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Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder is a mental health condition in which substances are used in excess, despite undesired consequences.

In many cases, substance use disorder (SUD) is a progressive condition that makes it difficult for sufferers to control their use of substances, despite the toll taken on health and other aspects of your life. The consequences of substance use can reach far beyond a person’s mental or physical health, and into all aspects of a person’s life.

Substance Use Disorder and Mental Illness

Substance use disorders which involve drugs, whether legal or illicit, is a mental illness that can affect the way the brain functions and can lead to drastic changes in behaviors and an inability to moderate the amount and frequency of substances used. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, opioids  (including prescriptions) are all examples of addictive substances that can lead to severe substance abuse disorders. If left untreated, the severity of the illness will often escalate, and can ultimately end up in death and/or overdose.1

How Common Are Substance Use Disorders in the U.S.?

In the United States, a staggering number of people suffer from drug abuse disorders:

  • There's been no gender difference in the proportion of persons seeking treatment for illicit drug addiction in the previous years for a long time. Roughly 14% of people with illicit substance addiction received substance abuse therapy during the last year.
  • Men are generally more likely than women to struggle with an addiction to illegal drugs (3.8% vs. 1.9%).
  • In the United States, an estimated 5,000 young drinkers (under 21) die each year.
  • Only 10 percent of the over 21 million U.S. citizens who suffer from a substance abuse disorder get professional help.
  • While marijuana is the most often misused substance in America (after alcohol and cigarettes), opioid overdoses have increased significantly over the last decade.
  • Over half of all people in the U.S. use alcohol.  6.6% of alcohol-users match the criteria for an AUD (alcohol use disorder).2

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorders may not be especially apparent or easy to recognize, especially after using certain substances for a long time. However, here are some indications that you should seek professional assistance:

  • Weight loss
  • Tired, bloodshot eyes
  • Difficulty performing tasks
  • Appetite changes
  • Craving Drugs
  • Engaging in reckless behaviors despite knowing the consequences
  • Inability to reduce or control drug use
  • Issues managing financial spending

How Are Substance Use Disorders Diagnosed?

To diagnose a substance use disorder clinicians will evaluate a person’s patterns of substance use, the impact it has had on the individual, and look for indications of chemical or physical dependence. Treatment for substance use disorders often include:

Physical Exams

In-depth physical exams conducted by a medical professional trained in diagnosing substance use disorders are necessary for accurately diagnosing and treating substance use disorders. Physical exams alert providers not only to the possibility of a substance abuse disorder, but also to the potential severity, the substances used, and the overall health of the patient. 

In-Patient Therapy

The earliest portion of substance use recovery is one of the most tenuous times, which is why the support of 24/7 care provided in residential treatment facilities is most often recommended. Immediately after substance use is stopped, patients may experience physical withdrawal symptoms which necessitate medical supervision. In the following weeks, newly sober individuals may experience intense cravings and severe emotional instability as the body’s chemistry undergoes a number of changes.

Out-Patient Therapy

Out-patient therapy is useful either as a follow-up to in-patient therapy, as patients transition back into the demands of everyday life, or as an alternative to in-patient therapy. One of the benefits of out-patient therapy is that it allows clients to continue performing their normal tasks, like work and childcare, while still getting the benefits of regularly visiting the treatment facility.

Drugs Available for The Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

Certain drugs are beneficial in the effective treatment of substance use disorders. Prescription drugs are available for the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for the following substance use disorders:3

Opiate Use Disorder

America’s FDA has approved naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine to treat opiate use disorder.4 These drugs can work to prevent substance use relapse by blocking the intoxifying effects of certain drugs, and to help prevent or reverse overdoses.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Some FDA-approved medications used to treat alcohol use disorder include disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. Similar to drugs used in treating opiate use disorder, these drugs may block the intoxifying effects of alcohol, or induce severe discomfort if alcohol is consumed.

Tobacco Use Disorder

There has been a great deal of research into drugs to assist people in ceasing tobacco use, Including drugs like bupropion, varenicline, and nicotine patches. The majority of drugs used in tobacco use treatment are designed to curb the effects of cravings.

How Can Substance Use Disorder Affect Me?

Your brain plays several roles in the body, including the regulation of emotions and temperature. It also plays a vital role in decision-making, coordination, breathing, physical senses, habits, compulsions, and cravings.

Addictive substances like alcohol or cocaine cause the brain to release pleasure-inducing chemicals. With time, the brain may become reliant upon substance use in order to release these chemicals at all, creating what is considered a chemical dependency.

Effects of Substance Addiction

Substance addiction can be nearly impossible to treat without professional help. Once you have developed a dependency, abruptly halting use can lead to severe and even potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, life-threatening. Hallucinations, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, agitation and suicidal thoughts can all occur as a result substance use withdrawal.

Substance use disorder may escalate to a point that a person would do things they otherwise wouldn’t simply to sustain their addiction. A person may start behaving strangely, and cause friends, family, and employers to become concerned over their behavior.

Risk Factors for SUD

Substance use disorders are non-discriminatory and can happen to anyone. It is impossible to tell the exact causes of substance abuse to predict the probability of anyone developing a substance use disorder, but understanding risk factors at play can help, including:5


Your genetic composition, mental stability, ethnicity, and even gender may make you more vulnerable to developing an addiction. In the U.S., men are more likely than women to suffer from substance use disorders. Moreover, marginalized minority groups in society are also at high risk for addiction.

Environmental Factors

Your neighborhood can affect your likelihood to develop a substance use disorder. Early exposure to drug use, alcohol abuse, childhood trauma, peer pressure, and stress can increase your likelihood of suffering a substance addiction.


Adolescents are at the highest risk for substance use disorder as a result of beginning substance use. The region of the brain that governs self-control, judgment, and decision-making has not yet fully formed at this phase of development. Combined with reduced life experience, increased peer pressure, and normal hormonal imbalances,  adolescents are at an especially high risk of substance use disorders. 

Steps to Prevent Substance Misuse and Addiction

Education is the first step in avoiding substance misuse, and accessing substance use disorder treatment. Preventing misuse of substances through education and community support is easier and more effective than addressing a substance use disorder which has already developed. It is impossible to know who will or will not develop a substance use disorder, and addressing a disorder.

While some individuals may be able to skirt these recommendations and come out with only minimal damage, and never experience addiction or dependency, you can not be certain this will be the case for you and your unique physiology.

Reducing Risk of Substance Use Disorder

To minimize risk of developing a substance use disorder:

  • Never dabble in, or try out, illegal drugs, especially if you have a known history, or family history, of substance addiction.
  • Follow directions on medicine you are prescribed. Never exceed the recommended dosage.
  • Properly dispose of unused prescriptions.
Substance Use Disorder

Visit Anew Treatment Center For Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Substance use and addiction are illnesses which can be treated. Every treatment facility varies in the level of care in which it can provide, and depending on whether you begin your treatment in a detox center, outpatient rehabs, or a full-service rehab program, will affect what your recovery journey looks like. Anew Treatment Center can help you with each phase of your substance use disorder treatment, including:

Detox services for substance abuse and addiction

Detoxification is the delicate process of removing addictive chemicals from the body, while minimizing damage to the body in the process. Detox often requires the supervision of addiction experts and medical professionals in order to be conducted safely with minimal discomfort.

Inpatient (Residential) rehab

Patients in an inpatient treatment program spend their day and night at the treatment facility with around-the-clock care and supervision. Care is structured to provide patients with consistent assistance in managing their condition while undergoing substance abuse treatment.

Outpatient Rehabilitative Services

Those whose needs don’t include detoxification or as intensive care as a residential setting, may receive outpatient treatment instead. Outpatient treatment trades constant support and care in exchange for a less disrupted daily routine, and allows for more flexible scheduling of therapy and medical appointments.

Some of the therapies used in treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy (GT), family therapy (FT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), contingency management (CM), and 12-step programs.

Learn More About Our Treamtment Programs

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