If the past year or so has taught us anything, it’s that as a species, we humans are incredibly resilient. Despite the obstacles presented to us by the novel coronavirus, many of us have managed to emerge on the other side of this devastating global disaster both healthy and without lasting damage from the pandemic. However, sadly, not everyone was so fortunate. While the shelter-in-place orders were beneficial for combating COVID-19, they also allowed for another, less visible pandemic to run rampant. During this time period, our nation saw a marked increase in the number of people who used illicit substances.
According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people found themselves turning to illicit substances to help them manage their tumultuous feelings of loneliness, grief, and anxiety during the lockdowns. Not only did many people who currently struggle with substance abuse disorder (SUD) increase their abuse of drugs and alcohol, but many others started experimenting with them for the first time, as well. Their findings revealed that a devastating total of 13% of people admitted to this, an increase over before the pandemic.
The Causes of Substance Abuse Disorder
Despite popular misconceptions, a person who suffers from SUD isn’t a bad person, or even necessarily a weak person. Rather, they struggle with a mental disorder, and instead of judgment or beratement, they instead need compassion and assistance. Because it’s important to recognize that SUD isn’t a character flaw, it’s all the more vital to identify the various causes of this disorder. Nonetheless, researchers still haven’t been able to pinpoint precisely what causes it, and instead have presented various hypotheses.
One of the more commonly believed triggers for SUD, though, is genetics. This is why some people may try an illicit substance recreationally and not have an adverse reaction, whereas another may become addicted the first time they try it. Other contributing factors can be stress, either at work or in interpersonal relationships. The type of drug has also been shown to influence whether or not a person becomes addicted. Furthermore, SUD is oftentimes comorbid with other mental illnesses, such as depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even poor self-image.
The Signs of Substance Abuse Disorder
Just as the characteristics of a person who has SUD are often grossly misrepresented, so are the beliefs surrounding who may or may not develop such a disorder. For instance, many people erroneously believe that those who struggle with SUD may be inner-city youth or a racial minority. However, these stereotypes only prove to hurt not only those who may have SUD, but it can also negatively impact those who have been typecast as having it. The fact is, SUD affects all types of people of all ages, of all sexes, and across all racial demographics. While men may be more likely to become addicted to certain substances, women also do struggle with addiction, as well.
In addition, the signs of SUD can vary. Nevertheless, there are a few things it’s important to be on the lookout for if you suspect that someone you know or love may be silently fighting with this very serious mental illness. Some of the more common physical signs of substance abuse disorder can include sudden changes in weight, bloodshot eyes, needle marks, constricted or dilated pupils, and changes in their skin or teeth. Behavioral signs can include poor hygiene or physical appearance, increased or decreased sleeping, confusion, sudden outbursts or mood changes, and missed work or school.
Treatment Options for Substance Abuse Disorder
If you suspect that someone may be struggling with SUD, it’s important to intervene both immediately and with compassion. The very real risk of overdosing is a looming threat that can occur at any time, especially with repeated exposure to illicit substances. If you believe that someone you care about may suffer from substance abuse disorder, you should approach them carefully, but from a place of love. Let them know you’re there for them, but you won’t enable their illness. Put them in contact with a rehabilitation facility, like the one you can find at SBtreatment.com, and make sure they do undergo treatment.
Trying to handle a loved one with substance abuse disorder can be daunting, especially if their addiction has negatively impacted both of your lives. However, by being proactive about recognizing the signs and symptoms of it, you can be better alert to what such an addiction can entail. Furthermore, by connecting them with trained professionals, you can help them start their path to healing. Sadly, SUD claims the lives of over 70,000 people annually. And while you cannot guarantee you can help them recover, you can take the first steps in preventing them from becoming another needless, tragic loss due to their addiction.