Understanding substance abuse

Substance abuse affects millions of Americans every year. Everything from pain pills to cold medicine to alcohol and drugs are abused in households across the nation. Substance abuse does not just hurt the person using the substance. It affects the families of the individual as well as the community and country at large. But in order to tackle a substance abuse problem, it’s important to first understand the concept of substance abuse.

Substance abuse is not the same thing as addiction or dependence. A person abusing certain substances can be free of addiction but still abuse something they shouldn’t. In other cases, abusers are dependent on their substance of choice. Substance abuse is defined by a pattern of negative use of a certain substance like alcohol.
The reasons people abuse different substances are extremely varied – about as varied as the people who abuse them. Family history and interaction and well as childhood socialization have all been shown to significantly impact substance abuse later in life.

Some symptoms of substance abuse include removing oneself from everyday activities, hiding the substance and lying about using it or the amount used. Some substances, like alcohol, have more specific symptoms, like “blacking out” and not remembering what you did the next day. The list of symptoms varies by the substance and again by the individual.

One of the places that shows the clearest societal costs of substance abuse is the hospital emergency room. Often, these emergency rooms are forced to cope with the physical trauma that results from substance abuse.
Other places that can help someone cope with substance abuse issues are rehabilitation centers. These centers can provide live-in treatment twenty four hours a day for patients. Unfortunately, studies have shown that effective treatment and prevention are extremely individual and hard to predict. Prevention and education in children and adolescents have shown the best chance to curb the abuse problem on a national level.

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