Substance Use

Understanding Substance Addiction

What is substance addiction?

Substance addiction and abuse is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use that leads to significant disruptions in daily living, including loss of work, relationships and health. It is progressive in nature and requires professional intervention for successful treatment.

Substance use becomes abuse and later addiction when the drugs or alcohol begin to take control over one’s life. For many substance addicts, this is the tipping point: seeking and using increasing amounts of drugs, despite the tremendous problems it causes for themselves and their families.

Time:

Changing the National Conversation Around Addiction.

Why do people use alcohol and drugs?

Because many drugs act on the brain’s pleasure pathways, the user experiences intense euphoria followed by related emotional highs. Cocaine, for example, induces feelings of empowerment, confidence, high self-esteem and increased energy. People might chase these perceived emotional benefits for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Social: People use alcohol and drugs often as a way to fit in with a particular group or to feel more at ease in a social setting,
  • Stress: Substance abuse may be a means to escape problems or a way to reduce stress. The role of stress in beginning drug use, continuing drug abuse, or relapse in recovering patients should be addressed and approached holistically.
  • Psychological triggers: People suffering from anxiety disorders, trauma, depression or other psychological illnesses may begin using alcohol and drugs to reduce or numb personal distress. Individuals with alcohol or drug dependence are nearly twice as likely to have a co-occurring psychological disorder.
  • Peer pressure: Some people, especially teenagers and adolescents, are vulnerable to group pressure or the rationale that “everyone is doing it.”

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