Substance Use Disorders

Many people use substances, like alcohol, for a variety of reasons. Some use to relax, to fit in socially, or as part of their religion or culture. Substance use does not always reflect a problem and many people do not experience any ill effects. Others, however, may find that substance use is damaging  their health and interfering with their personal or professional lives. In some cases individuals are not aware that their substance use is a problem despite the concerns of others.

Those who have a substance use disorder will usually display some of the following:

  • Longer Time and Larger Amount.

Individuals with substance use disorders may use substances in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than they intended. They might, for instance, plan to go out for one or two quick drinks but end up drinking heavily and staying out all night.

  • Efforts to Cut Down.

Those with substance use disorders often have a constant desire to cut down on or control their use. This often results in numerous unsuccessful attempts to do so.

  • Activities.

A large amount of time and effort is often spent on activities related to the substance. This can include efforts to obtain, use, or recover from its use. An individual may, for instance, spend most of their evenings drinking and most of their mornings feeling hung-over.

  • Craving.

Cravings are common in those with substance use disorders. They may have a very strong desire or urge to use the substance that is difficult to ignore.

  • Failure to Meet Obligations.

People with substance use disorders will usually fail to meet some of their role obligations. This can include obligations at home, such as keeping things clean or taking care of children. It can also include obligations at work or school such as showing up on time and completing assignments.

  • Social Problems.

Many individuals will experience significant problems with others due to their substance use. They may upset and worry family, friends and romantic partners by using too much and acting in ways that are unusual for them. Existing interpersonal problems, like difficulty making friends, may become worse due to substance use and leave individuals even more isolated than before.

  • Reduced Activities.

Those with substance use disorders may stop up or reduce their participation in important activities. They may rarely go out with friends, be unable to take on new projects at work, or quit participating in recreational activities or pursuing their hobbies.

  • Use in Hazardous Situations.

Recurrent use in dangerous or hazardous situations can reflect a substance use disorder. An individual may, for instance, drive while drunk or engage in risky sexual behaviours while under the influence of drugs.

  • Physical or Psychological Problems.

Many individuals with substance use disorders will experience negative effects on their psychological health, such as depression, anxiety, or persistent anger. Physical health problems are also common and can be either caused or made worse by substance use. Despite knowledge of these negative effects, those with substance use disorders will continue to use.

  • Tolerance.

People with substance use disorders may experience tolerance. This refers to the need for increasing the amount of a substance to experience the desired effects. It can also refer to a diminished effect with the same amount of the substance. An individual with an alcohol use disorder, for instance, may need 15 drinks to feel drunk when they used to need 10.

  • Withdrawal.

Those with substance use disorders may experience withdrawal. This refers to a set of symptoms associated with stopping or reducing use of a particular substance. With regards to alcohol, for instance, withdrawal symptoms can include sweating, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, hallucinations, or seizures. People may continue to use a substance to relieve or avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Together, these symptoms can cause significant distress and negatively affect people’s ability to function effectively.

If you or someone you know has some or all of these symptoms, it may be due to a Substance Use Disorder. Psychologists at EBT3 are trained in using psychological assessment tools to find out whether this is the case. They are also experienced in treating Substance Use Disorders and the related symptoms using approaches that have been proven to be effective, such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy.

For more information about Substance Use Disorders, or to find an experienced psychologist, please contact us.