Substance Abuse (Drug Abuse): Symptoms, Causes, and Healing with Yoga

Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is the use of a drug, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs such as heroin, crystal methamphetamine, and “club drugs”, in amounts or in ways that are harmful to a person or others.

There are very different views about what constitutes substance abuse.

For some people, any use of certain substances is considered self-abuse because the substance is known to be inherently harmful. Some consider the age to be self-abuse, saying that any use of certain substances among people under the age of legal use is self-abuse, while legal see similar use among adults as ordinary use.

There are also very different views about which substances, or amounts of certain substances, are considered harmful. Other factors include a person’s condition or activities with pregnancy, certain medical conditions, and certain skill requirements – such as driving a car or operating other machinery – that would otherwise lead to acceptable moderate levels of substance abuse or can be considered as high risk.

These issues are related to moderate drinking in the U.S. are reflected in guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Emphasizing that alcohol consumption is associated with a number of health risks (car accidents, violence, risky sexual behavior, high blood pressure and some cancers), the identified risks differ in different populations, including age and Medical conditions are also included.[1]

The CDC acknowledges that several studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce heart disease risk, yet balances this out by stating the opposite findings in other studies.[2]

The CDC also states that excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 140,000 deaths each year in the United States.[3]

In the minds of some people, substance abuse is the use of any illegal drug, with illegal being largely defined as legal.

The United Nations World Drug Report indicates that around 5 percent of people or 230 million people worldwide have used an illegal substance, including 27 million for whom repeated use causes health problems.

In addressing only illicit drugs, these figures do not include the most commonly used drugs, some of which have the most serious health consequences, including tobacco and alcohol. This includes cannabis, which is increasingly found to have a wide range of potentially beneficial effects for those experiencing a variety of health conditions, from cancer and HIV/AIDS to insomnia and anxiety, even may also be associated with problems.

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Thus very little is left of the precise definition of what constitutes substance abuse.

At the risk of overgeneralization, we can usefully consider substance abuse to occur when the compulsive use of a substance causes harm to oneself or others, except for the fact that many so-called foods, such as GMO corn starch or refined sugar, can fall into this definition. Even this rough definition is not without challenge, especially when the whole discussion is valuable.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

A substance abuser versus a person observing the abuser’s actions usually perceives the behavior very differently.

When under the influence of a substance, one’s perception may be distorted to such an extent that one may not think one is impaired, one may be impulsive, or one may put oneself or others at risk of harm. Even when under the influence, there is often a denial of potentially abusive behavior or its consequences.

Many people who smoke tobacco deny its health consequences, despite overwhelming evidence that tobacco is extremely toxic, and that smoking leads to pulmonary disorders and causes cancer.

Yet, where patterns of drug use approach harm risk levels, we find many traumatic experiences, or drug addiction symptoms or behaviors, include:

  • A variety of systemic health problems
  • Problems in social interaction
  • A tendency to socially isolate
  • Automobile crashes
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation and suicide
  • Child abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood disorders
  • Physical and psychological effects of chemical dependency and withdrawal

Causes of Drug Abuse

Use is widely considered to be the starting point of abuse. While this may be true (almost tautologically so), most people who use narcotics do not abuse them.

Thus, use cannot be considered a cause of abuse, but only an associated factor that in combination with other factors becomes the initial or the cause.

Although tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use usually begins in adolescence, older situations in life are experienced—

  • Interaction of some aspects of early childhood development
  • Family dynamics such as a chaotic or emotionally abusive home
  • Lack of healthy social relationships
  • Lack of a healthy self-concept
  • Poor school performance
  • Unhealthy peer relationship
  • Painful experience

All these come in the tendency of going from use to misuse.

Like many substances, repeated use causes changes in neurotransmitters that create a dependence on the substance for pleasure.

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In addition to influencing the tendency to drink, there are also genetic factors.

Healing or Treatment

Here there are two meanings of treatment or healing:

  1. Prevent use or abuse
  2. Addressing the health effects caused by abuse

Substance abuse can have serious health consequences, with the effects of excessive alcohol and other drugs on the brain and other organs being well documented.

The first step in treatment is to stop using the substance.

Depending on the substance and the individual’s overall condition, there are an infinite number of methods offered for this behavior change, including:

  • Self discipline
  • Participation in a self-help recovery program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, psychotherapy (especially cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy)
  • In-patient treatment that may include medications (such as methadone in the treatment of opiate addiction)

Since the bodymind is a whole organism, substance abuse cannot be fully addressed without addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the disease.

The physical health toll of substance abuse often has severe effects on internal organs, especially the brain, liver, and heart.

Healthy nutrition, which may require nutritional counseling and support, is an essential component of restoring healthy function to these organs and one’s overall physiology. So is exercise, with which yoga has so much to offer.

Most high-quality inpatient and residential substance abuse treatment programs offer fully integrated mental health treatment services, among other services, that include a twelve-step group process, nutrition, exercise, and healthy future planning.

Mental health treatment services may include support services such as individual and group counseling, medication, and case management. These services are provided rapidly within a recovery model that has high confidence – some say hope – that the person recovering can make a full recovery.

Thus, along with addressing matters of home (a safe and stable place to live) and health, the individual also addresses the larger purpose of his or her life, which includes meaningful daily activities and a healthy network of community support.

Yoga exercises can be part of these recovery strategies.

Substance Abuse Healing with Yoga

Yoga is increasingly part of the mainstream of recovery services, even in relatively conservative institutions such as the Veterans Administration of America. Where until recently, yoga was considered a purely alternative medicine, but more as an integral part of recovery services.

It is believed to be higher than that, especially for those involving the concomitant illnesses of substance abuse and PTSD.

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Yoga asana practices provide healthy individuals with a healthy way of living in their bodies with self-acceptance and self-affirmation, to feel the intensity of their physicality free of harmful substances, and a new (or for the first time) wholeness. To discover the feeling and vitality free from substance abuse.

Yoga and recovery programs are now widely available, including in the U.S. The Veterans Administration Center as well as venerable yoga institutions such as the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Esalen Institute and Yoga Journal Conferences.

Just as people free of substance abuse issues find yoga a means to stay free of tension in the midst of stressful situations, it provides a way for those free of substance abuse issues to more easily tolerate the impulses that substance abuse causes. can cause consumption.

Rather than a narrowly prescribed set of asana practices for all individuals in recovery, yoga for recovery should draw from a full palette of yoga poses, offering practices that resonate with the unique situations of an individual student or client. Especially considering asana and pranayama practices. Indicated or contraindicated for other conditions and person’s intentions.

Self-affirming holistic visualizations can be integrated into these practices as proactive tools to advance healing properties that can aid in recovery.


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Article Sources +
  1. Alcohol and Public Health. Available here:[]
  2. Nutrients. 2020 Jan; 12(1). doi: 10.3390/nu12010108. Benefits and Risks of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Disease: Current Findings and Controversies. Gemma Chiva-Blanch and Lina Badimon[]

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