Substance Abuse Disorder 

 Drugs are here to stay; you need to choose your way

Drugs are fascinating because they change our awareness. The basic reason people take drugs is to vary their conscious experience. Of course there are many ways to alter consciousness, such as listening to music, dancing, exercising, day dreaming … and participating in religious rituals. The list is probably endless, and suggests that changing consciousness is something people like to do

               (Weil and Rosen in Saunders and O’Connor 1994:8)


Substance use disorder (SUD), also known as drug use disorder, is a condition in which the use of one or more substances leads to a clinically significant impair mentor distress (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Being a complex brain disease, it includes alcoholism and drug addiction, along with dependence and intense as well as uncontrollable cravings which leads to compulsive behavior to obtain the substance.

Commonly used term, addiction, is a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. The first stage is dependence. It is termed as a disease by several medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Like diabetes, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors

These substances are drugs which are chemicals, natural or synthetic, that change a person’s mental state and used repeatedly for the effect. Legally or illegally obtained, these psychoactive drugs that changes brain functioning resulting into alteration of consciousness include:

  • Depressants – They slow down the nervous system. For e.g.-alcohol, tranquilizers, heroin, and other opiates, cannabis (marijuana in small doses).
  • Stimulants – They excite the nervous system. For e.g.-nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine.
  • Hallucinogens – They distort how things are perceived. For e.g.- LSD, mescaline, ‘magic mushroom’, cannabis (high doses).
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The effects of drugs depend on drugs, person and environment. (Photo by  Imagens Evangelics)

A person does not choose to indulge, rather has certain reasons to not stop using drugs; these can include pleasure, company, liking, relief, loneliness, coping mechanism, dependency, ill after-effects, courage booster. People can feel caught between what their parents and elders say is important and the pressures and promises that western culture seems to offer. Community stress, boredom, frustration and peer pressure can draw people into drug using lifestyles.

The effects of any drugs depend on drugs, person and environment. A person does not choose to indulge, rather has certain reasons to not stop using drugs; these can include pleasure, company, liking, relief, loneliness, coping mechanism, dependency, ill after-effects, courage booster. People can feel caught between what their parents and elders say is important and the pressures and promises that western culture seems to offer. Community stress, boredom, frustration and peer pressure can draw people into drug using lifestyles.

The following diagram shows the three major influences on an individual’s decisions about drug use. Addressing drug-related harm needs to consider the links between these different factors.

When you watch, you follow, you know? When somebody do things, see them and you follow their example. They drink, well, you drink too! You get in there with them, they share you ‘hey, come on, come on here, drink here!’ And you drink. That’s it. The grog gets hold of you.   (Brady 1993:405)

There are many signs, both physical and behavioral, that indicate drug use. Each drug has its own unique manifestations, but there are some general indications that a person is using drugs:

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Mood swings; irritable and grumpy and then suddenly happy and bright
  • Withdrawal from family members
  • Careless about personal grooming
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports and other favorite activities
  • Changed sleeping pattern; up at night and sleeping during the day
  • Red or glassy eyes
  • Sniffing or runny nose

In this blog, we will be talking about this topic as well as many case studies in detail. Don’t forget to read, share and care. 

~Aastha Sethi

Reference: Wikipedia and https://health.nt.gov.au/Health_Promotion