Man with Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse – Get the Facts

Where is the line between “normal use” and substance abuse?  What qualifies someone as a “normal drinker” or “normie”?  How do you know if you are dealing with a substance use disorder or someone who is a heavy drinker?

How do I know if someone’s using has become substance abuse?

In our experience, the two most relevant considerations when deciding if someone has a substance related disorder are: 1. Why the user uses; and 2. What happens when they use.  At Tharros House, we have found that those with alcohol and/or other substance abuse problems are engaging in the behavior for a specific effect; they want to escape the way they feel.  There can be many reasons why someone wants this effect, but those who become addicted or dependent all desire this escape.  But isn’t it possible to like the temporary escape and change of feelings, yet not have a substance abuse problem?  Yes, and that’s where the second component comes in.  What happens when the user engages in their substance use?  Does the user control their drinking when they want to?  Does he black out? With those who are abusing substances, there are unintended and undesired consequences, yet the person continues to engage in their behavior.  The desire for the substance intoxication is so great that the user will still engage the drink or drug despite significant consequences.

Does the user know what will happen when they use?

In most cases, when we work with someone in early recovery, they identify that once they have the first drink, they don’t know what will happen that day or night.  For alcoholic binge drinkers, it’s possible that they will have only 1 or 2 drinks, then stop on one occasion.  Then on the next occasion, despite the intention to only have 1 or 2 again, the user finds themselves in a blackout as their substance control is lost.  Blackouts are common for alcoholics, but it’s also possible to be an alcoholic and not experience blackout drinking.  Substance dependence is also not a necessary component of a substance use disorder or substance abuse.  Many who identify as alcoholics will tell you that they were never physically addicted to alcohol, yet they were still alcoholic drinkers.

Continued use despite consequences:

One of the most common consequences that indicates an issue is when a person is arrested for a DUI or OUI (driving under the influence).  Most people, if they are normal users, will immediately ensure that they are not in this position again, avoiding circumstances where they may need to drive after drinking, or limiting their consumption to ensure that they are below the legal limit.  Those with substance abuse disorders recognize that they do not want to incur another DUI, but continue to engage in the same behaviors, many times with unsuccessful intensions of limiting their consumption.  Even once they know that they cannot drink safely, they will continue to take the risk.  Additionally, with most substance abusers, a significant tolerance for the substance is achieved.  In the case of alcohol, this can lead the user to feel that he is not under the influence while in fact he is far beyond the legal limit.

Another thing that we’ve seen is that almost invariably, if someone thinks they may have a substance abuse issue, he does.  The good news is that recovery can offer gifts that reach far beyond the losses.  While achieving sobriety will most likely be one of the hardest things you accomplish, the benefits that you will receive through an honest recovery process often present a full and enjoyable life, exceeding your expectations at every turn.  We’ve seen that to be true over and over again.

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