As professionals aspiring to become substance abuse counselors, it is important to understand the fundamental question to our profession, which is “What is substance abuse?”. To keep things on the simple side, we will define substance abuse as a habitual pattern of harmful substance use for mood altering purposes. Read this carefully, because the part about substance abuse being for the purpose of mood alteration is key, especially for substance abuse counselors as we unlock the hidden motives and agendas behind this problem. Substance abuse is often a symptom of another cause, and is often comorbid with behavioral disorders or mental illness, such as anxiety and depression.
“What is Substance Abuse?” Let’s Dig Deeper
These substances that are being abused really have about four options for where they come from: They are acquired illegally, they are found in nature, they are prescribed by a medical doctor or psychiatrist, or they are purchased over-the-counter. A more specified aspect to substance abuse is that these items are used for purposes other than intended or in quantities other than directed. So when you ask yourself what is substance abuse in your mind, you need the key components that it is the use of substances for purposes other than intended or in quantities not suggested. Even mood altering medicines can be used as an escape. An escape from what though?
What is Substance Abuse – The Cause
It is not always the case that substance abuse is a symptom of an underlying problem, but more often than not it is the case. There are times when a youngster or even adult experiments with friends for fun and finds themselves addicted to a substance they never intended to be a part of their lives. However, oftentimes people behave destructively like this due to reasons such as depression, anxiety, anger, betrayal, etc. Some people begin using recreationally and find they can’t stop. In other incidences, a person could become injured and be prescribed a medicine for pain management. In time people can become dependent on these medicines to feel normal as they acquire tolerances to them. Let it be known, all kinds of medicines and substances can be potentially addictive or cause severe negative health effects, even caffeine and sugar.
What is Substance Abuse – The Effect
So to summarize, using a substance with medicinal purposes for non-therapeutic reasons or for a non-medical effect is substance abuse. It’s effects are rampant and obvious to those in the know. As substance abuse counselors, we should definitely be in the know about this type of thing. Some signs of substance abuse in individuals would be health problems, social problems, sexually acting out, low impulse control, explosive and violent behavior, temporary or fatal injury, domestic issues, obesity, motor impairment, physical dependence, psychological addiction, and psychiatric illness. Abuse of substances is common in older adolescents, with reports that 47% have tried a substance at least once by the 12th grade of high school. However high this usage amount is, those who actually meet the Diagnostic Statistics Manual criteria for substance abuse is actually around five percent. This is still an insanely large amount of children, and even more in adulthood. These disturbing statistics means there are at least hundreds of millions of people out there abusing substances, and the number of effected people no doubt entering the billions. Treatment is available and it is up to us as substance abuse counselors to hone and perfect our skills in helping these individuals.