Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders
Substance related and non-substance addictive disorders are categorized together due to the common condition involved, of addiction or addictive behaviors that may interfere with regular functioning of an individual. Substance use in itself is not considered a disorder, however when continued use and repeated relapses that ultimately change the brain’s structure is when it becomes a disorder that needs to be treated.
Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Review Date: 3/1/2023
Substance-related disorders involve the use of drugs, alcohol, or prescribed medications leading to distressing consequences impacting physical and mental health, social and family responsibilities, and regular activities.
Behavioral addictions that are not dependent on substance use are categorized under Addictive disorders. The effects and impacts of addictive disorders may be similar to substance-related disorders including physical and mental health, social and family responsibilities, and regular activities.
There is no single cause of substance abuse or addictive disorders, as they are usually a result of a variety of factors, beginning with exposure to an addictive substance or non-substance.
Variations in brain chemistry and genes may determine how an individual responds to a certain substance. Such variations may affect how a substance is consumed, and may lead to dependence and overuse.
An individual’s behavior and response to certain substances may be influenced by their experiences and exposure during childhood. Children and adolescents exposed to addictive substances are likely to continue other addictive substances in their adulthood.
Chronic stress caused by health problems, financial troubles, or dysfunctional relationships may induce an individual to use substances to alleviate their anxiety, however when the usage increases, it can lead to substance abuse disorders.
Self-medicating for mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, or other disorders with drugs or alcohol may initially seem like it will help them but they almost always become addictive with long term dependence.
Addiction and dependence on substances may be demonstrated through many different signs and symptoms, physical and/or behavioral. When substance usage creates challenges and becomes an impairment to daily life it is categorized as a disorder.
The first step in the treatment of substance-related disorders is to remove the toxins from an individual’s body through the process of chemical detoxification. Withdrawal from an addictive substance can be life-threatening, so medically assisted detoxification is imperative.
Behavioral therapies and Cognitive therapies have been two recent developments that have been shown to be effective in treatment of addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses. Modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can be effective on treating addictive behaviors.
Preventing relapses is the biggest challenge for addictive patients after graduating out of a treatment program. Being part of a supportive community, learning coping skills, and attending programs such as the 12-step recovery program are a few ways to stay the course.
Although recovery may be slow and challenging, it is entirely possible to recover from addiction. According to the annual NSDUH survey, more than 75% of people addicted to substances in the U.S have recovered. Progress, not success, is the best strategy to stay sober in the long term.
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