Substance Abuse Psychology

Substance use can be thought of as operating on a spectrum of sorts. Misusing a prescription or illicit drug, alcohol, tobacco, or any number of other items is the inciting event. What happens next depends on a number of factors: who took the substance, how much was taken, what substance was it exactly, and how habit-forming it is, to name a few variables. It may take several uses, for example, of alcoholic drinks before a situation arises. On the other hand, using something like heroin — known to be a highly addictive opioid — just once can be a no-turning-back point. One-off use can quickly develop into additional usages, which themselves turn into hazardous scenarios ultimately leading to a dependence. As far as the chemistry within the brain is concerned, this is the critical moment. The body has gotten used to the presence of the substance and requires more of it to achieve the same feeling of pain-relief or euphoria. This is where the slippery slope toward full-blown addiction commences. While substance abuse is the action, addiction is considered the psychological result. Whenever this junction is reached, someone may not even be able to intervene for themselves any longer — the substance has the upper hand.

Substance Abuse Psychology
So, how does substance abuse get to this point for some? Are certain people more susceptible to it all? In a word: yes. Myriad factors can lead to onset cases of substance abuse disorders, some of which include: genetics, biology, home environment, mental health, childhood, trauma, and more. Self-control, which most people believe is the primary reason for a substance abuse problem, is a tertiary influencer at best.

This brings up a major factor that is worth noting: autonomy. The term refers to the idea that one’s life is defined by the freedom to do as one wishes. Someone who is predisposed to addiction may feel as though their life is beyond their power. Substances become the conduit to regain autonomy, though, this is a false sense of control. Excessive drug and alcohol use robs people of their self-sufficiency, but they are awfully good at covering that fact up in the interim.

People who are unable to properly cope with stress are put at a greater risk of developing a substance issue, too. Stress has always been considered a silent threat, so it’s no wonder it pairs so noxiously with silent killers in the form of drugs. A healthy coping mechanism makes all the difference for someone’s mental health; drugs cannot be suitable alternatives to friends, family, exercise, and the like. Yet, the substitution happens routinely.

But, just because substances become a means to get by physically, emotionally, or mentally, it doesn’t mean one cannot get over them for good. Rehabilitation centers are designed to treat psychological needs alongside substance abuse — it is the only true way to get the results needed for some. When all hope is lost and one feels like they are powerless over the direction their life is taking, it can feel like no one could ever understand what they are going through. The truth is, treatment experts have seen it all. Many have been in that exact same place themselves and are living proof that change is possible.

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