How to Recognize Substance Use Disorder

Last updated on May 30th, 2024 at 07:56 pm

If you’re reading this article, you may be concerned that you or someone in your life may have substance use disorder. Perhaps you’ve watched someone’s career and family relationships fall apart due to their alcohol consumption. Or perhaps you’re frightened to find that you can no longer go too long without using your drug of choice.

Substance use disorder, formally called chemical dependency are two parts of a spectrum of substance use patterns. Psychiatrists previously viewed them as two separate disorders, but have since come to recognize the strong link between the two, reclassifying them as different parts of the same disorder. Substance abuse often leads to substance use disorder, and getting help is crucial if you recognize the symptoms of either.

While it’s often difficult to talk about addiction, it’s a common situation for people around the world. Here’s what you need to know to recognize dangerous patterns in your loved ones’ or your own substance use.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is a medical term that describes drug or alcohol use patterns that cause distress. It is a recognized brain disorder, that may or may not coincide with a physical dependency on a drug. Driving under the influence or using alcohol in a way that interferes with work or school are common forms of substance abuse.

While illegal substances are often abused, legal substances may be as well. The substance can be cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, or even cigarettes. Alcohol is the most common legal drug to be abused in the United States. Marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, hallucinogens, and opioids are also common suspects, regardless of legal status.

What is Substance Use Disorder?woman suffering from substance use disorder

Substance use disorder, also known as chemical dependency, is a term used to describe when a person is physically dependent on a drug. As a person becomes more dependent on a chemical substance, they may take longer to recover from use, begin to withdraw from social or recreational activities, and spend a lot of time finding drugs to use.

What is the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder and substance abuse are closely related. Substance abuse is often viewed as an early stage of chemical dependency, and full-blown substance use disorder is likely to result if substance abuse isn’t treated.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the leading source for diagnosing addiction. The most recent edition of the DSM defines alcohol abuse and dependency as part of the spectrum of a single disorder, alcohol use disorder (AUD).

What Causes Substance Abuse or Substance Use Disorder?

Many different factors contribute to substance abuse. Social pressures, genetic factors, environmental stressors, other psychiatric problems, and personality are often at play. It’s hard to say which factors are most important since this varies from individual to individual.

Culture and society may encourage unhealthy substance use in some situations. The question of what level of substance use is “healthy” or acceptable is often controversial.

How Do I Know if Someone Has Substance Use Disorder?

It can be difficult to spot a chemical dependency, especially in the early stages. When a person is surrounded by others who frequently use substances, they may not realize they are using more and more over time. Those who develop a substance use disorder are often reluctant to recognize when their usage patterns are no longer under control.

If a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they try to cut back, they most likely have a substance use disorder. Substance use disorder is also characterized by increasing tolerance or needing more and more of a substance to feel the same effects.

That being said, the symptoms of substance use disorder often resemble or are impacted by other medical conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking action to deal with an addiction.

I Think I Have Substance Use Disorder. Now What?

woman who has substance use disorderIf you’ve recognized that you may have substance use disorder, congratulations: this is the first step toward freeing yourself! It takes significant courage to admit you have a problem.

Before taking further action, check with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or another mental health professional to make sure you actually have a substance use disorder. In some cases, other psychiatric conditions may result in the same symptoms, particularly if there are prescription drugs involved. Additionally, other psychiatric situations that need to be addressed may be contributing to substance use disorder.

The next step is to get help. Intake specialists, healthcare staff, and other people who have been through the same struggles you’re facing are there to help you get back on your feet. Know you’re not alone as you face this journey.

What Substance Use Disorder Treatment Options are Available?

There are a wide variety of addiction treatment and substance use disorder services available to help you recover.

Since each situation is different and some substances may require different treatment methods, programs are generally based on the type of substance being used. Certified professionals will respect your privacy and individual needs as they work with you to build a solution.

Inpatient drug programs exist to help you recover and find new, more fulfilling and joyful ways to live. A detox program can help you through the challenges of withdrawal as you release yourself from the substance you’ve become dependent on

Formalized group programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can help people with substance use disorder find support as well as new ways to socialize without the substance. It’s very important to be connected with a community as you work through every stage of recovery. Other people who have gone through similar processes can help you find new habits to replace dysfunctional ones.

Individual and family psychotherapy are also frequently recommended for substance use disorder survivors. Substance use is often linked to unaddressed mental or emotional issues which may be resolved through this technique.

Here at Sunrise, we understand that behavioral health challenges like substance use disorder can happen to anyone. That’s why we offer certified behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment programs. Our staff is highly trained, confidential, and compassionate, ready to help you become free from your addiction without judgment.

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