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What Is Substance Abuse Disorder?

August 31st, 2012

The twin problems of drug and alcohol abuse cost society billions of dollars per year in lost productivity, not to mention the emotional toll on families and victims. The medical profession has made great strides in treating alcohol and drug dependence so that today, several tested methods of treatment exist. As our understanding increases, we hold out hope that this plague will one day disappear all together.

Health care professionals have categorized and studied the causes and types of substance abuse so that rehabilitation is considered a science today. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), in their standard guide Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), “substance use disorder” includes both “substance abuse” and “substance dependence”.

What-Is-Substance-Abuse-Disorder“Substance” in this context of course refers to whatever drugs or alcohol a person is taking to alter his or her conscious experience or perceptions. “Substance abuse” has become a popular catch phrase for all kinds of drug abuse and dependencies.

So in popular parlance, substance abuse disorder is a behavioral pattern in which a person uses drugs or alcohol outside the social or cultural norms of the society in which the person lives. Under this definition, any use, even casual, of illegal drugs or controlled substances is considered substance abuse.

The Official Substance Abuse Meaning Does Not Include “Addiction”

But the DSM does not use the term “addiction.” Subtle differences exist between the medical designations “abuse,” “dependency,” and “addiction,” the latter generally considered to mean “compulsive substance use despite serious health and social consequences.” “Dependence” is the more medical term and generally means the victim suffers from increased tolerance to the drug (needing more to get high) and physical withdrawal symptoms when the victim stops taking the drug.

Scientists have been trying to discover the cause of substance abuse and dependence. Currently, two theoretical camps exist, the disease model and the genetic model. The disease model of addiction posits that addiction is a physical ailment, similar to the flu or cancer, in which the substance causes neurochemical imbalances that affect behavior. Under this model, substance dependence is a form of mental illness and can be treated in similar ways.

The genetic model holds that some people are more susceptible to substance abuse and dependence because of genetic factors that override many social and cultural factors. A person with a genetic predisposition to addiction must be careful to avoid overindulgence of any kind.

The Causes of Substance Abuse Addiction Are Complex

Scientists have been studying substance abuse for many years, but a unifying theory does not yet exist. However, many social, cultural, and genetic variables have been identified and many patterns of behavior and experience have been noted to explain the prevalence of substance use disorder.

For example, a person who experiences child abuse or neglect may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in later years, leading to substance abuse in adulthood. Or a person could have a relatively unstressed childhood, have a fully functional adult life, but experience something traumatic that triggers substance abuse as a way to deal with the new stresses.

Many patterns have been identified, and although no one set of experiences guarantees that a person will suffer from substance abuse disorder, we now have a better understanding of the incredibly complex and individual factors that come into play in each diagnosed case of substance use disorder.

Contact us today and schedule a free consultation.We Offer Free Info on Treatment Programs for Substance Abuse

Fortunately, great advances have been made in the treatment of substance abuse and dependency. We offer objective information about rehab centers across America. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation.

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