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Asking “What Is Substance Abuse Disorder?” Leads to Understanding and Prevention

October 30th, 2012

The taboo and misunderstanding surrounding the term “substance abuse” have plagued society for decades. Few disorders have struck a more despondent note or caused greater emotional distress within the hearts of those directly affected, and those left to pick up the pieces.

Asking What Is Substance Abuse Disorder Leads to Understanding and PreventionAlthough far from finding a solution or even an exact explanation for a disorder that tears the lives of individuals and families apart, medical science continues to make breakthroughs in substance abuse treatment. Today, more than ever before, numerous methods and approaches of treatment and prevention are gradually becoming available to rehab facilities the world over.

Fortunately, the medical field has defined substance abuse clearly within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM contains definitions of all psychological disorders known to adults and children and is used by medical professionals to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. By including “substance abuse” in the DSM, the medical profession demonstrates the consensus that substance abuse is an illness much like cancer or diabetes.

According to the DSM, “substance abuse disorder” can be diagnosed using two sub-categories: “substance abuse” and “substance dependence.” One can suffer from “substance abuse disorder” and only exhibit symptoms from one category, or both. The differences are nuanced and contribute to the confusion since society uses “substance abuse” as a blanket term for using any “substance” beyond the accepted norm of consumption.

Beyond a Generalized Substance Abuse Meaning: When Abuse Becomes Addiction

By learning the actual definitions of substance abuse and related terminology, an active dialog can begin to take place among society and those afflicted with addiction, pushing us toward increased prevention and treatment.

For starters, a “substance” is the chemical or drug used to produce a desired altered state, but “substance abuse” is more complicated than we tend to interpret.

“Substance abuse” refers to a “maladaptive pattern” of substance usage that significantly affects daily life, such as going to work or maintaining relationships. “Substance abuse” covers all abusive use of all legal and illegal substances.

“Substance dependence,” on the other hand, is an abnormal substance usage pattern that is “continued despite knowledge” of debilitating social or health consequences. “Substance dependence” is more what society thinks of as “addiction” because the victim is more “tolerant” of the substance and thus suffers more from withdrawal when the substance no longer gets the victim “high.” While a person maybe exhibit one category without the other, “abuse” is often a sign that “dependence” is on deck.

Origins of Scientific Substance Abuse Meaning: Causes and Symptoms

In addition to evidence supporting the idea that substance abuse disorder is an illness, scientists also believe that genetics can have something to do with a proclivity for the symptoms. Environment, past experiences such as trauma, and stress levels can also contribute.

Signs that a person may have reached “substance dependence” include:

•    Denial that the victim has a substance abuse problem
•    Increasing tolerance of the choice substance
•    A craving for the substance not placated without added levels of the substance
•    Loss of control once the person uses
•    Withdrawal symptoms once the substance is no longer available

Knowing the definitions of “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” can help victims, potential victims, and loved ones understand, observe, and hopefully prevent this disorder from forming or worsening.

Contact us today so we can help you explore rehab options in your area.Understanding Substance Abuse Means Helping Someone Who Suffers

Understanding substance abuse disorder is the beginning of helping to prevent substance dependence and addiction. Contact us today so we can help you explore rehab options in your area.

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