woman with hands to temples wondering what is substance use disorder

What Is Substance Use Disorder?

What is substance use disorder? While we all think we know what terms like “addiction” or “drug habit” mean, the clinical definition of substance use disorder is unfamiliar to many of us. Continue reading below to learn a little bit about this disorder and how it manifests.

What Is Substance Use Disorder's Definition?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Version 5 is the newest edition of the book most mental health practitioners use to classify mental health disorders. The “DSM-V” as its commonly known, lists substance use disorder as a disorder that causes clinically significant impairment or distress in a person who uses psychoactive substances.

There are a large number of criteria for this disorder. It is not necessary for a person to satisfy all of them to qualify for a diagnosis, but the more criteria they satisfy the more severe the illness is said to be. Finally, the criteria include:

  • Using more of a substance than planned, or using a substance for a longer interval than desired
  • Inability to cut down despite desire to do so
  • Spending a substantial amount of the day obtaining, using, or recovering from substance use
  • Cravings or intense urges to use
  • Repeated usage causes or contributes to an inability to meet important social, or professional obligations
  • Persistent usage despite the user's knowledge that it is causing frequent problems at work, school, or home
  • Giving up or cutting back on important social, professional, or leisure activities because of use
  • Using in physically hazardous situations, or usage causing physical or mental harm
  • Persistent use despite the user's awareness that the substance is causing or at least worsening a physical or mental problem
  • Tolerance: needing to use increasing amounts of a substance to obtain its desired effects
  • Withdrawal: a characteristic group of physical effects or symptoms that emerge as the amount of substance in the body decreases

Prevalence and Incidence Rate

Substance use disorder is less common than anxiety disorders but more common than some thought disorders, like schizophrenia.

There are risk factors associated with developing substance use disorder, including:

  • Having a parent with the disorder
  • Having another mental health disorder, like an anxiety or mood disorder
  • Being male
  • Having previously developed the disorder

Of course, these risk factors do not guarantee that one will develop this disorder. But they increase the risk that one will.

Degrees of Substance Use Disorder

The DSM-V categorizes substance use disorders as mild, moderate, and severe. As people satisfy more and more criteria of substance use disorder, the degree of severity increases. People with severe substance use disorder suffer from drug addiction.

How We Can Help

Substance use disorder is a powerful and difficult illness to combat. Therefore, at the San Antonio Recovery Center, we employ many different treatment modalities and programs to address the whole patient, rather than just a small cluster of symptoms. We offer:

Call us at 866.957.7885 if you’d like to learn how best to banish this insidious disease from your life once and for all.

Now is the time to focus on your recovery.


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