One of the most significant risks to and costs for modern society is substance use disorder (SUD). This disorder affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to an inability to control their use of legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.
How exactly SUD develops in the user is not clear. However, there is abundant evidence of the toll it takes on the individual and society at large. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking alone costs the U.S. $223.5 billion annually.
The effects of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown on the rates of substance use and addiction have been dramatic. Months of isolation, boredom, and personal and financial stress have exacerbated SUD and related mental health conditions for millions of individuals. Being informed and having solutions like the substance use treatments offered at SoCal Mental Health are the only way to combat this deadly disease.
SUD Risk Factors
The exact cause of substance use disorder is not known. A person’s genetic predispositions, the action of the substance, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and environmental stress can all be factors.
The means of developing SUD are as numerous as the individuals struggling with it. No one story is the same, yet similar circumstances have been noted. Significant risk factors are varied and often overlap with other conditions like mental health disorders, also known as co-occurring mental disorders.
Among the risk factors for SUD are:
- Personal history of substance abuse or mental health disorders
- Family history of substance abuse or mental health disorders
- Childhood abuse or neglect
- Poverty or financial strain
- Experiencing a traumatic event
- A severe accident, injury, or illness that requires long-term pain prescription medications
- Living or working in a war zone or acutely stressful environment
The signs of SUD can be very subtle at first for loved ones and close friends to identify. The sufferer often hides the full extent of SUD due to the misinformed stigmas surrounding substance use and addiction (substance abuse or dependence is a disease, not a moral failing). Only after the disease has progressed to the point where it can no longer be hidden do most people receive help for SUD. If you believe you or a loved one may have a substance abuse issue, look for changes in behavior or mood.
Signs someone that may have a SUD include the following:
- Sudden disinterest in hobbies, social groups, and other previously enjoyed activities
- Irresponsible behavior towards work and school, including missed days and unfinished tasks
- Unexplained weight loss or gain and changes in appetite
- Increase in energy or sudden lethargy accompanied by a change in sleep patterns
- Being secretive about specific activities and personal spaces
- Increased isolation from friends and family
- Changes in hygiene practices like wearing the same clothes for long periods or not showering
- Financial issues including repeated requests to borrow money or stealing
- Unexplained and extreme changes to mood and energy levels
SUD: Health Effects
People of all ages and areas of life are affected by SUD. The disease is widespread, recurring, and can be fatal, yet it is treatable and many individuals can–and do–recover from it.
Changes in thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all symptoms of SUD. These symptoms may have an impact on how we interact with people and make decisions. A decrease in a person’s capacity to operate due to SUD may be required for a person to reach a level for an official SUD diagnosis.
The long- and short-term consequences of SUD differ, depending on the substance used, how long it was used for, at what dosage, and your overall health before and after taking the substance. Because of their physical and mental health background, each individual responds differently to substance use. Some of the most prevalent chemicals and their effects on health are listed below.
Short-Term Health Effects of Substance Abuse:
- Opioids: Flu-like symptoms including stomach upset, vomiting, constipation, and exhaustion often accompanied by shallow breathing, potentially leading to coma, unconscious, or death.
- Benzodiazepines: Changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, extreme tiredness, and loss of focus.
- Stimulants: Increased blood pressure, hallucinations, strange and sometimes violent behavior, irritability, paranoia, change in appetite, interrupted sleep patterns, and in some cases psychosis.
Long-Term Health Effects of Substance Abuse:
- Opioids: Muscle pain, bone pain, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, irritability, excess energy, cold flashes, and shallow breathing can lead to unconsciousness, coma, or death.
- Benzodiazepines: Sleep disturbances, insomnia, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, headache, and cognitive issues, including memory problems, confusion, and “foggy” thoughts.
- Stimulants: Weight loss, depression, confusion, exhaustion, malnutrition, sleep disturbances, psychosis, and permanent damage to organs like the kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs which increases the risk of stroke, brain damage, heart attack, or death.
Customized Treatment Plans
The complexity of SUD is only multiplied by the unique individuals battling it. As such, no one treatment plan would be effective for every person. At SoCal Mental Health, we tailor our treatment plans to you and your particular needs. We combine the numerous modalities at our disposal to heal the mental, physical, and emotional damage caused by substance abuse. We take an evidence-based approach to help our clients recover from SUD and any co-occurring mental health disorders. For more information, visit our Treatment Modalities page.