Substance Abuse can be just as dangerous and deadly as addiction, and in fact, the two are very similar. The only real difference between them is dependence and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when substances are not being used. For an individual who is engaging in substance abuse of any kind, the risks of developing an addiction are significantly increased. Although substance abuse lacks a physical and psychological dependence, the effects of various substances on an individual can create dangerous circumstances that may result in overdose, bizarre and risky behavior, and various other health and judgment impairments.

Different substances have varying effects on individuals, but can generally be classified in two different ways, either stimulant or depressant. The drugs classified as stimulants are also known as “uppers,” and produce increased energy and alertness, while the depressant drugs, or “downers” tend to have sedative effects on users. When these substances are abused, their stimulant or depressant effects can be significantly intensified to the point at which individuals may suffer severely negative consequences. Some of the effects of substance abuse with stimulant drugs are as follows:

Increased blood pressure
Increased body temperature
Rapid heart rate and/or arrhythmia
Dilated pupils
Lowered inhibitions
Obsessive behaviors
Stroke or heart attack
Hostility and/or violence
Loss of appetite

Many of these signs are very common with stimulant drugs in high and frequent doses. Whether legal or illicit, stimulant drugs have similar effects, and when they are the subject of substance abuse, users tend to experience intense highs while under the influence and dramatic lows when it has worn off.

Contrarily, the effects of depressant drugs take place within the central nervous system (CNS), and the drugs that are used medicinally are intended to calm or dull an individual’s perception of pain, panic, and or anxiety. Alcohol is included in the class of depressant drugs as well. Some of the effects of substance abuse with depressant drugs include:

Decreased heart rate
Shallow breathing
Constricted pupils
Slurred speech
Lack of coordination
Slowed reaction time
Aggression and/or agitation
Heavy eyelids and limbs
Most commonly associated with overdose, substance abuse with depressant drugs often leads to respiratory depression and failure, which often results in coma and death.

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