Substance abuse – such as prescription and illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco – can have serious negative effects on your health and well-being. It can also greatly impact those around you. So if you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse, it’s important to learn how to deal with and defeat it.
From Choice to Addiction
Addiction doesn’t suddenly appear. Rather, it begins with a choice that you have control over. And once you’ve made that choice, your brain starts to change as it begins to crave the feeling that using substances creates. It’s not long before your brain’s urge to use them starts to change your behavior.
What About Prescription Drugs?
Prescription drugs are often abused and can lead to addiction. Let’s say you were prescribed a prescription pain medication, but you didn’t end up using them all. If this is the case, you should throw them away. Taking pain medication when they’re not medically necessary can start the addiction process – just like any other substance.
Recognizing Your or Someone Else’s Symptoms of Addiction
A change in behavior is often the first noticeable symptom. Becoming addicted to substances can make you:
- Neglect or abandon responsibilities
- Take dangerous and unnecessary risks
- Lose interest in hobbies and activities
- Struggle with relationships
Depending on the substance, abuse of them can affect you physically. Some examples are:
- Change in appetite
- Poor hygiene
- Loss of interest in appearance
- Erratic sleep patterns
What to Do When You Need Treatment
Overcoming substance abuse is big hurdle to jump – and is difficult to do on your own. You not only need the support of your friends and family, you also need help from a doctor. As medical professionals, we can help you develop the safest and healthiest treatment plan. The initial assessment with your clinician would include understanding which substances are being used and the frequency of use, in a nonjudgmental fashion. It is important to remember that the patient is in a safe environment and the provider is available for help.
Often times there is a co-occurrence of mental health disorders and substance use disorders; your clinician might also perform a comprehensive mental health history and mental health exam. This particular dilemma is common in the senior population and often requires a modified approach, utilizing principles from geriatric medicine.
It is also important to remember that a family history of substance abuse is a risk factor for patient obtaining a substance abuse disorder; so, if you have a family history of substance abuse disorder it is important to notify your primary care provider on this and keep in mind that this increases your risk for substance abuse disorder.
How to Help Someone You Know
It’s never easy to watch the people you love struggle with substance abuse. And sometimes it’s difficult to know what you should – and shouldn’t – do. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Say something. If you have concerns, don’t be afraid to speak up. Be supportive, not judgmental.
- Stay safe. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations or neglect your own needs because you’re taking care of their needs.
- Be patient. Overcoming addiction of any kind takes time. Try to remember that it’s not as simple as “flipping a switch.” Your patience and persistence can go a long way.
- Argue. This will only push them further away.
- Make excuses for them. They need to experience the negative consequences of their actions.
- Play the martyr. Making them feel guilty will only have the opposite effect. They’ll be more inclined to use in order to subside their own guilty feelings.
- Do their jobs. Whatever their responsibilities may be, don’t take them over. It’s necessary that they have a sense of importance and purpose.
There’s no grey area when it comes to substance abuse – it’s not healthy for you. Whether you recognize you need help or know someone who does, we can help. Contact us at 512-553-1921.