People frequently downplay symptoms of substance use disorder (SUD) to themselves and others. Additionally, no two people follow the same path to substance use, so it is easy to be confused about whether or not a person has SUD.
Some of the signs to consider include:
- How long a person has been using
- What the substance is
- How often the person uses their substance of choice
- Individual behaviors
Although every path to drug addiction is different, there are some common signs.
Stigma Associated with Substance Use Disorder
In our society, the media has painted a picture of SUD that is very misleading and incorrect. Therefore, if a person is wondering if they are developing a problem, that may signal that they need to look at their behavior. After all, substances are everywhere, and some substances – such as alcohol – are strongly connected to social aspects of life. It can be easy to feel confused about where the line is.
Given that using a substance frequently begins while connecting and socializing with other people, substance use can seem innocent. Some may think it's just a way to have fun or relax, so it isn't hard to become complacent about it.
With this in mind, using substances has been incorporated into everyday life. Society has made it an acceptable way for people to pass the time together. Since it is not unusual for this to become a regular part of a person's day, what was innocent can quickly become a problem.
There is a stigma attached to the concept of social use turning into a disorder, and this notion affects a lot of people. By and large, this stigma prevents people from being comfortable admitting that things have gotten out of control regarding their substance use.
However, it is essential to recognize that facing the idea that one's substance use is out of control allows for a new opportunity. The sooner a person can be honest with themself, the better position they will be in to make positive adjustments and receive help.
What Is Substance Use Disorder?
It's important to understand that not all substance use points to an actual SUD; the disorder has specific criteria, including a person's persistent and compulsive need to use a particular substance – or substances – despite the negative consequences.
There are a number of questions a person can ask themself to help them see they need to seek help for SUD. Some of these questions include:
- Do I crave the substance?
- Are there triggers that cause me to use the substance?
- Do certain emotions or circumstances cause me to use?
- Do I relapse and start using the substance again after trying to stop on my own?
If a person answers "yes" to any of these questions, they may likely need professional help for their SUD. Notably, SUD is a complex mental health disorder, and it's essential to realize the severe effects it can have on one's life and their loved ones. Understanding that someone hasn't failed because they have developed SUD is also crucial. It's equally important to know that a person doesn't choose to develop this disorder.
Common Behavioral Signs
Substance use can be a difficult topic to talk about, but the first step for an individual with SUD on the road to getting help is admitting to themself that they have a problem. Along with asking questions like the ones mentioned earlier, there are also some general behavioral signs to recognize that may indicate SUD. Some of these signs include:
- Struggling with previously set limits
- Lack of enthusiasm and participation in activities the person once was passionate about
- Changes in mood
- Isolating from people and hiding activities
- Becoming withdrawn and defensive
- Erratic behavior
- Sleep difficulties
- Experiencing problems in previously stable relationships
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Sudden financial issues
- New risky behaviors
- Having new symptoms that indicate a substance abuse problem, such as hangovers, feeling ill, vomiting
- Constantly thinking about a substance and obsessing over it
- Continuing to use substances despite developing new health problems
- Legal problems such as DUI or being arrested for behavior while using
- Health problems that are due to substance use
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are several risk factors that can contribute to a person developing SUD. It's important for mental health care providers to assess each individual for such risk factors to provide the proper treatment.
SAMHSA states, "Risk factors are characteristics at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precede and are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes."
Regarding SUD, risk factors include:
- Childhood trauma
- Peer pressure
- Medical history
- Substances being readily available and socially acceptable
- Underlying secondary mental health issue
- Personality traits
- Starting to use at a young age
Change Is Possible
If you are struggling with substance use, it's important to understand that SUD is a complex mental health condition. However, change is possible, and help is available to free you from the confines of addiction. If you feel like any of the information above applies to your situation, consider it an invitation to change.
Change can seem scary, but you can also recognize it as a brand-new opportunity. If you want to change your life and recover from SUD, consider reaching out for professional help and beginning the process of getting your life back.
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