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Substance Use Disorders

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Substance use disorder (SUD) is an intricate health issue characterized by a troublesome pattern of using psychoactive substances. It varies in severity, from mild cases to more severe forms, often referred to as addiction. SUD is treatable, and immediate intervention is recommended for those suspecting SUD in themselves or their dependents.

What is substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a medical condition characterized by a destructive pattern of using substances that leads to significant problems or distress. SUD encompasses a range from mild to severe, often involving an intense compulsion to use the substance, building a tolerance to it, and encountering withdrawal symptoms when usage ceases.

It’s possible for an individual to be challenged with more than one type of substance use disorder concurrently, such as alcohol use disorder combined with cocaine use disorder.

SUD can markedly affect one’s health, social relations, and overall life quality, with the potential to be life-threatening. Seeking immediate help is pivotal upon noticing signs of SUD.

What are substances?

Substances refer to addictive drugs, encompassing both prescribed medication and illegal drugs. They include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Cannabis (marijuana)
  • Hallucinogens (e.g., PCP, LSD)
  • Sedatives and anxiolytics (e.g., sleeping pills, benzodiazepines)
  • Inhalants (e.g., paint thinners, aerosol sprays)
  • Opioids (e.g., codeine, oxycodone, heroin)
  • Stimulants (e.g., Adderall®, cocaine)
  • Tobacco/nicotine (e.g., cigarettes, vaping)

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The potential for developing SUD, known as “addiction liability,” depends on factors like the route of administration, how quickly the substance affects the brain, the immediacy of effect, and the substance’s ability to induce tolerance and withdrawal.

Differentiating Substance Use/Misuse and SUD

Substance use or misuse describes the sporadic use of substances, not amounting to a chronic or habitual pattern that defines SUD.

Substance Use Disorder vs. Addiction

While SUD can vary in severity, addiction represents the most critical form of SUD, marked by persistent substance use despite harmful consequences. Both conditions involve physical and psychological dependencies.

Affected Demographics

SUD can affect individuals across all demographic segments. However, individuals assigned male at birth, particularly those aged 18 to 25, are statistically more likely to develop SUD.

Prevalence of SUD

SUD is prevalent, with over 20 million Americans having at least one SUD.

Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing SUD

Signs of SUD, according to the DSM-5, include excessive use, strong cravings, unsuccessful attempts to quit, neglect of responsibilities due to use, and continued use despite relationship strains, among others.

Development of SUD

The path toward SUD often includes phases like experimentation, occasional use, increased usage, and ultimately SUD. Contributing factors can be biological, genetic, psychological, as well as environmental.

Diagnosis and Tests

SUD is diagnosed based on a comprehensive review of a person’s medical history and substance use patterns, often involving questions about mental health and drug testing.