Substance Use Disorder:

Opioids, Hallucinogens, Cannabis, and Inhalents

Timothy Maiani

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You don't have to be an addict to have a drug problem!

There are many substances, natural or man-made, that can be used for their intoxicating effects including opioids, hallucinogens, cannabis, and even inhalants. It is important to understand that substance abuse is not the same thing as substance addiction. An addict has built up a tolerance to the substance and will show withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the substance. An abuser may not be addicted to the substance, but it causes problems in their lives when they do use it such as causing them to miss work, neglect responsibilities, or behave dangerously (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 399).

So if you aren't an addict, why use stimulants?

There are several biological, psychological, and social factors that can lead to substance abuse (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 417).

  • Biologically, dopamine levels in the brain are affected differently by different stimulants and thereby produces the "high"sensation. Overtime, the brain can build tolerance to the substance and begin to crave it. Genetic factors are also a biological consideration because some people are more prone to substance abuse than other due to family history (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 418).

  • Psychological factors may be to blame as well. Some studies have shown that children are more prone to substance use disorder if they see their parents or other role models using it (A Family History, 2012).

  • Sociological factors exist in the development of a substance use disorder as well. People who have more stress in their lives are more likely to have these disorders (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 419).

Treatment Options:

There are several forms of treatment available for substance use disorders. They include:

  • Medications such as anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 420).
  • Behavioral treatments such as classical conditioning can be used to help curb the desire for substances (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p.421).
  • Cognitive treatments such as interventions can help people to recognize situations they are likely to relapse, and help them cope with the urges (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 422).

Common myths and misperceptions:

  • Willpower is all it takes to beat this disorder - Over-time, tolerance can build and cravings can increase making it extremely difficult to quit (Robinson, Smith, & Saisan, 2014).

  • People can't be helped until they hit the bottom - The sooner therapy starts, the better chance of success. Seek help ASAP!

  • People have to want to go for treatment - People with this disorder can be helped even if they are pressured into going. They will shake the grudge and thank you when they are well.

What should you look for in a therapist?

The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals has set three main credentials for addiction counselors:

In addition, the NCC AP also offers further certification in:

(Certification, n.d.).

All of our therapists have met all necessary credentials!


If you or someone you know suspects substance use disorder, do not hesitate to let us know. We will do our best to get you the help you need privately, professionally and effectively!

For more information on these substances, click on the links below!


A Family History of Alcoholism. (2012). Retrieved December 15, 2014, from

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

Robinson, L., Smith, M., & Saisan, J. (2014). Drug Abuse and Addiction. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from