Am I Experiencing Side Effects or Signs of Dependence?

Posted in: Addiction

December 8, 2014

A man laying awake in bed

When a person uses a substance, she will likely experience several side effects. Almost every substance has side effects, which can range from mild to severe. If a person abuses a substance over a period of time, she can potentially develop a dependence on it. Some of the side effects of many substances are similar to the symptoms of substance dependence, so it’s important to understand the exact differences between side effects and signs of dependence.

Common Side Effects of Drugs

While taking nearly any type of substance will cause some side effects, it’s not always easy to tell exactly what these effects will be. Most of the time, though, specific types of substances have specific side effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following common side effects for different drugs:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Digestive system problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation
  • Distorted sensory perception
  • Extreme sweating
  • Increased drowsiness or alertness
  • Memory impairment and loss
  • Mood swings
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slowed or arrested breathing
  • Violent behavior

The side effects associated with a specific substance are often completely unpredictable. Side effects may occur after a single use of the substance, may not appear until after several uses of the substance or may not appear at all.

Symptoms of Drug Dependence

Anytime a person takes a drug, she is not only putting herself at risk of experiencing some of the side effects listed above, but she is also increasing her chances of developing a dependence on the substance. As the Mayo Clinic explains, drug dependence, also known as addiction, occurs when a person cannot control his drug use and continues to use the drug in spite of negative consequences. Additionally, dependence can make the person feel strong cravings for the drug, which makes it even more difficult to stop abusing the drug. The Mayo Clinic also gives the following symptoms of drug dependence or addiction:

  • Using the drug regularly, whether every day or several times a day
  • Inability to stop using the drug
  • Maintaining a steady supply of the drug
  • Continuing to spend money on the drug despite negative financial consequences
  • Using any means, legal or illegal, to get the drug
  • Using the drug as a way to avoid other problems
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, such as driving, while under the influence of the drug

Individuals who have developed a drug dependence focus increasing amounts of time and energy on obtaining and using the drug, at the expense of their relationships, career and mental and physical health.

Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

Another sign of dependence to some types of drugs is withdrawal. When a person takes some drugs over a period of time, her body adjusts to the drug’s effects and begins to function normally only when she takes the drug regularly. Withdrawal symptoms occur when the person stops using the drug, and can last anywhere from several hours to a few weeks. Some of the most common symptoms of substance withdrawal include:

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and chills
  • Tremors

For some substances, such as barbiturates, withdrawal can be life-threatening. Therefore, it’s best to seek out professional help in order to be able to stop using the substance in a safe and controlled environment. If you’d like to speak with someone about treatment options please give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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