Why It Matters: Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders

Why learn about substance-related and addictive disorders?

Lines of cocaine on a table.

Substance-related disorders, including both substance dependence and substance abuse, can lead to large societal problems. Substance related-disorders are found to be greatest in individuals ages 18–25, with a higher likelihood occurring in men compared to women, and urban residents compared to rural residents. On average, general medical facilities hold 20% of patients with substance-related disorders that possibly lead to psychiatric disorders later on. Over 50% of individuals with substance-related disorders will often have a “dual diagnosis” where they are diagnosed with substance abuse as well as a psychiatric diagnosis, the most common being major depression, personality disorder, anxiety disorders, and persistent depressive disorder.

Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, is a patterned use of a substance (drug) in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods that are harmful to themselves or others. The substances used are often associated with levels of intoxication that alter judgment, perception, attention, and physical control, all of which are unrelated to medical effects. Much of the drug discussion is that the main abused substances are illegal drugs and alcohol; however, it is becoming more common that prescription drugs and tobacco are a prevalent problem.