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Spotting Signs of Substance Abuse

A close up of a syringe and spoon with drugs on a table and a woman in the background.

Substance abuse is an issue that affects individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. It’s a complex problem that can stem from various factors, such as genetic predispositions, environmental influences, and personal trauma. 

When it goes unnoticed, substance abuse can have devastating effects on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as on their relationships and society at large. The first step toward helping those struggling is recognizing the signs and taking action to help

Some of the most common signs of substance abuse include:

  • Behavioural signs like mood swings, secrecy, and engaging in risky behaviours.
  • Physical signs like bloodshot eyes, sudden weight loss, or gain.
  • Social signs such as withdrawing from social activities.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse, also known as substance use disorder, is a pattern of using drugs or alcohol in a way that causes problems at work, home, or in relationships. It involves the recurring use of substances to self-medicate, relax, or escape from reality. 

The prevalence of substance abuse can be attributed to a myriad of reasons, including societal pressures, accessibility to drugs and alcohol, and an individual’s mental state.

Understanding the Spectrum of Substance Use

Substance use ranges from experimental and recreational to problematic and severe addiction. At each level, there are distinct signs that family and friends can learn to recognize.

Commonly Abused Substances

Common substances that are abused include alcohol, nicotine, opioids (such as heroin and prescription drugs), stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine), and cannabis. Each of these substances presents unique risks and warning signs.

Signs of Substance Abuse

Recognizing the signs of substance abuse can be challenging, especially when individuals attempt to hide their use. However, behavioural, physical, and social cues can indicate an issue.

The 4 Cs of Addiction

A useful framework for identifying substance abuse is the concept of the 4 Cs of addiction: Compulsion, Cravings, Consequences, and Control.

  • Compulsion refers to the overwhelming feeling that one must use the substance regularly, often going to great lengths to secure it. 
  • Cravings manifest as intense urges or thoughts about using the substance, which can disrupt daily life and mental peace. 
  • Consequences involve continuing the substance use despite being aware of the negative impacts it has on health, relationships, and responsibilities. 
  • Control is diminished in the face of addiction, as the individual finds it increasingly difficult to limit their substance use or stop altogether, even if they want to. 

Behavioural Signs

Changes in behaviour can include sudden mood swings, a decline in academic or work performance, secrecy, or engaging in risky behaviours. It’s common to observe alterations in sleep patterns, either excessive sleepiness or insomnia, and a noticeable lack of motivation or energy that affects daily activities. 

Physical Signs

The physical effects of substance abuse can manifest in various ways, from bloodshot eyes to sudden weight loss or gain. Other noticeable physical signs include changes in appearance or personal hygiene, such as neglect in grooming habits or wearing the same clothes for multiple days. 

Social Signs

Substance abuse often causes a person to withdraw from social activities or display changes in their social circle and personal relationships. Social withdrawal is not limited to friends but can extend to family members, creating a rift between loved ones. The person may avoid social gatherings, especially those where substance use is discouraged or not possible, further isolating themselves from supportive relationships. 

Why Early Detection Is Crucial

Early detection of substance abuse can prevent the problem from escalating into a full-blown addiction. Friends and family members need to know what to look for and how to approach the situation with empathy and support.

Approaching Loved Ones

Conversations about substance abuse can be difficult, but they are necessary for change. Learn strategies for approaching a loved one with concerns about their substance use.

The Ripple Effect

Substance abuse doesn’t just affect the individual—it impacts their loved ones and the community at large. Early detection can help stop the ripple effect of negative consequences.

Seeking Help & Support

Once substance abuse is recognized, the next step is seeking help and support. There are various treatment options available, ranging from inpatient rehabilitation to therapy programs.

Finding the Right Treatment

Understanding the different types of treatment, such as detoxification, counselling, and medications, can help identify the best course for an individual’s needs.

Support Beyond Treatment

Recovery is a lifelong process, and ongoing support is crucial. This may involve support groups, sober living arrangements, or counselling.

Turning Awareness Into Action

Spotting the signs of substance abuse is only the first step. It is vital to turn this awareness into action by helping those in need or sharing information that could help others do the same.

Fostering Supportive Environments

Creating supportive environments that encourage open conversations about substance abuse can help individuals feel more comfortable seeking help.

A psychologist giving advice to a person struggling with addiction while taking notes

Calgary Dream Centre’s Role in Substance Abuse Recovery

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, early intervention is vital. At Calgary Dream Centre, individuals can access various recovery programs tailored to their unique needs, including residential treatment, transitional housing, and community outreach.

Calgary Dream Centre aims to be a beacon of light for those struggling with addiction, offering support, counselling, and the tools necessary to reclaim a life free from substance abuse. Reach out to us today for information, guidance, and support to start the path to recovery. Together, we can make a difference.

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  • Written by Craig Hill

    Craig Hill has been involved with the Calgary Dream Centre (CDC) since its inception. Starting with trips to the LA Dream Centre where seeds were planted in him that were never forgotten. After years of working in business, real estate, and church ministry, Craig returned to the CDC to step in as the CEO. Craig has a deep appreciation for the life change that happens here, the incredible team, and seeing the redemptive work that God is doing. Outside of work, Craig is a family man who loves nothing more than being with his wife and kids at the lake.

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