Addiction & Substance Abuse
If you suspect you or a loved one has an addiction problem, or if you struggle with substance abuse and dependency issues, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
Please contact Montgomery Psychiatry & Associates for more information.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is defined as a person’s abuse of a substance or repetition of an activity that produces joy or pleasure, without regard to the detrimental consequences to one’s physical OR mental health.
The consequences of addiction vary greatly depending on the individual and their life circumstances, ranging from a mundane addiction to caffeine to a disabling chemical dependency disorder.
The onset of an addiction can be due to physical and/or emotional issues.
Addiction to a chemical substance worsens with the development of physical dependence, a condition which causes tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms can include:
- Chronic stress
- Uncontrolled anger
- Intense cravings for the substance
- Cold sweats
Examples of other addictive behaviors include:
- Extreme attitudes surrounding weight and food issues
- Compulsive sexual activity
Mental health professionals can provide therapies and counseling services specifically designed to identify and alleviate addictive behaviors.
What is Substance Abuse?
Abuse of a substance can alter the mental and emotional characteristics of the user.
Substance abuse encompasses a variety of recreational drugs such as:
Prescription medications, obtained either with permission from a doctor or through the black market, can also be abused.
Some people can indulge in such substances without experiencing addictive behavior while others end up caught in a downward spiral of chemical dependency that adversely affects their lives, work, families, or social relationships.
Those who fall victim to drug addiction or become alcoholics also vary in the degrees by which they are affected.
Individuals with a higher risk factor for becoming alcohol or drug addicted include those who:
- Have a family history of substance abuse
- Have had traumatic childhood experiences
- Abuse drugs and alcohol at an early age
- Have existing mental disorders like anxiety or depression
Effects of Substance Abuse
The abuse of a substance can have differing effects on users.
Physical issues might include:
- Sleep disorders
- Eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating)
- Impaired thoughts and speech
- Deterioration in one’s overall appearance and health
Substance abuse also affects the mind and emotions leading to behavioral issues that disturb performance at home, school or work.
Those who abuse substances can become:
- or display a number of other psychological symptoms that reveal a breakdown in mental and emotional stability.
Those abusing substances can oftentimes become a danger to themselves as well as those around them.
What Is Substance Dependence?
Substance dependence (also known as "drug dependence" and "chemical dependency") is a term used by those in the medical and psychological profession.
It describes the persistent use of a substance despite the problems related to its use.
BehaveNet  cites additional diagnostic criteria for substance dependence:
"Compulsive and repetitive use may result in tolerance to the effect of the drug and withdrawal symptoms when use is reduced or stopped. This, along with Substance Abuse are considered Substance Use Disorders." 
Substance abuse that has its roots in chemical dependency might involve the misuse (or overuse) of:
- Recreational drugs
- Prescription medications
What Are The Causes of Substance Dependence?
There are various reasons for people becoming addicted to chemical substances such as alcohol or drugs.
They might have experienced some form of sexual, physical, or mental abuse and use chemicals as a way to deal with disturbing memories and pain.
They might also have started experimenting with drugs early in life which can lead to chemical dependency later.
People may also become chemically dependent due to:
- Environmental factors
- Bad or codependent relationships
- Other mental disorders
Chemically Dependent Behavior
The results of chemical (or substance) dependence can be devastating to the life and health of users.
Their thoughts, feelings and actions can become extremely distorted and cause problems with performance at home, work, school, during driving, or in public places.
Alcohol and drug abusers can become:
- Sexually promiscuous
Those with drug dependencies can cause harm to themselves and others by becoming:
- Initiating poor judgment
- Committing crimes
- Becoming suicidal
Substance Abuse Counseling
Substance abuse and dependence can be devastating.
If you suffer with an addiction or substance abuse problem then you should seek professional counseling.
Substance abuse is best treated by a mental health professional for several important reasons, including.
- There are generally underlying emotional issues that are both triggers for substance abuse and results of chemical dependency.
- Drug or alcohol abuse programs and counseling may work to physically cleanse those with chemical dependency, but trained therapists will help drug addicts to cleanse their mental and emotional states as well.
- Drug addiction is also very difficult to overcome, so professional support as well as family support is extremely helpful when those experiencing substance abuse decide to kick chemical habits.
For more information about addiction and substance abuse, please contact Montgomery Psychiatry & Associates.