A substance use disorder refers to the ongoing use of a substance or drug even when faced with physical, emotional, or social harm.
Substances that are commonly misused include:
The addictive potential of each drug is different.
The exact cause of substance abuse disorder is unknown, but there are many theories. For example, some people may inherit certain genes that make them more likely to misuse substances. Another theory is that people learn how to use substances by copying the behavior of others, especially their parents. Also, changes that happen in the brain due to long-term use that may reinforce a person's desire to keep using the substance.
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Substance use disorder is more common in young men, but can occur in anyone at any age. Other factors that may increase the chances of substance use disorder:
Symptoms of substance use disorder include:
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor will also ask about:
Your doctor may order blood or urine tests to check for the presence of substances.
While there is no cure for substance use disorder, there are 3 main treatment goals:
Successful treatment depends on you being able to recognize that you have a problem and having the desire to change. Recovery takes a long time. It is a difficult process. In some cases, you may need to go through treatment several times.
Treatment options may involve one or more of the following:
Medication may be recommended to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.
Therapy can help raise your awareness of issues and lifestyle choices that lead you to misuse substances. Through therapy, you can improve your coping skills and problem-solving skills. You can also learn how to replace substance-using activities with healthier choices. It is also important that your family is involved in your treatment.
There are many organizations and support groups dedicated to helping people become substance-free. Two examples are the 12-step programs Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous. Members meet regularly to talk about their misuse problems and their recovery. They provide a network of support.
To help reduce your chances of substance use disorder:
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-abuse-addiction. Updated August 2010. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Opioid abuse and dependence. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T219069/Opioid-abuse-and-dependence. Updated March 5, 2018. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Schinke SP, Fang L, Cole KC. Computer-delivered, parent-involvement intervention to prevent substance use among adolescent girls. Prev Med. 2009;49(5):429-435.
Substance use disorders (list of topics). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T134284/Substance-use-disorders-list-of-topics. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Treatment approaches for drug addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction. Updated January 2018. Accessed April 17, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 4/17/2018
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