Substance Abuse

This is the continued misuse of mind altering substances which causes severe changes in a person’s ability to physically and mentally function every day and their responsibilities. Alcohol dependence is a very common problem as well as substance abuse like cocaine, heroin, crack, and cannabis. Other drugs like solvents and volatile substances are also included, as well as smoking cigarettes and drinking high amounts of coffee. Bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder, involves the misuse of food.

Most addictive substances give the users temporary relief from their stress. They become less inhibited and they lose self-control which could lead to health problems. Severe types of substance abuse can be treated by specialist drugs and some form of rehabilitation especially for alcohol dependents. For those patients with mental problems who suffer from substance abuse, the professional health team encourages them to consult a specialist substance misuse service. Wanting to change and stop from substance abuse can help the person realize his misgivings and return to his normal way of life.

Causes of substance abuse

There are several possible reasons why someone would start drinking or abusing drugs. It usually begins with curiosity or rebellion as an influence from friends. If the person enjoys it, he may repeat and get used to it. They may begin to use drugs or drink alcohol to cope up with life. Nicotine, drugs and solvents start as ‘props’ in helping someone get better but these drugs offer temporary relief and their problems will not disappear by their being dependent on these substances. This will create a new problem – addiction, that is.


See the article Alcohol and mental health.


Tea, coffee and chocolate contain caffeine. It is added to soft drinks, painkillers, cold remedies and some energy drinks. The amount of caffeine in every product is different. An average cup of coffee has 40mg while one can of cola has 23mg. Energy drinks have four times caffeine content than a can of cola. Chocolate on the other hand has 40-mg caffeine in every 100g which is almost three times as high as milk chocolate.

Signs of dependency on caffeine

Caffeine arouses the nervous system and the brain. It makes the person feel alert and is able to concentrate better. It can also increase the acid production of the stomach which aids in digestion. If the person takes in large quantities of caffeine a day, his tolerance for caffeine would increase and would even have to drink more to maintain the stimulatory effect.

Caffeine raises the heart rate and the person’s blood pressure. It can also make you urinate more. This would lead to high amounts of calcium being lost in the process. Sensitivity to caffeine is different for each person but drinking taking in too much could make the person feel anxious, irritable, restless, sleepless, and jittery. It can give headaches, nausea, stomach pain, palpitations, or muscle twitching.

Tips to cut down on your caffeine

To cut down on caffeine immediately is hard to do because the person may feel withdrawal symptoms which include nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression. One way to go about this problem is to decrease the caffeine amount the person consumes gradually. They can shift to drinking decaffeinated coffee if they are able to stand decreased levels of caffeine in their body. Do not shift to other products like chocolate or cola because these two have high amounts of caffeine.


Medical drugs like sleeping pills and tranquilizers are prescribed to treat ailments but these drugs could cause problems if they are used for long periods of time. Tranquilizers help with anxiety for one month while sleeping pills are effective for only a couple of weeks. Higher doses of these drugs are needed to maintain their effects or anxiety and sleeplessness would return.

Street drugs like ecstasy and cannabis are usually for recreational purposes. Their effects will depend on the type of drug, the amount, the user’s mood and his surroundings. First time users may have problems getting used to the drugs especially if the drugs have impurities. But after repeated use, the users will get used to the drugs and they will have and tolerate higher doses of the drugs to maintain its effects.

Types of drugs

Drugs are divided according to their main effect on the users.


These would include tobacco and caffeine together with anabolic steroid, amphetamines, poppers, cocaine, hallucinogenic amphetamines and crack. These drugs increase the brain’s activities as they act on the nervous system. The users become more confident and alert and are able to perform physically demanding activities for long period s of time. High doses of these drugs could make the user anxious and nervous, except tobacco. Users may also feel short bouts of paranoia.


These drugs include tranquillisers like Valium, Mogadon, Librium, and temazepam, and glues, solvents, gases and aerosols. Depressants slow down the brain’s activity as it affects the central nervous system. It makes the users feel relaxed and be less anxious and tense. But the drugs also limits mental and physical activity of the person as they tend to lose self-control.


These drugs are painkillers and would include opium, heroin, codeine and pethidine. The drugs make the users become emotionally and physically sensitive to pain. This also produce feelings or contentment and warmth.


This would include LSD, cannabis and the magic mushrooms. These drugs act on the user’s mind as they heighten the sensation and distort how the user would hear and see things.

Signs of being dependent on drugs

If the person begins to heavily rely on drugs to make them feel less depressed or anxious and to uplift their mood, then the person is becoming dependent on a psychological level. If the person relies heavily on drugs to relieve some physical effects of not being able to take drugs, then the person is becoming addicted on a physical level. Most users are addicted physically and psychologically and it is hard to tell the two apart.

Other symptoms that indicate the person is being dependent on drugs are the following:

  • If having the drugs are the most important thing in their your life
  • If using drugs could block out the emotional and physical pain
  • If using drugs could forget their problems like being lonely, having family or relationship problems, being unemployed, low self-esteem, housing difficulties or living in poverty

Help with drugs

If the patient would want to change their drugs, they should get in contact with any of the mentioned organizations listed here. The drugs depend on your particular needs, symptoms and level of dependence.


A person can have an eating disorder if they do not have the right eating habits to maintain their health or happiness. This could also affect other people especially since they will worry about you.

Bulimia nervosa

This condition is an eating disorder wherein those who are affected by it cannot stick to a proper and nutritional diet and eating pattern. These people eat so much in one meal and then stave off eating for the rest of the day. This is called binging. They feel guilty and out of control so they panic and reprimand themselves by starving, over-exercising, taking laxatives and makes themselves feel sick. This leads to a lot of physical damage like having tooth decay, intestinal damage, constipation, and even kidney and heart diseases. A person has bulimia nervosa if they avoid eating with company and if they go to the lavatory once they finish a meal.


Other people smoke tobacco to be relaxed while some would say that they need it to help the cope up with stress. This may be true but the effects of smoking are grave and serious. For long-time smokers, this causes lung cancer while some develop lung and heart diseases. Other people can also become sick by inhaling the exhaled fumes of the smokers.

Signs of becoming addicted to nicotine

Nicotine is a fast-acting drug. Its concentration in the bloodstream quickly drops after one cigarette. This makes the smoker want to have another one. Most smokers do not realize how subtle they become addicted to nicotine so quickly. They feel no physical pain but they feel restless and empty when they do not smoke. They become nervous, agitated, irritable and insecure when they cannot have a smoke immediately. Smokers relieve those feelings by lighting up another cigarette. They feel relieved and relaxed once they do so. This also means that they start the cycle again.

Advice on how to quit smoking

Being determined to quit substance abuse is a very important thing to remember. The user should be able to recognize that he is addicted to nicotine and that withdrawal takes only two to three weeks before getting rid of almost 99% of nicotine in the body.

  • Concentrate on what you will gain if you lose the cigarettes
  • Stop from smoking completely – even if you smoke just one cigarette, nicotine will add up just the same
  • Avoiding other smokers will keep the user from being tempted back into smoking
  • Using nicotine gum or patches can be useful if the user is having a hard time doing it. It allows the body to get used to a smaller amount of nicotine so withdrawing will come as easy


Solvent and volatile substance abuse means that the users inhale fumes from common household products to be high. They can sniff the products which include aerosols, cigarette lighter refills like butane, solvent based adhesives like glue or even petrol.

Majority of volatile chemicals are depressants. These drugs slow the brain’s activity down as the users begin to feel more relaxed, less anxious and tensed. These drugs are also capable of impairing the physical and mental activities of the person so they feel less in control of themselves. Prolonged use of volatile chemicals and solvents will lead to kidney, liver and brain damage.

Signs of becoming a solvent dependent

Users usually start with solvents because they may be bored of doing their usual routine. After that, they may use solvents more often or casually. A small number of users will begin to rely heavily on solvents as means of coping up with their lives and not just for fun anymore.