Substance Abuse Disorder Symptoms | Signs of Addiction & Online Help

Substance Abuse Disorder Symptoms

Today, substance use disorder (SUD) afflicts over 21 million Americans and continues an upward trajectory. As a complex behavioral and brain disease, addiction doesn’t simply impact overall mental and physical health, but it also can take control of all aspects of life. Unfortunately, the downward spiral of substance abuse often occurs without warning. Consequently, it usually isn’t the person suffering who detects the signs of substance abuse, but close family members and friends. It’s essential to know substance abuse disorder symptoms. Early detection plays an important role in treatment efficacy. 

Psychological conditions and mental health concerns often co-occur with SUD. Depression, anxiety, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, mania, PTSD, and other behavioral disorders can present themselves either before or due to drug use. With time, SUD can cascade into numerous other issues, including employment, relationship problems, and family disruptions. 

substance abuse disorder symptoms

Early Detection of SUD

By definition, substance use disorder is a medical illness characterized by significant impairments to health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use. This disease can also range in severity. The spectrum of addiction largely depends on the substance used, plus the duration and frequency of use. 

Research shows that the most effective way to help someone with a substance use problem who may be at risk for developing a SUD is to intervene early before the condition can progress. However, early detection is a complex process due to the number of factors contributing to SUD. 

For one, the shame and stigma surrounding alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medication abuse impact how people address and perceive addiction. Many view people with SUD as weak, immoral, or uncaring. As a result, individuals afflicted with SUD will hide in secret due to guilt and shame, making it even more difficult to identify substance abuse disorder symptoms. 

Factors of Addiction

According to Harvard Medical School, addiction is a brain and biological condition. Understanding that addiction impairs the brain in many important ways may reduce stigma. What’s more, the specific type of brain dysfunction may help identify a range of effective interventions and preventions. For example, during adolescence, the brain is at its most vulnerable. This is a time when caution and intervention may prove most valuable—the earlier the drug exposure or trauma to the brain, the greater the damage.

Addiction also varies by degree according to prevalent factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental factors
  • Past experiences
  • Mental health

Unfortunately, it cannot be limited to one specific causal explanation but, instead, can usually incorporate a variety of influences. 

How Addiction Works

In order to understand substance abuse disorder symptoms, it’s essential to look at the functionality of addiction. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substances interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters. Certain drugs like marijuana and heroin can activate neurons given that their chemical structure resembles that of a natural neurotransmitter. However, they don’t activate these neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter and can lead to disruption in the normal cycles of the brain’s network.

Some drugs like opioids can also disrupt other parts of the brain that manage critical life processes like heart rate, breathing, and sleeping. Health issues that arise from opioid abuse and prolonged addiction can reflect depressed breathing and even death. 

Detecting early symptoms of substance abuse can make a drastic difference in treatment methods. 

The Severity of Substance Abuse and SUD

The spectrum of substance abuse can cause varying degrees of symptoms from person to person and depend on the types of substances used. A person can be diagnosed with a “mild” form of SUD. Mild alcohol/drug use is characterized by a person meeting two or three of the criteria outlined in the DSM-5

The criteria and substance abuse disorder symptoms outlined in the DSM-5 are based on decades of research and clinical knowledge. The DSM-5 recognizes ten separate classes of drugs, including:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol 
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Opioids
  • Sedatives
  • Hypnotics
  • Stimulants
  • Tobacco

Each of these classifications of drugs activates the brain’s reward system. The rewarding feeling experienced by people using drugs causes a growing dependency that can profoundly impact other life obligations. Those who use drugs habitually are known to neglect other everyday activities in favor of taking the substance. 

symptoms of substance abuse

Substance Abuse Disorder Symptoms

For most suffering from the disease of addiction, symptoms of SUD don’t seem immediately obvious. Casual use can develop into misuse. With the build-up of tolerance to certain drugs, the body may require more to achieve the same effects. This progression can eventually spiral out of control until the person is facing a full-blown addiction. 

Family members, friends, and acquaintances are more likely to identify specific substance abuse disorder symptoms. By raising the alarm to these developed issues, intervention may occur sooner. With proven drug rehabilitation and treatment, the person may be more likely to find long-term sobriety. 

What are substance abuse disorder symptoms? Here are a few according to the DSM-5:

  1. Hazardous use: You have used the substance in ways that are dangerous to yourself and others, i.e., overdosed, driven while under the influence, or blacked out.
  2. Social or interpersonal problems related to use: Substance use has caused relationship problems or conflicts with others.
  3. Neglected major roles to use: You have failed to meet your responsibilities at work, school, or home because of substance use.
  4. Withdrawal: When you stop using the substance, you experience withdrawal symptoms.
  5. Tolerance: You have built up a tolerance to the substance so that you have to use more to get the same effect.
  6. Used larger amounts/longer: You have started to use larger doses or use the substance for more extended amounts of time.
  7. Repeated attempts to control use or quit: You’ve tried to cut back or quit entirely but haven’t been successful.
  8. Time spent using: You spend a lot of your time using the substance.
  9. Physical or psychological problems related to use: Your substance use has led to physical health problems, such as liver damage or lung cancer, or psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety.
  10. Activities given up to use: You have skipped activities or stopped doing activities you once enjoyed in order to use the substance.
  11. Craving: You have experienced cravings for the substance.

Diagnosis of substance use disorder requires that individuals meet two or more of the criteria listed above within 12 months. Meeting two or three of the criteria qualifies as mild SUD, while six or more determines severe substance use disorder symptoms. 

Meeting SUD Symptoms and Criteria: What to Do Now

According to American Addiction Centers, in 2017, about one out of every eight adults struggles with mental health disorders and addiction simultaneously. Effective treatment usually integrates psychiatric services and addresses specific substance abuse. 

The more of the diagnostic criteria that are met, the less likely a person is to achieve sobriety without outside help. Treatment modalities address the specifics of substance abuse disorder symptoms and are continually evolving to incorporate new information. For example, Harvard Health Publishing surmises that, if present, the specific type of brain dysfunction or mental health illness can help to identify a range of effective interventions and preventions. It’s essential to speak with addiction specialists to help loved ones face their SUD. 

Many individuals fear recovery for numerous reasons, so it’s important to act quickly and speak with a qualified representative about various approaches and efficacy to treatment. 

signs of addiction

Online Drug Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorder

After launching AspenRidge AspenRidge Virtual Care in late 2019, we’ve seen the value of online addiction treatment, and so have our clients. Specifically, we’ve noted the following benefits:

  • Increased access to care
  • Reduction in costs
  • Positive outcomes
  • Clients love the experience

Does online rehab really work? Find out here. As noted above, in general, the majority of those suffering from any form of SUD or dual diagnosis also face guilt, shame, and stigma. This results in over 89% of people suffering from addiction never receiving treatment. 

AspenRidge Online Alcohol & Drug Addiction Treatment

Find out more about our online substance abuse counseling programs offered to Colorado residents. AspenRidge AspenRidge Virtual Care is also expanding its client base to geographic areas outside of Colorado. To stay updated with our upcoming programs launched in your area, visit our website here

Our intake counselors are available 24/7 to take your call at 833-90-AspenRidge Virtual Care. You will be assigned to a therapist who is familiar with all of AspenRidge’s addiction programs and can help you with unfamiliar substance abuse disorder symptoms. Don’t wait. It’s vital to intervene as soon as possible. Together, you will discuss the best program options available.

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