Substance Use Disorder


Substance Use Disorder

There are different factors to consider in substance use disorder including; intoxication, withdrawal, abuse, and dependence (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Intoxication refers to the changes that occur when a person is using a substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Withdrawal refers to the changes or symptoms a person experiences when someone stops using the substance after having done so for a period of time (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The focus of this flyer includes abuse and dependence of substances, specifically stimulants.

Substance abuse refers to the use of a substance that results in "significant harmful consequence"(Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). These consequences can include an inability to fulfill obligations at school, work, or home, using the substance when it' harmful to do so, legal problem arise as a result of using, and continuing to use the substance in spite of legal and social problems (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Substance dependence refers to the use of substances that results many of the same symptoms as abuse. Dependence also includes a high tolerance of the substance, severe withdrawal symptoms when use has stopped, compulsive use of the substance regardless of legal, "social, occupational, psychological, or medical problems"(Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). This also includes an inability to control or cut down on the substance use as well as losing control over one' life (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).


Stimulants are most frequently used for their euphoric or state of well-being feelings (Preda, 2015). They include cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, caffeine, as well as some prescription drugs (Preda, 2015). These types of drugs also typically cause someone to have insomnia, anorexia, as well as psychotic symptoms (Preda, 2015). Many of the intoxication symptoms and withdrawal symptoms are similar between cocaine and amphetamines. All of the stimulants have very negative impacts on the body and mind.

Causes of Substance Use Disorder


There are areas in the brain that trigger our pleasure sensations and how we experience rewards (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The brain releases dopamine which causes us to feel happy or a 'reward' (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Stimulants trigger the brain to release dopamine which causes us to feel "a strong sense of reward or a high" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Continued use of the stimulants changes the way our brain reacts and creates the cravings associated with the substances (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The brain's natural production of dopamine is decreased from the use of these substances which causes us to feel a craving, which triggers the release of the dopamine (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).


Research has shown that a strong link exists between substance use disorder and genetics (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The control over the dopamine system is strongly linked to genetics (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). This affects how the brain utilizes dopamine which can lead to a person being more susceptible to substance disorder (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). This factor has been found to be linked to genetics.


Growing up with parents or close relatives that use and/or abuse substances can greatly increase the chances that one will follow their behavior (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Children learn behaviors from modeling their parents and other important adult figures (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The chances that they will use increase with the use of those they look up to.


Substance abuse disorder shows a significant increase in use for those that are "living in poverty, women in abusive relationships, and adolescents whose parents fight frequently and violently" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The people in these types of situations might choose to use stimulants because of the highs or pleasurable feelings they produce and how that counteracts with their typically negative or depressed feelings/moods (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Treatment Options

If you are using any of the stimulant drugs listed and feel they are causing you harm or symptoms as stated in the substance disorder dependence or abuse, there are many options available. The key thing to remember is that you can seek help.


Many facilities are available for those seeking to stop substance use. Most facilities accept all substance use disorders regardless if it's depressants, stimulants, opioids, or any other substance use disorder.


Behavioral forms of therapy including classical conditioning and operant conditioning are considered successful forms of treatment (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Through classical conditioning, patients are conditioned to associate the use of the substance with something negative such as nausea or vomiting (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). They begin to avoid use of the substance through operant conditioning because they associate those negative feelings with the use (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Another form of therapy includes contingency management programs which give rewards or reinforcements to encourage patients to continue treatment or refrain from use of the substance (Burch, Morasco, & Petry, 2015).


There are many drugs available that can block the addictive effects of stimulants (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). There are many options available for the treatment of nicotine addiction including nicotine gum, patch, nasal spray; which all allow for a slow removal of the stimulant (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). There are other drugs that reduce the craving for nicotine such as Zyban (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Support Groups

Groups such as AA or NA help those with substance use disorders. AA is for those that have problems with alcohol. NA is more for those that have stimulant substance use disorders. These groups can provide support both morally and socially (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Each member offers their support and opens up to the other members to be available in a time of crisis (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). These programs focus on the idea that recovery starts with "one day at a time".

Treatment Provider

In seeking treatment for stimulant substance use disorder, one should find a licensed psychologist specializing in substance abuse rehabilitation (Careers In, n.d.). This type of psychologist requires at the minimum a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a major in rehabilitation (Careers In, n.d.).

Common Myths of Stimulants

One use leads to instant addiction (Lee, 2014).

Most stimulants are highly addictive which makes it very easy to become addicted very quickly (Lee, 2014). However, one use will not instantly make someone addicted. When someone uses the drug once, typically, they want to do it again and the more they are exposed to the drug the higher chance they have of becoming addicted (Lee, 2014).

Stimulants run through the body quickly, therefore they have no long term effects (Lee, 2014).

Stimulants have a quick process through the body (Lee, 2014). However, they have affects not only during use but long after use as well (Lee, 2014).


Burch, A. E., Morasco, B. J., & Petry, N. M. (2015). Patients Undergoing Substance Abuse Treatment and Receiving Financial Assistance for a Physical Disability Respond Well to Contingency Management Treatment. Journal Of Substance Abuse Treatment, 67. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2015.06.006

Careers In (N.D.). Rehabilitation Psychology Careers. Retrieved from

Lee, J. (2014, November 24). Common Myths About Stimulant Abuse. Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Preda, A. (2015, December 15). Stimulants. Retrieved from