According to the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), over 130 people die everyday due to the opioid crisis. This epidemic is just one example of the threat that illicit substances pose to society.

What many people do not know is that the opioid crisis is not something that only affects known drug addicts. Many victims of the opioid epidemic were prescribed a drug containing opioids and developed a dependency, which can lead to misuse of prescriptions meant to help them.

The opioid crisis has taught modern society that substance abuse and addiction can affect anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, religion, or any other identity-marker.

Here is what you need to know about substance abuse.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse and addiction, though often related, are not synonymous with one another.

Typically, when professionals refer to “substances”, they are discussing intoxicants, i.e. alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, hallucinogens, etc.

Abuse of these substances occurs when, according to the World Health Organization, there is “a cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and that typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.”

Substance abuse can often lead to addiction, but a person does not have to be clinically addicted to a substance before it is considered abuse. Any improper use of an illicit substance, even if prescribed by a doctor, is considered substance abuse.

Signs of Substance Abuse

Generally, substance abuse is laid out on a continuum to assess its severity.

A true diagnosis must come from a licensed clinician, but this chart can be a helpful tool to roughly assess whether or not someone’s use of a substance is becoming abuse. Individuals often turn to substances to self-medicate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

If your use of a substance exceeds what is beneficial, or if you have any concerns about your use, seek medical help immediately.

What Can I Do?

Ultimately, if you fear that you may be experiencing substance abuse, get professional help immediately. There are a number of hotlines you can call to start taking the next steps toward health and healing. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can be reached by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

In light of the recent crisis, it is important to be aware of what kinds of substances you’re taking into your body.

When taking prescriptions, ask your doctor about whether or not what you’re taking could have addictive side effects. Always be sure to take medications as directed by your physician and don’t be afraid to ask if you’re unsure about a drug.

Be attentive to your own use of substances. It is never wise to start using illegal intoxicants, but you should also moderate your use of legal substances like caffeine and alcohol.

If you drink alcohol and ever find yourself in “need”, or have difficulty turning down a drink, get help early. It is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to substance abuse. It could save you and your loved ones a lifetime of pain.

Mind-altering substances are a tricky business and have certainly made a lasting impact on the United States in the last few years. As this country continues to battle this unprecedented epidemic, it is vital to stay informed to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Aside from the physical hardships that substance abuse can result in, it can also be a source of overwhelming shame. Recovery takes time and support. In addition to seeking help from a licensed counselor, if you want to know more about God’s restorative love for you, TheHopeLine’s Hope Coaches are available to help. We would love the opportunity to pray for you.

To learn more about issues like addiction, emotional trauma, and shame, browse our library of podcasts, ebooks, and blogs. Find answers to questions like these:

  • Do I Have An Addiction?
  • How Can I Heal From Addiction?
  • What Do I Do If My Family Member Has An Addiction?

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