Substance abuse often begins with experimentation. But what starts out as casual drug or alcohol use in social situations can quickly spiral into an uncontrollable and dangerous addiction. The more you drink or use drugs, the more your body will adapt to them – leading to higher tolerance and, in some cases, physical and psychological dependency.

According to data compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 23 million Americans struggle with substance abuse – and while the individual drug of choice may differ, they have many of the same devastating consequences. Here are five of the most commonly abused addictive substances, and how they can affect your mind and body.

  1. Alcohol

Because alcohol is woven so tightly into the fabric of our culture, the line between moderate drinking and heavy alcohol use can often be blurred. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Consumption beyond that puts you at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder, which can lead to significant health complications, such as liver disease, and wreak havoc on both your personal and professional life.

  1. Marijuana

While the addictive properties of marijuana have long been called into question, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms that about 4 million people in the United States meet the criteria for marijuana use disorder. Marijuana use disorder is characterized by the inability to stop using the drug, despite the negative consequences it has on your life. People who use marijuana habitually report that when they’re not taking the drug, they experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, mood swings, sleep difficulties, and restlessness. But studies have shown that long-term use of marijuana can also cause permanent changes to the brain, including a decrease in cognitive ability and problems with executive function.

  1. Painkillers

It’s well known that prescription pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, are highly addictive and, when abused, can cause deadly consequences. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that over 2 million Americans misused prescription painkillers in 2017, and over 60 people die everyday from an opioid overdose. When used as prescribed, opioid pain medication can be beneficial, but taken in larger doses than recommended, or taken without a prescription, it can lead to debilitating dependencies and dangerous side effects, such as muscle spasms, digestive problems, or even a heart attack.

  1. Cocaine

Whether snorted as a fine powder or smoked as a rock crystal (known as crack), cocaine is an illicit and potentially lethal drug with extremely addictive properties. In the short-term, cocaine provides an intense euphoria, along with high energy and alertness. However, large amounts can lead to unpredictable and violent behavior, as well as irregular heart rhythms and seizures. The illegal distribution of cocaine also makes it easier for drug dealers to mix in unexpected ingredients, such as corn starch or talcum powder, to increase their profits. And increasingly, cocaine has been found to be laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that significantly increases the risk of overdose.

  1. Depressants

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, such as sedatives and tranquilizers, are usually prescribed for people with anxiety or panic disorders. By slowing brain activity, they are effective in reducing stress and inducing calm. However, many people misuse prescription depressants, such as Xanax or Valium, to get high; according to NIDA, over 1.5 million Americans abused prescription tranquilizers or sedatives in 2017. Tolerance to these drugs forms quickly, making it easy to develop long-term addiction and physical dependency. Withdrawal symptoms from CNS depressants include seizures and hallucinations, and in severe cases, can also be life-threatening.

Get help for substance abuse at Alvarado Parkway Institute

When you’re caught in the throes of a substance abuse problem, it can be difficult to see a way out. But Alvarado Parkway Institute can help you defeat your addiction and empower you to live a healthy, happy life. For more than thirty-five years, we’ve been a leading provider of addiction treatment in San Diego. Let us help you get sober and stay sober.

For more information, call (619) 485-1432.