Top 5 Most Abused Substances in the U.S.

Different Drug Different Symptoms: What are the Signs of Addiction?

Addiction is a more common problem than most people realize. In recent years, substance abuse has slowly started developing in Americans earlier in life. Most studies now collect observational data from Americans ages 12 and up to base their findings on.

Over 20 million Americans are currently suffering from an addiction, excluding tobacco users, and over 300 people die daily from overdoses – a number that has tripled in the last 20 years. Nearly 7 million addicts are also suffering from at least one mental illness.

Addiction is no small matter. It can come in many different shapes and sizes, but there are some substances more commonly abused than others.

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1. Alcohol

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the United States by a substantial margin. Roughly 1 in 8 Americans consider themselves “drinkers” (casual to frequent alcohol users). Alcohol addiction can often hide in plain sight since alcohol is legal but also considered part of social culture in many settings. No one thinks twice about going out and having a few drinks, which is fine when people are drinking responsibly, but rarely is there a lot of uproar surrounding that one friend who binges often or who only drinks when they’re extremely upset. These habits can often encourage the development of an addiction, as can frequent drinking.

Almost 17 million Americans suffer from Alcoholism in some way. Of those, about 2.6 million were also addicted to an illicit substance of some kind. It’s also estimated that over 90% of people with some degree of alcoholism don’t believe they’re in need of treatment.

Alcoholism Signs and Symptoms

It can be difficult to spot milder cases of alcoholism, especially if it hasn’t started to impact your life on a level that can’t be ignored or denied, or if you’ve grown used to a loved one’s habits. Some key signs to look out for when trying to determine whether alcoholism has developed in your life or a loved one’s include:

  • Increased time spent drinking
  • Giving up hobbies and other activities in order to spend more time drinking
  • Had experiences where you ended up drinking more than you intended or for longer than you intended
  • Had more than one failed attempt to cut down your drinking or stop entirely
  • Increased the quantity of alcohol consumed to have the same feelings or experiences when you drink
  • Have noticed increased tension or problems with your friends and family
  • Have started feeling more depressed or anxious, even if you drink to lessen those feelings

All of these and more can be signs of a growing alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The first step towards alcohol addiction recovery in most programs is detoxification. Detox is the process where the addict stops using their substance(s) of choice and allows their body to overcome a physical and biological dependency. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on a variety of factors such as the duration of an individual’s drinking problem and the volume of alcohol they consume when they drink.

The most common alcohol detox withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Trembling/Shaking hands
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Delirium tremens (severe hallucinations, delusions, and physical symptoms)

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2. Tobacco

It’s estimated that tobacco causes roughly 6 million deaths a year, which makes it the leading cause of preventable death. In the U.S. alone, tobacco causes over $190 billion of costs due to health care costs, loss of productivity, emergencies, accidents, etc. Tobacco also causes more deaths each year than all the other substances combined. Plus, tobacco users are generally more likely to branch out into abusing other drugs and alcohol, primarily the latter.

Nicotine is the main component of tobacco and causes a rush of adrenaline and dopamine (the pleasure chemical) when inhaled via cigarette smoke or otherwise absorbed into the bloodstream. Since dopamine is a major component of the brain’s pleasure and reward processing system, it’s no surprise that tobacco can be a difficult drug to quit.

Tobacco Addiction Symptoms

Like alcohol, tobacco is legal, which also means it can be a difficult addiction to hide. It’s also very difficult to quit since its relatively easy to obtain and can be consumed in public. Signs that a tobacco addiction may be present in yourself or a loved one include:

  • Must smoke or chew after meals or after long periods without using (i.e. seeing a movie, meeting, etc.)
  • Needs tobacco to feel “normal” during intense emotional situations or periods of high stress
  • Avoids or discontinues activities where smoking or tobacco use are not allowed
  • Can’t stop smoking or using other tobacco products despite failed attempts to quit
  • Suffers withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit
  • Smokes in spite of health problems that are caused or worsened by the use of tobacco

Tobacco Withdrawal Symptoms

The first step in most addiction recovery treatment plans is often detoxification. Detox is when the addict stops using their substance(s) of choice and allows their body to overcome a physical and biological dependency. Tobacco withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to manage even after cravings have subsided.

Some common tobacco detox withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings for nicotine/tobacco
  • Cold and Flu-like symptoms
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight gain and increased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • Gastrointestinal issues (constipation, gas, etc.)
  • Insomnia or fatigue
  • Lack of focus
  • Irritability

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3. Marijuana

marijuana use in america

Marijuana is arguably the number one gateway drug in the states, tied with alcohol. It’s increasingly becoming the most common “first drug” for many as well, with roughly 7,000 people a day using marijuana for the first time. More than half of those individuals were minors. It also has some of the highest rates of dependence among illicit substances.

Marijuana Addiction Signs

Marijuana is commonly mistaken as being a drug that is milder than medical professionals claim. As a major gateway drug, marijuana addiction is just as dangerous and potentially life threatening as any other substance abuse problem. In fact, the general acceptance and downplaying of marijuana as an illicit substance makes it much harder for people to realize they have a problem in the first place, since it seems like such a “weak” recreational substance.

Some signs and symptoms that may indicate a marijuana addiction in you or your loved one include:

  • High tolerance for increased amounts of marijuana
  • Withdrawal symptoms after periods of disuse or attempting to quit
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or quit using marijuana
  • Increased time spent getting high
  • Using marijuana to cope with or escape periods of intense emotion or extreme stress
  • Choosing activities and relationships based on whether or not you’ll be able to get high
  • Decreased daily functioning (at work, at home, at school, mentally, etc.)

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Even though marijuana is generally considered a less severe drug to abuse, addiction is an equal-opportunity health concern. Anyone addicted to marijuana or with heavy usage habits will likely suffer some very uncomfortable withdrawal side effects if they don’t detox safely, preferably under the watch of a healthcare professional.

Marijuana detox can be painful, since there are physical symptoms as well as psychological effects caused by detoxing from the drug.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chills
  • Shakiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Stomach pains
  • Other aches and pains

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4. Prescription Painkillers

In recent years, the number of individuals suffering from prescription painkiller addiction. While narcotics are highly addictive, painkiller addictions are also often misunderstood due to the nature of the drugs. These misunderstandings can negatively impact those taking these medications as part of a pain treatment regime prescribed by their doctor, adding unnecessary stress to their existing medical concerns. For example, building up a tolerance to painkiller doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve developed an addiction. It just means that your body has gotten used to the presence of certain substances and requires more of them to get the same effect. This biological reaction occurs with medications that aren’t generally addictive. There’s a difference between increased tolerance and physical dependence, as well as a difference between physical dependence and addiction.

That doesn’t mean prescription drug abuse isn’t a major problem in the United States. According to a 2016 study, nearly 30 million Americans over the age of 12 have used illicit drugs during the month prior to the study. This equates to about 1 in every 10 Americans struggling with some level of substance use or abuse issues, including narcotics. Painkillers are also the most commonly abused prescription medication. The U.S., which makes up roughly 5% of the world population, is responsible for about 80% of the world’s prescription opioid consumption. And opioid overdoses contribute 40% of overall overdose deaths in the country.

Prescription Painkiller Addiction Signs

The opioid crisis is no small matter and it’s important to stay aware of the dangers of prescription painkiller addiction. Some important signs and symptoms to look out for concerning yourself or your loved one’s painkiller usage include:

  • Obsessing over your medication
  • You start looking for more than one doctor to get the same prescription (to boost your supply)
  • You start seeking other ways to get access to painkillers (drug dealers, internet, stealing from friends or family, etc.)
  • You take more than what was prescribed
  • You get defensive about your medication

Prescription Painkiller Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

Despite being a significantly difficult class of drugs to stop using, opiates and opioid detox typically takes around 5 to 10 days. Detox symptoms can be tough for any addiction, but especially when attempting to detox from a substance that’s very physically and psychologically impactful. Symptoms can take as little as a few hours to show up, since opioids and opiates tend to get into and out of the bloodstream rather quickly compared to other substances.

Painkiller Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Restlessness
  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety
  • Lacrimation (eyes tearing up)
  • Cold/Flu-like symptoms
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps and discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps or Chills
  • Dilated pupils and blurry vision
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

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5. Benzodiazepines (Benzos)

Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are a class of prescription sedatives typically prescribed to treat anxiety and are better known by the brand names Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. Benzos are extremely addictive, even though they serve an important purpose when used correctly, but it can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing that leads to addiction. It’s important to take your benzo prescription as instructed to avoid this scenario as best as possible.

It’s extremely easy to get addicted to benzos, in part because of the high dopamine reaction the drugs cause. Benzos are considered similarly powerful to opioids in addictive power. Plus, on average, it only takes 6 months to start building up a tolerance to the drugs and physical dependence can manifest sooner depending on your usage habits. Roughly 44% of benzo users eventually develop a dependency or addiction.

Signs of a Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzos can cause many physical and psychological symptoms, especially when addiction is present. Some signs to look out for trying to evaluate your or your loved one’s health include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased cognitive function (thinking, assessing risk, judgment)
  • Asking others for their benzodiazepines, if they have any
  • Risky behaviors (driving while impaired, etc.)
  • Combining benzos with alcohol or other drugs
  • Doctor shopping (to increase available quantity and access)
  • Withdrawal from social engagements or previously enjoyed activities
  • Uncharacteristic behavior and habit changes

Benzodiazepine Detox Withdrawal Symptoms

Like prescription painkillers, can have very a difficult detox process when starting detox treatment. Benzo detox symptoms usually take less than a day from the last “high” to start, but they typically won’t peak until around the 2 week mark. After that point, they generally start to subside.

Some signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Nausea
  • Agitation and irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Aches and pains
  • Delirium tremens
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

There’s also the potential for patients to develop post-acute withdrawal symptoms (symptoms that onset after the initial phases of detox), which can last for several months or longer in some cases. These generally include chronic anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties.

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Call us today for your complimentary insurance review and get started on your path towards addiction recovery with Addiction Treatment Services.

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