Definition of a Substance Abuse Disorder

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Learn what the definition of a substance abuse disorder symptoms and find out if you or a loved one needs help

If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you have probably come across the term substance abuse disorder and are wondering what exactly it entails. The definition of a substance abuse disorder was devised by the American Psychiatric Association in order to replace the terms substance abuse and substance addiction. It is a condition in which someone uses one or more substances that lead to clinically significant distress or impairment. Simply put, alcohol or drug abuse begins causing health issues, disability, failure to keep up with responsibilities at home, school or work, and more. In order to receive the diagnosis of having a substance abuse disorder, an individual must meet a specific set of criteria.

Currently, there are eight types of substance use disorders that physicians can diagnose. These include alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, hallucinogens, opioids, sedatives, stimulants or tobacco. An addict may use one or more of these substances at one time. Once it is clear that an individual is abusing one of these substances, the next step is to look for specific substance abuse disorder symptoms that fall into the following four categories. These can include:

1. Loss of Control – Using a substance for much longer than originally intended, and when wanting to reduce the amount of the substance used, the person is unable to cut down. In addition, he or she will experience intense cravings and also spend a large portion of his or her time getting the substance, using it, recovering from it and starting the cycle over again.

2. Impaired Socially – The individual may experience ongoing problems with work, school and other obligations. Responsibilities become less important, and he or she may have repeated absences, and may neglect family or child duties. In addition, it isn’t uncommon for someone to isolate him or herself from the recreational activities once enjoyed. In addition, relationships with family, friends and coworkers may begin to decline.

3. Risky Behavior – Addiction is clearly present when someone continues to abuse a substance despite that substance having negative effects on the body, for instance, liver failure, kidney issues, heart problems and more. In addition, addicts generally will not acknowledge the potential risks of abusing a substance and then operating a car or machinery, which could have negative and/or fatal consequences.

4. Building up a Tolerance – When someone is addicted to a substance, he or she will build up a tolerance over time. This means more of the drug is now required to experience the original high. Once someone has become tolerant to a substance and tries to cut down the amount, he or she will then experience withdrawal symptoms (some of which could be life threatening).

Now that you know a little more about substance abuse disorder symptoms, lets take a closer look at substance abuse statistics that may surprise you:

1. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 1 million people ages 12 and older had been diagnosed with a cocaine use disorder in 2014.

2. The National Institute of Health shares that approximately 17.6 million people in America are diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. Sadly, only 1/5 of these people will seek treatment.

3. There are approximately 88,000 deaths annually in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol abuse, according to the CDC.

4. Almost 2 million people had been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder in 2014 according to the National Institute of Health. In this group, it is understood the addiction stemmed from prescription pain relievers.

5. In 2014, about 1.6 million people ages 12 and older were abusing stimulants for nonmedical issues, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

People abuse substances for many reasons. A substance abuse disorder can occur when someone begins using the substance inappropriately or for reasons not medically intended. A desire to use these substances may stem from the longing to relieve stress, escape reality, and feel pleasure.

An addiction to alcohol or a drug happens when someone cannot stop using the substance even though it is causing negative consequences in his or her life. Substance abuse disorder causes not only changes in one’s behavior but also in one’s actual brain function. Most substances affect the brain’s reward center and disturb the area of inhibition. Because there is both brain and personality involvement, the most successful way for someone to beat addiction is to commit to a detox and rehabilitation program. At rehab centers, an addict will get the medical support needed to detox from the drug, and then receive the psychological counseling needed to determine why the drug was used in the first place and how breaking old patterns and behaviors can help prevent a relapse.

To learn more about treatment options, and for assistance in your search for a treatment center, Better Addiction Care can help. Call and talk to one of our staff members at 1.800.429.7690.