Substance use disorders involve the inability to manage one or multiple substances, including alcohol; drugs (prescribed or illegal) including opioids, hallucinogens, sedatives, cannabis, or others; inhalants; nicotine; or caffeine, among others. If you or someone you know is unable to control the use of a substance and that lack of control is creating significant life problems, a substance use disorder may be diagnosed.
This is a significant problem in our society, impacting individuals, families, jobs, and our economy. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2012, an “estimated 22.2 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year,…17.7 million had alcohol dependence or abuse, and 7.3 million had illicit drug dependence or abuse.”* In a previous report in 2011, SAMHSA stated that regarding adolescents aged 12 to 17, “In the past year, more than one quarter of adolescents drank alcohol, approximately one fifth used an illicit drug, and almost one eighth smoked cigarettes.”**
The four stages of addiction are typically 1) experimentation, 2) regular use, 3) substance abuse/risky use, and 4) dependence/addiction. Signs of substance use disorder vary depending on the situation or substance involved but at a high level, individuals may have changes in their social behavior, alterations in their appetite or sleep patterns, violence, depression, thoughts of suicide, and more. Withdrawal can cause severe symptoms when individuals quit or no longer have access to a specific substance or drug; for example, unattended withdrawal from alcohol can result in seizures and death. This is why the medical community strongly advises reaching out for professional help rather than trying to "go it alone" when people are trying to quit a substance addiction.
Interestingly, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states that many people with mental illness are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder because they may be using a specific substance to self-medicate. NIMH further notes that “persons with diagnosable mental disorders consume nearly half of the cigarettes consumed in the United States.” In addition, “substance abusers have twice the mortality rate of non-abusers and...the mortality rate of the people with mental illnesses who abuse substances greatly exceeds that of substance abusers alone.” *** For example, research is showing that many with schizophrenia are also high caffeine users.
Whether you are researching substance use disorders because you personally have difficulty managing a substance or are concerned about someone who is demonstrating signs of substance abuse, MyHope is a great place to educate yourself about next steps. For example, depending on the severity of the substance abuse, treatment may be necessary. (In such circumstances, quitting "cold turkey" is not only extremely difficult but also potentially life-threatening when not supervised by a professional.) The following resources will help you not only understand substance use disorders, but also identify the best options for next steps, including whether it would be helpful for you or the person you care about to seek professional help or treatment.
The above summary by MyHope.