The term “substance use” refers to the use of drugs and alcohol, including cigarettes, controlled substances, prescription medications and illicit drugs. When this substance use becomes harmful or hazardous to oneself or others it can no longer be considered recreational substance use and is instead considered substance abuse. There are several physical, psychological and social factors that can predict or influence an increased risk of use becoming abuse. Opposingly, similar to risk factors, protective factors that reduce the risk of developing substance abuse problems. These factors include having a positive role model, being motivated to achieve your goals, being involved in meaningful activities and belonging to a supportive community. Another powerful tool to ensure that your use does not become abuse is knowledge. By understanding the various types of substances and the ways to best reduce your harms while using them, you are less likely to experience the negative effects of substance abuse.
Alcohol is a legal, depressant that is made by fermenting fruits, vegetables and grains. As a depressant, alcohol slows the brain regions involved in thinking, decision making, memory and coordination. Alcohol is most frequently used by young adults aged 20 to 24 and is commonly paired with social gatherings. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two with friends, there are still risks associated with alcohol use. To help minimize these risks and promote responsible drinking, low-risk guidelines have been created.
Cannabis is a psychoactive substance derived from the Sativa plant that is used for recreational and therapeutic purposes. It can come in a variety of forms including as dried leaves and flowers, oils and extracts and there are multiple methods of use including inhalation and ingestion. Much like alcohol, cannabis is a legal recreational substance however there are still possible risks involved in its use so low-risk guidelines have been developed to help reduce your risk of harms.
Prescription medications are prescribed by medical professionals to manage and treat medical conditions. These drugs are highly regulated and deemed safe when used under the intended conditions with professional medical guidance. Misuse and non-medical use can be very harmful to one’s physical and mental health, and lead to dangerous patterns of substance abuse.
Illicit substances are a category of illegal stimulants, hallucinogens and central nervous system inhibitors including cocaine, methamphetamine (“meth”) and psilocybin mushrooms (“shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”). These substances are illegal due to the damaging and dangerous effects that they have on your mind and body. While these drugs should be avoided due to their harmful properties, should you choose to experiment with any of them there are a couple of measures that should be taken to promote your own safety and well-being.
Overdoses occur when toxic amounts or combinations of substances overwhelm the body. These effects can be extremely damaging including permanent damage to the body, come and death. In most instances, overdoses occur due to oxygen starvation in the brain and vital organs such as the heart and lungs. When a toxic amount of a substance is consumed, oxygen and sufficient blood flow are often the deciding factors in wheather the overdose will be fatal or not. By understanding preventative strategies, signs and symtpoms of overdose and what to do if you suspect someone is overdosing, you can help to save a life.