Types of Substance Abuse:

Drug or alcohol misuse is the continued use of drugs or alcohol despite consequences to a person’s health, relationships, finances, or employment. It’s never easy to wonder whether someone you know or love is abusing substances. But it’s important to understand that it is never too late and that they do not need to hit rock bottom before you can help them. But before talking to them, it’s helpful to know all the types of substance abuse, and the signs, causes, and effects of abusing them. 

Alcohol Misuse: 

Alcohol is the most abused substance in the United States. According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse, about 14.4 million adults and 401,000 minors met the criteria for alcohol abuse in 2018. Abusing alcohol occurs when a person binge drinks regularly. According to the National Institute of Health, binge drinking is when a man drinks more than 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week OR A woman drinks more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks a week. 

Signs of Alcoholism: 

Alcohol works by slowing down the speed of the brain’s signaling. As a result, people may have issues with balance, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or loss of restraint (especially sexually). Alcohol abuse signs can vary and can be mild or severe depending on how much a person drinks:

  • Trying and failing to limit how much you drink. 
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or being hungover. 
  • Craving alcohol when sober. 
  • Not doing responsibilities at home, school, or work because of drinking.  
  • Continuing to drink despite knowing that it causes physical or social issues
  • Loss of interest in other activities and hobbies
  • Using alcohol in unsafe situations like driving 
  • Feeling nausea, sweating, and shakes when you don’t drink.
  • Drinking to avoid symptoms.   

Recovering from Alcohol Abuse:  Quitting alcohol can be dangerous. If you’re going to help someone quit alcohol, they should always use a medically supervised detox to make sure they are safe, comfortable, and successful. For more information on medically supervised detoxes, call us at 855-202-2138.

Cocaine Abuse:  

According to a 2014 National Institute of Health survey, 1.4 million adults had done cocaine in the past month. Cocaine comes from the coca plant, most often as a white powder that is snorted up the nose, injected, swallowed, or smoked. 

Signs of Cocaine Use:

Cocaine is a stimulant that overloads the brain’s reward system and creates euphoria for 20-30 minutes. Since the effect is very short, most people keep using it to maintain the high. This is also what makes the drug so addictive. Someone using cocaine may feel euphoria, low appetite, paranoia, high energy, more talkative, and have impaired judgment. Depending on how much cocaine a person uses they may have mild or severe side effects like: 

  • Weight loss
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Personality changes like lying or stealing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Runny noses

Additional signs of abuse are having needles or razor blades, avoiding social situations, financial problems, or needle marks on the body. 

Meth Addiction:

According to a 2017 survey, 1.6 million people used meth over the year. While 774,000 used it in the last 30 days. Meth is most commonly smoked, but it can also be snorted, injected, or swallowed. 

Signs of Meth Use: 

Meth is a stimulant made from pseudoephedrine, that triggers the brain’s reward system like cocaine. But unlike cocaine, people that use meth experience equally high states of mania and low states of depression. The effect of coming off can be so extreme that people need to do more. Someone on meth may have a fever, euphoric rush, anxiety, violent behaviors, dilated pupils, paranoia, and picking at the skin or face. Depending on how much meth someone uses, there may be several signs such as:  

  • Meth breath (smell of burnt plastic or ammonia) 
  • Rotted teeth 
  • Sores on the face or skin
  • Strange sleeping patterns
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of hygiene
  • Mood swings or irritability

What Does Meth Smell Like?: Because meth is most frequently smoked, a good way to recognize if someone is using it is finding a pipe that smells like cleaning chemicals or burnt plastic.

Heroin Addiction:

According to a 2019 survey, more than 6 million adults in the US reported using heroin. 900,000 of these were in the past year. Heroin has many different forms. Most people think of it as a white powder, but it can also be a brown or black powder or a black sticky gel. Heroin is usually injected with a needle, but some users snort or smoke it. 

Signs of Heroin Addiction: 

Heroin comes from the opium poppy and targets the brain’s opioid receptors. Someone on heroin may experience euphoria, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, reduced anxiety, sleepiness, slower heart rate, and slow breathing. Heroin abuse has several signs like: 

  • Having needles or syringes  
  • Having burned silver spoons; aluminum foil, gum wrappers, or straws burn marks. 
  • Weight loss
  • Lying or stealing
  • Needle marks or sores on injection sites
  • Sleeping more, especially at odd hours.
  • Loss of hygiene
  • Wearing long sleeves or pants in hot weather
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or goals
  • Slurred speech

What Does Heroin Smell Like? 

Although heroin can be snorted, it is most often either smoked or injected. Before it can be used these ways it must be cooked which has a vinegary or acidic smell. 

Benzo Addiction: 

According to the NIH, between 1996 and 2013, benzodiazepine (or benzos) prescriptions increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million in the United States. These drugs are pills (like Ativan, Valium, or Xanax) that are swallowed and different brands last for different amounts of time. 

Signs of Benzo Abuse: 

Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. When taken they cause sedation, sleepiness, loss of anxiety, and lower heart rate. If you think someone is abusing benzodiazepines look for the following warning signs.

  • Sleep more than normal, especially at odd hours. 
  • Slurred speech
  • Falling or tripping more
  • Shaking
  • Being confused easily 
  • Trouble with memory or thinking 

Recovering from Benzos: Getting off Benzodiazepines can be dangerous. If someone you know is abusing benzos they should use a medically supervised detox with 24-hour care from medical doctors to make sure they are as safe and comfortable as possible. To learn more about detox or to get help finding one, call us at 855-202-2138. 

Marijuana Abuse: 

According to the NIH, Marijuana (or cannabis) is the most commonly used drug. Nearly 9% of the US used it in 2016. Marijuana usually looks like a small green plant bud with orange and yellow hairs.

Signs of Marijuana Use: 

Someone using marijuana may experience euphoria, drowsiness, lack of memory, increased appetite, problems with memory, dry mouth, and slow reaction times. If you think someone is misusing marijuana, you can look for signs like: 

  • Red bloodshot eyes
  • Eating more or more often than usual
  • Worse performance in school or work
  • Memory problems
  • Buying bongs, pipes, or rolling papers
  • Smelling like marijuana or excessive amounts of fragrance spray to hide the smell. 

What does Marijuana Smell Like?: 

Marijuana is most often smoked but it can also be baked into butter or oil then used to make food. When it is baked or smoked, marijuana has a very distinct earthy skunk smell that lingers long before, during, and after it’s used. 

Causes of Substance Abuse: 

 The exact cause of Substance Abuse Disorders is not yet fully understood. Our current understanding is that it is a brain disorder that can be caused by a mix of genetic, environmental, and psychological things. The one thing we know for sure is that addiction is not a choice and it is not within a person’s power to stop struggling with addiction. 

Genetic Cause: Some people say addiction is genetic since it’s been noted that the children of people who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to struggle with addiction. 

Environmental Cause: Other people point to environmental problems specifically adverse childhood experiences like bullying, death, divorce, rape, loss, assault, or anything that had a traumatizing effect on a child. These situations create emotional turmoil that substances relieve later in life.

Psychological Cause: Half of all people with a mental illness also struggle with addiction. In this argument, a person’s addiction is a way to treat another problem like anxiety, depression, panic, bipolar, PTSD, or attention deficit disorder, etc.  

Recovering From Substance Abuse: 

Someone does not have to hit rock bottom to consider getting help. And nobody is beyond saving. If you want to help someone struggling with drugs or alcohol:

  1. Try speaking to them first to help them see the effects that their habits have had. 
  2. Next, help them find a detox center that will make sure they are safe and comfortable while the drugs or alcohol leave their body. This is most important if they are abusing alcohol or benzodiazepines. 
  3. Finally, help them contact a rehab facility that provides long term evidence-based care. 

Get Help Today

Tree House Recovery is a men’s rehab that provides long term holistic care for all types of substance abuse. Men who graduate learn to live a new way of life as the strong, kind, and caring person they were always meant to be. To get started, call 855-202-2138. For more information, read more about our holistic treatment


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