Battling a Substance Use Disorder

Stimulant abuse

What is a substance use disorder?

A person with a substance use disorder suffers from an addiction to a substance such as a stimulant. Repeated use of the substance causes a disruption to the individuals normal functioning. Disruptions in ones life might include; failing to fulfill important responsibilities, putting ones life in danger to use or obtain the substance, and obtaining legal issues because of the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

There is a specific criteria that describes a substance use disorder (Greydanus, 2014):

  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal
  • More drug consumption than intended
  • Consistent longing to control the abuse/ failed attempts for control
  • Persistent drug use despite knowledge of its negative consequences
  • Spending excessive time in finding the drug or recovering from its use
  • Reduction in positive living

If you are experiencing more than three of these criteria then you may be suffering from a substance use disorder (Greydanus, 2014).

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The Substance: Stimulants

There are two primary types of substances that are abused; stimulants (uppers), and depressants (downers). We will be examining stimulants in detail.
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Stimulants are known to activate the central nervous system of the user. This results in feelings of happiness, decrease desire for sleep and in appetite, and an increased feeling of power (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Stimulants include substances such as cocaine, caffeine, cannabis, amphetamines and other prescription drugs. A huge trend in stimulant abuse is with prescription drugs. In fact, prescription drug use is second only to marijuana among college students (Greydanus, 2014). There are many reasons why an individual begins taking a substance including to feel better, to do better, to just feel good, and just out of curiosity (NIH, 2014). For example, college students might start misusing caffeine or adderal, for instance, to try to prolong study time. Or an injured football player might begin to abuse cocaine so that he can play through the pain.
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Causes of Substance Use Disorder

There is no one cause to this brain disorder because people begin to use drugs and become addicted for many different reasons. The initial decision to begin using a drug is a voluntary action but because drugs alter the brain in many different ways voluntary use can grow into an addiction. Drug addiction is considered a brain disease because the abuse of drugs causes changes to the brain (NIH, 2014).

There are many factors that can contribute to why one person differs from another in regard to vulnerability to addiction. Specifically risk factors that lead to addiction can be biological or environmental (NIH, 2014). Biological risk factors include genetic make-up, gender or race, and stage of development substance exposure occurs (NIH, 2014). Environmental risk factors include conditions at home, in school, or economically (NIH, 2014). Genetic factors are said to make-up 40-60% of a persons risk alone (NIH, 2014). That is why it is important to know if you have a family history of addiction.

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Misconceptions about Substance Use Disorder

As mentioned before, substance use disorder is a brain disease. A common misconception about this disorder is that it is a voluntary condition that one brings upon themselves. However, although the initial decision to try the drug is voluntary, the repeated use and abuse of it changes the functioning of the brain. The use may begin as innocent attempts to fit in or even alleviate pain, but over time that individual changes the brain in a way that functioning then become reliant on the use of that drug. It is important to remember that individuals suffering from this brain disease need help in executing their internal want to stop abusing the substance because the brain and cognition is compromised from substance abuse.
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Treatment: You are not alone

On going research that has compiled from the 1970's to today has concluded that treatment can help stop drug use related to addiction and relapse (NIH, 2014). There is no one treatment plan that is "one size fits all." Treatment must focus on the needs of the individual in all aspects not just in regards to the substance use (NIH, 2014). Therapy in the form of individual or group counseling or other forms of behavior therapy have proven effective for many (NIH, 2014). Medications for some patients are able to aid in the withdraw process. Medically assisted detoxification is an important first step to recovery (NIH, 2014). Addiction treatment centers like the one included below, is a great starting point for those looking to treat a substance use disorder.
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Make the decision to seek help today.


Greydanus, D., E.(2014) Stimulant misuse:Strategies to manage a growing problem. Retrieved from

National Institute of Drug Abuse (2014) Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The science of addiction. Retrieved from

National Institute of Drug Abuse (2014) Drugfacts: Treatment approaches for drug addiction. Retrieved from

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