Substance use disorder is a condition where a person has an uncontrolled use of any substance. It’s what we also call as ‘substance addiction’. This may result in harmful consequences to self and may affect the regular daily activities of the affected person. People with SUDs will keep using the substance even knowing that this may cause or causes a problem with their life. 

People with addictive disorders may show changes in thinking and normal behavior. Continued use of a substance will result in physical and functional changes to the brain. This will make people increase in substance craving, behavioral, personality, and movement changes. 

When a person has a substance-related condition, they will eventually build a tolerance. This will result in a higher dosage or need of the substance. As a consequence, this may result in dependency, lack of self control, mental illness, and chronic medical problems. It is the point where a person cannot live a day or function normally without using a substance.

What are the Types of Substance Use Disorders?

There are different types of substance use disorders. It may be an abuse and dependence to recreational drugs, illegal drugs, or even prescription drugs. Below are the different types of commonly used substances:

Tobacco

  • Tobacco is the most common substance abused in the United States, with over 40 million smokers recorded as of date. 
  • The active ingredient in tobacco that makes it addictive is nicotine
  • Smokers often believe that it helps them relax, feel less hungry, and helps them handle stress better
  • Long term use can lead to organ damage especially the lungs and other health problems. 

Alcohol

  • Alcohol use is the second  most common substance used and abused in the United States.
  • Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that has intoxicating effects
  • Alcohol is classed as a depressant, meaning slowing down the brain’s activity
  • Minimal intake of alcohol can reduce anxiety, making people more sociable
  • Short term effects of alcohol can last up to two days depending on the person’s intake.
  • A person’s ability to function well in work or school may be affected due to excessive use of alcohol. 
  • Long term effects of alcohol may result in brain and liver damage

Cannabis

  • It is a naturally occurring plant but when consumed in larger amounts may cause euphoric symptoms. 
  • Forms of intake can be through smoking, drinking, or eating
  • The active ingredient of Cannabis is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol
  • It can produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation
  • Over usage can cause hallucinations
  • Long term effects may result from increasing anxiety, paranoia, and a higher risk of psychosis
  • It may also affect the person’s decision making, loss of motivation and concentration

Opioids

  • Are drugs that relieve pain and produce euphoria
  • It includes opium, heroin, and some prescription drugs like codeine, oxycodone, and morphine
  • It is often misused and taken in large quantities
  • Drug abuse of opioids can lead to overdose, and regular use can lead to physical dependence

Benzodiazepines

  • These are a group of drugs that are often used as tranquilizers
  • It includes alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) and many more.
  • These are used to treat anxiety and insomnia
  • Benzodiazepines can induce relaxation, calmness, and sleep
  • Many people become addicted to benzodiazepines when they start to be dependent on the drug to fall asleep.  

Stimulants

  • Stimulants are a group of drugs that keep users awake, alert, and energized.
  • It includes cocaine, amphetamines, speed, and crystal meth.
  • They can make the person agitated, hyperactive, and sometimes produce psychotic symptoms.
  • Drug abuse of stimulants may cause mental illness when used long-term.

What Causes Substance Use Disorders?

The real cause of a substance-related condition is still unknown. However, there are many risk factors why people often use substances. It could be peer pressure, anxiety, emotional stress, depression, or environmental stress. 

Children who grew up in a home with a substance use disorder have a higher risk of developing it. This is due to environmental and genetic factors. Also, persons with increased tolerance due to regular use of the substance can lead to substance use disorder. 

According to WHO, these are the reasons why people get engaged in drug use and dependency:

  • To feel happy
  • To feel calm and relax
  • To relieve pain
  • To help with stress
  • To aid with sleep
  • Peer pressure
  • To feel confident in a crowd
  • To forget about their anger and problems

A lot of people with substance use disorders are accompanied by mental health. People with depression, anxiety, or PTSD sometimes end up with substance use disorders to cope with their emotions. For persons with these problems, substance use disorder is their way to escape with their feelings and emotions.

How is Substance Use Disorder Diagnosed?

Substance use disorder is diagnosed with different methods. It can be from diagnostic laboratory tests or with help from a psychiatrist or psychologist. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health states 11 criteria to diagnose substance use disorder. The severity of the disorder depends on how many symptoms a person has.

Here are the 11 criteria of  Mental Disorders DSM-5, according to the American Psychiatric Association:

  • Taking the substance more than the prescribed amount or duration.
  • Wanting to discontinue using the substance but cannot do so.
  • Taking time using, getting, and recovering from the substance.
  • Has cravings and the urge to use the substance.
  • Affecting activities from school, work, school, or home because of the use of the substance.
  • Continue using the substance despite creating problems in relationships.
  • Giving up important events, social, or occupational activities because of the use of the substance.
  • Using the substance frequently despite putting oneself in danger.
  • Continue using the substance even knowing that it causes mental problems or makes it worse.
  • Developing tolerance with the substance.
  • Showing withdrawal symptoms.

A mild substance use disorder is indicated by having two or three symptoms. Five or six for moderate, and six or more indicates a severe substance use disorder. 

Related: Worried About Your Diagnosis? You’re Not Alone

How is Substance Use Disorder Managed?

Substance use disorder is managed in many different options. There are a lot of ways that have been proven successful in managing or treating substance use disorder. It is crucial for the success that treatment and follow-up programs should be tailored to fit each person. Treatment programs should also include both mental and medical health.

Here are some options to manage substance use disorder:

  • Medications
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Treating withdrawal symptoms by using medical devices
  • Evaluation and treatment of possible mental health issues that may arise during treatment
  • The patient follow-up to prevent relapses
  • Rehabilitation
  • Group therapy sessions

How Can Therapy Help With Substance Abuse Disorder?

Therapy is one of the essential treatments for substance use disorder. It provides a support system that is necessary for one’s improvement. A built-in relationship trust and judgment-free are built between patients and counselors—this aids in preventing future relapse. 


Here at Kentucky Counseling Center, you will receive tailored fit therapy or counseling for the emotional distress that substance use disorder has created in your life. Our friendly counselors are always online and ready to lend an ear and a hand. If you are recovering with a substance use disorder, support groups are available for you. We are just a call and chat away.

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