Signs & Effects of Drug Abuse

Understanding Drug & Alcohol Addiction

Learn About Substance Abuse & Addiction

The term substance abuse refers to the misuse and abuse of a number of psychoactive substances, including prescription painkillers, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and alcohol. Substance abuse can include the misuse of illegal and legal substances, and this term can be applied to one-time and/or continual abuse. Numerous individuals are able to partake in substance abuse without becoming addicted or developing substance use disorder, but for millions of others, the intentional misuse of substances can lead to destructive dependency.

In general, when an individual’s substance abuse develops into substance use disorder, he or she has lost the ability to control the frequency and amount of his or her substance abuse. Those who have substance use disorder will go through many upsetting outcomes in response to their abuse, however will continue to participate in this destructive behavior. Depending on the severity and the nature of an individual’s dependence, he or she might be unable to stop his or her use and rebuild his or her life without the help of trained professionals.

Luckily, however, there are treatment options and professionals who can help individuals battling substance use disorders. Customized programming at addiction treatment centers have been established to offer comprehensive care, and can empower men and women alike to make the changes necessary to maintain long-term recovery.


Statistics of Drug & Alcohol Abuse

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that over 23 million individuals within the country require treatment for their substance use disorder, however, roughly only 3 million of those individuals obtain treatment.

Data that was gathered for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) shows that more than eight out of ten individuals within the United States have participated in substance abuse at least once in their lifetime, and more than seven out of every ten have done so at least one time within the previous year.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors of Substance Abuse

The development of a substance use disorder can be impacted by a number of genetic and environmental factors, including:

Genetic: Experts believe that the development of substance use disorders is tied into genetics. Those who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who suffers from a substance use disorder are placed at a higher risk for experiencing similar struggles. Studies conducted on adopted children show that those adopted individuals with biological parents who have substance use disorders, but whose adoptive parents did not abuse substances, have heightened risks for developing substance use disorder, which suggests a strong genetic link.

Environmental: When a substance abuse is acceptable in one’s environment, there is a greater likelihood that an individual will develop a substance use disorder. Other environmental influences can include living within a household, community, or neighborhood where substances are readily available and affordable. Additionally, associating with other individuals who abuse alcohol or drugs can increase these odds, as well as having little to no coping skills when it comes to handling stress.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Poor impulse control
  • Being male
  • Displays of aggression at a young age
  • Exposure to substance abuse at a young age

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Substance Abuse

The type of substance that is being abused, along with the presence of any co-occurring disorders, can impact the signs and symptoms that an individual is abusing drugs and/or alcohol. Some of the most common symptoms of substance abuse can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Inability to sit still; acting in a jumpy or jittery manner
  • Declining performance at work
  • Loss of interest in significant events, issues, and/or activities
  • Multiple absences from work
  • Engaging in risky or reckless behaviors
  • Possession of rolling papers, syringes, or other drug paraphernalia
  • Being secretive or deceptive about one’s whereabouts and activities

Physical symptoms:

  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Itchiness
  • Persistent sores or scabs
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Runny nose
  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor judgment
  • Suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Dramatic, unexplained mood swings
  • Anger and/or aggression
  • Withdrawal from family and friends


Effects of Drug & Alcohol Abuse

Below are some of the many ways that substance abuse can impact an individual’s life if treatment is not sought:

  • Family discord
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Suicide attempts
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Homelessness
  • Development of co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Legal problems, including arrest and incarceration
  • Social withdrawal
  • Financial problems
  • Organ damage
  • Cardiovascular distress
  • Decline in job performance
  • Diminished cognition
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment

Co-Occurring Disorders

Substance Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who are participating in substance abuse or who have developed a substance use disorder might be at a higher risk for having the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Eating disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose from Substance Abuse

Effects of withdrawal: Depending on the type of substance and the nature of a person’s substance use disorder, the withdrawal symptoms that emerge following the cessation of drug or alcohol abuse can vary. The following are examples of some withdrawal symptoms that a person can experience if one were not stop abusing substances:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizure
  • Tics, tremors, and similar shakiness
  • Powerful cravings for the drug one has been abusing
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Muscle cramping
  • Loss of appetite

Effects of overdose: An overdose, while dependent on the type of substance that is involved, can lead to a number of dangerous symptoms. Someone who has been abusing substances and displays the following symptoms should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Shallow or irregular breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Bluish tint to lips and fingernails
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Weak pulse

Not Ready to Talk Right Now? Schedule a Call with Us.

Validating Captcha...
An error has occured. Details of this error have been logged.
This submission has been flagged as spam. If you have recently submitted a form, please wait a little while before trying again.
Submission Success!

Going to Wilmington was the greatest decision I ever made. The encouragement I received will never be forgotten and I'm proud to say that I am sober today!

– Nathan Z.
Marks of Quality Care
We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality behavioral health and addiction treatment.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Newsweek 2023
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
  • Tricare