Substance Abused and Implications of Abuse – Debbie Lander M.S. Clin Psych

A thank you to Debbie Lander for the use of this information which was submitted to Walden University for her Masters coursework. Below is a brief explanation on how substance abuse impacts an individual.

“Substances which are taken in large enough quantities activate the reward system within the users brain. The activation of the reward system is what causes behaviors associated with using the substance to be reinforced. A user who continues to use a substance when they face substance-related problems likely has a substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse disorders result in changes occurring to the user’s brain due to their substance use. These changes in the brain can remain unchanged after detox. This can result in the individual relapsing and having cravings when exposed to their substance use triggers. It is for this reason that long-term treatment approaches are beneficial. (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

*Lisa is currently abusing alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and possibly heroin. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it depresses the central nervous system. Alcohol along with all other drugs, which are classified as depressants can be physically addictive and if overdosed on they, can be fatal. Alcohol consumption can harm the users stomach lining, it damagers the liver, it can have permanent effects on the brain; withdrawal can cause seizures, hallucinations and delirium tremens. (Stevens & Smith, 2013).

Marijuana has a moderate psychological addiction rate. Smoking it damages user’s lungs, it is believed to cause lung cancer, it impairs the immune system, and prolonged use is believed to cause emotional and mental deterioration. The psychoactive effects are feelings of relaxation, reduced appetite; reduced ability to concentrate, poor memory, in can cause psychosis, anxiety and sleep disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Cocaine is a stimulant meaning it causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It is highly psychologically dependent. Users will feel exhilarated, increased feelings of well-being however, overdoses can result in death, and withdrawal can result in depression, anxiety, obsessions, and seizures. (Stevens & Smith, 2013).

Research has found that there is a link between alcohol use and violent behavior. There is also a positive relationship between substance use and criminal behavior. Many users commit criminal acts ether while impaired due to substance use or in order to gain a substance. Many emergency room visits are associated with substance use. Research shows that the number of substance users is not decreasing in spite of anti-drug campaigns. (Stevens & Smith, 2013).

Biological Predispositions

Genetics do play a part in addiction (Stevens & Smith, 2013). Genetics are not a predetermining factor in addiction, rather they simple give an individual a higher risk of becoming an addict (Prescott, Madden, & Stallings, 2006; United States Congress, 1993). Substance abuse and substance addiction are two different diagnosis, not all individuals who abuse a substance become addicted to it and not all addicts abused the substance they have become addicted to (Laureate Education, 2008). Studies have found that the heritability rate for illegal substances is 45-79% (Stevens & Smith, 2013). There have been hereditary factors found in individuals’ alcohol choices. (United States Congress, 1993). Research by Saxon, Oreskovich, and Brkanac found that there is a hereditary component to opiate addiction (2005). Research by Nurnberger et al. has found that there is also a hereditary component to the following substances cocaine, marijuana, opiates, sedatives, stimulants, and tobacco (2006). The study further found that family members of substance abusers frequently report having PTSD, panic disorders, stress disorders, depressive disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (Nurnberger et al., 2004). Lisa has said that her father used heroin and that he died of a heroin overdose, based on the research, it is possible that Lisa has a genetic predisposition towards addiction”.

*Lisa is a fictitious client in a case study.


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