Substance use disorder (SUD) has posed a continuous threat to Americans. In 2020 alone nearly 92,000 people in the U.S. fatally overdosed on drugs (Hopkins Medicine). As a result, 2020 had a record high for fatal drug-related deaths. With more than 20 million known individuals currently struggling with SUD, the issue continues to demand more attention (Hopkins Medicine). Right now, SUD currently impacts 1 in 3 households, leaving almost every person in this country touched by this devastating disorder (The Edge Treatment). The first step in addressing the public health crisis we are currently facing is education on substance use disorder itself. That’s why in this post we’ll cover what substance use disorder is, and how to spot some symptoms that typically accompany SUD. 

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder (SUD) describes a problematic pattern of using alcohol or another substance that results in impairment in daily life or noticeable distress (DSM-5). 

Substance use disorder, commonly referred to as “addiction” or “substance abuse”, has been known by many names. In recent years, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) changed the official language to substance use disorder (TPofTampa). This shift was made to reduce the stigma surrounding the language typically used in the recovery industry. Stigma is extremely isolating, and discourages many people from moving forward with treatment (TPofTampa). By emphasizing the person first, and substance use as a disorder this individual suffers from, we are putting emphasis on a people-centric approach. A “substance abuser” incorrectly labels the individual with SUD as deliberately choosing to continue misusing a substance (TPofTampa). This can lead to the individual being punished rather than treated. Not only is it harmful when receiving treatment, but labeling an individual as a ”substance abuser” defines the entire person by their disease. Overall, shifting to using substance use disorder as the preferred term greatly reduces stigma surrounding addiction. Stigma plays a huge role in why some people with substance use disorders avoid or delay seeking treatment, the language matters (TPofTampa). 


Why is It Important to Understand Substance Use Disorder?

We all most likely know someone who struggles with substance use disorder (SUD). Whether it be ourselves, a parent or a dear friend – SUD impacts almost everyone. When supporting yourself or a loved one as recovery is approached it’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to understand what SUD is! Having a deeper understanding of this topic helps raise awareness of the disorder that you or someone you love is currently struggling with, and assists in better recognizing the signs and symptoms.

Read on to learn more about some warning signs of substance use disorder, and visit our website here if you or someone you know is ready to receive help.


Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder varies from person to person, as do the symptoms. While this list does not include every symptom one might experience, it includes some of the most commonly seen. If you or someone you know may be struggling with substance use disorder, reach out to a healthcare provider or visit our website here. If there is an emergency, please dial 9-1-1 for immediate help.

Symptoms and behaviors include but are not limited to:

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day
  • Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts
  • Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect
  • Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it
  • Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
  • Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it’s causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm
  • Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
  • Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
    Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

(Mayo Clinic)


It’s a Lot to Tackle…

It can often be overwhelming when trying to sort through all of the recovery resources available. We’d like to simplify the process a bit. Learning more about substance use disorder and the resources you can rely on in recovery, like peer recovery services, can help you find options that are right for you or a loved one. 


Wanting to Learn More?

If you’re looking to read more about other recovery-related topics, visit our blog to learn about recovery resources like peer recovery services. Recovery is a beautiful thing, and we want to help you reach and maintain it. If you need help finding an option for you or a loved one, reach out now here.


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