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Categories of Substance Use

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that changes the brain’s chemistry causing the inability to stop using a substance as well as a failure to meet work, social, or family obligations. Addiction can occur without a person being dependent on a substance. Addiction may involve:

  • Using a substance despite the consequences.
  • A person is unable to stop using the drug on their own
  • Neglecting school, work, and social obligations because of drug use

Dependency is when the body adapts to a substance, requires more of it to achieve a certain effect and causing physical or mental symptoms of withdrawal if the substance is abruptly stopped. It is possible to be dependent on a drug without being addicted, but if often occurs if a person relies on a medication to control a chronic medical condition. Dependence may involve:

  • Some or all symptoms of addiction.
  • Development of high tolerance for the substance as a person’s body adapts to the drug, leading to a desire for larger or more frequent doses.
  • physical symptoms of withdrawal when a person attempts to stop using the drug.

Categories of Substance Use

Substance Use is when someone consumes alcohol or other drugs. Substance use does not always lead to harmful or problem use. Many people can drink alcohol or use certain drugs without developing a substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction; however, substance use always comes with a risk of developing a SUD. Someone can begin using substances for various reasons, including peer pressure, to find a sense of adventure, or because they were prescribed by a doctor.

Substance Misuse is when a person consumes alcohol or other drugs regularly, even though it causes issues in their life. This can mean being late to work or missing school. Misusing substances can affect relationships with friends and family. People who misuse drugs or alcohol may continue to use them despite the harm or consequences they cause.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD), also called addiction, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs or medication despite the harmful consequences. People with SUD have developed a tolerance for alcohol or another drug, which means they need larger amounts to feel the effects (i.e., to feel good, pleasure, and “high”) and also experience withdrawal symptoms without the drug or when they try to cut back. Several effective treatments are available to help people recover from SUD.

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