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Substance Abuse

A substance use disorder is the problematic use of a substance that has a significant negative impact on a person’s functioning. If a person continues to use a substance despite harmful physical, psychological, or behavioral consequences, they may have a substance use disorder.

A substance use disorder is indicated if an individual has difficulty controlling their use, suffers negative social consequences as a result of their use, uses in a way that disregards their safety and well-being, or experiences symptoms when they attempt to cut back on their use.

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A substance use disorder is the problematic use of a substance that has a significant negative impact on a person’s functioning. If a person continues to use a substance despite harmful physical, psychological, or behavioral consequences, they may have a substance use disorder.

A substance use disorder is indicated if an individual has difficulty controlling their use, suffers negative social consequences as a result of their use, uses in a way that disregards their safety and well-being, or experiences symptoms when they attempt to cut back on their use.

What does difficulty controlling the use of a substance look like?

Difficulty controlling the use of a substance may look like any of the following:

  • Using the substance in larger amounts than intended
  • Wanting to cut down on the use of a substance but being unable to
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  • Feeling an intense urge to use the substance, to the point where it is difficult to think of anything else, and which frequently results in use

What might social consequences caused by a substance use disorder look like?

Negative social consequences can arise from substance use including:

  • Not being able to perform well in school, at home, or at work 
  • Experiencing interpersonal problems as a result of substance use or interpersonal problems that are exacerbated by substance use
  • Withdrawing from or skipping out on social, work, or other activities due to use or recovering from use 

What are examples of risky substance use?

Substance use can either directly cause harm or indirectly place an individual in a situation where they are at greater risk for harm. Risky substance use can look like the following:

  • Misuse of prescription or use of illegal substances
  • Use that puts an individual at risk of overdose 
  • Use of injected substances, which can increase risk of HIV or hepatitis
  • Using substances while engaging in risky behaviors (driving while under the influence, getting into physical altercations, risky sexual activities)
  • Continuing to use a substance despite knowing that it creates or exacerbates a psychological or physical problem

How do I know if I am physically dependent on a substance?

Physical dependence on a substance is present when an individual:

  • Needs a higher dose of the substance to get the same effect, or experiencing a reduced effect from a previously used dosage. This is called tolerance. 
  • Experiences physical symptoms as a result of reduced use or stopping use of a substance. This is called withdrawal.

What causes a substance use disorder?

The cause of a substance use disorder is complex and the result of multiple factors. Research has shown that substance use has a strong genetic component, meaning that someone is more likely to develop a substance use disorder when they have a close relative who has this disorder. Other risk factors include:

  • Being around others that use substances or have positive views toward substance use
  • First use of a substance at an early age
  • Experiencing traumatic events 
  • Difficulty coping with emotions
  • Underlying mental health issues (e.g. anxiety, depression, ADHD)
  • Family history

What are treatments for substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder is considered highly treatable, although many do not seek treatment when they need it. The treatment type that works best for individuals may vary but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), medication, family therapies, and 12 step programs have all proven to be effective treatments.

Many of the clinicians at Thriving Center of Psychology have been trained in CBT and DBT, which have some of the strongest evidence of effectively treating substance use disorders and aiding in relapse prevention. Your clinician can also help connect you with a medication provider to determine if medication would improve your response to treatment. Contact Thriving Center of Psychology through their website or call the offices to schedule an appointment today.