According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2017, 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and older, around 38% of adults, had substance abuse problems in some form. Substance abuse costs America more than $740 billion per year in lost productivity, healthcare expenses, and costs due to crime.

Addiction tends to be depicted as symbolically in art and fiction with chains or spiderwebs. The reason is due to its crushing grip on one’s body and soul, unrelenting and all-consuming. It takes hold of the mind, restrains the body, and traps the soul.

Its effects come in like a thief in the night, robbing the person of their energy and enthusiasm for life. Eventually, it affects everyone else around the addicted individual, coming in between their relationships. What used to be love and understanding turns into loathing and resentment.

But it’s a cage that’s extremely hard to escape from. Substance abuse claims the lives of people both ordinary and great every single day. The strong become weak, the wise become foolish, the wealthy become poor, and the skillful become untalented under the yoke of addiction.

Life in the midst of addiction can be stifling, and the path towards getting treatment is an arduous one. Knowing what’s ahead can help lighten some of that burden and lead you to get the right help while there’s still time.

Physical Symptoms of Addiction

A person in the grips of addiction will gradually exhibit physical symptoms as substance abuse progresses. It results in deterioration in both appearance and overall health of the individual, which can then impact other aspects of their life.

Usually, the first thing to take place is a decline in physical appearance and hygiene. As the addiction takes hold, it pulls attention away from menial tasks like bathing, grooming, and exercise. It encourages staying in one place for extended periods of time, thus keeping up appearances goes to the backburner.

The ongoing substance abuse can sap one’s energy over time as the body develops full dependence on the substance involved. That then shows as fatigue and malaise, even in people who were once known for being active and energetic.

It is then exacerbated by decreased appetite and weight loss. Whether it’s from appetite suppression effects of the substance involved or simply from being preoccupied with using it on a daily basis, that can result in gradual emaciation.

They would also get bloodshot eyes, poor skin tone, and looking tired or run down as a result of both consumption of the substance itself and the aforementioned symptoms. These are what become the most telling signs that there’s something very wrong with the person in question.

Problems Caused by Addiction

As both a result and extension of its negative effects on the body, addiction can cause problems in one’s life and interpersonal relationships. As money, energy, and time are drawn away from responsibilities and relationships and towards the addictive substance, things start to fall apart brick by brick.

First, substance abuse takes more of the patient’s attention and gradually alters their behavior. They become more withdrawn from social contact, preferring more and more to be alone. A once welcoming and gregarious individual can become distant and reserved when they’re involved in substance abuse.

It can also be more of a preoccupation with a particular activity or situation. The patient would start making excuses and insist on going somewhere or doing something on their own. In any case, this social withdrawal can lead to drastic changes in relationships, from no longer conversing or hanging out with friends to causing friction in familial and romantic relationships.

The lingering distraction caused by substance abuse can lead to difficulties or disinterest in school or work. There will be lapses in fulfilling obligations, which have a cumulative effect over time. As failures in accomplishing tasks and managing responsibilities pile up, so do their problems in those areas.

There will most likely be increasing money problems as well, caused by both spending money on the procurement of said substance, decreasing work performance, and decreased ability to make good decisions due to being under the influence.

If the patient happens to be a parent, they may become more neglectful in child care. This can lead to harm upon the child due to a lack of proper care. The increasing psychological distress caused by the addiction can also lead them to physically or psychologically harm the child as well.

Perhaps the most telling psychological effect of addiction is denial. They may get overly defensive when you ask them about their possible substance use. The outing of substance abuse carries negative social stigma and can derail a person’s career and reputation, so most people would not want to be labeled as an addict.

Reactions can range from silence, deflecting answers, outright lies, to unseemly outbursts like a simple “no” doesn’t suffice. Anger and dejection are often present, either disguised in a poker face or a cheerful disposition or made plain to see.
While certain things can be done to convince the individual in question that the problem must be addressed, it’s up to them to admit to themselves and to everyone that they do have a problem.

Admitting There’s a Problem

There’s a reason why it has become a cultural meme that “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” Being addicted means one is not in control, and that can be difficult and scary, especially if the patient had been known to be motivated and headstrong.

A lot of times, addicts don’t see themselves as addicts as that denotes loss of self-control. Being able to acknowledge one’s own status as an addict is all about admitting to losing that control over oneself, thus giving up one’s own power and requiring outside help.

But even when an addict becomes self-aware, that’s still not enough. Some may even think the addiction helps them, which is most likely not the reality. The next thing after acknowledging one’s status as an addict is to see it as a problem that needs to be fixed.

If an addict seems to not be able to admit that there’s a problem, an intervention by family and friends may be necessary. It may seem confrontational and sudden, but when done right, it may help one realize the depth of the problem and how it affects everyone around them.

Being able to tackle the problem of substance abuse hinges on truly understanding that addiction is bigger than you are. You cannot do it alone, and regaining control of your life will require a staggering level of commitment, as well as help and support from others.

Committing to Getting Help

Upon admitting that they do have a problem, the next step for the addict is to make a commitment to getting the help they need to overcome the substance abuse problem. This process can’t be rushed, but it can’t also be procrastinated. It will take a long time to fully recover, and there’s no better time to start than now.

While the individual must submit themselves and accept that they have no power over the addiction, they must also understand that the addiction does not define them as a human being. It’s something that can be overcome and normal life can be regained with the right help.

The obvious early step here is to ask family and friends for support in recovery. This is where one knows who their true friends and loved ones are. People will make excuses and turn the addict away when help is needed most, but those who really care will come out for this direst of circumstances.

Whether one garners support from confidants or not, talking to a mental health professional is recommended. An addict’s mind is understandably muddled by substance abuse, so therapy can help get things straightened out. Clarity helps make the way outlook less like a dream and more of a reality.

Therapy can also be a major part of treatment, and it can also help one deal with stress and triggers that can cause a relapse. That and keeping an open dialogue with others who care can make the way out of depression less of a perilous journey and more of a walk towards freedom.

Substance addiction can indeed be treated, but it requires commitment and a willingness to be helped. While addiction is a chronic disorder that must constantly be monitored and addressed even after treatment, it can certainly be overcome and the individual in question can return to a normal semblance of life.

Treatment Options

Laying down every option available helps one understand two things—there’s plenty of help available for addicts and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Whichever one chooses to go with, it’s only good if the people behind it are committed to helping the patient overcome addiction.

Behavioral therapies and counseling can complement medical treatments as they address the psychological factors involved in addiction.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to help one recognize, avoid, and cope with situations that may coax them to consume substances in question. It helps the patient identify what factors lead to their addiction, which can also prevent relapses in the long term.

Contingency management makes use of positive reinforcement like rewards and privileges to encourage attendance and participation in counseling sessions, as well as consistently taking medication as prescribed by the treatment.

Motivational enhancement therapy helps patients resolve their ambivalence towards and become ready to change their behavior and enter treatment. It seeks to evoke rapid and internally-motivated change instead of taking it slow and steady by emphasizing urgency.

Family therapy helps people, especially young people, and their families deal with substance abuse problems. It addresses the factors and influences involved in substance abuse with the goal of improving how the family responds to it.

Twelve-step facilitation is an individual therapy delivered in 12 weekly sessions to prepare patients for twelve-step mutual support programs. These twelve-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, are complementary to medical treatments and follow themes of surrender, acceptance, and active involvement in one’s recovery.

Veteran Affairs have treatment programs for military veterans with substance abuse problems. There may also be companies, industries, and organizations that provide similar services to members with substance abuse problems.

For severe substance abuse and addiction problems, admittance in a rehabilitation center may be advised. It provides an environment that initiates and facilitates the recovery process, from medical treatment to therapies and physical activities. The environment also lets patients interact with one another and share their stories.

Broadway Treatment Center is one such facility in Orange County that provides a holistic approach to substance abuse and addiction treatment. Services include comfortable and effective detox programs, residential treatment, and an intensive outpatient program.


Addiction affects many aspects of one’s life, and the recovery process for substance abuse can vary from person to person. Coming to grips with addiction will be followed by a period of tribulation for both the patient and those close to them. The road to recovery is paved with obstacles and temptations, but it’s a path worth taking.

The most important thing to remember in the recovery process is you don’t need to be alone. It’s an education that’s undertaken by not just the addict, but those close to them. Their continued involvement and support can help make the treatment more effective and prevent possible relapse in the long term.