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Substance Abuse Treatment

When individuals fall prey to the trap of substance abuse and addiction, it is very difficult to attempt to quit on their own. To successfully break the chains of addiction, professionally administered substance abuse treatment is always the recommended course of action. Defining substance abuse and recognizing when it has become a problem for an individual, however, can sometimes be difficult, particularly for the individual grappling with this disease. For our purposes, we define substance abuse as the act of the repetitive and harmful use of psychoactive drugs and alcohol, despite negative consequences such as financial, legal, and relationship troubles, and mental health and medical problems.

The Shifting Understanding of Substance Abuse

The medical terminology used by the American Psychiatric Association that refers to addiction has recently changed from substance abuse and substance dependence to substance use disorder. The new classifications allow providers to better define particular stages of abuse and dependence. However, whatever terminology is used, substance abuse is truly a destructive and maladaptive disorder that, when untreated, progresses to the development of serious problems in almost all areas of one’s life. The earlier that the abuser undergoes substance abuse treatment, the more problems can be prevented. In its most severe form, substance abuse can lead to incarceration, death by overdose, withdrawal, medical problems, or suicide.

photo of male patient at drug rehab talking with professional medical staff

Impact of Substance Abuse on Families

Substance abuse doesn’t only affect the abuser; oftentimes, an entire family must suffer the negative consequences of this disease. This makes substance abuse treatment a priority not only for the addict personally, but for their family as well. Studies have shown that families with one or more substance abusing children or adults invariably suffer from one or more of the following negative patterns of interaction:


Any communication that occurs among family members is negative, taking the form of complaints, criticism, and other expressions of displeasure, making the overall mood of the household decidedly downbeat.

Parental inconsistency

Rule setting is erratic, enforcement is inconsistent, and family structure is inadequate. Children are confused because they cannot figure out the boundaries of right and wrong.

Parental denial

Despite obvious warning signs, the parental stance is: (1) “What drug/alcohol problem? We don’t see any drug problem!” or (2) after authorities intervene: “You are wrong! My child does not have a drug problem!”

Miscarried expression of anger

Children or parents who resent their emotionally deprived home and are afraid to express their outrage use drug abuse as one way to manage their repressed anger.


Either a parent or child will use drugs or alcohol to cope with intolerable thoughts or feelings, such as severe anxiety or depression.

Unrealistic parental expectations

If parental expectations are unrealistic, children can excuse themselves from all future expectations by saying, in essence, “You can’t expect anything of me—I’m just a pothead/speed freak/junkie.” Alternatively, they may work obsessively to overachieve, all the while feeling that no matter what they do it is never good enough, or they may joke and clown to deflect the pain or may withdraw to side‐step the pain.

Help Is Out There

Though the recreational use of psychoactive drugs and alcohol frequently begins as a social behavior, it oftentimes progresses to substance abuse and dependence, which is a profoundly isolative experience. What once seemed like a fun experience, has now turned into an uncontrollable behavior. However, with today’s advances in medical, psychiatric, and counseling services, one does not need to lose everything that they care about to this disease – such as employment, housing, relationships, physical and mental health, and most importantly one’s sense of self – before seeking help in the form of substance abuse treatment at a reputable and certified substance abuse treatment facility.

Overcoming Denial

A hallmark of substance abuse is denial of the severity of use and its associated consequences by both family members and the person who is experiencing drug addiction and/or alcoholism. Denial psychologically protects one from truly experiencing the reality of the situation. When a person is addicted to a substance, the brain and body behave in such a way as to believe the substance is necessary for survival, much like the need for water and food. It is human nature to not want to admit the level of this perceived need, as that demonstrate the addict’s powerlessness. However, this is, in fact, the necessary first step to beginning substance abuse treatment, enabling individuals to regain control of their lives.

Signs of Addiction

  • Changes in personality and behavior like a lack of motivation, irritability, and agitation
  • Bloodshot eyes and frequent bloody noses
  • Shakes, tremors, or slurred speech
  • Change in their daily routines
  • Lack of concern for personal hygiene
  • Unusual need for money; financial problems
  • Changes in friends and activities

Source: WebMD

Classes of Commonly Abused Substances

Many substances can be abused and lead to addiction. Although the process and negative consequences are similar across all of these substances, there are significant differences, based upon which substance is being abused. For purposes of comparison it can be helpful to group these substances into different classes that each contain common mechanisms of addiction and abuse. The most typically abused classes of psychoactive substances include alcohol, opiates, stimulants, synthetic drugs, and hallucinogens and marijuana.


Also known as ethyl alcohol, or drinking alcohol, alcohol is one of the most ancient substances that can lead to abuse, dating back to at least 3000 B.C. It is produced by the fermentation of substances such as fruits, grains, vegetables, and honey. Because alcohol is commonly used in social settings and as an acceptable form of relaxation, it is the most abused substance. Whereas, using cocaine openly would cause concern for the user in most social contexts, the use of alcohol is perceived as a normal behavior. Thus, alcohol abuse and alcoholism frequently go undetected or denied for long periods of time. In addition, people often feel they can quit alcohol use quickly and easily without professional help due to its “common” usage. However, withdrawal from alcoholism is actually one of the most dangerous of any of these substances, making medically monitored detox and substance abuse treatment a potentially life-saving necessity.


Opiates are any substances that are produced from (or mimic the chemistry of) naturally-occurring opiates in the poppy plant. These include opium, morphine, heroin, and synthetic opiates. With the advent of synthetic opiates, such as Oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and Dilaudid, heroin use waned in the United States. However, due to the recent increased oversight of pain clinics and the distribution and prescription of synthetic opiates by the government, heroin abuse is again on the rise. Because heroin is produced in makeshift laboratories, the purity is unknown to the user. This leads to a high risk of overdose and potentially death in those who abuse heroin. All of the drugs in this class carry a high risk of addiction and the potential for sometimes deadly overdoses. This makes enrolling in substance abuse treatment a life or death race against the clock for individuals who abuse these drugs.


Stimulants, such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, Ritalin, Concerta, cocaine, and crack cocaine are highly addictive. The use of these substances is associated with the rapid development of drug addiction. The criminal and social behaviors associated with an addiction to these substances frequently lead to the incarceration of the user. The use of this class of drugs produce a stimulant effect on the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and causes an increased state of alertness, a feeling of euphoria, and an increase in sympathetic drive, such as an increase in sweating, blood pressure, and heart rate, which can lead to grave consequences. Without substance abuse treatment to combat their addiction, many chronic stimulant users face the risk of heart attack or other long-term heart damage due to their abuse of stimulants.

Synthetic Drugs

Synthetic drugs are produced in clandestine laboratories and attempt to mimic the effects of substances the have been deemed illegal or controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Examples of synthetic drugs commonly available on the streets are spice, K2, and Bath Salts. Several synthetic drugs have now been classified as illegal by the DEA. However, the clandestine laboratories and chemists attempt to overcome the controlled classifications by slightly chemically altering the substance. Therefore, the substance is not illegal when initially produced. Some may even be labelled as, “not for human consumption,” and easily sold in convenience stores and “head” shops. The “witches brew” of chemicals that fall under this class of commonly abused substances can often lead to poisonings or wildly unpredictable behavior by the user, resulting in hospitalizations, incarceration or even death.

Hallucinogens and Marijuana

Hallucinogens are substances that, when ingested, create altered perceptions of reality, both of self and the surrounding environment. Marijuana’s active component, THC, has properties that fit into the hallucinogenic spectrum of drugs. These addictive substances induce a state of euphoria (excitement and happiness) that can rapidly change and become a state of dysphoria (a state of unease), i.e. a bad “trip.” Hallucinogens create intense emotional swings, and hallucinations such as hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not truly present. Commonly used hallucinogens are Ecstasy (XTC), LSD, PCP, mushrooms (mescaline and Peyote), Ketamine, and dextromethorphan (DXM). Some hallucinogens can cause dissociation, which leads to the absence of the connection of one’s thoughts, memories, and the sense of identity. These effects can lead to acute life-threatening psychotic episodes or further reinforce existing chronic psychiatric disorders in those who abuse these drugs.

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one is abusing any of these substances, particularly on a chronic basis, professionally-administered substance abuse treatment is the best way to have a chance at loosening the death-grip of abuse and addiction. Don’t wait until these dangerous substances have done permanent physical and mental damage – or in the worst case scenario result in the death of the abuser or those around them. Call BWR today at 880-683-4457 to get started on the road to recovery and put substance abuse in your rearview mirror forever.


[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
[2] WebMD,


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.


Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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