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.
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:
- Cannabis (marijuana)
- Hallucinogens (LSD, Ecstasy)
- Inhalants (solvents)
- Opioids (heroin)
- Sedatives (Valium)
- Stimulants (cocaine, meth)
Under this diagnosis, there are 3 specific patterns that determine substance use disorder:
- Impaired control. Using more or longer than planned or initially intended; wanting to reduce use yet being unsuccessful to do so
- 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.
- 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.