Overcoming Substance Abuse Challenges: Identifying, Symptoms, and Treatment


Substance abuse can be hard to identify within one’s self. After all, it is much easier to conceal the symptoms and downplay the drug and alcohol problem rather than face the harsh reality. Substance dependence is typically diagnosed within 12 months with the following criteria:

  • The substance is consumed in larger quantities or over a more extended period than intended.
  • An uncontrollable desire to consume drugs or alcohol more than anything else.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on substance use.
  • Spending a lot of time acquiring, consuming, and recovering from substances.
  • Continued use of drugs and alcohol despite experiencing adverse side effects, such as physical sickness, hangovers, feelings of anxiety, and depression. 
  • Choosing to indulge in substance rather than important occupational, social, or recreational activities. 
  • Compromising friendships and relationships because of substance abuse. For experience, experiencing bursts of violence and short temper, becoming violent with a spouse or children, neglecting household duties due to intoxication, etc. 
  • Experiencing changes in substance tolerance. This means you need more of a substance to feel the desired effects, or the regular amount does not produce the impact anymore. 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not consumed. This could include shakiness, nausea, headaches, depression, anxiety, lack of control, aggressive behavior, and violence. 
Getting help with Substance Use in Waltham, MA

Identifying Substance Use Disorder in Massachusetts 

Whether you started using substances recreationally or for medical reasons, tolerance and dependence can sometimes develop before you realize it. Some of the most noticeable signs of substance abuse are those that impact specific physiological and social processes. When the body’s tolerance to substance increases, higher quantities are required to yield the previous effects. Below is a comprehensive list of symptoms that could be potential red flags regarding substance use. 

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Bloodshot eyes or unusual pupil size
  • Drastic fluctuations in weight and sleep pattern
  • Changes in hygiene 
  • Missing work, school, or other significant events
  • Frequent legal issues include driving while drunk, getting into public fights, etc.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation; becoming more secretive than before
  • Unexplained financial problems or spending habits. This is typically associated with spending large sums of money on substances more than anything else.
  • Changes in physical appearances, such as wearing dirty clothes and showing a lack of interest in grooming
  • Lack of energy when performing any tasks 
  • Poor and ashy skin tone, tired eyes, and an overall rundown appearance
  • Slurred speech, tremors, or poor motor skills
  • Constantly borrowing or stealing money to spend on drugs or alcohol
  • Possession of items closely linked with addiction

Emotional Changes

  • Constant irritability and argumentativeness; easily picking fights over small things and losing temper
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies, family, and friends
  • Acting childish, obnoxious, or inappropriate
  • Appearing confused or lost 
  • Giving poor excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for their behavior when confronted 
  • Blaming others and never taking full responsibility for one’s actions
  • Getting defensive when asked about substance use
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity or spells of extreme lethargy
Getting help with Substance Use in Waltham, MA

Getting Help to Overcome Substance Use

Getting addicted to a substance is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw, and it calls for more than willpower to deal with the problem. Persistent use of drugs or alcohol can create undesirable changes in the brain, causing compulsive cravings and erratic behavior that can make sobriety seem unachievable. However, recovery is never far away, no matter how often you have failed. With the proper support and treatment plan, change is possible. 

The first and perhaps the most challenging step towards recovery is admitting to yourself and close ones that there is a problem and that it needs to be fixed. It is okay to feel unsure when thinking about getting help or quitting substance use altogether. If you are addicted to prescription medication, it is okay to feel scared about how you will find an alternative way of treating the medical condition. Choosing sobriety over addiction requires many changes, including:

  • How do you deal with stress and symptoms of withdrawal
  • Who do you decide to involve in the rehabilitation process
  • What do you do in moments of weakness
  • How do you perceive yourself and your addiction
  • The prescription and OTC medicines you take
  • The people you surround yourself with

Once you have decided to seek help, many different treatment options are available in Waltham, MA. While addiction treatment can differ according to the specific substance, a successful program typically includes the following components:

Detoxification: the first and most essential step of recovery is to purge the body of the substance and effectively manage the withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapy includes individual, family, and/or group therapy sessions to help you recognize the main cause of substance abuse. Moreover, it helps rebuild relationships, teaches essential life skills and healthy habits, and gives a new perspective on life. 

Medication: Under an addiction treatment program, you might be given certain medications to help manage any withdrawal symptoms, prevent any sudden relapses, or treat any chronic physical or mental health issues, such as nausea, anxiety, or depression. 

Aftercare and follow-up: The right aftercare and regular follow-ups are essential to prevent compulsive behavior and maintain long-term sobriety. This may include attending regular meetings on online group sessions to help keep your progress on track. 

Different addiction treatment options are available in Waltham, MA, such as residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs in MA, intensive outpatient programs in MA, and sober living communities. It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to substance use since everyone’s needs are different. Whether you are addicted to alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription medication, your addiction treatment should align with your needs. It is essential to look for an addiction treatment facility in Massachusetts that promises licensed and trained staff and overall feels right. 

Get Help with Substance Use in Waltham, MA, Today!

Northstar Recovery Center is an addiction treatment facility in MA that aims to help addiction patients recover in a high-quality, comfortable, supportive environment. As part of the program, you will be working closely with an expert who will assist you in setting better goals, tracking progress, and benefiting from the right aftercare that will prevent any relapses.

Northstar Recovery Center in Southborough, MA is made up of a team of experienced, dedicated, and compassionate addiction treatment professionals. We want to see our community heal from the effects of the opioid epidemic, alcohol addiction, and other substance use disorders.

Day Treatment Program in MA

The Day Treatment in Massachusetts, also referred to as PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) or IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program), is the highest level of care offered at Northstar Recovery Center. This addiction treatment option encompasses comprehensive clinical care and behavioral therapies. In the initial stages of recovery from addiction, it's crucial to have robust support to navigate both physical and emotional challenges. Our dedicated team at Northstar Recovery Center, located in Southborough, MA, and West Springfield, MA, is committed to assisting you in establishing a solid foundation for a lifelong recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Clients typically visit our addiction treatment center in Massachusetts each weekday for several hours, engaging in counseling sessions and other necessary interventions. This approach ensures a balanced and effective recovery process, tailored to individual needs within the framework of Day Treatment.


Individual, Group, and Family Counseling in Massachusetts

Addiction thrives in isolation, which is why group counseling sessions are a foundational part of our addiction treatment plans. In group sessions, you’ll gain perspective on your struggles with substance abuse and can connect with others who understand your experiences. Family counseling can help your loved ones understand the disease of addiction, navigate conflict and build healthier relationships. In individual counseling sessions, you’ll be able to work through personal issues like past trauma with the help of an experienced therapist.

Learn More About Addiction Counseling in Massachusetts

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