What Is Substance Abuse? How To Recognize it

As a friend or family member of someone who might be struggling with substance use, it can feel daunting to look for the signs. You may not know exactly what it is that you are looking for, but even just the fact that you have an eye out means you care.

What’s important to note about substance abuse is that having someone in your corner who is looking out for you really can make a difference in the path to recovery.

To better recognize the signs of substance abuse, it is helpful to learn more about what substance use disorder and addiction are, how they can creep into someone’s life, and what the next steps should be for someone who is sturggling. For people who are dealing with addiction, it can feel nearly impossible to overcome substance abuse without help.

If you are worried about a loved one, getting them help can be life-changing and even life-saving. Keep reading to learn more about how to recognize when someone may be struggling with substance abuse.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

When someone has difficulties with a substance use disorder, it means that they are unable to control their use of a substance and their consequent actions. Substance use disorder affects a person’s brain, body, and behavior, and can ultimately make it difficult for them to control their behaviors and moods.

Substance use disorder can be debilitating, and without proper help, it can develop into a full-out addiction. Intervening as soon as possible can help limit the damage this disorder can have on people.

What Is Addiction?

Some people refer to addiction, substance use disorder, substance abuse, and dependencies as the same thing. But when we refer to addiction, we are referring to the worst end of substance use disorder.

Addiction happens as a result of repeated substance use that has severe effects on a person’s brain and body.

That said, we want to emphasize that no matter how far along your substance use or addiction is, you can always seek help.

These disorders are treatable as long as you are committed to your health, and it always helps to have plenty of support behind you in the recovery journey.

What Contributes to Substance Abuse?

No two people have the same history of substance abuse. Everyone has their own story and background that differs from others. There are many factors that can contribute to a person’s drug or alcohol use that you can sometimes attribute to their journey, such as:

  • Environmental factors: A person’s family and friend life can impact substance use behaviors. If a person is being mistreated and peer-pressured into using, they might not be able to say no. If they are being exposed to drugs and alcohol from an early age by their parents or older adults, these behaviors might become normal to them.
  • Biological factors: Genetics has a role in drug addiction and can be a risk factor for substance abuse problems. If a person comes from a long line of family members who struggled with addiction, they could likely fall into similar patterns. Understanding your family’s history can help you understand your risks.
  • Mental health: Those dealing with mental health problems might turn to substances like illicit drugs as a helpline for self-medication. People who deal with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other serious mental illnesses might turn to illegal drugs as a way to cope with unwanted symptoms.

How Can You Recognize Substance Abuse?

Recognizing substance abuse is not always easy or obvious. You can never truly know what a person is going through, no matter how well you think you know them. Of course, there can be obvious signs that you pick up on that ring alarm bells in your head. There are many different substances that your loved one could be struggling with, and the signs are not always the same.

If you are worried about someone and think they might be struggling with substance abuse, consider the following symptoms as signs of their abuse.

Alcohol Abuse

Due to the prevalence of alcohol in today’s society, it can be a little more difficult to notice if someone is struggling. Drinking has become so common that minor substance use issues go unnoticed. It’s not until you see someone drinking throughout the day, every day, to realize there might be an issue.

Other signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are:

  • Frequent blacking out and memory loss
  • Lack of control of alcohol consumption
  • Drinking alone or at odd times of the day
  • Drinking to cope with problems
  • Depression and irritability
  • Stress on relationships

Marijuana / Cannabis Abuse

Similar to alcohol, marijuana use has become more common in today’s society. People might use marijuana to help with stress, chronic illness, mental health, or just for fun, which can make noticing someone’s struggles more difficult.

Signs that someone might be struggling with cannabis are:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Frequent cannabis use
  • Inability to eat or sleep without it
  • Paranoia

Stimulant Abuse

Stimulants are an upper drug that can make you feel like you’re going a mile a minute. When someone is using stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, you might notice these indications of substance use problems:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Aggression and hostility
  • Frequent behavior changes
  • Paranoia
  • Intense nasal congestion

Opioid Abuse

Opioids include prescription painkillers, like Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as heroin. These types of drugs slow down your body and brain. Thus, someone who is using opioids might experience these signs of drug misuse:

  • Sedation
  • Slow reaction times
  • Intense mood swings
  • Lethargy and confusion
  • Intestinal and digestive issues

Hallucinogenic Abuse

Depending on what kind of hallucinogen someone is using, their reactions might vary. Overall, someone who might be causing hallucinogens might:

  • Act erratically and impulsively
  • Claim to see and hear things that aren’t actually there
  • Experience nausea, tremors, and twitching
  • Endure a panic attack

Barbiturate and Benzodiazepine Abuse

While Barbiturates aren’t used as frequently anymore, they are sometimes used to treat seizures and during surgery. These carry a higher risk of overdose than benzodiazepines, like Valium or Xanax, which are prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Signs that someone might be abusing these substances are:

  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Balance problems and loss of coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Depression

How Can I Support Someone with Substance Abuse Problems?

If any of the signs and symptoms above seem to resonate with you or a loved one, it might be time to intervene. Now, no one expects you to solve your loved one’s problems single-handedly, but there are ways that you might be able to get involved.

The process of getting someone help can be long and difficult because when it comes down to it, the person dealing with the substance use must desire to get better. You cannot force anyone to do something they don’t want to.

That said, there are several different ways that you can support someone who is dealing with substance abuse. Here are just a few.

Check in Regularly

The first thing you can do is check in on your loved one to see how they are doing. Telling them that you have noticed problematic behavior is never easy, so prompting them to open up to you might be best. You don’t want them to feel like you are cornering and judging them, but you also don’t want to pretend that everything is alright.

Expressing your concern and worry for someone might not always come off as loving to someone struggling. They might get defensive and upset, but know you’ve opened up a line of communication for them they might not have seen before. When it is time for them to make the decision to get help, they will likely end up seeing you as a place of security.

Set Up a Support System

Having several people behind you supporting you through recovery is a game-changer. Knowing there are people to turn to makes a difference. People struggling with addiction often feel alone and isolated, but having a support system can help.

Write down phone numbers your loved one can call if they need help, set up weekly (or bi-weekly) hangouts so you can see how they are doing, and try to help with their accountability.

Go to Meetings With Them

Substance abuse is not something you can control, so getting help can be very difficult. It may be hard for your loved one to choose to go to AA meetings or behavioral therapy sessions, and a little support could go a long way.

Making a conscious decision to attend treatment is not always easy, so don’t be afraid to join your loved ones in AA meetings. Even just driving them to and from their health care appointments can help them to get up and actually go.

This level of support will mean a lot to someone struggling because it can be a very difficult thing to admit to yourself, let alone others.

Set Boundaries

When you are helping someone who is struggling with substance abuse, the lines can begin to blur when it comes to how much help you are offering. You don’t want to be running yourself dry in order to help your loved one. Instead, you need to set boundaries to maintain your own mental health.

Watching someone you love struggle can be very difficult, so knowing when to say “no” and support rather than enable is important.

Getting Help with Soba

When it comes to substance abuse treatment, Soba Recovery has got you covered.

With locations in both Mesa, Arizona, and San Antonio, Texas, you can find help whenever needed. We offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment services so that no matter your circumstance, you have the ability to receive help.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, finding professional help will change the trajectory of your recovery. With round-the-clock care and a community of like-minded individuals to support you, there is no better way to get treatment.

Call today and speak with a Soba representative if this is something that you think could benefit your journey with substance use.


Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders | NIMH

Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Trends in Substance Use Disorders Among Adults Aged 18 or Older | SAMHSA

Types of Withdrawal Symptoms To Look Out For

When someone uses illicit drugs for a long period of time and develops physiological dependencies on them, they put themselves at a variety of risks.

A person struggling with substance use may not be thinking about what it will feel like to experience withdrawal symptoms, but when the time comes, it can be very difficult.

If you or a loved one are dealing with substance use disorder or addiction, going through the drug withdrawal stage is necessary to recover. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

Withdrawal can feel like you are dying, and without proper support or supervision, withdrawal can sometimes lead to fatal consequences.

This doesn’t mean that you should continue to use to subdue the withdrawal symptoms, but rather you should look for professional help to guide you through the process. This will ensure your safety and help you understand what is happening to your body.

Withdrawal can be terrifying, but it’s often the first step towards taking back ownership of your life and decisions. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. Understanding the symptoms may help you ease through the process and come out successful on the other side.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder (SUD) occurs when someone has recurring use of any type of drug that causes disruption in their everyday life and that they lack control over.

People with substance use disorder rarely have control over their actions and their substance use, making it very difficult for them to get better. Substance use can range from mild to severe, and no two people experience the same journey.

Many factors can lead to substance use disorder and drug addiction, including environmental impacts, societal pressures, and genetics. People who are struggling might have been predisposed to SUD, but without environmental and societal factors, they might not have developed the substance use disorder.

Peer pressure, being exposed to substances at a young age, and mental health all impact your choices with substances.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal occurs when you stop or limit your substance use. Withdrawal symptoms can vary across the different substances, but the symptoms can be debilitating. Without proper support, you could suffer intensely throughout the withdrawal process.

Withdrawal includes the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that you go through when you stop using a substance. For each individual, the withdrawal process could be unique; with different substances, you have different reactions. The symptoms of withdrawal during alcohol dependence can differ from the symptoms of withdrawal for a person with a different drug dependence.

When you use a substance daily, your body can develop a physical dependence on the drug. That means when you want to stop, your body has to reverie back to its old ways, which isn’t a smooth process, but a necessary one.

Why Does Withdrawal Occur?

Withdrawal occurs when your body goes from using a substance every day to not at all. Your body is not used to living life without the substance, so your body reacts negatively and angrily when you don’t use it. When you are regularly using, your brain and body adjust and over time and accept these feelings as normal.

The symptoms you will experience can vary greatly depending on what substance you used, for how long, and what other factors may be playing a role. If you are using substances frequently and in large quantities, you should expect withdrawal symptoms to occur if you are planning to quit.

What Are Common Symptoms of Withdrawal?

Depending on what substance you were abusing and for how long, your withdrawal symptoms will vary. Everyone experiences drug use differently, and because of this, the way they experience withdrawals is very similar. It can be difficult to know what to expect when it comes to withdrawal, but there are a few common symptoms that might come to light.

Knowing what to look out for can help you manage withdrawal symptoms in the safest way possible. Be sure to look out for some common signs of withdrawal:

  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in appetite and hunger
  • Tremors and shakiness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Sweating profusely
  • Irritability and fatigue
  • Muscle pains
  • Difficulties with sleep

These symptoms listed above are only general signs to look out for, but each substance has its own symptoms of withdrawal.

Are There Different Types of Withdrawal?

Every substance you put into your body will have a different and varying effect on you.

Therefore you can assume that the withdrawal symptoms for different substances will also be different, like symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal versus opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on your usage and how long you have been dependent on the substance.

Withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and painful, which is why it can be difficult to get through the process — especially in cases of severe withdrawal. Many people will fall back and use the substance to get over the withdrawal symptoms, knowing that it’s just what they need to feel no longer ill. Because of this, getting professional treatment and having solid support systems can ensure that you stay safe and successful during your detox.

The following sections highlight the symptoms of withdrawal from different substances so that you can have a better understanding of what to expect.


Withdrawing from alcohol can have a very serious and severe effect on a person.

Withdrawal symptoms may begin between 6 and 24 hours of heavy and prolonged drinking, and they come on strong. For several days after the start of symptoms, it’s likely these effects will get worse before getting better. It can be extremely painful and uncomfortable to go through detox during this time. Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Intense sweating and hot flashes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

Long-term effects of excessive alcohol can be very damaging to your body and even fatal. Heart disease, liver disease, depression, and cancer have all been associated with long-term drinking, so intervening as early as possible is essential.


Benzodiazepines are used to depress the central nervous system and are frequently prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders, as well as certain seizure disorders. Mixing these drugs with alcohol or opioids has the potential to lead to fatal overdoses.

The withdrawal effects from Benzodiazepines can appear anywhere from hours to days after stopping the use of short-acting benzodiazepines like Ativan. For long-acting benzodiazepines like Valium, withdrawal effects can appear several days to a week after stopping use.

Symptoms of withdrawal caused by short-acting benzodiazepines usually resolve within four to five days. However, with long-acting ones, the withdrawal symptoms might peak in the second week and resolve in the third or fourth week.

Others experience lingering effects of the withdrawal for up to eight weeks, making it a very difficult drug to quit using.

Symptoms you might experience are:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hallucinations and delirium
  • Rapid pulse and sweating
  • Loss of concentration and memory
  • Seizures and tremors
  • Anxiety and insomnia
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells

Though the recovery is long and hard, it’s well worth it when you come out in control of yourself once again.


Regardless of if you use medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, if you stop using after heavy, prolonged usage, you will experience withdrawal symptoms for several weeks. Marijuana is a drug that many people use frequently, so if you quit cold turkey, there will be side effects as your body gets used to sobriety.

Symptoms that you might experience are:

  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Anger and irritability
  • Loss of appetite and abdominal pain
  • Nightmares and insomnia
  • Tremors and overall shakiness
  • Nausea and headaches
  • Depression and anxiety

People going through marijuana withdrawal will also experience intense cravings for marijuana, making it very difficult to stay sober.


Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very difficult to go through, and though not always life-threatening, being assisted through them can make it easier to cope. Opioids include illicit drugs like heroin and prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin.

Symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal are:

  • Dysphoria
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Goosebumps
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Fever and sweating

Because you can be prescribed a certain kind of opioid, it makes it easier to misuse them. If you are having a hard time dealing with substance use, you can talk with your doctor about alternatives to opioid prescriptions for pain.


Stimulants are “upper” drugs that affect the central nervous system and can be prescribed to people with certain conditiions. Adderall and Ritalin are two examples of stimulants that are prescribed to those with conditions like ADHD, but these medications are still susceptible to misuse. Illicit stimulants like cocaine and crystal methamphetamine are also highly addictive when used.

Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal are:

  • Depression and dysphoria
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Aching muscles

People who are experiencing stimulant withdrawal are likely to feel intense cravings after stopping heavy usage pretty soon after. They might also experience suicidal thoughts and intense depressive states, so monitoring someone in this state is helpful to keep a close eye on their behaviors.

What Are Treatment Options for Withdrawal?

If you are looking to get yourself or a loved one into treatment for their substance use, you or your loved one will, unfortunately, need to go through the withdrawal process.

When you are going through a detoxification program, you are monitored throughout your detox so that you can be as comfortable as possible. The professionals a part of these programs are focused on keeping you safe and helping you get better.

During a detoxification process, you are equipped with both psychiatric and medical support to get you through the withdrawal. If you are eligible, you will be treated through a medically assisted treatment (MAT) program, during which doctors can administer Methadone or Buprenex to you. With a monitored detoxification process, you have access to medical professionals who can assist you when you need it.

What Are Tips To Cope With Withdrawal?

If you are experiencing withdrawal, being in a facility is your best option, but there are ways to help cope with the symptoms of withdrawal. Of course, asking for help can be difficult but it’s necessary. Other ways to cope with withdrawal include:

  • Drinking plenty of water. Many symptoms of withdrawal can lead to dehydration. It’s important that you are drinking water throughout the withdrawal period to try to reduce some of the symptoms like headaches and fatigue.
  • Eat nutritious meals. It might be difficult, but focusing on what you are eating can help to improve your mood. You might be irritable and tired, so eating fatty and sugary foods will only bring you down. Instead eat plenty of vegetables and fruits to keep your energy and water-take up.
  • Try to get out and exercise. Depending on how bad your symptoms are, you can try to get up and exercise a bit. Even if you are just stretching and doing some yoga, your body will thank you. If you can go out and walk around, that might be even better.
  • Don’t fight your sleep. You will likely be experiencing fatigue, so catching up on sleep can only help. Don’t feel bad about lounging around and just getting through it.
  • Spend time with people who care. Let people who love you watch over you. If you aren’t in a treatment facility, you can look for help from your friends. Asking for some accountability to be made can be difficult but well worth it.

Working on managing your stress and cravings is not an easy task. You can try different self-care acts like meditation, journaling, art, or reading to take your mind off of the withdrawal symptoms as well. Anything to get you focused on improving your life and avoiding substances!

Getting Help With Soba

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder and are seeking help, reach out to a representative at Soba Recovery Centers.

With two locations, one in Mesa, Arizona, and San Antonio, Texas, you can receive professional treatment whenever you need it. Having 24-hour professional monitoring can ensure that you recover as easily as possible.

Going through the withdrawal process on your own can be dangerous and very difficult. When you receive treatment at Soba, you don’t have to worry about going through withdrawal alone. Our detoxification process is fully monitored so that you can access assistance at any point. We understand the difficulties that surround withdrawal and don’t believe that you should be alone through the process.

Get help today and access a better future for yourself tomorrow.


Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA

Drug & Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms & Treatment | DrugAbuse.com

Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn The Facts | CDC

What Is a Substance Abuse Evaluation?

In order to begin your recovery, you must admit that you have a problem and need professional help in order to overcome it. You might not be a trained professional, and therefore aren’t positive that what you are experiencing is actually substance abuse, and we don’t expect you to know how to treat it on your own. If your substance use is beginning to impact your life, relationships, and future, you might want to seek help as soon as possible. 

Despite your thoughts, you will most likely undergo a substance abuse evaluation, a tool that health providers use to understand your needs and issues with substances better. 

When you undergo the evaluation, your provider is also able to draft up a treatment plan that will best suit you. During this evaluation, it might be that your provider notices other issues you have that are co-occurring with your substance use disorder. The ability to make a dual diagnosis then helps to treat your conditions more accurately. 

What To Expect From a Substance Abuse Evaluation

Undergoing a substance abuse evaluation will:

  • Determine the magnitude of the substance abuse, based on how much it impacts everyday life
  • Gather basic information about a person’s past and present situation
  • Find any co-occurring issues that impact the substance abuse
  • Develop treatment plan options

Most substance abuse evaluations occur in two parts: initial screening and a personal assessment. The initial screening gives you an answer of “yes” or “no” to the question: Are signs of substance abuse prevalent? The assessment portion of the evaluation then helps to determine a diagnosis and create a plan for treatment.

Most entry-level medical professionals can administer you screenings. Still, the assessment portion is usually done by a therapist, social worker, nurse, or doctor, to get more in-depth questions and responses. 

During the assessment porton you might be asked more specific and targeted questions. This is so the person interviewing you can get as much information about your specific needs to create a treatment plan that will actually benefit you. You might be asked about your family’s history with drugs and alcohol, your own personal history, if you have ever undergone treatment, if you’ve ever received therapy for something other than substance abuse, etc.—the list goes on and on!  

Court Ordered Evaluations

Sometimes when a legal case involves a substance, it might be ordered that there is a substance abuse evaluation completed. 

This could happen if you get a DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), public intoxication, MIP (minor in possession), or even disorderly conduct. It might also be court-ordered in the case that there are children involved who could be put at risk.

While the point of these evaluations may seem scary, it’s best to be honest so that you can still receive the proper treatment and make sure that it never happens again. You might end up having to complete community service or undergo inpatient or outpatient services for your substance use as a result of the court’s decisions. 

Screening for Substance Use Disorders

The screening process is the first of two that you go through when determining whether or not you have a substance use disorder. This screening can help figure out what kind of treatment you might benefit from and help to start the conversation on your needs. 

While any entry-level medical professional can do the screening process with you, it’s also something that you can often find online to give yourself an idea if going through the process is worth it. (Hint: It probably is worth it!)

Screening tools that are often used are:

  • The CAGE Questionnaire: This is the most commonly used questionnaire for substance abuse screening, and it is based on four questions. You can answer these questions for yourself, and if they resonate with you, it might be time to reach out to a treatment center.
      • Have you ever felt that you need to cut down on your substance use?
      • Have you been Annoyed by others criticizing your usage?
      • Have you ever felt guilty about your substance use?
      • Have you felt that you need to use substances as soon as you wake up (Eye-opener)?
  • SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory): This is an instrument that helps to distinguish what issues you might have with substance abuse and mental health disorders, as well as the level of willingness you have to seek out treatment.
    It is also easy to distinguish those unwilling to see how their substance abuse has impacted them, regardless of how they are trying to paint their issues. The SASSI is an instrument you can purchase online, and it even has versions focused on adolescents and Spanish speakers.

Assessments for Substance Use Disorders

Once you have undergone the initial screening assessment, you might then be pointed to a trained professional who will administer a set of questions and discussion topics. 

This will allow the administrator to get a deeper sense of your history and behaviors with substances. You want to be as open and honest with the administrator as possible because this will help you get the proper care. 

The administrator wants to get a clearer picture of what exactly goes on in your mind regarding substances. But at the same time, they also want to get a better idea of you in general—your mental health, your physical health, your family history, and so on. The easiest way for someone to do this is to have a semi-structured interview with you to ask very personal and specific questions.

The Semi-Structured Interview

The administrator of a semi-structured interview typically has a set of questions that they want to ask that will help clarify the issues of the patient. 

Along with these questions, the administrator may ask other questions based on their professional knowledge that will help give a better assessment of these issues. With a semi-structured interview, you end up getting a more detailed idea of the patient’s use of substances. 

One of the most efficient ways to perform a semi-structured interview is the Addiction Severity Index (ASI). This set of questions focus on seven key concerns:

  • Drug Use
  • Alcohol Use
  • Psychiatric Status
  • Family Status
  • Employment Status
  • Medical Status
  • Legal Status

It’s important, to be honest during these interviews and assessments because it will determine how you are treated. You want to receive the most accurate care you can get, so being truthful and expressing your needs will only help you!

Creating a Treatment Plan

Once you’ve gone through the screening and assessment for substance abuse, the administrator can better understand your personal needs. They might not be the ones to develop an in-depth treatment plan for you, but that’s because they will work with other trained professionals to put you on the right path. 

Once you’ve received your diagnosis, you can finally move on towards recovery. It really does take the act of acknowledging your problems to find the solution. 

Your treatment plan should focus on all of the things you need healing from, so expressing your needs to the interview administrator is so important! You will be placed into group therapy and individual therapy and find out if an inpatient program would be more beneficial or if outpatient services will serve you just fine. 

Most inpatient and outpatient programs will offer individualized treatment plans, so your needs will be put first no matter where you are.  

Finding Help At Soba Recovery Centers

At Soba Recovery Centers, our first step is to provide you with a substance abuse evaluation. If you are on the fence, wondering whether or not you have problems with substance use, we can help you through the process of diagnosing it, creating a treatment plan, and providing support and assistance throughout your journey. 

We offer both outpatient and inpatient treatment options so that you can find a schedule and intensity that works best for you

You know yourself best. You know what you can handle and what you’ve been through. You’ve experienced more than many people can say they have in their lifetime, but we can help you figure out what’s best for your health so that you can live happy and healthy moving forward. 

If you think you could benefit from substance use assistance, contact us here at Soba Recovery Centers to schedule you for an evaluation. Your path to a better future starts today!



4 Screening and Assessment – Substance Abuse Treatment: Addressing the Specific Needs of Women | NCBI Bookshelf 

Appendix D: Examples of Screening and Assessment Tools for Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA

Assessing Addiction: Concepts and Instruments | NCBI

Heredity & Alcohol Addiction: What’s the Link?

You may have heard before that people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol and other substances or behaviors are predisposed to having an “addiction” gene. 

Our DNA determines the entirety of our makeup, from our physical appearance to our behavior and mannerisms. Because of this fact, it makes sense that having issues with addiction, specifically alcohol problems, is often passed down through generations.  

Maybe you’ve been told that you have a family history of alcoholism, so that means you might have an addictive personality and should stay away from drugs and alcohol. 

Maybe you’ve heard anecdotes about your uncle gambling away his entire savings, then turning to alcohol to cope with the fact that he had no money to his name as a way to try to scare you away from participating in such behaviors and the development of an alcohol use disorder. Maybe it worked, or maybe it didn’t. 

It’s true that you can have inherent alcoholic tendencies from genetic factors, but often environmental factors and societal factors lead to addiction, and one cannot happen without the influence of the other.  

The best way for you to understand your specific link to alcohol, drug abuse, or other substance abuse is to be open with your family and do your own research on the subject of alcoholism. 

What Is Alcohol Addiction?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol addiction as a medical condition where you cannot stop or control your use of alcohol, despite the negative effects and consequences it can have on your life and health. 

You can have a mild, moderate, or severe addiction to alcohol that can impact your day-to-day functioning in different ways, including changes to reward and dopamine receptors in the brain. 

People with an addiction to alcohol will see it come between them and their family and friends and damage professional relationships, as well as their future. Luckily for those who struggle, recovering from alcohol addiction is possible, regardless of whether it was passed down to you genetically. 

Is There an Alcoholic Gene?

There is not just one specific gene that can determine whether or not you will end up with alcohol addiction. 

People worldwide struggle with addiction to alcohol, but along with genetic predisposition, social and environmental influences can impact the likelihood of whether or not someone expresses their addiction. 

Research on the human genome has proven that alcoholism is a complex genetic disease, and the presence of certain genes, like ADH1B and ALDH2, are known to affect your propensity for developing an addiction. 

Still, research shows there is no “alcoholic” gene. While family history is sure to increase your risk, the world around you will shape you into whomever you become. In many ways, you control your own destiny through interactions with the world. Environment and society both play a huge role in the influence of alcohol and should always be considered when it comes to alcohol addiction.  

Environment vs. Genetics

While genes can influence your risk of developing a substance use disorder, that’s not the only thing that leads you towards addiction. Our behaviors are hereditary, but they interact with the environment we are brought up in. 

Just because you carry a gene that makes you predisposed to alcoholism doesn’t mean that you are born craving a drink! And that’s because there hasn’t been any action to yet influence your decisions. Your environment will influence whether or not you develop an alcohol addiction.

Some people are more prone to stress and have unhealthy coping methods, like smoking cigarettes or nicotine. Alcohol is a way to relax your system and relieve anxiety, but this can have more negative impacts than good when consumed in unhealthy amounts. 

You may not have had a great childhood and been thrown into harmful situations, leading to a dependency on alcohol. Whatever the case may be, every moment of your life impacts the next, which means recovery is always possible.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can influence whether or not you become addicted to alcohol. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop an addiction, so it can be helpful to spot them as they are happening. Risk factors can be both hereditary and environmental, so some are easier to control. Some risk factors include:

  • The availability of alcohol for experimentation
  • Parental attention and supervision in critical years
  • Lack of social acceptance or comfortability
  • Living through poverty
  • Experiencing instances of abuse
  • Aggressive behaviors as a child
  • Sheltering from alcohol or overexposure to alcohol
  • Diagnosis of certain mental disorders
  • Drug addiction or other addictive behaviors

Protective Factors

On the other side of risk factors are protective factors that help to limit the chances of someone becoming addicted to alcohol. Different factors influence better decision-making skills, but it’s no fault of your own if you weren’t given the following:

  • Having parental monitoring or guidance
  • Learning about the effects of alcohol
  • Instilling anti-alcohol policies in your household
  • Doing well in school
  • Having access to addiction resources

How To Know If You Are at Risk

To better your chances at avoiding an alcohol addiction, some things can help you know if you are at risk. People who have alcoholism run in their family history can assume that they are at a higher risk of developing it. If multiple family members have problems with alcohol and other substances, you have likely been passed down one of the genes that influence the risk of alcoholism.  

Having the genes inside you does not mean that you are fated to become an alcoholic. These genes have to be activated by environmental and societal influences. 

You cannot avoid some things because they are out of your realm of control, like your genetics and what kind of family you were born into. To prevent a predisposition into becoming an alcohol addiction, you should:

  • Learn about your family history
  • Manage your stress and learn healthy coping strategies
  • Research addiction and its symptoms 
  • Maintain healthy relationships, both with friends and family
  • Seek out counseling

If you don’t have access to all the resources in the world or the means to seek out counseling or treatment, that doesn’t mean that you are bound to become an alcoholic. You can avoid peer pressure and still find healthy ways to enjoy your time and not be ostracized by your peers. 

It can sometimes be difficult to find the best in your situation, but building relationships with people who want you to be successful is one way to ensure that you stay on the right track!

Are You Born with Alcohol Use Disorder?

To put it simply, you can not be born with alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you are born predisposed to becoming an alcoholic due to your genetics, that is different from actively having the disorder. Genetics end up calculating only 50 percent of the risk factors, while the rest is reliant on environmental influence. This means that you have to develop it over time, and you still do have some control over whether or not it ends up happening. 

How Soba Recovery Centers Can Help

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, it is best to ask for help. Alcohol addiction can happen to anyone—males or females, genetic predisposition or no genetic predisposition. The people around you want you to be successful and see you live your healthiest and happiest life. 

The best way to see success in your alcohol addiction recovery process is to allow the professionals at Soba Recovery Center to help you overcome your addiction. When you join a recovery center, either their inpatient or outpatient services, you gain access to professionals who are trained to treat you, resources for your addiction as well as your physical and mental health, and a community that wants to see you succeed. 

Soba Recovery Centers offer a variety of services that are aimed at your recovery. We provide personalized treatment plans so that we can get to the bottom of your addiction and treat it from all angles. If you feel that your addiction is becoming uncontrollable, consider joining us for a longer inpatient residential stay so that you can get the care you deserve. 

We want to help you in any way we can; through group therapy and medically-assisted treatment, you can fight against your addiction with more support than you might ever have imagined.

You are not alone in this fight! You do not have to be consumed by your genetic makeup, and it shouldn’t prevent you from living the life you deserve. Get help today when you reach out to one of our representatives! We are here to help you figure out the next step.



Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder | NIAAA

Genetics And Alcoholism | NCBI

Genetics Of Alcohol Use Disorder | NIAAA 

How Addictive Is Alcohol?

man reaching for alcohol depicting addiction

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used addictive substances in the United States. Despite our social acceptance of alcohol, we must acknowledge that alcohol is, in fact, a highly addictive substance.

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