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Types of Substance Abuse

Published on January 16th, 2018

Substance abuse can take many different forms. Generally speaking, substance abuse is categorized by a pattern of behavior whereby using substances impairs or distresses the user significantly. This includes using substances that endanger the user’s well-being, cause the user to fail to fulfill their responsibilities, get the user into legal problems, or continuing to use substances despite them causing problems in the user’s life. Below are some of the most common types of substance abuse. Understanding what each of them are and the different dangers associated with them helps identify and diagnose abuse issues, which is the first step in treatment.

Depressants

Depressants are those substances which slow down the central nervous system, decrease inhibitions and pain, and produce a relaxed feeling. Opiates like heroin, morphine, and opium are a classic examples of depressants. Xanax, Valium, and Ativan are some pharmaceutical versions of depressants which often get abused. Health problems with depressant addiction are widespread, and the risk of overdose is high.

Stimulants

Stimulants are those substances that release neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine which stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers. Some common examples of legal stimulants are nicotine and caffeine. Their illegal counterparts include cocaine and amphetamines. Ultimately, abusing stimulants will lead to intense cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. Abuse & addiction can also lead to symptoms like paranoia, irritability, restlessness, violence or aggression, and even psychosis.

Psychedelics

Psychedelics, otherwise known as hallucinogens, are substances that distort one’s sensations and perceptions of the world around them. They are often very potent and can have severe & adverse health effects. Those with mental health problems who abuse these drugs risk triggering and exemplifying these problems.

Alcohol

Generally considered a depressant, alcohol is the single most pervasive psychoactive substance we see in society. Abuse of alcohol leads to aggression, poor judgement, lowered inhibitions, depression/anxiety, health problems, and relationship problems. Alcohol abuse affects the entire body, and has compelling effects on the brain.

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