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Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Substance use disorder (SUD), often known as drug addiction, is an illness that affects a person's brain and behavior, resulting in an inability to manage the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine. Substances like alcohol, opiates, marijuana, and nicotine are also classified as drugs. When you are dependent, you may continue to use the drug despite the consequences.

SUD can begin with the trial use of a recreational substance in social contexts, or to help mitigate underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Psychological and physiological dependency tends to happen when the person tries to stop using the substance and experiences unwanted physical side effects such as sweating, headache, body aches, or diarrhea.

Psychological dependency occurs when our perceived reality causes mental unrest and thinking more about using drugs starts to sound more appealing to relieve our mental anguish. SUD is commonly associated with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders, trauma, and schizophrenia.

Recognizing signs that someone is suffering from Substance Use Disorder:

  • NEGLECTING APPEARANCE - Demonstrating a lack of concern in dress, grooming, or appearance

  • HAVING PHYSICAL HEALTH ISSUES - Insufficiency of energy and ambition, weight increase or loss, or red eyes

  • CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR - Being covert about going out with pals; or significant changes in conduct and connections (withdrawing) with family and friends

  • ISSUES AT SCHOOL OR AT WORK - Frequent absences from school or work, a sudden disinterest in school activities or employment, or a drop in grades or work performance

  • MONEY ISSUES - Sudden requests for money without a logical explanation; or discovering that money is missing or has been stolen, or that objects have vanished from your home, implying that they are being sold to support drug use



Possible explanations for why SUDs and other mental diseases coexist:

SUD's and other mental disorders can both be exacerbated by common risk factors like:

  • Poverty

  • Socioeconomic standing (career advancement/educational factors)

  • Criminal activity/imprisonment

  • Chronic illness

  • Racial/ethnic bias/prejudice

  • Genetic/hereditary factors

  • Trauma (physical/verbal/sexual)

When to get help?

  • Impaired physical/mental functioning

  • Increasing absences or poor performance at work or school

  • Financial strain as a result of spending to get substance crave

  • Not meeting the needs of your family/friends.


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