What is substance addiction? - Clean & Sober

What is substance addiction?

What is an abuse?

Abuse is a mental disorder in which one has persistent, harmful use of a drug or medicine and cannot control its use. It can be excessive use of alcohol and nicotine. These can be drugs in the form of e.g. antihistamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine and morphine, hallucinogens, e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and mescaline. And it can be organic solvents used for sniffing. When the use causes problems with health and everyday life, it has become an abuse.

There can be a difference in when the consumption of alcohol, medicine or drugs is perceived as a problem, because it is often seen differently. Those who drink or take drugs do not always think it is a problem. But perhaps the relatives perceive it worse.

Addiction is a mental disorder. For some, the abuse is a way to soothe, for example, anxiety, depression or other mental illness and is thus a form of self-medication. Conversely, abuse can trigger mental illness such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. The abuse can also lead to a wide range of physical illnesses.

Abuse rarely goes away on its own, especially if it is advanced. That is why it is important that you get treatment.

What are the symptoms of abuse?

Abuse leads to both psychological and physical dependence. Psychic addiction is a strong urge to achieve the psychological effect you get when you take the drug, e.g. feeling relaxed or elated. Physical dependence is in the form of withdrawal and is an expression that the body has become accustomed to receiving the drug. And therefore physical symptoms occur when it is no longer present in the body. This can be, for example, nausea, diarrhoea, headache, fever and cramps.

Typical signs of abuse:

  • You have a strong physical and psychological craving for the drug you abuse. The urge is so strong that it wins over both reason and will, and you cannot control or stop the intake. Even if it has been recognized that it damages.
  • You get withdrawal if you don't get the drug.
  • You have to drink more and more or consume more and more of the substance you abuse to get the same effect as before.
  • You change your behavior and maybe get new friends, new habits or a new personality. And you avoid situations where you cannot get what you depend on.
  • The abuse leads to problems at home, at school, at work or with friends.

What is the difference between the different forms of abuse?

There are many forms of abuse. What they have in common is that persistent abuse causes obvious physical and psychological damage. A general distinction is made between:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse. The abuse can be, for example, in the form of hashish, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy or solvents such as lighter gas or glue.
  • Drug abuse. If you regularly consume large amounts of medication, e.g. sedatives or painkillers, you can become addicted.
  • Mixture abuse. This means that, for example, you have an alcohol addiction, but are also dependent on other substances. It can also be cocaine or hashish or medicine.

What is life like with an addiction?

An abuse affects the environment, and it can take a toll on the relationship with both partner, family and friends when you have an addiction. This can result in divorce, a bad relationship with the children, dismissal from the job or not being able to attend school. Addicts often have a desire to have a normal relationship with the drug they are addicted to. It could be, for example, a desire to be able to drink with friends or in a festive setting. The environment often wants more limited consumption or a total cessation. It can be conflicting.

When you are addicted, you have an unstoppable urge to drink, smoke or otherwise consume the substance again and again. And you can't stop once you start. For some, the drug ends up taking precedence over everything else and becomes the focal point of life. One neglects obligations, misses appointments and changes behaviour, and in the end the abuse can fill most of one's life.

The abuse can also affect health or be responsible for psychological problems. And the abuse can lead to a change in personality and, for example, becoming more indifferent and lethargic.

If you get treatment, you may be able to overcome the abuse. But it usually requires that you stay away from the drug for the rest of your life. Often the abuse will have significant physical and social consequences, and perhaps the consequence is a life as an early pensioner.

What treatment is available for addiction?

It is difficult but possible to treat addiction. The craving for the substance one is addicted to is so great that more than ordinary strength of character or support from the environment is needed to avoid relapse. Complete abstinence is often necessary. And fundamentally, you have to be motivated to stop.

Some experience medical treatment as a support. But since the risk of drinking is high, you should be restrained. Antabuse is a widely used drug for alcohol addiction. However, the effect is not well substantiated, and other preparations have a better effect, e.g. Campral.

Medical treatment can be combined with, for example, talk therapy, counseling or a stay in a treatment home. It can be helpful to meet others in the same situation, for example in abstinence associations or support groups. Conversations with a psychologist are basically an important part of the treatment, as the psychologist can help to understand the background of the abuse. If the abuse is due to another mental illness, it is important to get treatment for it.

Withdrawals from alcohol, tranquilizers and drugs such as heroin and methadone usually take place on an outpatient basis. However, in severe cases of withdrawal, hospitalization may be necessary. The treatment consists of a gradual tapering off or switching to a sedative, which is then tapered off. However, it is only the abstinence that the treatment helps with. The abuse itself requires a more extensive treatment program.

The relapse rate for abuse is very high. But it depends a lot on how difficult it has been.

This can you do for yourself

The first step on the way out of an addiction is that you recognize that you have a problem. The next step is for you to feel motivated to stop. And then it is important that you think about what you want to put in place of your abuse.

In most cases, getting out of addiction requires professional treatment. Most abuse centers work mainly to find the motivation. It is a crucial prerequisite for a good effect of the treatment.

Good advice for you who have an addiction

  • Recognize that you have an addiction problem.
  • Find your motivation and believe that you can stop.
  • Seek professional help.

What are the causes and risk factors of abuse?

There can be many reasons why someone develops an addiction. For many, it is an escape from problems and difficulties. For example, a high level of stress or a mental illness such as anxiety or schizophrenia can lead to soothing the symptoms with alcohol, cannabis or harder drugs. It can lead to outright abuse. It is estimated that up to half of those who have another mental illness also have an addiction.

Heredity also plays a role, especially in relation to alcohol abuse. You therefore have a greater risk of developing an addiction if your parents are addicts.

The attitude of colleagues, friends, family and the rest of society also matters. If, for example, there is easy access to alcohol, and it is quite normal to drink a lot, this can lead to the development of an addiction.

What diseases can co-occur with abuse?

Abuse can lead to both physical and mental illness. But abuse can also be a consequence of mental illness. Sometimes the abuse begins as a form of self-medication and as an attempt to escape from or soothe symptoms of mental illness.

If you suffer from depression or anxiety, it is in particular alcohol and sedatives that you usually resort to. In the case of schizophrenia, it is typically alcohol, cannabis and stimulants to counteract contact difficulties or lethargy.

Abuse can worsen a mental disorder you already have, or trigger another mental illness. And if you don't already have a mental illness, then the abuse can be what provokes the illness. For example, depression, anxiety or schizophrenia.

Abuse can also lead to a wide range of physical illnesses. For example, excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. It can also cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of damage to the central nervous system and the brain, as well as cause liver disease and stomach ulcers. The damage to the brain can cause visual disturbances and balance problems and destroy short-term memory, so that you cannot remember what you have just heard or experienced. And that can make it difficult to find your way around and manage yourself.

Cannabis abuse can cause permanent personality changes with loss of initiative and apathy or chronic sadness, and it can lead to learning disabilities and memory problems. It can also provoke or worsen mental illness such as schizophrenia, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

And many substances can in the long run contribute to triggering acute and chronic psychoses. Among other things, they can involve hallucinations and delusions of persecution. And they can trigger, for example, depression and anxiety and lead to physical illnesses such as lung and cardiovascular diseases and to poisoning. And if you use syringes, you are more exposed to e.g. hepatitis and other infections.

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