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Substance Abuse

What is addiction? 

Addiction is the compulsion to use, despite the negative consequences that it causes. This means that you keep using over and over, no matter what it is doing to your life. It may feel as though you are watching yourself self-destruct but can't stop, as in a bad dream. While people may vary in their type of addiction - substances, food, exercise, Internet, gambling, sex, shopping - addiction itself has a common set of characteristics. Some people have a a few characteristics, while others have them all. Some people have one addiction and others have several. Some have mild versions, while others' addictions are severe.

Man fighting and woman looking away


What addictions may be a problem for you? 


  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines (Adderall, speed, diet pills)
  • Cannabis (marijuana, hash)
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens (ecstasy, LSD, mushrooms)
  • Hallucinogens (glue, paint, gasoline)
  • Opiates (heroin, morphine, other pain killers)
  • Phenylcyclindine (PCP)
  • Sedatives (sleeping pills, tranquilizers, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan etc..)
  • Polysubstance (Three of the above groups)
  • Nicotine

Substance use disorders span a wide variety of problems arising from substance use. These behaviors cover 11 different criteria:


  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than the you meant to
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home or school, because of substance use
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger
  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  10. Needing more of the substance to get the effect you want (building up a tolerance)
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.



Opiate withdrawal (pain killers/heroin) symptoms can include:



  • Cravings for the drug
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Diarrhea  
  • Large pupils  
  • Yawning   
  • Chills/goose bumps 
  • Sweating  
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite   
  • Body/muscle aches   
  • Problems sleeping
  • Agitation/severe negative moods/anxiety

If you have used opiates for a long period of time and then abruptly stopped, odds are you will experience withdrawal.  Opiates affect nearly all the systems in our body.  Opiate withdrawal can create an agony of symptoms that are so intense and unpleasant that most people will do almost anything to avoid.  These symptoms can last for hours, several days, or weeks, depending on the length of the addiction and amount ingested.  Ultimately, abusing opiates is threatening to your health and there is a risk of overdose and death.  There is help for opiate addiction and withdrawal.  Call Stepping Stones today for a free phone consultation, if needed referrals will be given to guide you in the right direction depending on your unique situation.

When meeting with  a clinician at Stepping Stones Counseling Center, they will use the DSM 5 to specify how severe the substance use disorder in correlation with how many symptoms are identified. Two or three symptoms indicate a mild substance use disorder, four or five symptoms indicate a moderate substance use disorder, and six or more symptoms indicate a severe substance use disorder.

There are other forms of addiction that include gambling, Internet, food, sex, TV, shopping, work, relationships (the inability to be alone), self-harm (cutting, burning self mutilating), and plastic surgery to name a few.

Women and Addiction

The good news is that women have lower rates of addiction then men, and they are more likely to benefit from treatment. The bad news is that women are much more likely to suffer serious negative effects from addiction, even if they use less and/or start using at a later age. They are also less likely to get support for the recovery and are more likely to have emotional difficulties. Women's rates of addiction is increasing at a fast pace, especially among young women and girls. 

Woman sitting by window and upset

There Is Help!!

There are many ways to heal from an addiction if you have one.  One truth you will discover is that honesty with yourself will always lead to something good overtime.  Some of Stepping Stones' therapists are trained and certified specially in addiction.  Your trained therapist can guide you through the process of exploring factors that may have lead to the path of drug use.  There may be underlying problems that contributed to your desire to numb and cover up painful emotions.  Call toady and set up a free phone consultation.  Althought quitting an addiction is not always easy, there are many great rewards such as:


  • Better health in general
  • Longer life span
  • Less chance for cirrhosis of the liver
  • Lessened damage to pancreas and other organs
  • Reduction in high blood pressure
  • More energy
  • More attractive appearance
  • Better sleep
  • Improved digestion
  • Greater sanity
  • Better memory
  • Better judgment
  • Enhanced ability to focus your thoughts and actions
  • Clearer mind for creative work
  • Free up energy you have put into using
  • Less worry
  • More time for hobbies
  • More time for family
  • Improved relationships
  • More productive at work
  • Greater self-esteem

Happy family of four


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