals tend to feel better when they use drugs or alcohol.


They may have any number of these untreated conditions or illnesses that are reinforcing a tendency towards substance abuse.  Often these individuals are aided by proper treatment of their underlying mental health issues and conditions.

Closely related to mental illness, is the idea of using drugs and alcohol to relieve stress.


Many people give the excuse of using drugs or drinking alcohol as a way to relieve daily stress and “blow off stream.”  Substance abuse allows a temporary escape for all the stress and pressure that is associated with work, school, paying bills and taking care of a family.

Trauma can also be a big trigger for substance abuse.  Memories of painful trauma in our lives can be drowned out and hidden with drugs and alcohol.


While under the influence of a substance, these individuals can push aside the thoughts of past trauma and avoid dealing with their hurt feelings.


Substance abuse is a form of escapism for all negative feelings.  Proper psychological therapy and treatment can often help individuals with any psychological condition deal with their issues without substance abuse.


Young people often first begin to abuse drugs and alcohol when they are bored.  They are seeking the thrill of engaging in something new and different.


Using drugs and alcohol can be seen as a way to bring excitement to life.  The euphoria or “high” from substance abuse can be a thrill that they repeatedly try to recreate.


The young are more susceptible to this trigger, because they are often without the responsibilities of most adults.

Peer Pressure/Influences

Imitation and trying to be like everyone else is a big motivator for substance abuse.  We all want to fit in and be liked by others.  If those around you are using drugs and alcohol, you are more likely to also use.


Those who have family members, role models and idols who abuse drugs and alcohol are also more likely to abuse.


Modeling after others is common as we try to fit in with our peers and engage in the same behaviors to develop a sense of unity and likeness with others. The role of peer pressure is high at any age and also a way for users to justify their behaviors.

Doctor Prescribed

Pain pills are highly addictive.  Those with prescription pain pills for conditions may easily turn into substance abusers, as they continue to use and need the pain pills long after their initial conditions have improved.


The fact that the drug was doctor prescribed gives it some legitimacy and a way to rationalize continued use.  In addition, individuals often turn to other drugs to get the same feelings as the pain pills they were prescribed.

Other Factors

Environmental factors such as community and neighborhood, home life, family, peers, schools and workplaces can all influence or contribute to the development of substance abuse.


Children who witness substance abuse within their homes and communities are more likely to engage themselves.  Those who have less active parental supervision and less structured activities are also more likely to try drugs and alcohol at an early age. Failures at school and at work, poor social skills, inability to cope with anger and aggressive impulses and easy access to drugs and alcohol can also be contributing factors.


Users who start early with substance abuse are more likely to develop addiction, because of the combination of the impacts to the developing brain of a young person.  Poor environmental factors in the home, school and neighborhood all magnify the problems.  The type of drug delivery used also is a factor with intravenous drugs and smoked drugs having an increased addictive factor than other types of methods.

While no one can predict with absolute certainty whether or not someone will end up engaging in substance abuse, the list above provides some likely reasons for such conditions.

In some areas, charity drug rehab centres are available to start to address the issues of the addiction.

Risk factors can be a key to understanding how to design and implement effective intervention programs.


Given the lasting impacts of prolonged substance abuse, such information is of benefit to parents, teachers, counselors and drug and alcohol abuse specialists.