Impact of Substance Abuse on Your Health and How It Can be Treated

Last Update on May 16, 2022 : Published on November 8, 2020
Impact of Substance Abuse

Overusing any form of substance, be it legal or illegal can lead to various health issues in an individual. While many of us might be aware of some of the ill impacts let us explore in detail what substance abuse is and what can be done to prevent and treat the same.

But, before that let us check why substance abuse is becoming a concern by looking at some alarming facts related to it.

Some alarming substance abuse Facts (Source: WHO)

  • The harmful use of alcohol (the most popular substance that is abused by the masses) results in 3.3 million deaths each year.
  • Nearly 31 million people have drug use disorders (many of them are not even aware of it).
  • Globally the annual prevalence of illicit drug use is more than 5.6%.
  • It is estimated that almost 11 million people inject drugs yearly.


Understanding The Different Terms Related to Addiction

There are substance-related terms that we use interchangeably. So, we will start by understanding the difference between these terms.

Substance Use: Substance use is just the normal consumption of any substance. It is not problematic until it develops in the other two forms. An example of substance use will be having a beer at a friend’s dinner.

Substance Abuse: Overuse of a substance to an extent that it starts causing problems in your daily life functioning is termed as substance abuse. Like, overusing/ abusing a substance knowing that it will hamper your work life, decrease your performance, or even get you fired.

Substance Dependence: Dependence is an addiction to a particular substance wherein you are unable to stop consuming or using the substance. And even if you try to quit it, you will experience the withdrawal symptoms of the same.

Signs of Substance Use Disorder

Despite these three clear definitions it often gets tricky to distinguish between addiction and use of a substance drug. That is why the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has given set terms and criteria that refer to addiction. The term that is now being used for addiction is “substance use disorder.” It is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Consuming and using substances in larger amounts for longer than intended.
  • Making efforts to stop, but being unable to do so.
  • Having constant craving and urges to use the substance.
  • Wanting to cut down or stop the use of substance but not managing to.
  • Using the substance even when it puts you in danger or causes problems in your relationships.
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when stopping the substance.
  • Continuing to use the substance despite knowing its harmful impact.
  • Needing more substance to get the same or more effect out of it.
  • Giving up on other important aspects of life (like work, recreational activities, and more) because of the substance.

Substance Abuse and Health:

Addiction and substance abuse, both have a detrimental impact on your overall health, Be it mental health or physical health, both suffer the ill impact of substance abuse and addiction. Here are some of the key effects of a substance on your health.

Jack Canfield Molly Fletcher

Effect of Substance Abuse and Addiction on Your Physical Health Effect of Substance Abuse and Addiction on Your Mental Health
 Diminished immune system function and infection.  Poor judgment and decision making. Altered thinking patterns.
Cardiovascular problems.  Poor memory and reduced ability to learn. Decreased brain metabolism.
Gastrointestinal issues.  Appetite or weight changes.
Respiratory problems.  Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
Liver damage.  Reduced working capacity and loss of interest in all pleasurable activities.
Kidney damage.  Increased chances of a dual diagnosis of mental health conditions like- depression, anxiety, bipolar mood disorder, and more.
Neurological issues. Certain substances may also result in mental health issues like psychosis, hallucinations, panic attacks, ADD, sleep disorders, and depressive states.

Substance Addiction

Treatment approaches for Substance Addiction

The good news is that addiction can be treated. In fact, many effective treatments for addiction are not available. Here is what a typical treatment of substance addiction.

Substance Abuse Assessment:

The first step in treatment is recognizing the problem. The recovery process often gets hindered without recognizing the signs and symptoms. Therefore, the first step in treating substance abuse related conditions is assessment. A health professional may conduct a formal assessment to check if the substance use disorder and further suggests a treatment approach.

Medication for Substance Abuse:

Often when the cravings for drugs or substance are intense, medication is used to curb them. They in turn help to relieve severe symptoms of withdrawal and make the process easy for an individual.

Therapy or Counseling for Substance Abuse:

Therapy and counseling are also often used for treating the substance abuse cases. It helps an individual feel motivated, understand one’s behaviour, and develop necessary coping skills to deal with different issues of their life. Often group therapy is preferred to enhance their self-esteem.

Support Groups for Substance Abuse Treatment:

For many people self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and more, have worked as the best treatment for many. They not only find people with the same issues here but also get inspired through each other’s journey of recovery.

Support Groups

Prevention of Substance Abuse

If you are wondering that can’t something be done before substance use turns to addiction? Well, there are certain preventive measures that are taken for substance abuse. This includes,

The SAFER roadmap by WHO

WHO has given a roadmap for preventing the abuse and addiction of alcohol (the most commonly used substance). SAFER is an acronym that stands for:

S: Strengthen Restriction on alcohol availability,.

A: Advance and enforce drink driving countermeasures.

F: Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment.

E: Enforce Ban or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion.

R: Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes, and pricing policies.

While this roadmap of prevention of substance abuse can be taken by the governing bodies here is how you can work on preventing substance abuse:

Join a campaign. There are many campaigns that run with an aim to prevent an individual from falling into the trap of substance abuse. You can join such a campaign to not only safeguard yourself but also those around you.

Get the knowledge. You should be aware of the different terms, disorders, and signs related to substance. This will help you and your loved ones in the long-run.

Understand the impact. You should be aware of the impact of substance abuse and its impact on your overall mental wellness. Sometimes looking at the negative side of it to take necessary precautionary measures, the same applies here.

Start with your home. While family factors can put an individual to risk of getting addicted, they can also help in prevention. Make sure that you share a strong bond with your kids, have conventional norms about drugs and alcohol, and are actively engaged in their life.

Maintain the line. Make sure that you jump on the other side of the line.

Prevention of Substance Abuse

FAQs on Substance Abuse/ Addiction

Q.1 Are there any risk factors that predispose an individual to addiction?

A. Yes. Certain risk factors predispose individuals to addiction. That is why not everyone who uses a substance or drug becomes an abuser or addicted to it. These predisposing factors are:

  1. Family History.
  2. Early Drug Use.
  3. Mental Health Issues.
  4. Troubled Relationships.

Q.2 What are the common drugs to which an individual can develop an addiction to?

A. Some of the most common drugs that lead to substance addiction are:

  1. Alcohol,
  2. Marijuana,
  3. PCP, LSD, other hallucinogens,
  4. Inhalants (paint thinners and glue),
  5. Opioids and painkillers,
  6. Sedatives, anxiolytics, and hypnotics (medicines for anxiety),
  7. Tobacco,
  8. Caffeine,
  9. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants.

Q.3 When to get help for addiction or substance abuse?

A. Often an individual continues to use a substance or drug thinking that it is just for socializing or a stress-buffer, without realizing that they have started to abuse it or even get addicted to it. Therefore, the point where one should have got help goes missing. Therefore, the three warning signs should be taken into consideration here:

  • You can’t stop using that substance.
  • You can see it causing trouble in your daily life functioning (work-related or in a relationship).
  • You crave it constantly.

If these three signs are prominently visible, then it is time to get help for addiction.

Q.4 How to start the journey of de-addiction on my own?

A. Generally, you need a therapist, medication, or rehabilitation for a substance dependence situation. But, at the earlier stages, you can begin your de-addiction journey. You can read about it here.

Now, if you know someone who is going through addiction, be there for them and help them in this journey of recovery.

And if you think that you too are slowly drifting to the substance-dependence zone. Then we recommend you begin your de-addiction journey. If you feel the need for help from professionals, go for it! Don’t let the stigmas hold you back. Get the help that you need and work towards your healing!!!

Good luck!!! Sending you more power…

About The Author

Anjali Singh
Anjali Singh

Anjali Singh is a content curator in the field of Mental Health. She is currently done Ph.D. in Psychology. Her aim is to light up the world with positive vibes through her words, her idea of life is ‘Grow through what you go through’. Apart from this, she is a big-time pet lover.


  1. Nkeet

    irrespective of the abuse type, it will impact your health and to cope with it, the abive details are just as effective as one could wish for.

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