Substance use disorders are common in the US. The onset and highest rates of substance use disorder are reported to be in individuals ages 18 to 25. Individuals who report initiating use before age 18 are associated with worse outcomes. This corresponds with the known age of onset of mental health disorders affecting children and adolescents. For instance, children and adolescents with major depression are twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder. This is also true for children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD who are two to three times more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Importantly, when someone has a substance use disorder and another mental health disorder, it is important to treat both conditions at the same time.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a treatable mental health disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to the inability to control the use of substances legal or illegal. It can involve legal or illegal drugs, alcohol or medications. But it is not only the use of substance itself but the inability to control intake. The user’s judgement, perception, attention and body are often out of control, and the dosage is usually much higher.
A person with substance use disorder intensely focuses on a certain substance to the point where their ability to function on a daily basis is impaired; and they continue to use the substance even when they know it is causing problems. Sometimes, the person with substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors.
Studies report both environmental and social factors, traumatic stress and biological factors play a role.
- Genetic predisposition
- Mental health disorders can contribute to substance use disorders.
- Substance use disorders can contribute to the development of mental health disorders.
- Neurochemical changes in the brain
Symptoms of SUDs can vary based on the substance involved, but common features include:
- Increased tolerance (needing more of the substance to achieve the desired effect or experiencing reduced effects when using the same amount)
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance
- Loss of control over substance use
- Spending significant time obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance
- Continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm
Diagnosis is primarily clinical, based on a thorough history, physical examination, and the application of diagnostic criteria, such as those outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Additional tests, like urine drug screens, can support the diagnosis.
Management of substance use disorder requires a comprehensive and individualized approach.
- Detoxification: For some substances, medically supervised withdrawal management is required to safely manage and alleviate acute physical symptoms associated with discontinuation.
- Behavioral Therapies: These are effective treatments for many SUDs and can be delivered in outpatient and residential settings. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, motivational enhancement therapy, and 12-step facilitation are among the most researched types of behavioral treatments.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment: Some SUDs, such as opioid and alcohol use disorders, have FDA-approved medications that can aid in treatment.
- The treatment of SUDs also often necessitates addressing co-occurring mental health disorders.
- Support Groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous can provide peer support.
- Long-term follow-up: Monitoring and support are essential to prevent relapse.
When you or a loved one experiences an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal substance and find that it is impairing your life, contact Mercie Health and Wellness in Katy, Texas. We provide a comprehensive, patient-centric approach involving regular monitoring and find that multiple treatment modalities often yield the best outcomes. You will always be treated with respect and dignity at Mercie Health. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about substance use disorders, receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.
At a Glance
Dr. Sylvia Udokoro Nwakanma
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
- Double Board Certified in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-C)
- SAMSHA Certified Addictions Nurse Practitioner
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