Substance Use Disorder


Do you have a substance use disorder involving depressants?

If you think you might, or think you might know someone who does, take some time to read this flier for more information.

What is a substance use disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “a substance use disorder is a problematic pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress over a 12 month period, as manifested by at least two symptoms out of the 12 listed in the symptoms section” (American Psychiatric Association, 2014)

Mental and substance use disorders

TheLancetTV - Mental and substance use disorders

What are depressants?

Depressants used in moderate doses such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates depress the central nervous system, reduce concentration, and impair thinking, judgment, and motor skills; however, when used heavily, depressants can cause a state of near-unconsciousness or insensibility and even death (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Substance Use Myth #1: Substance users cause their own problems (Clay, 2008).

What causes a substance use disorder?

The causes of substance use disorders involving depressants are numerous while not being completely understood due to its complex nature. There have been studies on the disorder’s etiology through biological, psychological, and sociocultural means.


Recent studies all suggest that genetics play a substantial role in determining who is at

risk for substance use disorders including family, twin, and adoption studies (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

If you are concerned about your level of substance use and have a family history of addiction or abuse - please visit

Cognitive theories believe that some substance users try to control stress through methods such as alcohol - a type of self medication (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

If you find yourself trying to control levels of stress through alcohol or other depressant use, please visit

Some cultures abstain from alcohol use all together, but others have fewer restrictions on it's use. There are parts of society which hold drinking in a high regard when it comes to social functions, making the use of alcohol - even in heavy amounts - OK (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

If you participate in alcohol related events regularly and are concerned with your level of use, please visit


The problem with understanding substance use disorder causes, is that they are typically co-morbid with a separate mental illness. According to Duckworth & Freedman of NAMI (2013) almost one-third of individuals with mental illness and half with severe mental illness experience substance abuse while one third of alcohol abusers and half of drug abusers also battle mental illness (Duckworth & Freedman, 2013).

If you feel that you may have a pre-existing mental illness and are curious if your substance use is affected by it or is affecting it, please visit

Substance Use Myth #2: SUDs are voluntary disorders ... substance users refuse to change their behaviors (Clay, 2008).

Signs & Symptoms

Impaired Centre Control

  1. The substance is taken in increasingly larger amounts or over a longer period of time than originally intended. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  2. The substance user craves the use of the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  3. The substance user feels an ongoing desire to cut down or control substance abuse (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  4. Much time is spent in obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Social Impairment

  1. The ongoing use of the substance often results in an inability to meet responsibilities at home, work, or school (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  2. Important social, work-related, or recreational activities are abandoned or cut back because of substance use (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  3. Ongoing substance use despite recurring social or relationship difficulties caused or made worse by the effects of the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Risky Use

  1. Ongoing substance use in physically dangerous situations such as driving a car or operating machinery. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  2. Substance use continues despite the awareness of ongoing physical or psychological problems that have likely arisen or been made worse by the substance. (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Pharmacological Criteria

  1. Changes in the substances user’s tolerance of the substance is indicated by the need for increased amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effect or by a diminished experience of intoxication over time with the same amount of the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  2. Withdrawal is demonstrated by the characteristic withdrawal syndrome of the substance and/or taking the same or similar substance to relieve withdrawal symptoms (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Substance Use Myth #3: Substance users are morally compromised or pathological individuals lacking American values such as self-control and respect for the law (Clay, 2008).

Treatment Options

There are multiple treatment options for substance use disorders. Just as the etiology of substance use lies in biological, psychological, and sociocultural areas, so does treatment.


Some users may have a hard time withdrawing from substances which is why medical intervention is available. Some medications used in the treatment for alcohol include benzodiazepine, which acts like a depressant and can reduce tremors and anxiety while decreasing pulse and respiration rate (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).


Psychosocial methods of treatment involve both behavioral and cognitive treatment. Behavioral treatment for substance abuse helps the patient by using classical conditioning methods mixed with biological strategies enacted to change the way the patient reacts to alcohol; this includes using medication that will cause the patient to have aversive reactions to the substance creating a negative response (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013). Cognitive methods include educating the patient on when they are most likely to drink, their triggers, and teaching them new coping strategies (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).

If you are looking for treatment centers or more information on treatment options, please visit


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association

Clay, DO, S. W. (2008, April 1). JAOA - The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Moving Beyond Myths of Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from

K. Duckworth M.D., & J. L. Freedman M.D, (2013). NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from

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