What Is Substance Abuse?

Identifying a problem with substance abuse sounds easier than it actually is. When we think of someone who is struggling with a problem with alcohol or drug abuse, we typically think of someone who has lost everything. However, what defines substance abuse varies greatly. While some really do hit “rock bottom” with their substance abuse, many others are much more functional. Some will continue to work and maintain what appears to be a normal adult life.

You may have a problem with substance abuse if you are dealing with any of the following:

  • Period of abstinence followed by a relapse
  • Family and friends complaining about your alcohol or drug use
  • Lack of participation in past activities and hobbies
  • Relationship problems
  • High-risk behaviors after using
  • Legal problems related to alcohol or drug use
  • Keeping secrets about your drug or alcohol use from friends and family
  • Work attendance problems
  • Failed attempts to avoid use
  • Frequent blackouts
  • Cravings

Along with these symptoms, there are also secondary issues that can result from substance abuse. These can include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Problems with depression
  • Other addictive behaviors, such as sexual compulsivity
  • Difficulties maintaining attention
  • Sleep problems
  • Increased anxiety

Abuse vs. Addiction

Although most people who are active in their addiction do abuse alcohol and drugs, not everyone who abuses it is addicted. Those who abuse can experience problems with work, family, or their social life. They may have a legal problem such as a DWI. However, some may actually only have some of the secondary issues listed above. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine if your substance abuse is a problem.

One distinguishing factor is control. Those who aren’t addicted are typically able to stop using. This factor is not easy to identify either. Many feel a though they are in control of their drinking, even when they aren’t. Therefore, it can be difficult to know if this self-assessment is accurate.

Those who are addicted have some area in their use that they can’t control. For some, this is evident in several areas of their lives. For others though, there might be only some areas that are impacted.


One common issue for those who are dealing with substance abuse is compartmentalization. This is when people break off different parts of their live, and even block out other parts. Sometimes this can be used to fit a desired story. For example, if the desired story is that the person is in control of his drinking, he may distance himself from all of the problems that he has experienced. This is what makes dishonesty an issue for many substance abusers.

Success Can Happen For Those With A Substance Abuse Problem

When people have a multidimensional element to their recovery, they often are successful. Receiving help via therapy, as well as having support, can be a powerful combination in substance abuse treatment. This can include 12-step support groups, individual therapy, psychiatric care, and family support. Such treatment will help clients gain a better understanding of their addiction, help them to accept it as the problem that it is, and work with them to build plans to prevent future relapse.

Vantage Point Counseling offers various treatment options for different addictions and mental illnesses. With their help, thousands of people have been able to find healing and help for various mental health issues that may be fighting. They can’t wait to help you too. Visit them at their main site to learn more.