Substance use disorder (SUD) is a medical condition characterized by the frequent and compulsive use of a substance despite its harmful consequences. It is a serious mental illness that takes control of an individual’s life and disrupts daily activities. Alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, opioids, and stimulants are the most commonly abused substances.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 19.7 million adults aged 18 or older suffered from SUD in 2017. The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of SUD, its symptoms, types, causes, and treatment options.

Understanding Substance Use Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Substance abuse

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

The symptoms of substance use disorder vary depending on the substance being used, the frequency and amount of use, and individual factors such as genetics, mental health, and environment. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists 11 signs and symptoms of SUD, including:

The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended

Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use

Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from substance use

Cravings or urges to use the substance

Persistently using substances despite the negative impact they have on social and interpersonal relationships.

Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use

Continued substance use despite physical or psychological problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance

Tolerance development characterized by a need for higher doses of the substance to achieve the desired effects or reduced impact of the same amount over time

Withdrawal symptoms that are typical for a particular substance, or using the substance to alleviate or prevent these symptoms

Types of Substance Use Disorder

Types of Substance

SUD can be classified according to the type of substance used. The most common types are:

AUD is a long-lasting condition marked by difficulty in limiting or managing alcohol consumption, despite experiencing negative effects on one’s social life, job, or health.

Opioid use disorder (OUD): a chronic disease characterized by the compulsive use of opioids despite harmful effects on health, social or economic functioning, and risks of overdose and other complications

Stimulant use disorder (SUD): a chronic disease characterized by the frequent and compulsive use of stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or prescription stimulants despite adverse effects

Cannabis use disorder (CUD): a chronic disease characterized by the problematic use of cannabis or marijuana despite its negative effects on health, productivity, or social functioning.

Causes and Risk Factors of Substance Use Disorder

The causes of substance use disorder are complex and can be influenced by a combination of genetic, environmental, and personal factors. Studies have shown that genetic factors account for about 40-60% of the risk of developing SUD. Environmental factors such as peer pressure, availability and accessibility of drugs or alcohol, and poor social support can also increase the risk of SUD. Mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, trauma, and stress can also contribute to SUD.

Drug Rehab Treatment

Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorder

SUD is treatable, and there are various evidence-based interventions and interventions that can help individuals overcome it. Treatment should be tailored to the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. The most effective treatment options include:

Detoxification: a medically supervised process of removing toxic substances from the body

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): the use of medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone to help reduce cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and the risk of overdose

Behavioral therapies: the use of techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and contingency management (CM) to help individuals change their mindset and behaviors related to substance use

Support groups: the involvement in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to provide peer support, encouragement, and accountability.

Substance use disorder is a serious mental illness that can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or social status. The compulsive use of substances characterizes it despite their adverse effects on health, relationships, and productivity. It is a treatable condition that requires a holistic and personalized approach to treatment.

The earlier the intervention, the better the chances of recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, seek professional help immediately. Recovery is possible, and every individual deserves a chance to regain control of their life.