Effects, Signs, & Symptoms of Substance Abuse Addiction

Addiction is a complex condition that causes a person to continue using drugs or alcohol even if their health, relationships, or career has been negatively affected. According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction changes the way a person’s brain functions, and this is what can cause them to have intense cravings or behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. 

East Tennessee Behavioral Health provides inpatient and outpatient care for adolescents, adults, and senior adults who are struggling with opioid addiction. We also support people who have addictions to other substances, but those concerns must be secondary to a mental health condition. 

Signs & Symptoms of Addiction

Different factors can influence whether someone may experience certain addiction symptoms, including the substance a person is abusing and their family history. However, there are certain warning signs that a person may need professional support. These are some common signs and symptoms of addiction: 

  • Ongoing desire to cut down on or stop using the substance 
  • Keeps using more of the substance than they intend 
  • Keeps using the substance for longer than they intend 
  • Tries to stop using the substance but cannot control their use 
  • Has intense cravings for the substance they’ve been using 
  • Needs more of the substance to experience the same effects 
  • Uses the substance in situations in which it is unsafe to do so 
  • Continues using the substance despite experiencing negative consequences

While the symptoms of addiction may vary from person to person, getting someone help as soon as they show any addiction signs can save their life. 

Common Causes of & Risk Factors for Addiction

It’s typically not possible to pinpoint a single cause behind why someone is struggling with an addiction, because many factors can influence a person’s risk for developing an addiction. Common causes of and risk factors for addiction include: 

  • Environment – Being exposed to family or friends who use drugs or encourage a person to use drugs 
  • Using substances early in life – Can cause changes in brain chemistry, increasing the risk for developing an addiction later in life 
  • Family history – Having a parent or sibling who also struggles with addiction 
  • Lack of family involvement – Lack of parental supervision, difficult family situations, or lack of bonding with parents or siblings 

Addiction Statistics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported the following statistics about addiction from a 2020 survey:  

  • About 40.3 million people age 12 or older struggled with addictions in the past year. 
  • Adults age 18 and older who had a mental health condition in the past year (39.2%) were more likely to use illicit drugs than those who didn’t have a mental health concern (17%) during the same time frame. 
  • Adolescents ages 12-17 who struggled with a mental health concern in the past year (28.6%) were more likely to use illicit drugs than adolescents who did not have a mental health disorder (10.7%) during the same period. 

Effects of Addiction

The true impact of addiction varies depending on the substance someone is abusing, along with other factors in their life. However, there are certain effects of addiction that are more likely to occur the longer someone struggles with substance abuse. Common addiction effects include: 

  • Declining performance at work and eventual job loss 
  • Loss of motivation at school and poor academic achievement 
  • Loss of income, financial hardship, or homelessness 
  • Strained relationships with friends, coworkers, or family 
  • Diseases obtained through needles or unprotected sex 
  • Accidents or injuries while under the influence 
  • Frequent legal issues from behaviors while under the influence 
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts 

The effects of addiction can be devastating and even fatal. But by getting professional support early on, you can minimize any long-term negative effects of addiction. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

People experience withdrawal when the substance they are abusing leaves their body. The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on different factors, such as what substance someone was abusing and how long they were abusing that substance. Common withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Stomach pain  
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Tremors 
  • Aching muscles 
  • Fever or chills 
  • Anxiety or irritation 
  • Pounding heart 

Going through withdrawal is often a barrier to recovery because it can be so overwhelming. But when you find a place that offers detox, you can have the support of professionals who can help you during the withdrawal process. 

What Happens If I Have an Addiction Relapse?

Accepting that you need help for an addiction is the first step toward recovery, but it’s just the beginning of your journey.  

Even after you work with professionals to stop abusing substances, there may be moments when you struggle with cravings or triggers. While working with professionals, you can learn healthier ways to cope so that you are better prepared for these moments. 

If you do still have an addiction relapse even if you’re equipped with these tools, know that this is not a failure on your part. Reach out to your care team so that they can help you get back on track. 

Common Underlying or Co-Occurring Disorders

People who are struggling with mental health concerns commonly develop co-occurring addictions. Oftentimes this happens when a person self-medicates the symptoms of a mental health condition using drugs or alcohol, leading them to develop a co-occurring substance use disorder. 

Whatever the cause, the care at East Tennessee Behavioral Health can address every condition a person is facing. We thoroughly evaluate each person’s needs and provide them with personalized care that can set the groundwork for lasting success. 

This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at East Tennessee Behavioral Health.  

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