Substance Use Disorder

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Frequently asked questions

What is a Substance Use Disorder?

A substance use disorder (SUD) is a disorder that affects a person's brain and behaviour, leading to a person's inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, with addiction being the most severe form of SUDs.

Who is at risk for substance use disorder?

People who have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse or trauma are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Others who have friends who use, or those subjected to peer pressure, may also be at a greater risk.

What are the symptoms of substance use disorder?

Signs and symptoms of substance abuse can include:

  • Feeling of exhilaration and excess confidence.
  • Increased alertness.
  • Increased energy and restlessness.
  • Behaviour changes or aggression.
  • Rapid or rambling speech.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Confusion, delusions and hallucinations.
  • Irritability, anxiety or paranoia.

What is the difference between addiction and substance use disorder?

Addiction refers to substance use disorders at the severe end of the spectrum and is characterised by a person's inability to control the impulse to use drugs even when there are negative consequences.

What causes substance use disorder?

The exact cause of substance use disorder is not known. A person's genes, the action of the drug, peer pressure, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and environmental stress can all be factors.

How does substance use affect the body?

Drug use can also result in long-term negative health outcomes that include: lung or heart disease, stroke, cancer, or mental health conditions. Imaging scans, chest X-rays, and blood tests can show the damaging effects of long-term drug use throughout the body.

How does substance use affect behaviour?

Addiction often leads to risky or unethical behaviour. Research has found that prolonged substance use impairs your prefrontal cortex, which is involved with planning, attention, emotional regulation, and self-control. It's also involved linked to foresight.
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