Substance Abuse Disorder
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Substance abuse disorder is a severe problem that affects many Americans. Among adults in the United States, 10% of people claim to either currently have a substance abuse problem or have had one in the past. Perhaps even more concerning is that among those adults, which estimates to be around 23 million people, only one-quarter of them have sought treatment for their problem.
Substance abuse is a life-threatening issue that should not be taken lightly. It is essential not to try and face this disorder alone. If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse disorder, you should reach out to a medical professional for help.

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance Abuse Disorder, or substance use disorder, is the clinical name for drug addiction. While the disorder can be complex to understand fully, it is commonly defined by the user seeking out a particular substance even though it has a negative effect on their lives. This negative effect could take the form of a worsening of physical or mental health, a strain on their relationships, or a negative impact on their performance at school or work.
A person suffering from substance abuse disorder may understand that the substance they are addicted to is harmful to them and will still be unable to stop without help. Illicit street drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, often come to mind when speaking of addiction. However, alcohol and nicotine are both legal drugs that run a high risk of abuse and addiction.
While different substances may affect the body differently, there are commonalities through substance use disorders no matter what drug is involved. A person suffering from substance abuse disorder will find it harder to focus on other interests or relationships in favor of focusing on the drug. Addiction causes intense cravings for the drug that will block out all other thoughts.
Over time, a person suffering from substance abuse disorder will likely begin to build up a tolerance to the drug. This will make the person feel like they need to take the drug more often, even several times a day, and take larger and larger doses each time. Building a tolerance to drugs can be dangerous, as it dramatically increases the risk of overdoses as a person takes more of the drug than they are used to taking.
The causes of substance abuse disorder are a complex combination of different factors. People of any age, sex, or background can become addicted to drugs. Possible risk factors that may play a factor in becoming addicted to drugs include a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological aspects.
People suffering from mental health disorders are far more likely to become addicted to drugs. Often the addiction can begin as people attempt to use drugs to self-medicate. It is also common for people who have family members who suffer from substance abuse disorder to be more likely to develop the disorder themselves later in life.
Exposure to drugs at a young age can also play a significant factor. Certain substance abuse disorders can begin in social settings, specifically with drugs like alcohol or “club drugs” like ecstasy. These can start on limited occasions, but over time, as use increases, a substance abuse problem can form.
Some illicit drugs are so addictive that they can cause a substance abuse problem after a single-use, regardless of other risk factors. Opioids such as heroin or some prescription painkillers can cause addiction after a single-use, even in an otherwise healthy person with no other risk factors.

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Is Substance Use Disorder a Disease?

Substance abuse is commonly described as a “chronic, relapsing disorder.” While that description may be accurate, it is also vague whether or not substance use disorder is an actual disease. On the one hand, there is not a simple test anyone can run to tell if a person is suffering from substance abuse disorder, as there is for diseases like cancer.

The question of whether drug addiction is a disease can get different answers from different organizations. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse does define substance abuse disorder as a disease for four reasons. When comparing substance use to heart disease:

  1. Both disrupt the functioning of a healthy organ
  2. Both have harmful effects
  3. Both are considered to be preventable and treatable
  4. Both can be life-threatening if left untreated

Substance Use Disorder Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, commonly referred to as DSM-5, published a guide to diagnosing substance abuse disorders accurately. This guide is built around 11 different criteria. Besides the eleven categories, each one can also be broken down into three different severities depending on how many symptoms a person may be experiencing. Mild is seen as showing two or three signs. Moderate is experiencing four or five symptoms, and severe when a person is suffering from six or more symptoms.

The 11 criteria used in the diagnosis of substance abuse disorder are:

  1. Taking the substance in large amounts for an extended period
  2. Not being able to stop even if you want to
  3. Spending too much time taking or seeking out the substance
  4. Cravings to use the substance
  5. Negative impact on work, school, or home performance due to the substance
  6. Using the substance even when it causes problems in personal relationships
  7. A loss of interest in social activities or recreational activities
  8. Continuing to use the substance even though it is dangerous
  9. Continuing to use the substance even while acknowledging you have a physical or psychological problem that is made worse by the substance
  10. Building a tolerance to the substance
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms when not taking the substance
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Substance Use Disorder Treatment

If you or a loved one may be suffering from substance abuse disorder, the first step is to seek a medical professional’s help. Getting help with addiction treatment is a vital step in the recovery process. Symptoms associated with withdrawal are often challenging and can be dangerous to face alone. Treatment facilities can help guide you through the initial stages of the recovery process safely and effectively.

At AM Health Care, we believe in finding the recovery method that will work best for you. Every person has different needs when it comes to addiction treatment, and not one thing will work for all people. We can find the facility and program that best fits your needs to receive the best chance at recovery possible. Please reach out to us at 818-383-1297 to learn more about substance abuse treatment options. 

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