Substance abuse disorders, also known as substance use disorders, are a type of mental health disorder. They are characterized by the recurrent use of drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences that result from such use.
Several disorders are characterized by a problematic pattern of substance use or abuse. Some of these include alcohol and/or drugs, leading to significant impairment or distress. Individuals who struggle with this disorder may actually feel that the abuse of the substance is helping them cope with stress or anxiety. However, statistics show that substance abuse only compounds the problem.
There are tremendous amounts of negative consequences for those who abuse a substance. This can include physical health problems, social and interpersonal problems, and legal and financial problems. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2020, an estimated 23.1 million Americans aged 12 or older needed treatment for a substance use disorder.
Substance abuse disorders can involve the use of a wide range of substances, including alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The severity of a substance abuse disorder can range from mild to severe, depending on factors such as the frequency and amount of substance use, the individual's physical and psychological response to the substance, and the presence of co-occurring mental health disorders.
In 2020, an estimated 13.7 percent of people aged 12 or older had used an illicit drug in the past year, and 7.9 percent had used a prescription drug for non-medical reasons. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the United States, with an estimated 85.6 percent of people aged 18 or older reporting that they had consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime, and 55.3 percent reporting that they had consumed alcohol in the past month.
Opioid abuse is also a significant problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, there were 49,860 opioid overdose deaths in the United States, and an estimated 1.6 million people had an opioid use disorder. As this blog is being written we are experiencing a ridiculous amount of fentanyl in the US. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, are being exposed on a daily basis.
Substance abuse disorders are typically diagnosed through a combination of clinical assessment and standardized diagnostic criteria, such as those outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Treatment for substance abuse disorders often involves a combination of medication, behavioral therapy, and support groups. Successful treatment can help individuals with substance abuse disorders achieve and maintain long-term recovery.
It's worth noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on substance abuse trends in the United States. For example, there have been reports of increased alcohol and drug use during the pandemic, as well as disruptions to treatment and recovery services.
If you, or someone you know, struggles with substance abuse… please seek a mental health professional. There is hope. Take your mental health seriously.
You are loved.
Dr. Ray Reynolds
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