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Many people who struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol find substance abuse counseling from a mental health professional beneficial in overcoming and coping with their disorder. Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor, MI treating a wide range of mental health issues including substance abuse and addiction.

IDENTITY therapist, Joe Jaster, LPC specializes in substance abuse and addiction counseling for adolescents and adults, and is passionate about helping patients find freedom from their addiction, manage their recovery, and rebuild their relationships. Visit Joe’s profile to learn more about his background and substance abuse counseling services, or to schedule an intake appointment. Joe is currently accepting new patients. 


What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder, also known as substance abuse or addiction, is a disease that affects a person’s thoughts, behavior and brain chemistry, and it’s characterized by the inability to control one’s use of drugs or alcohol. When it comes to substance abuse, “drugs” can include legal drugs like nicotine, illegal drugs, and even medication that is prescribed by a doctor. 

Someone with substance use disorder will begin to experience negative consequences due to their substance use, but continue using anyway even if their loved ones want them to stop or they themselves want to stop. This loss of control has to do with how drugs and alcohol interact with the brain’s reward system. While addictive substances may be different in terms of drug class or pharmacological makeup, they are similar across the board in their activation of the brain’s reward system, producing feelings in the brain such as pleasure, euphoria, calm, and “high.”

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

Below is a list of symptoms that can indicate the presence of a substance use disorder. Not everyone will have every symptom, but the more symptoms that someone has, the more severe their addiction tends to be. Experiencing at least two or three of the following symptoms may indicate a substance use disorder:

  • Taking the substance in larger quantities or for a longer period of time than you’re supposed to
  • Failing in your attempts to cut down or stop using the substance 
  • Spending significant amounts of time seeking, using or recovering from the effects of the substance
  • Feeling cravings, urges or impulses to use the substance 
  • Underperforming at work, home or school because of the substance use
  • Continuing to use the substance even when it causes problems in your relationships
  • Turning down important social, occupational or familial opportunities because of the substance use
  • Using the substance over and over again, even if it puts you in danger
  • Continuing to use the substance, even when you have a psychological or physical problem that you know could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  • Needing more and more of the substance to get the effect you want, or building up a tolerance to the substance
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take, or take less of, the substance, which can only be relieved by using 

What Causes Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder occurs when someone loses the ability to control their use of drugs or alcohol, leaving them physically and psychologically unable to stop using a substance even when they want to. Addiction or abuse can come about in many ways. Sometimes, it begins with experimental use of a recreational substance in a new social settings or peer group, and then becomes more and more frequent. It can also begin with exposure to prescribed medications that are particularly addictive, whether from a legitimate doctor and used as instructed, or received from a friend or relative who’s trying to help. The risk and time it takes for substance use to turn into substance abuse or addiction varies by substance. As time passes, the user might start needing larger amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effect, and eventually they might start feeling sick without the substance, and begin needing to use it just to feel normal. 

Risk Factors

Addiction can affect anyone, and people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and economic statuses are at risk for developing a substance use disorder. However, like any other mental health issue, there are several factors that may make the development of a substance abuse problem more likely, including: 

  • Family history – Once you’ve started using a potentially addictive substance, inherited genetic traits and family history of addiction may play a role in whether or not and how quickly you develop an addiction.
  • Environment – Environmental elements such as peer pressure and family values often play a role in the development of a drug or alcohol problem.
  • Mental Health – If you have a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety or PTSD, you could be more at risk for developing a substance use disorder, especially when using substances to cope with the painful feelings that can accompany mental health issues. 
  • Early use – Experimenting with drugs and alcohol at a young age can impact the developing brain and increase your likelihood of progressing from substance use to substance abuse or addiction. 
  • Taking a highly addictive substance – Some substances result in much faster development of addiction or dependence compared to other substances. It’s also riskier to inject or smoke a substance.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Substance Use Disorder?

Symptoms of substance abuse can vary depending on the substance, but common warning signs may include:

Behavioral changes

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school
  • Repeatedly getting into trouble
  • Using substances in dangerous situations such as when driving or operating machinery
  • Acting secretive or suspicious 
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Sudden mood swings, outbursts or irritability 
  • Periods of atypical hyperactivity or giddiness
  • Loss of motivation
  • Acting fearful, agitated, anxious or paranoid for no apparent reason

Physical changes

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Abnormally large pupils
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Unkempt physical appearance
  • Unusual smells on body, clothing or breath
  • Body tremors
  • Impaired coordination 
  • Slurred speech

What Are the Consequences of Substance Abuse and Addiction?

A substance use disorder often comes with a number of dangerous and destructive consequences. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol are more likely to experience the following negative outcomes:

  • Developing a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
  • Mental illness
  • Car accidents
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Family conflict
  • Problems with performance at work or school
  • Legal issues
  • Financial troubles

How Do Substance Abuse and Addiction Affect the Family Unit?

A substance use disorder affects everyone in a family, not just the user. The impacts of addiction on a family can be severe and manifest in more ways than one. Here are a few examples:

  • Psychological – Denial, anger, shame, anxiety, hopelessness, self-neglect and social isolation are some potential psychological consequences for family members of an addict. 
  • Educational – Children from homes with a substance abuser may be at an increased risk for poor school attendance, delinquency, dropping out of school, and developing a learning disability. 
  • Economic – Addiction can result in the user facing either unemployment or underemployment, leading to lack of income, low income, or a decreased standard of living. Spending money on the substance, especially if the family is already struggling, also has negative financial consequences and may cause children to assume provider roles to keep their family afloat. 
  • Developmental – Both genetic predisposition and witnessing adult substance abuse at a young age can put certain children more at risk for substance use disorder. Additionally, elements of trust and security that are crucial in promoting healthy development are often lost in homes with an addict or drug abuser.

How Are Substance Abuse and Mental Health Related?

Mental health problems and substance abuse tend to be intertwined, and often mental health disorders and substance use disorders occur together. This comorbidity is a result of several factors, like:

  • Certain substances can cause those with substance use disorders to experience mental health problems.
  • Mental health issues can sometimes lead to substance abuse, as people experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication when they no longer can cope on their own.
  • Mental health disorders and substance use disorder share some underlying causes, like changes in brain chemistry, genetic predispositions, and exposure to stress, trauma, or neglect.

How Can Counseling Help with Substance Abuse and Addiction?

Therapy and counseling have proven to be extremely beneficial in helping people overcome addiction. A licensed mental health professional trained in treating substance use disorders can help patients:

  • Cope with substance cravings
  • Suggest strategies to avoid triggers and prevent relapse
  • Provide tools for dealing with relapse if it does occur
  • Talk about the negative consequences that often come along with addiction
  • Help rebuild broken relationships and develop better communication skills
  • Offer other local resources for substance addiction support
  • Address any other mental health conditions that are present and may have come from or caused the addiction

Identity Counseling Psychology is a counseling and psychotherapy practice located in the heart of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our substance abuse counseling specialist, Joe Jaster, LPC has extensive background and experience in working with adults and adolescents facing substance abuse and addiction issues. Joe helps clients tackle important parts of addiction like relapse, recovery and relationships, and provides support, knowledge and encouragement during what he knows can be a difficult and emotional journey. If you’re in the Ann Arbor area and you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you are not alone and it’s okay to ask for help. Contact us today to learn more about our counseling services, or to schedule an intake appointment.