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Substance vs. Abuse


When you consume a drug that considered to be addictive, including alcohol, it chemically alters the balance of chemicals in your brain. This is what creates the sensation of pleasure and euphoria that is characteristic of drug use. But with repeated use, the brain becomes accustomed to these changes and therefore you need to consume more and more of the chosen drug in order to get the same results as you had before. After a while of this use, the brain begins to feel normal only when in this state, and this is the beginning of what is referred to as an addiction. Depression is know to be one of the reasons for drug and alcohol addiction. Detect the early signs of drug and alcohol addiction and know how to help someone with substance abuse.

Drug abuse is a somewhat broad term that is used to describe any illegal or inappropriate use of drugs. Alcohol is sometimes is included in this general term, as it is too a drug, but is more often referred to as “alcohol abuse”. However, experts in the field of addiction tend to use the word “abuse” to identify a pattern of usage that will eventually lead to a full-blown addiction. “Substance Abuse” is more definitive and covers both drug and alcohol abuse.


Several signs or indications might be present that could identify the potential of substance abuse.

  • Often being intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol
  • Usage presents a danger to one’s self or others
  • Habitually using drugs or alcohol as a form of recreation above all others
  • Repeated or excessive use of mind-altering drugs, or street drugs
  • Problems with work because of substances
  • Needing substances to relieve anxiety or stress
  • Lying about substance use to others
  • Relationship problems or concern from family members regarding drug or alcohol use
  • Becoming angry when confronted about substance use
  • Isolation or hiding when using substances
  • Spending money meant for other purposes on substances
  • Risky behavior with substances that could, or has, led to arrest or problems with the law

What to Watch for In Teens

Indicators of drug or alcohol abuse in teens can be different than adults. Even though they try to conceal substance use, they may not be as adept at hiding their behaviors. While finding drugs or paraphernalia or discovering that bottles of alcohol are missing from the liquor cabinet are classic signs of substance use, parents should always be on the lookout for other less obvious warning signs, such as subtle changes in their child’s behavior.

  • Moodiness or temperamental attitude that is non-typical
  • Lack of interest in family events or activities, having other things “to do”
  • Risky behavior that is out of the norm
  • Not being motivated to accomplish anything
  • Sleeping more, or not sleeping enough
  • Going “missing” for long periods of time
  • Being clumsy or exhibiting an unusual lack of coordination
  • Depressed or brooding attitude
  • Lying about their whereabouts
  • Hanging out with a completely different set of friends
  • Finding bottles of eye drops (that are used to reduce redness) in their pockets or purse

Alterations in Physical Appearance

  • Poor hygiene, not bathing as often
  • Not caring about their appearance
  • More obvious signs cold be needle marks, smelling of alcohol or marijuana, or bloodshot eyes
  • Bruises or other signs of injuries

Less obvious signs or changes in habits

  • Locked doors
  • Always needing more money
  • Using mouthwash or gum to mask odor
  • Overindulging in food (munchies)
  • More frequent phone calls, or hiding their conversations
  • Missing their curfews


A teen would have the same physical symptoms as an adult if there is substance abuse, but they may try to disguise it. For instance, a hangover could be just a “stomach ache” or a “headache”, or they might complain about allergies to mask a runny nose, red eyes or a nosebleed. They may lose or gain weight, sweat profusely or seem groggy or disoriented.

School officials are often the first to notice that a teen has been skipping class of failing to turn in assignments. Loss of interest in school-related events, or showing up intoxicated to school functions are clear indicators that something is wrong and substance abuse may be present.

If you or someone you love seems to be showing signs of substance abuse, contact a doctor or mental health specialist for an evaluation.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, a non-invasive procedure that delivers a stimulus to the brain which modulates brain activity, has been approved by the FDA in treating Depression. It has also been found in studies to be effective in reducing cravings to help treat substance abuse and to lessen the severity of the symptoms. TMS Neuro Solutions knows How to Help someone with Substance Abuse. Contact TMS Neuro Solutions today at one of our convenient DFW Locations to find out more information about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation therapy.