Most times when people hear the terms “substance abuse” and “drug addiction”, they think they are the same thing and are synonymous to each other. Well, they aren’t. This article will give an insight on their actual meanings and their relationship with each other.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE, WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?
The World Health Organization defines substance abuse as the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Let’s dumb that down a bit, substance abuse or misuse is the use of an illegal drug, the excessive intake of a legal one, or the use of any legal substance in a way that is wrong. This includes the excessive intake of alcohol and the taking of prescription drugs in a manner not recommended by your doctor.
Some legal substances that can be abused include:-
- Caffeine (found in coffee, kola, cola drinks e.t.c.)
- Prescription drugs (when taken for the wrong reason or in the wrong way). Commonly abused prescription drugs or Over-the-counter medicine are opioid pain relievers e.g. Tramadol, cough or cold medicines e.g. Codeine, anxiety medicine.
- Cigarettes and other tobacco based drugs e.g. the local ‘snuff’ which contain nicotine.
- Alcohol, although prohibited in certain northern states, is consumed in large quantities in southern Nigeria. An excessive intake of alcohol can lead to severe health problems and can increase the chances of accidents.
Some illegal substances that are commonly abused include:-
All these drugs are highly addictive and always leave the user craving for more until they can no longer help themselves.
Now you know about substance abuse, we will explain what drug addiction is. Drug Addiction is a disorder which refers to the physical or psychological need for a substance due to a continuous use of the drug over a period of time. Basically the person becomes dependent on the drug in order to achieve a desired state of mind or body, even though this may be harmful to them or those around them.
They are unable to resist such cravings due to the fact that the drug has affected the brain and changed it. Self control becomes impossible, despite adverse consequences.
DRUGS THAT ARE ADDICTIVE
You can get addicted to both illegal and legal drugs, it does not matter. As far as you have misused a drug or substance to the point where you can no longer ‘function’ without it, then it is an addiction. That is why substance abuse, if not stopped can ultimately lead to an addiction among other health hazards.
HOW DO I KNOW?
Symptoms of substance abuse are similar to that of drug addiction, and include the following:
- Withdrawal from society, spending more time alone
- A person becomes very irritable
- Neglecting responsibilities or hygiene
- Becoming dependent on the substance, all your life revolves around it.
- Disorderly conduct, or participation in criminal activities (that the person would not normally do, or would not do while sober)
- Withdrawal symptoms occur when you don’t take the drug, e.g. you may feel nauseous or feel ‘like you might go crazy without it’.
- Changed sleep pattern
WHAT DO I DO?
It is easier to quit substance abuse than when it becomes an addiction. Addiction is a disorder, and early recognition of substance abuse signs can go a long way to prevent it. So the first step would be recognition and acceptance of the problem.
The second step would be to get help or support from family, friends, doctors, therapists, or TALK TO US – we’re here for you. This way, you won’t feel alone and will be provided with help on how to shake off your substance abuse or addiction.
Next, find a coping mechanism. You may like to find a good alternative to the drug in order to avoid a relapse.
Most importantly, stay positive. Even after a setback, pick yourself up or let others help you. You don’t just ‘quit’. It takes a lot of effort and patience.
You are not alone!
– Egwuogu Chidinma