What Is Substance (Drug) Abuse

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 15 March 2021

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance misuse is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. It arises when alcohol, prescription medicine, or other legal and illegal substances are used excessively or abused in the wrong manner.

Addiction is not the same as substance abuse. Many people who deal with drug abuse are willing to leave or change their addictive habits. On the other hand, addiction is a disorder. It implies that you are unable to avoid using despite the fact that your illness is causing you pain or affecting your life.

Commonly Abused Drugs

Chemicals in both legal and illicit drugs can alter the way your body and mind work. They can have a pleasant “high," relieve tension or facilitate you in avoiding issues in your life.


All are affected differently by alcohol. However, if you drink too often and too frequently, you increase the risk of illness or accident. Heavy drinking will also damage the liver and cause other health complications, as well as lead to more severe alcohol addiction.

Alcohol should be limited to 14 units a week for both men and women.

Standard drinks and how many units of alcohol they contain are listed below:

  • 1 unit: 25ml of 40% spirit, equivalent to one standard shot of hard liquor
  • 1.5 units: 125ml (one small glass) of 12% red/white/rose/sparkling wine
  • 2.1 units: 175ml (one standard glass) of 12% red/white/rose/sparkling wine
  • 3 units: 250ml (one large glass) of 12% red/white/rose/sparkling wine
  • 2 units: 440ml of 5.5% of beer, ale, lager or cider
  • 3 units: 568ml of 5.2% (roughly one pint) of beer ale, lager, or cider
  • 9 units: 750ml (one bottle) of 12% red/white/rose/sparkling wine

Prescription and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicine
These are also as harmful and addictive as illicit drugs. If you do any of the following, you might be abusing medicine:

  • Taking a prescription that was prescribed for someone else.
  • Using a drug in a different way than it’s intended to be used, or taking additional doses.
    Using the prescription for a non-medical purpose.

The below are some of the more widely abused prescription drugs:

  • Opioids narcotic pain relievers.
  • Attention deficiency hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication
  • Anti-anxiety and anti-sleep medications

Cough and cold medicines containing dextromethorphan, which can make you feel drunk or unconscious in heavy doses, are the most widely abused OTC medications.


This illicit medication is the natural form of manmade prescription opioid drugs. At first, heroin gives you a rush of good feelings. When it wears off, though, everything slows down. You’ll get chills, anxiety, and nervousness, and you’ll pace and think more slowly. You might feel compelled to take more heroin in order to feel better.


This medication accelerates the whole body. You can talk, travel, or think very quickly when you use cocaine. You might be happy and energized. However, the attitude can then turn to one of anger. It’s possible that you’ll feel as if someone is out to get you. It can lead you to do things that are illogical.

Long-term cocaine use can result in heavy cravings for the drug.


An increasing number of states have approved marijuana for medicinal purposes. A few states have legalized marijuana for commercial use. However, it is also illegal in the majority of countries.

Marijuana has the potential to make you feel silly and make you laugh for no particular cause. Alternatively, you can become tired and forget what has just occurred. Driving while high on marijuana is almost as risky as driving while intoxicated. Heavy drug consumption may also cause certain users to get “burned out,” meaning they don’t think or worry about anything.

Tobacco and cigarettes 

You might not consider them to be narcotics. However, tobacco contains a chemical called nicotine, which produces a fleeting rush of enjoyment and energy. The effect will fade quickly, leaving you wanting more. Nicotine in cigarettes, among all drugs, can be abused to become addictive.

Signs of a Substance Abuse

You can believe you can regulate how much you use a drug when you first start taking it. However, you can need more of the medication over time to produce the same sensation or result. For certain cases, this can lead to addiction rather than just abuse. If you have all of the following signs, you might have a drug abuse problem:

  • You’ve lost confidence in activities you used to do.
  • You’ll change friends a lot.
  • Avoid looking after yourself.
  • Spend more time by yourself than normal.
  • Eat a little more or a little less than normal.
  • Sleep at inconvenient times.
  • You’re having issues at work or with your family.
  • Feelings of pleasure and sadness come and go quickly.
  • Crave the drug or have a deep urge to consume it.
Seek Help

Substance misuse has an effect on all aspects of your life. It has the potential to harm you and those around you. It has the potential to destroy relationships as well as your financial well-being. Drug misuse can lead to addiction, as well as severe health conditions or even death.

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