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Substance Abuse

SAVES has compiled information for students interested in learning more about various substance abuses and the signs and symptoms of a chemical dependency.

  • Adderall Abuse
  • Drug Use
  • Tobacco Abuse

Chemical Dependency Defined

As a starting point, here is a workable definition of chemical dependency taken from the American Medical Association.  "If the continued use of alcohol or other drugs is causing and continuing and significant disruption in an individual's personal, social, spiritual, physical or economic life and the person does not stop using alcohol or other drugs, he or she is chemically dependent."

If a person's drinking is hurting themselves or others, most people would stop the behavior.  Who wants to cause themselves or someone else pain?  But the chemically dependent person cannot stop.  That is why it is a disease.

(Reference: A Guide to Understanding Addiction, The BACCHUS & GAMMA Peer Education Network, 1995)

Signs and Symptoms of Chemical Dependency

According to the experts, there are nine symptoms of substance dependency. Of these nine, a person needs to exhibit three or more of these behaviors to cause concern. This brings up an important point. Every person is different. There are chemically dependent people who drink every day, carrying a bottle around in their backpack. There are chemically dependent people who only drink once a month - but when they do, they suffer from complete lack of control and the drinking causes disruptions in their lives. The following is a list of the signs of chemical dependency.

Symptom 1: Loss of Control

  • People suffering from lack of control issues will make "drinking plans" (just a six-pack or I'll be home by midnight) but once they start drinking, it ends up being in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than they had intended.  The person simply has no more "control" over his or her drinking decisions.  

Symptom 2: The Use is Excessive

  • The person drinks a lot, or frequently.  Often the person will make plans to 'slow down," to reduce or control drinking, but is unable to do so. 

Symptom 3: Much Time is Spent Using and Recovering

  • The person who is addicted will make sure that their drugs of choice are always "available."  They will make sure that they have plenty of opportunities to drink or use other drugs. Because of the constant excessive use, much time will also be spent recovering (hangovers, physical consequences) from the effects of the drug. 

Symptom 4: Drinking at Inappropriate Times

  • This may include drinking before class or work, being hung over instead of going to an important event, and so on.  It also includes drinking or drug use at times when substance abuse is extremely hazardous, such as driving a car. 

Symptom 5: Drinking or Using Becomes the Highest Priority

  • Things that the person used to feel were important in their life, friends, hobbies, involvement in other activities, now take a back seat to drinking or using.  A person may even switch their group of friends to spend more time with the people who drink or use like they do.

Symptom 6: A Person Continues to Use or Drink Despite Suffering Problems

  • The person continues to drink or use other drugs in the face of evidence that they use is causing him or her harm.  Physical problems, relationship problems, doing poorly at school or at work, getting a DUI charge; there are a number of different ways the "problem" can surface. 

Symptom 7: A Person Builds Up Tolerance

  • After continued use, the alcohol or other drugs no longer have the same effect.  People need to drink or use more and more to get the same buzz or high. 

Symptom 8: A Person Experiences Withdrawal

  • After continual use the person will find they are experiencing withdrawal signs if they stop using over an extended period of time.  Anxiety, headaches, feelings of "not being able to relax," even inability to sleep or concentrate will start taking place. 

Symptom 9: The Person Uses to Medicate

  •  Before important meetings, to fall asleep, to get rid of physical aches, to stop shaking, to stop obsessing about drinking or using, the person will "self-medicate" as the only way "not to feel bad." 

Remember: Not every chemically dependent person will have all of these symptoms. If a person is exhibiting signs of any three of these or more, there is cause for concern.

(Reference: A Guide to Understanding Addiction, The BACCHUS & GAMMA Peer Education Network, 1995)