What is substance abuse? What are the 4 types of substance abuse?

substance abuse, types of substance abuse, help with substance abuse, substance abuse treatment, drug addiction, alcohol addiction treatment, tobacco addiction

Understanding the “Abuse” in Substance Abuse

The first thing that comes to our mind when we come across the term substance abuse is Alcohol and tobacco addiction. These are the most common substance abuse issues which have been increasing by the day. But the most common error people tend to make is getting confused between the terms addiction and abuse. Today in this blog I am going to discuss with you about what 'Substance Abuse' means, what factors influence people leading to substance abuse, and what other types come under the substance abuse part.

As a practicing mental health professional, I have come across people who have been abusing substances. Some of them wanting to stop themselves from using substances and some who did not see it as a problem. Clients tend to explain how they got into using these substances, some say it was their peer who introduced it to them, for a few it is curiosity that got them into exploring further, few abuse substances to cope with the stress or issues they go through, some people tend to have closed ones who are addicted to substances and as a result, they become predisposed to it, while a few say they started it as a part of social gathering or have been occasionally using it.

What does it mean when we say Substance Abuse?

In clinical terminology, substance abuse is the use of any drug, usually by self-administration, mostly in a manner which deviates/ differs from approved social or medical patterns. Simply put when a person uses harmful substances such as alcohol, Caffeine, Cannabis, Opioids, Tobacco, inhalants, hallucinogens, over the counter drugs, etc. for mood-altering purposes more than what has been prescribed or recommended leads to Substance Abuse.

What makes substance abuse different from addiction?

An individual abusing substances may not necessarily fall under addiction or have substance use disorder. The individual who abuses substances are more often in control of their mind, whereas a person with addiction may become helpless and lose control over himself leading to intoxication.

Eg.- “A teenage boy starts smoking cigarettes with his college friends every day by hiding in a deserted classroom to look cool in front of his friends and get accepted in their group gets caught by the professor and gets suspended for a month and punished by his parents might rethink the consequences of smoking and would decide to stop smoking and might change the people he spends time with and focus his attention on his studies, extracurricular activities and opt for a healthy lifestyle.”

In case of substance abuse there are high chances of the individual learning from the negative consequences of the substances in their lives and having the willingness to bring change in their behaviour

There are several types of substances which are abused. Today in this article we are going to discuss about 4 most common substances.

  1. Alcohol Abuse

This is the most common substance which is easily available to the general public. Alcohol is used in medicinal syrups, a few food recipes, consumed to celebrate during parties or special occasions. Having alcohol occasionally or in minimum quantity is acceptable. But having 4 or more drinks a day to the point where a person's decision making ability, judgement, behaviour get affected due to the harmful level of intake leads to abuse of the substance. The excessive quantity of alcohol abuse may hamper the individual's personal, professional and social life. It can also lead to psychological symptoms including depression, psychosis, and anxiety.

  1. Caffeine Abuse-

Caffeine is commonly contained in drinks, sodas, coffee/tea, chocolate recipes, and prescription medicines/over the counter medicines. According to stats, In India, 89 percent of tea is consumed between the year 2020-2021. Consuming an excess amount of caffeine per day leads to negative health effects, like reduced sleep quality, high Blood pressure, changes in heart rhythms, psychological issues such as anxiety, mania, panic disorders, etc. Problematic consumption of caffeine in a person may lead to suffering from Caffeine use disorder.

  1. Tobacco Abuse-

Ever watched the anti-tobacco advertisement shown before every movie we watch in the cinema hall?

This particular ad shows a woman and a man who had cancer due to consumption of gutka and tobacco, the ad narrates their story and in the end warns you about how abusing these could lead to death.

Smoking is often considered a sign of being a cool person. Teenagers who watch their favourite actors smoke and show it as a symbol of being a badass character get influenced by this and often start smoking at a very young age. These habits further develop a high craving, increase in tolerance and dependence on Nicotine. Regular and high abuse of tobacco may lead to being irritable, low energy level, drowsiness, Blood pressure, bronchitis, etc. People who become addicted or dependent on smoking find it difficult to control their cravings and may take regular breaks while working. This abuse may affect the individual's overall wellbeing. This may lead to depression, stress, tremors, and decreased life expectancy.

  1. Stimulant Abuse-

Stimulants are types of drugs which increase our body's natural functions. They are both illicit and legally prescribed by doctors for people who have ADHD, sleep disorders or have severe depression. They tend to produce a sense of alertness, and euphoria. They tend to be habit forming and if an individual consumes it without following the prescribed dosage, it can lead to intoxication or dependence. There have been cases where people who get addicted to such drugs have stolen money from family members or friends to buy more drugs. Youngsters may abuse on these drugs to get HIGH and lose their inhibitions. Abusing these drugs may lead to the individual hearing voices, hallucinating, having suicidal thoughts, mania, and psychosis. The individual may lose their career, family, friends and good health. Abuse of stimulants may also lead to stimulant induced mood disorders or anxiety disorder or stimulant intoxication.

What kind of treatment could you seek?

If you are seeking treatment for yourself or your closed ones here are few things to take note of,

There are several kinds of treatment programs available for Substance Abuse/Dependence/Addiction. It is not one size fits all approach. It is important to remember that intention is very important in such cases. The most important thing to do is to educate yourself about substance use. There are deaddiction centers available which help you in rehabilitation and guide you in your journey towards a better and healthier lifestyle. A team of medical professionals including Psychiatrists, mental health professionals-counselors, psychologists, can help you with Pharmacotherapy as well as learning healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, working on personal development, motivation, and management of further craving and withdrawal symptoms. Apart from Individual sessions, group therapy has also been found to be very effective and helpful. There is also anonymous group therapy available. Group therapy help in providing support, encourage sobriety in recovering from substance abuse. These meeting help cultivate a feeling of bringing a community together and increasing understanding and empathy towards others and self. They aid in abiding further treatment and boost self-confidence and self-worth in the individuals.

If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse, you can get in touch with the experienced mental health professionals at Mpower.

To know in detail about substance abuse and its symptoms also read,

What are the signs of substance abuse and how does it affect the mental health of an individual?

Image credits: Freepik

Anushree Kadam
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