Substance Abuse Disorder

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Substance-related disorders are disorders of intoxication, dependence, abuse, and substance withdrawal caused by various substances, both legal and illegal. These substances include: alcohol, amphetamines, caffeine, inhalants, nicotine, prescription medications that may be abused (such as sedatives), opioids (morphine, heroin), marijuana (cannabis), cocaine, hallucinogens, and phencyclidine (PCP).
Substance dependence is characterized by continued use of a substance even after the user has experienced serious substance-related problems. The dependent user desires the substance (“craving”) and needs more of the substance to achieve the effect that a lesser amount of the substance induced in the past. This phenomenon is known as tolerance. The dependent user also experiences withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not used. Withdrawal symptoms vary with the substance, but some symptoms may include increased heart rate, shaking, insomnia, fatigue, and irritability.
The essential feature of substance use disorder is a cluster of cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms indicating that the individual continues using the substance despite significant substance related problems.
Some symptoms include:
  • Impaired control over substance use- The individual may take the substance in larger amounts or over a longer period than was originally intended.
  • Social impairment- The individual may withdraw from family activities and hobbies in order to use the substance.
  • Risky use of the substance- This may take the form of recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

Withdrawal Symptoms:
Substance withdrawal refers to symptoms that may occur when a person who has been abusing substances too much every day suddenly stops consumption.

Common symptoms include:
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Not thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Jumpiness or shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares

Other symptoms may include:
  • Clammy skin
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • Headache
  • Insomnia (sleeping difficulty)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pallor
  • Tremor of the hands or other body parts
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating

A severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens can cause:
  • Agitation
  • Severe confusion
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Seeing or feeling things that aren’t there (hallucinations)