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Substance Use Disorders

What it is: Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), often called “addiction” in mainstream media, are characterized by an impairment in general life functioning and/or impairment in achieving one’s goals as a result of use of (and difficulty refraining from use of) intoxicating substances. SUDs affect people from all ethnic, social, and socioeconomic backgrounds and may involve difficulties with a variety of substances or a single substance. SUD categories include Alcohol-Related Disorders, Cannabis-Related Disorders, Opioid-Related Disorders (ex. heroin, OxyContin, morphine, etc.), Stimulant-Related Disorders (ex. cocaine, methamphetamine), as well as others.

People with SUDs often find they are spending a significant amount of time engaged in or recovering from activities related to their substance use and may also be placing themselves in increasingly dangerous or values-inconsistent situations.  Problems are likely to develop in the areas of employment, relationships with family and friends, and/or avoidance of activities once enjoyed. Many individuals attempt to decrease or stop their use, only to experience intense cravings, which begins or maintains a cycle of relapse.  Continued use may lead to tolerance (needing larger amounts of a substance to achieve previous effect) and withdrawal symptoms (physiological effects of no longer having the substance in the body). In addition to problems in daily living related to substance use, a person diagnosed with a SUD may begin experiencing physical and/or psychological health problems related to their use.  These physical or mental health symptoms may be a direct consequence of the substance itself (e.g., liver damage related to alcohol use or anxiety related amphetamine use) or may be related to decreased attention to one’s existing health issues (e.g., not taking prescribed medication for depression or attending doctor’s appointments).

Associated concerns: Individuals struggling with substance use may also experience co-occurring symptoms associated with mood disturbance, suicidal ideation or self harm, anxiety, difficulty controlling anger, or intense experiences of shame. Individuals may also experience difficulties in their day-to-day lives, such as problems in school, interpersonal difficulties with family or friends, financial strain, or legal involvement. They may also experience significant physical health concerns such as hypertension, diabetes, or cirrhosis of the liver (particularly with long periods of heavy use).  

Evidence Based Treatments offered: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Motivational Enhancement, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, and empirically supported components of The Matrix Model.

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Check out blog posts on substance use and substance use treatment. 

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