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Symptoms & Treatment

Substance misuse is a complex issue, although the overall number of people with a serious problem is quite low, those who do have dependency issues will generally affect many others around them.

Friends and family are most likely to notice signs of substance misuse. The earlier a problem is recognised the more chance there is of successfully treating the problem.

Substance abuse often begins as a way of dealing with different situations and escalates from there. Initially users may begin with making the users relaxed and feel better however within time negative impacts will begin to take over.

Negative effects may influence relationships, work, social lives, study, finances or even cause trouble with the police.

A user may begin to feel depressed, anxious, angry and frustrated as they turn to substances to help them manage these feelings. The cycle continues and worsens, each time a person is faced with the same situation or feeling they revert to this new coping mechanism.

If you’re suffering from a substance dependency or drug problem, don’t go it alone. Talk to one of our GPs online right now:

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Substance abuse in a man
symptoms of Substance Abuse

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

There are various ways in which a person could display signs of substance misuse. Physical and behavioural changes are key indicators, however, each substance has its own unique effects. There are still some common signs which are apparent with most substance misuse.

Common signs to watch for include:


  • Noticeable difference in behaviour
  • Changing sleeping patterns
  • Losing interest in personal hobbies
  • Complacent in personal grooming
  • Drop in attendance and performance in work or school
  • Changes in friends
  • Unexplained financial problems


  • Unusual smells on breath, body or clothing
  • Running nose
  • Red, bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Tremors, slurred speech or poor co-ordination
  • Sudden weight changes
  • Tired appearance, bags under eyes


  • Large swings in mood (going from happy to irritable and grumpy quickly)
  • Periods of hyperactivity or agitation
  • Lack of interest in family members and relationships
  • Lack of motivation, appearing spaced out and appearing lethargic
  • Fearful, anxious or paranoid without reason
The misuse of alcohol and other substances should not be ignored. If left untreated, the user can develop drug independence or alcoholism.

If someone you know is exhibiting these signs, speak to a doctor to get further advice. Talk to a Doctor About Substance Abuse

Treating Substance Misuse

Treatment is often long-term, as addiction is classed as a chronic illness, especially for those who are addicted to drugs/medications. Treatment generally changes over time and is tailored to the individual. Treatment includes all aspects that are related to the problem such as medical, mental and social problems.

There are many ways in which substance abuse/addiction can be treated, however, some of the most common tactics include:

Detox: Allowing the body rid the system of the substance. This is generally carried out under supervised care to ensure the patient is safe. A gradual reduction in the drug may be required to slowly allow the body to adjust.

Treating withdrawal: Often withdrawal symptoms occur such as fatigue, depression and sleep problems. Doctors may prescribe medications to help minimise the effects and allow the brain to adjust to the absence of the abused substance

Behavioural therapy: This type of therapy can make treatment and medications more effective and help people learn how to change the way they think and cope with cravings that may push them towards a relapse.

If you're suffering with a substance misuse problem, get the professional help and advice you need. Talk to a doctor online right now:

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Treatment of Substance Abuse

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