There are two problems that arise when people encounter addictive substances: substance abuse and substance dependence. Often used interchangeably, these two terms actually have different definitions. Substance abuse can be used to mean substance dependence in some cases, but essentially refers to poor decision making in regards to moderating the use of a substance, such as binge drinking or smoking weed to the point of paranoia. Substance dependence is a medical condition in which the body has become physically dependent on a substance and will go into unpleasant or dangerous withdrawal symptoms without it. Both are dangerous to the individual and have detrimental effects on their life.
Substance abuse can often precede dependence, or refer to the overindulgence that leads to dependence, but in general, it means that a substance or multiple substances are being used incorrectly. Substance abuse can refer to a person taking the instructions for their prescription medications into their own hands and increasing the dosage from where the pharmacist recommended. It can also be demonstrated by the person that does not know when to cut their drinking off and regularly makes an intoxicated scene. Substance abuse simply refers to the using of a substance more heavily than it was intended to be used. It can be an isolated incident or a repeated incident. Addictive substances that are commonly misused are drugs, alcohol and food.
Substance dependence develops over time through repeated substance abuse. An addictive substance is one that has the ability to change the body’s chemistry to a state of reliance on the substance, first through tolerance and then through dependence. If a person wants to keep feeling the pleasurable effects of the substance, they have to continuously increase the amount they use to avoid tolerance. These ever increasing dosages lead to dependence on the substance; something that often requires professional medical and mental health treatment in order to reverse.
Substance abuse denial does not effect individuals only. It effects entire cultures and subcultures, both abroad and here in North America. Technically, using a substance even just slightly more than its intended and recommended use is substance abuse. This line is blurred in the cases of certain controversial substances such as marijuana, where studies are inconclusive on exactly who should and how to use the substance. But even in regards to controversial substances, denial of substance abuse can take place simply by deliberately avoiding an honest examination of how heavily a substance is being used.
Many individuals are in denial of their substance abuse problem. In fact, when family and friends of a substance abuser want to confront the individual on their problem, they often hire an intervention specialist to do so because the specialist is trained in how to break through denial. Denial is the security blanket the substance abuser uses to continue feeling like they are in control of their lives. Breaking through denial means having to admit to vulnerability and mental unhealthiness; a very difficult thing to do for anyone who thrives at all on feeling in control. This is why denial is so prominent at an individual level over substance abuse.
In North America, there is an entire subculture of university students that is in denial of their substance abuse problem. Drinking and using drugs to excess is a common practice within this group, and those who blow the whistle on substance abuse are simply expected to move along. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, pub culture is very prominent and alcoholism has a different definition than it does in North America. Many people drink to excess in the United Kingdom but it is culturally accepted, and the acknowledgment of substance abuse is denied.
The two levels of denial can interact with one another as well. It is much harder to break through an individual’s denial if they subscribe to a collective, cultural form of denial.
Knowing when you have a substance abuse problem is not always easy. Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol is a substance abuser, but for those who are, there are plenty of ways to excuse drug and alcohol use, even if some might consider it excessive or harmful. Denial and substance abuse commonly go together, blurring the lines between what is a safe, acceptable amount of usage and what is considered abuse.
Substance abuse is defined as the repeated, detrimental use of a substance for the purpose of altering one’s mood. Though substance abuse can have a number of different appearances, there are certain ways of telling whether or not you have become a substance abuser.
It is not uncommon for someone abusing a substance to feel guilty or ashamed about their behavior. Often, a substance abuser will try to cut back on their consumption and fail, spawning feelings of discouragement that lead to more substance abuse.
A person abusing a substance will experience a change in their behaviors and in their ability to function. They may have the tendency to lie about the amount and the frequency of which they use the substance. They may start to deteriorate in their work or school performance. Or they may even do damage to their finances and legal standing.
While the person is intoxicated, their behavior may be out of control. They may black out and forget portions of their days, or they may do something that they heavily regret when they recall it.
Substance abuse takes a heavy toll on personal relationships, and chances are, if you are a substance abuser, your friends and family members have reacted to your substance use in a way that indicates they are troubled by it, or perhaps they have directly expressed concern for your well-being.
If you or someone you know is a potential substance abuser, contact one of the quality drug abuse rehab centers in your local area and have a professional evaluation or intervention arranged.