Substance abuse affects individuals from all walks of life, regardless of age, sex, race, socioeconomic status or education. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2014, more than 20 million adults in the United States had used drugs at some point in the last year, but only about 7 percent sought treatment for their substance use. People begin to use drugs, legal and illegal, for a variety of complicated reasons. Some common drugs of abuse are:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription drugs
  • Methamphetamine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ecstasy/Molly/MDMA
  • Marijuana
  • Inhalants
  • Synthetic or designer drugs

Drugs such as nicotine, caffeine and other legal substances are also frequently abused and can be harmful to one’s health, but call into question to debate of “use or abuse.” Does drinking an entire pot of coffee in the morning to wake up count as abuse, or is it simply use? Generally speaking, any substance that interferes with your daily life, causes you harm or may lead to dependency constitutes abuse. The use of all illegal drugs is considered abuse by most professionals, as is the use of legal substances or medications in a way that produces a “high.” If you or a loved one is battling with drug use and struggling to get it under control, there is hope for recovery. At Alta Loma in Georgetown, Texas, we treat residents with a variety of substance use issues and co-occurring mental health disorders. We help our residents get back on track and achieve sustainable, long-term recovery and a healthier life.

What is Addiction?

If substance abuse is using drugs or alcohol in ways that are harmful, excessive or not as intended to produce a “high,” then what is addiction? Addiction occurs when an individual cannot stop using a substance even if he or she wants to, despite the negative consequences and adverse effects they’re experiencing as a result. Addiction disrupts a person’s life and makes it difficult for them to meet daily responsibilities or obligations as the need for a certain drug (or drugs) overshadows everything else. As a result, they might find it challenging to hold down a steady job, sustain personal relationships or maintain their health and hygiene. Over time, substance use often shifts from being an escape or stress reliever to becoming a necessity to function or feel normal.

What many people don’t realize is that addiction is a disease. It’s not a sign of some shortcoming or deficit in will power, morals or strength, but rather a symptom of changes in brain chemistry that make the drive to use drugs or alcohol challenging to overcome without treatment. Individuals who are addicted to substances are often both physically and psychologically unable to decrease or stop their use without professional help. The loss of control over one’s drug use is a defining characteristic of the disease. As time goes on, addiction can escalate, spiraling even further out of control and becoming life-threatening.

What is Withdrawal?

Whether drugs are used for recreational or medicinal purposes, with prolonged use addiction and dependence can develop. This happens when the brain gets accustomed to a specific substance and has trouble functioning without it. Withdrawal occurs when an individual who is physically or psychologically dependent on a substance and stops or decreases their use. Some drugs, such as heroin or alcohol, are notorious for their withdrawal effects, but the symptoms vary from substance to substance. Some common side effects of withdrawal include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Drug cravings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Hypertension

These effects worsen the longer a person uses a drug and the higher their tolerance is. Tolerance develops for many drugs in which a person requires higher doses to achieve the same level of intoxication. The same amount that produced desired effects at the beginning of an individual’s use will steadily rise, increasing the risk of adverse side effects or overdose. Once a substance builds up in a resident’s system, it becomes more difficult to stop using it. Many residents entering treatment for substance use require a medically-supervised detox period during which they are monitored as drugs or alcohol leave the body. This is a critical step in the recovery process because when drugs or alcohol linger in the body, it becomes more difficult to resist cravings and commit to recovery. Certain substances also cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms that need to be properly managed to keep residents safe and prevent them from relapsing.

Signs of Addiction

If you think you or someone you care about may be suffering from addiction, there are some signs and symptoms you can look for, such as:

Increased tolerance

With prolonged drug or alcohol use, a higher dose is needed to achieve the same effects.

Loss of control

Inability to decrease or stop using a substance despite a desire to quit.

Withdrawal symptoms

Some drugs cause uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms with prolonged use.

Negative consequences

Continued use despite negative consequences such as legal troubles, deteriorating personal relationships, health problems, financial difficulty and more.

Avoiding family and friends

Spending more time away from family and friends to use and avoiding responsibilities, hobbies and other activities.

Financial troubles

Spending large amounts of money on drugs or alcohol and sacrificing rent, food and other necessities. They may begin stealing from friends or family to support their habit.

Declining health

Many substances have adverse effects on one’s health and those suffering from addiction may neglect their well-being and hygiene.

Reckless behavior

Drug or alcohol abuse may lead to reckless or dangerous behavior while under the influence or in an effort to obtain a substance.

Frequently appearing intoxicated

Someone suffering from addiction may frequently show up at parties, gatherings and other social events intoxicated, or avoid them altogether.

The many signs of addiction vary depending on the individual, substance used and frequency of use. Someone may experience only a few of these symptoms or several of them. If you notice any suspicious changes in behavior in someone you care about, it might signal that they are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction can take a toll on an affected individual and their friends or family, making substance use treatment an essential step in overcoming this disease. If left untreated, substance abuse can even lead to or exacerbate psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety, complicating the situation and making treatment more difficult. In Texas, the professionals at Alta Loma can help those who are battling substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues with coordinated treatment plans that address both conditions simultaneously, ensuring comprehensive care and improved resident outcomes.

Mental Health and Substance Use

For many individuals, addiction is often interwoven with mental health concerns. When substance use coincides with psychiatric disorders, it’s known as a dual diagnosis. Studies show that co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses affect nearly half of all residents seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in the United States. This isn’t surprising since psychiatric and substance use disorders share many common risk factors. In addition, people often self-medicate with illicit drugs to alleviate their mental health symptoms. This is especially true when mental health disorders are untreated or misdiagnosed and individuals aren’t receiving the proper care they need.

Alta Loma specializes in providing this care for dual diagnosis men. We treat residents with a variety of co-occurring substance use and mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • PTSD

Although substance use is linked with mental health disorders, determining how or why they occur can be difficult. In some cases, people use drugs or alcohol to “treat” their symptoms, but illicit substances can also contribute to the development of psychiatric issues by affecting the way the brain works. Changes in brain chemistry can lead to the onset of symptoms or cause existing ones to worsen, and drug use can mask the signs of mental illness and interfere with or delay treatment. Once substance use becomes problematic, residents can become trapped in a dangerous cycle that can be difficult to break free from without professional help. The addiction specialists, psychiatrists, clinicians and other health care staff at Alta Loma can help by providing integrated treatment plans that address mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously. Only by treating both can residents finally begin to heal and rediscover a life of stability, sobriety and hope.

Contact Alta Loma

Healing on Your Terms

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders, we invite you to contact one of our representatives at 866.457.3843 to find out Alta Loma can help. You can also take a virtual tour of our facility and learn more about our treatment programs and how we work to provide men with co-occurring disorders the stability and support they need to heal.