Substance Abuse Problems: How To Know If You Have It

Updated on October 8, 2020
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As of 2017, statistics show that there are over 19 million adults (ages 12 and above) in America who have dealt with substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse is a dangerous disorder. It is a disease which influences a person’s behavior that can lead to the inability to control the use of drugs whether it’s legal, illegal, or for medicinal purposes despite the harm it can cause to the person using it.

If it goes untreated, it can lead to more problems in your mental and physical health and personal relationships. Though the risk level and how fast you become addicted depends on the drugs taken.

However, the most addictive drug, according to Drug Rehab, is heroin. It is made with opium poppy plant extracts that are turned into a powder-like form. Once injected, swallowed, or smoked, it can put the user in a state of euphoria for a few hours. But once it starts to subside, the person will experience drowsiness, nausea, and many others. 

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse problems, the first step to recovery is to recognize that you, yourself have this problem and understand what got you into drugs in the first place.

How a person gets addicted to drugs

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Determining the reason(s) why a person has a drug problem is not an easy task even for professionals since each case is different from the other. But there have been studies over the years that can discover the factors that may have caused the person to use drugs and how it developed into an addiction. 


Your living environment and lifestyle, while you were young, can be a huge source of influence to your substance abuse. If you were brought up or currently living in an environment that normalizes drug use, you are at a higher risk of using and probably develop drug addiction problems in the future.  

Family History

Genes can play a significant role in your drug addiction problems. When most of your family have specific addiction problems to alcohol or narcotics, there’s a big chance that you will have the same issues as well. It’s essential to keep in mind that your age or gender won’t matter to this one. 

Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness such as depression and anxiety, you are more likely to use drugs and develop substance abuse and other drug-related problems. 

Trouble with relationships

Having family troubles growing up such as being neglected by parents and other family members, continually switching foster homes, or having parents with drug addiction problems can have a significant effect on a person’s overall outlook in life. 

Being exposed to this kind of environment as a kid can raise your chances of having drug addiction problems when growing up.

Early drug use

If you’ve started doing drugs and narcotics at a young age, there is a possibility that you may bring that habit as you grow older. For most of the time, it would be even harder to get rid of the habit because your body is used to the feeling of being high for most of the time. 

But it’s important to remember that people who have started to use drugs at a later time in life would be as vulnerable as the people who started at a young age.  

How to know if you have a substance abuse problem

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There are many signs of substance abuse problems. Sometimes they’re easy to detect, and sometimes they’re hard to notice. If you think you or your loved one may have a substance abuse problem, here are some of the most common signs to look out for before the problem gets too severe: 

You start to neglect your responsibilities

When your drug problem starts to control your life, you begin to neglect your duties and abandon goals that you were planning to accomplish in your life. You end up skipping school, not performing well in the workplace and spending less time with your family and friends, and for more extreme cases, you stop supporting your family financially. 

You neglect yourself and how you look

As mentioned in the last pointer, you start neglecting your responsibilities when you have a drug problem. Your responsibilities don’t just end with school, your job, or your family. It also includes your physical wellbeing and how you look. 

Severe and prolonged drug addiction can bring you numerous problems and complications. Most of it affects your brain because of the abnormal hormone production of dopamine, which triggers pleasure. 

You start having uncontrollable urges to use the drug multiple times a day, every day

When you start getting addicted to the temporary ecstasy that drugs can provide, you begin getting addicted to the familiar sensation, and you only want to feel that way always. This will turn into a big problem over time, especially if you’ve already developed a  high tolerance to the drug, and you continually increase your dosage with every use. 

This will make you lose control of your inhibitions, and you tend to use the drug longer than what you originally planned. 

You develop problems in your relationships

Drug use can already take a toll on your relationships either with your family, partner, children, friends, or coworkers. But when you’ve developed a substance abuse problem, you tend to lack a sense of involvement and have behavioral changes that may sometimes lead to abuse and neglect. 

For some extreme cases, people would immediately cut off ties with someone when they know that they’re having struggles with their drug usage. 

You start to lose control

Drug addiction doesn’t just affect your physical well being, because it can also take control of your thoughts where you experience behavioral transitions and develop further destructing habits such as:

  • Continually taking the drug even if you no longer need it for a health problem. It mostly happens when doctors prescribe you with a drug like Opioid Painkillers, which can be addictive if not used as instructed by your physician.

That’s why pharmacies nowadays are very strict with medicines with addictive properties. In general, they make it a rule to not sell these types of meds without an official doctor’s prescription. 

  • You develop a higher tolerance for drugs and narcotics. As you continually use addictive substances, your body naturally produces tolerance and will take the effects longer to feel compared to how it was before. It can lead to using higher drug dosages that can be dangerous to your health and wellbeing in the long run.
  • Your decision making and learning ability are affected. Excessive narcotic use, it will damage your brain’s chemical system and circuits leading you to have poor judgment skills, lousy memory, have the inability to make proper decisions, and can’t process new information.
  • Have trouble doing normal things such as working, cleaning, and cooking. Your inhibitions tend to go lower, and coordination problems and lack of awareness on your surroundings develop.
  • You steal, borrow, or sell to pay for drugs. If not controlled, substance abuse could lead you to bankruptcy and get money through illegal means to support the habit such as stealing, prostitution, and for worse cases, murder. 

You avoid withdrawals from taking drugs

When you go too long or try to stop doing drugs yourself, you will experience withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, muscle pain, depression and anxiety, shaking, and insomnia. It is also the time where cravings for the drug are at its highest. 

It’s important to remember that withdrawal severity may vary depending on how long you were using recreational drugs, the type of drugs, and dosage. Substance abuse is a severe disorder that should be assisted by a professional.  

A gender specific drug and alcohol rehab center offers a variety of drug detox and addiction treatment plans for different sorts of narcotics to help you through your withdrawal, how to overcome your addiction, and staying clean. 

You lose interest in the things you used to enjoy

Having drug abuse problems tend to make you uninterested in the things you used to enjoy and love doing. You lose motivation in your hobbies and even in taking care of yourself. Drugs such as marijuana, if abused, can cause loss of interest. 

If you or someone you know is recovering from narcotic addiction, you can find new hobbies and interest them to things that give them a new sense of meaning and responsibility in life.

Finding a purpose gives a sense of life fulfillment that you don’t have to use recreational drugs to feel better about yourself or attain a certain need.


Substance abuse is a real disorder and can ruin the lives of people who have it. Getting help for something you don’t have control over anymore is nothing to be ashamed of. If you or a loved one has this problem, get them the help they need right away. You can reach out to rehab centers where doctors and professionals can help you get in the right direction.

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