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When people talk about the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol combined with an inability to stop, they usually use the term “addiction.” While this is the more commonly used term, treatment professionals use the terminology of “substance use disorder” (SUD) when diagnosing someone.1
According to the American Psychological Association, an SUD is marked by a set of symptoms that indicates that a person has lost the ability to control their substance use despite the problems it causes in various areas of their life. Diagnostic criteria include cognitive, physiological, and behavioral symptoms. Professionals may determine the severity of a person’s disorder based on how many symptoms they are experiencing (e.g., meeting 2 to 3 of the 11 criteria would result in a diagnosis of mild SUD).1
This article will review some of the most common signs that suggest that an individual may have a substance use disorder. If you believe you are suffering or you’ve noticed concerning signs in someone you love, Greenhouse Treatment Center can help. Our program includes a full continuum of care with treatment options ranging from outpatient therapy to inpatient rehabilitation.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists the criteria for diagnosis of specific substance use disorders. While there is some variation in the diagnostic language between different substances, the criteria are generally very similar and reflect a loss of control over drug or alcohol use. Signs that an individual may have an SUD include:1
Other signs that may be indicative of substance abuse include:2,3
There has been a longstanding debate over whether addiction is a disease or a choice. Historically, many people viewed addiction as a moral failing or weakness; however, years of research have led to a much greater understanding of just how significantly drug use impacts the brain and the complex factors that may make a person susceptible to a substance use disorder.
Many professional organizations such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse now discuss addiction as a chronic and relapsing brain disease with risk factors that include:4,5
Certain addiction-related brain changes are in-line with the now commonly accepted concept of the condition as a brain disease. According to NIDA, many drugs of abuse influence our brain’s reward circuits and, eventually, natural rewards may take a backseat to drug-associated rewards. Eventually, though, the euphoria associated with a drug will lessen as tolerance grows, and the individual will have to keep increasing their dose to try and chase the feeling they got when they first began to use. As they need more and more of the drug to feel good and as their ability to derive pleasure from daily life diminishes, they may compulsively seek out the drugs over and over despite experiencing numerous negative consequences of such escalating use. Drug use can also alter a person’s ability to control their impulses and to resist cravings, so quitting becomes that much more difficult.4
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, talking about addiction as a moral failing “takes us back to an earlier, more ignorant time.”5 For years, many people thought that addiction recovery meant little more than making the choice to stop. However, we now know that quitting is a difficult process that often requires some form of professional treatment, and not just good intentions or a desire to get sober.4
Fortunately, treatment for substance use disorders can work, and many people have recovered from addiction to lead happy, healthy, successful lives. Treatment for addiction may include:
Greenhouse Treatment Center offers a comprehensive treatment program that includes all of the above and more. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, know that you can recover. Suffering from an SUD can make you feel hopeless and alone, but we are here for you and can work with you every step of the way to provide you the support and treatment you need to live a life no longer ruled by substance use.