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Some people who drink alcohol, use marijuana or other drugs, or misuse prescription or over-the-counter medicines may develop substance use disorder. This means that a person uses these substances even though it causes harm to themself or others.
A person who has substance use disorder will have two or more of these symptoms:
Substance use disorder can range from mild to severe. The more symptoms of this disorder you have, the more severe it may be.
A person might not realize that their substance use is a problem. They might not use alcohol or drugs in large amounts at one time. Or they might go for days or weeks between drinking episodes or using drugs. But even if they don't drink or use drugs very often, their substance use could still be harmful and put them at risk.
Alcohol and drug use may be a person's way of trying to self-treat another condition, such as depression.
Using alcohol or drugs can put others at risk. For example:
People who use alcohol or drugs may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors. For example, they may not use condoms during sex. Or they may have more than one sex partner. This increases the risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They may drive when "high" or when they've had too much to drink. This may increase the risk of injury or car crashes.
Alcohol is part of many people's lives. It may have a place in cultural and family traditions. So it may be hard to know when someone is drinking too much and when it's a sign of alcohol use disorder.
People who drink too much alcohol are more likely to have poor grades or job performance. They're more likely to use tobacco products and to experiment with marijuana or other drugs. And their drinking may increase their risk of getting hurt or being in a car crash.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may cause health problems, like high blood pressure, problems with digestion, and liver, heart, brain, and nervous system problems. It may also cause sexual problems, osteoporosis, and cancer.
The use of alcohol with medicines, marijuana, or other drugs may increase the effects of each. Using alcohol along with opioids increases the risk of opioid overdose.
People who use drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or meth, may develop substance use disorder. People use many drugs for recreational purposes, including some that are also used as medicines. Examples include opioids, ketamine, and LSD. People may use drugs to get a "high" or to relieve stress and emotional problems.
Drugs come in different forms and can be used in different ways. They may be smoked, snorted, inhaled, or taken as pills. They may be put in liquids or food. They may be put in the rectum or vagina or be injected with a needle.
Teens and young adults may be at higher risk of being victims of sexual assault or violent behavior in situations where drugs are used.
Some people misuse prescription medicines, like opioids (such as OxyContin and Norco), benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax), and stimulants (such as Ritalin and Adderall). Misusing prescription medicines can cause serious harm and, in some cases, even death.
Some over-the-counter medicines, such as cold medicines that have dextromethorphan in them, are being misused by teens and young adults as a way to get "high."
Glue, shoe polish, cleaning fluids, and aerosols are common products with ingredients that can also be used to get a "high."
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
If you are with a person who is drunk or high, it's a good idea to seek medical help right away if:
When you use drugs or alcohol over time, you may feel that you need them to get through the day. You or a loved one may notice that:
Severe withdrawal symptoms may include:
Mild withdrawal symptoms may include:
The risk of a suicide attempt is highest if:
The use of alcohol and drugs can affect your behavior. Here are some questions to think about:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:
Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
If you are concerned about your own or another person's alcohol or drug use, learn what steps to take to help yourself or someone else.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 21, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: March 21, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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