Addiction has been widely defined as the compulsive engagement in rewarding and pleasurable activities or behaviours. You can’t stop using even when your condition causes you harm, because your physical and psychological symptoms are so overpowering. Addiction is a disease.
Substance abuse differs from addiction. Many people with substance abuse problems are able to quit or change their unhealthy behaviour before it manifests into an overpowering disease. Substance abuse can be classified as the beginning stages of addiction – if identified early enough, an individual may be able to tackle recovery head-on; without the battle against hugely overpowering mental and physical symptoms that are fuelled by that of addiction.
If you or somebody you know is struggling to control their use of legal or illegal substances, then they may require professional treatment.
What is Substance abuse?
Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol, prescription medication and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substances are made up of chemicals that change the function of the brain, therefore impacting one’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition and behaviour.
When you take drugs that are not legal or when you use alcohol, prescription medicine, and other legal substances in an excessive and uncontrolled manner, this can be classified as substance abuse. In particular, the frequent intake of psychoactive substances can lead to chronic dependence - a combination of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological symptoms. Difficulties in controlling use, continuing to use despite harmful consequences, and increased tolerance of the substance, all contribute to the dangerous cycle that is substance abuse.
As humans, most of us will come into contact with a legal or illegal substance at some stage in our lives. In the medical world, drugs and other chemical substances are helpful when used properly and in a controlled environment. Unfortunately, the misuse of medications and drugs, as well as alcohol and tobacco, is a growing problem in Australia. All genders, ages and backgrounds can be exposed to the risk of substance abuse.
Common types of substance abuse
Among older adults, prescription, over-the-counter medications, and alcohol are common driving forces to addictive behaviour. Frequently misused drugs include anxiety pills, sleeping medications, and pain medications. Addiction to nicotine is also a common problem.
Some older adults also abuse illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogens, and injected narcotics. Some people misuse more than one substance and combine an illicit substance with an over-the-counter medication.
Many older adults who become addicted to drugs also have another serious medical condition, such as chronic pain or a mental illness. Their drug habit may have begun as a way to ease the physical complications of their health issues, escalating over time through dependence, increased tolerance and dangerous experimental self-medicating.
For women and men, the amount of consumed alcohol that is considered to increase health risks is either more than 7 standard drinks per week on average, or more than 3 drinks on any day. Any drinking that is used to manage mental or physical problems, or that serves as a catalyst for interpersonal relationship problems, is not healthy. Furthermore, alcohol abuse that contributes to community harm or road accidents, is considered a very serious problem.
Harmful or hazardous alcohol-consumption behaviour is unfortunately quite common, as is the number of Australian adults that take painkillers regularly. Painkillers affect your central nervous system and when taken outside of a prescribed amount, can lead to a dependence. This is also the case with a common sedative drug known as ‘benzodiazepines’. Benzodiazepines are depressant drugs that they slow the activity of the central nervous system and the messages that travel between the brain and the body.
What are the effects of Substance abuse?
A drug that is beneficial when first prescribed may become harmful when other drugs are added, or when there is a change in your health. The importance of regular monitoring and management through a trained medical professional, is paramount to ensuring an individual does not develop life-threatening behaviours.
In older people, the harmful effects from abuse of chemical substances can have a greater effect than that of younger people. Physical effects of substance abuse include mental problems, kidney and liver disease, and injuries from falls caused through imbalance and impaired vision. It’s common for adults; particularly the elderly, to require a variety of different daily medications. If misused or taken in excess, these drugs may be harmful to the body, especially when combined with alcohol and/or other illicit, non-prescription drugs. However, substance abuse does not discriminate, and can take over the lives of people young and old, wreaking havoc on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
If you are addicted to a medication or other substance, your likelihood of having some type of mental illness is higher. Adults who abuse alcohol are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness. The risk of dementia, suicide, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems is much greater in people who are dependent on alcohol. Quitting alcohol can slow down or even reverse many of these conditions.
When you drink alcohol with some medications, the alcohol can make the effect of the medication dangerously strong. For example, taking alcohol with pills for sleeping, pain, anxiety, or depression can produce harmful and sometime fatal side-effects.
Treatment of substance abuse – the way to Sober Living
Substance abuse is a serious problem, with the ability to escalate into a life-altering, dangerous addiction. That is why substance abuse ehabilitation is so important in the early stages of a substance-abuse problem; to tackle it before it grows into something much larger, uglier and more powerful. There are numerous types of rehab programs available for substance abuse. Inpatient, outpatient and regular family therapy are among a few of the most common treatment options available.
There’s only one facility that truly covers all bases when it comes to rehabilitation services. Sober Living Housing is a Private Residential Drug and Alcohol Addiction treatment service based in Melbourne. Their underlying goal is to provide a foundation for clients to build a solid support group for themselves and healthy safe relationships with their peers - ultimately to repair and strengthen family relationships outside of the centre, if required.
Substance abuse treatment programs, supervised medical care and other essential recovery-facilities are the driving force to the success and continuation of the Sober Living Rehab clinic. The facility offers a range of rehab programs including inpatient stay, life skills courses, support to families of addicts, and outpatient monitoring for those ready to migrate back into normal life. Detoxification, intensive-inpatient care and rehabilitation housing are crucial services offered through the facility. Sober Living Housing is a leading centre for substance abuse treatment.