What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse refers to the use of illegal drugs in excessive quantities, as well as the misuse of legal substances such as prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals or alcohol for purposes other than those intended. Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a disease that affects the brain and behavior of a person. It leads to a failure to control the use of any drug or prescription, legal or illegal.

Substance use disorder or addiction

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex illness or condition in which a person consumes a substance without considering the consequences. People with SUD have a strong desire to use a certain substance, such as illegal or legal substances, alcohol, or tobacco, to the point where their ability to function in daily life is impaired. People continue to consume the substance while knowing that it is causing or may cause problems. Addiction is a term used to describe the most severe SUDs. 

People who struggle with substance abuse are able to quit or change their destructive habits. Addiction, on the other hand, is a disease. It implies that many addicts are unable to stop consuming illegal drugs and alcohol, despite the fact that such substances are harmful to them. Substance abuse can lead to a wide range of physical, social, occupational, and emotional problems. Sedative addiction, stimulants use disorder, alcoholism, and nicotine addiction are the different types of SUDs.   

Mental health with substance abuse

Addicts to alcohol or drugs may have distorted thoughts and behavior. Alterations in the structure and functioning of the brain cause people to have extreme cravings. When a person has both a substance addiction problem and a mental health issue, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder.

The most common mental health issues that co-occur with substance abuse are bipolar illness, anxiety, and depression disorders. Substance addiction and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are frequently related. Marijuana and methamphetamine abuse can lead to long-term psychotic reactions, while alcohol abuse can exacerbate depression and anxiety.

It's difficult to establish whether substance abuse causes mental health issues because they are produced by a complex combination of genetics, environment, and other variables. Abusing alcohol or drugs, on the other hand, may drive a person over the edge if a person is at risk of a mental health problem.   

  • Physical health issues include a lack of energy and motivation, weight loss or gain, and red eyes.
  • Changes in behavior and relationships with friends and family.
  • Feeling obligated to consume the substance on a daily basis (at times many times in a day).
  • Taking more substance over an extended period of time.
  • People are failing to meet their obligations and work responsibilities as a result of drug use, and they are also cutting back on social and leisure activities.
  • Continued use of the substance despite knowing that it is causing problems or harming one’s mental health.
  • Investing a substantial amount of time in obtaining the drug.
  • Doing things that one would not normally do.


Intoxication refers to the intense happiness or pleasure, calm, increased sense and perception, and other feelings caused by drugs or substances. Each chemical has its own set of intoxication symptoms.

Intoxication of drugs that are frequently used:


Alcohol has a different effect on everyone. Excessive and frequent drinking, increases a person’s risk of injury or accident. Heavy drinking can also damage the liver and cause other health problems, and lead to more serious alcohol addiction.

Alcohol intoxication constricts attention, which means the drinker is unable to absorb certain cues because they have fewer intellectual capabilities available to comprehend all of the ongoing information. This is known as alcohol myopia.


Marijuana has the ability to make people feel dumb and laugh for no obvious cause. People may also become drowsy and forget what has just happened. Driving when high on marijuana is equally as dangerous as driving after the consumption of alcohol. Heavy drug use can also lead to some people becoming “lost out,” which means they don’t think or care about much.  Marijuana is a natural substance derived from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products

Tobacco contains nicotine, a substance that causes a brief surge of excitement and energy. The euphoria can fade rapidly, leaving people craving more. Nicotine from cigarettes, like other substances, can be abused, which makes people to become addicted to smoking. 

Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants

Stimulants include cocaine and meth (methamphetamine), are commonly used and abused to achieve a “high,” increase energy, improve work or school performance, lose weight, or control hunger. This drug causes anxiety, fantasies, and hallucinations, as well as an overabundance of confidence, increased vigilance, increased energy, agitation, aggression, or a change in behavior, and causes anxiety, fantasies, and hallucinations. Cocaine speeds up the entire body. When we consume cocaine, we may speak, walk, or react very quickly. However, our emotion may later change to one of rage. It may cause people to act illogically. Long-term drug use will increase drug dependence.


Phencyclidine and Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are the most frequently used hallucinogens. LSD drug use can cause hallucinations, aggressive behavior, and a significant reduction in one’s understanding of reality.

Opioid painkillers

Opioids are opium-derived narcotic pain relievers. This type of medication includes heroin, methadone, morphine, and codeine. One of the signs and symptoms of opiate abuse and dependency is decreased pain perception. Addiction can cause fatigue and agitation, as well as difficulty in paying attention and remembering things, as well as unawareness or lack of attention to the people and things around them, depression, and perplexity.

Drug addiction can lead to various severe and damaging consequences, including addicts having a higher risk of catching an infectious disease, such as HIV. Drug addiction can cause a wide range of mental and physical health problems. While under the influence of drugs, addicts are more likely to drive or engage in other risky behaviors. Drug abuse can lead to poor work performance, disengagement, and eventually job termination. 

Treatment and Prevention

The most effective treatment approach for psychological and addiction problems is an integrated strategy that treats both the substance addiction problem and the mental disorder at the same time. Getting therapy for both problems at the same time is critical for long-term recovery, regardless of whether the problem is mental health or substance abuse.

To treat mental health issues, medication, individual or group counseling, self-help methods, lifestyle modification, and peer support may be used. Substance abuse can be treated with detoxification, withdrawal symptom management, behavioral therapy, and support groups.  

Understanding the roots and progression of substance abuse is one of the measures of alcohol and drug abuse prevention. Avoiding triggers and temptations, becoming familiar with individual risk factors such as substance abuse history in the family, mental conditions, or addiction, and learning and developing stress reduction and recovery techniques to be stress-free and in control of their own health are some measures of prevention. 

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the exams of school, graduate, and post-graduate levels, especially for bachelors in life sciences/ psychology/sociology and masters in life sciences/ psychology/sociology.

Practice Problems

Question 1: In cocaine abuse and dependence intoxication associated with which of the following?

  1. Increased vigilance
  2. increased energy and agitation
  3. Anxiety
  4. All of the above

Answer: Option 4 is correct.

Explanation: Cocaine provides an overabundance of self-confidence, increased vigilance, increased energy, and agitation, aggression, or a change in behavior, and causes anxiety, fantasies, and hallucinations.

Question 2: The hemp plant "Cannabis Sativa" is used to produce which of the following?

  1. LSD
  2. Morphine
  3. Cocaine
  4. Marijuana

Answer: Option 4 is correct.

Explanation: Marijuana is a natural product obtained from the Cannabis Sativa hemp plant.

Question 3: -------------- is a condition caused by alcohol intoxication

  1. Alcohol abuse
  2. Alcohol myopia
  3. Alcoholism
  4. None of the above

Answer: Option 2 is correct.

Explanation: Alcohol intoxication acts to constrict attention and means that the drinker absorbs fewer cues less well since they have less intellectual capabilities available to comprehend all ongoing information. This is referred to as alcohol myopia.

Question 4: An example for substance use disorder?

  1. Alcoholism
  2. Sedative addiction
  3. Nicotine addiction
  4. All of the above

Answer: Option 4 is correct.

Explanation: All disorders that are caused by both substance use and alcohol use are referred to as SUD's.

Question 5: The intense pleasure, calm, euphoria, increased sense and perception, and other feelings caused by the drugs or substance are known as --------------

  1. Substance dependency
  2. Addiction
  3. Intoxication
  4. None of the above

Answer: Option 3 is correct.

Explanation: The intense pleasure, euphoria, calm, increased perception and sense, and other feelings caused by the substance are known as intoxication. Each chemical has its own set of intoxication symptoms.

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