Defining Substance Use Disorder

Addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol has long been steeped in stereotypes and myth. Many believe that being addicted to these substances is a choice, a character flaw, a moral failure. However, as science have proven, addiction is actually a substance use disorder, a condition that happens right in the brain and affects behavior and motivation.

substance-use-disorder-defined

Image source: nextgenu.org

Defining Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is coined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a diagnosis that replaces terms such as addiction and substance abuse disorder.

Doctors and medical professionals have used SUD as a term to diagnose a condition that meets a certain criteria involved in dysfunctional use of both addictive and non-addictive substances.

Under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), SUD has 8 types of substances associated with it:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Cannabis (marijuana)
  3. Hallucinogens (LSD, Ecstasy)
  4. Inhalants (solvents)
  5. Opioids (heroin)
  6. Sedatives (Valium)
  7. Stimulants (cocaine, meth)
  8. Tobacco

Under this diagnosis, there are 3  specific patterns that determine substance use disorder:

  1. Impaired control. Using more or longer than planned or initially intended; wanting to reduce use yet being unsuccessful to do so
  2. Social impairment. Continued use despite relationship and reputation problems, such as arguments, violence, aggression. This also includes problems with school and work such as repeated absences and dwindling performance.
  3. Risky use. Continued use despite getting into physically dangerous situations as well as use resulting to accidents. This also includes psychological and physical problems such as drug-related illnesses and psychosis, for example.

This diagnostic term is important in underlining the fact that addiction is more than just a choice or a mistake repeated by someone who is selfish or stubborn. There is more to substance use disorder than myths.


If you suspect that someone you know, such as a loved one or family member, is addicted to drugs or alcohol or even painkillers, seek help. Call or text us at Bridges of Hope at 09175098826.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *