Do you know of someone who has cravings for using alcohol or other drugs? Does the person continue using these substances even when it puts them in danger? Do they neglect other aspects of their life because of substances? Do they take these substances in larger amounts or longer than they’re meant to? Do they wish to stop using substances but are unable to? The person is likely suffering from substance use disorder. 

Substance abuse disorders affect people from all walks of life. It’s a common mental health issue that’s also recurrent and often serious. They can change a person’s mood, thinking, behavior, finances, relationships, and several other aspects of life. However, the good news is that substance use disorders are treatable, and research has shown that many people recover. 

What Is a Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder (SUD) is the continuous and uncontrollable use of drugs (alcohol included) despite experiencing substantial harm or adverse outcomes from their use. SUD can result from using various substances, including alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opioids, inhalants, sedatives, stimulants, tobacco, and other unknown substances. 

SUD can develop whether the substance an individual uses is legal, recreational, socially acceptable, or approved for medical use. The consumption of these substances results in the activation of the brain’s reward system and produces the feeling of pleasure. Depending on the substance, the activation may strongly drive users to crave the substance and neglect normal activities to obtain and use drugs. 

Through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association outlined criteria for identifying SUDs. The criteria also serve as symptoms of the disorder. They include having a strong urge to use substances, being unable to stop using drugs despite wishing to, continued use of the substances despite experiencing problems, neglecting other aspects of life to obtain and use substances, and using substances for longer periods or in larger amounts than originally intended.  

What Qualifies as a Substance?

Having understood substance use disorder, a question that inevitably arises is what constitutes a substance. When the term substance is used, it’s often associated with illegal drugs. However, a substance isn’t necessarily illicit, socially acceptable or prescribed by a medical practitioner. A substance can be anything that alters the brain, giving a person a sense of pleasure. Anything that falls into the following classes qualifies as a substance: alcohol, inhalants, cannabis, caffeine, opioids, hallucinogens, stimulants, sedatives, tobacco, hypnotics, and anxiolytics. 

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) refers to a medical condition where an individual’s ability to quit or control alcohol consumption is impaired despite the severe health, social and occupational implications. It’s an umbrella term encompassing conditions such as alcohol abuse, addiction, dependence, or just alcoholism. AUD isn’t always the same for everyone; it can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on several factors — for instance, when a person started drinking, the types of alcohol they drink, how frequently they drink, the amount of alcohol they consume, their family history of drinking and body type. 

In other words, since everyone is unique, the effect alcohol can have on them varies. For example, SUDs have the same effects on people as AUD. The symptoms are somewhat alike as outlined by the DSM-5. They include spending a lot of time-consuming alcohol, drinking more and for longer than planned, wishing to stop drinking but not being able to, drinking habits interfering with relationships, continuing drinking despite putting oneself in danger, and neglecting essential things to drink. The symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe in different people. 

How Common Are Substance Abuse Disorders?

AUD and SUDs are significant and widespread public health concerns in the United States. In particular, 14.1 million adult Americans — 5.6% of the adult population — experienced AUD in 2019 alone. Additionally, 414,000 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 had AUD in the same period. A survey conducted in the United States in 2014 revealed that 20.2 million adults had SUDs, with a majority of them, 16.3 million, experiencing AUD and 6.2 million having illicit drug disorders. The data suggest that 4 in 5 Americans aged 18 years or older with SUD suffered from AUD, 3 in 10 using illegal drugs and 1 in 9 using alcohol and illicit substances. 

Globally, the numbers are even more shocking. The World Drug Report highlights that 35 million people suffer from SUD. The number of opioid users was 53 million, a jump of 56% from the previous year. In 2017, more than 271 million people, or 5.5% of the global population aged between 15 and 64 years, had used some form of drug the previous year. Despite this level of prevalence, only 1 in 7 people seek appropriate treatment. This indicates the long way to address substance abuse disorder in society, both locally and internationally.

The Connection Between Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health 

The relationship between SUD and mental health is two-way. Most people with SUD are diagnosed with mental health issues, and the reverse is also true. In fact, half of the individuals with some form of mental illness will use or misuse alcohol or drugs at some point in their life, and vice versa. In other words, people with substance use disorder, especially adolescents and young adults, usually have high rates of co-occurring mental illness. This explains why most treatment programs for AUD and SUDs also feature mental health diagnoses and treatment interventions.  

SUD is mainly associated with anxiety disorders. These disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Other mental health problems linked with alcohol or substance use disorders include depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychotic illness, and antisocial personality disorder. It doesn’t end there — studies also show high rates of misuse of drugs such as tobacco, opioids, and alcohol among patients with schizophrenia. In addition, there’s a serious relationship between mental health and substance use disorders, requiring health care providers to consider both when developing treatment plans. 

Effects of Substance Use Disorders 

The effects of SUD can vary depending on the substances one uses, family health history, and several other risk factors. However, the effects of using substances can be severe and long-term. Alcohol and drugs affect the brain, thereby influencing behavioral, emotional, cognitive, physical, and social well-being. People with serious SUDs will exhibit paranoia, aggressiveness, addiction, impulsiveness, loss of self-control, and impaired judgment as behavioral effects. The side effects include a weakened immune system, heart conditions, lung disease, cognitive problems (such as memory loss, poor decision-making, and low attention), broken relationships, depression, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, violence, self-harm tendencies, and many others. 

What Is the Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorders?

SUD is a widespread and complicated medical condition with numerous adverse implications. The good news is that it’s treatable, and many people have stories worth listening to about their recovery from various substance disorders. However, SUD requires a specialized treatment approach since it often involves underlying mental health issues. This is something many health care providers don’t consider. Also, since the effects of substance use and addiction are often associated with physical ailments, it’s often easy to overlook patients’ severe mental health issues. 

At Restore Mental Health, we take your road to recovery seriously. We’re guided by the philosophy that healing is possible. As such, our staff is well trained and experienced in treating a wide array of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. 

We begin by gaining a deeper understanding of your disorder and situation. This involves thorough evaluation and assessments — a dual diagnosis by an alcohol and drug counselor and psychiatrist. Once diagnosed, we recommend an appropriate treatment program depending on your preferences and health condition. The treatment programs include: 

  • Medication 
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Self-help groups 
  • Residential inpatient treatment
  • Drug detox 
  • Neuro-rehabilitative care 
  • Intensive outpatient care 
  • Holistic treatment 

Why Restore Mental Health? 

Restore Mental Health is a leading health care provider for mental health and substance use disorders. We operate with the values of quality, effectiveness, patient-centered care and affordability. We’re experienced in treating a broad spectrum of behavior and mental health needs. We also offer multiple levels of care as appropriate for each patient. Our friendly staff, real-world environment and state-of-the-art facility will help you successfully complete your recovery journey. If you or your loved one is struggling with SUD, contact us today or call (877) 594-3566 to start your recovery journey.