Substance Misuse

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  • A substance use disorder is an illness that is characterized by clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and impaired control over substance use. Substance use disorders (SUDs) are diagnosed by assessing cognitive, behavioral, and psychological symptoms, and can range from mild to severe. Approximately 20% of Americans experience a substance use disorder in any given year.
    • No single factor can predict whether a person will develop a substance use disorder. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that using drugs can lead to a substance use disorder.
    • Individuals with a substance use disorder are often diagnosed with mental health disorders. Some people develop mental health problems related to their compulsive drug use, and some people may take drugs to alleviate symptoms of underlying mental health challenges.
    • There are many options that have been successful in treating substance use disorders, including behavioral counseling, medication, apps used to deliver skills training, evaluation and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and long-term follow up to prevent relapse.
  • Substance misuse refers to the use of legal drugs or medications in a way that is not intended, such as binge drinking or using drugs that were prescribed for someone else. 
  • Substance use refers to the use of illicit substances, such as heroin or cocaine.
    • Nearly 50% of young people have used an illicit drug by the time they graduated from high school. The younger a person is when they first use a substance, the higher their risk of developing a substance use disorder. 
  • The most-used substances (from highest to lowest usage) are alcohol, tobacco, kratom, marijuana, misused prescription pain relievers, cocaine, misused prescription tranquilizer or sedative, hallucinogens, misused prescription stimulants, methamphetamines, inhalants, and heroin.
  • Programs to prevent substance use or misuse can focus on building skills like self-control, emotional awareness, communication, social problem solving, self-efficacy and assertiveness, and peer relationships.
  • Battling stigma is an important part of addressing substance use and misuse. Stigma can reduce willingness to seek treatment, cause additional emotional distress, and even influence interactions with healthcare providers.
    • Language can perpetuate bias and false perceptions of substance use disorders, particularly the false narrative that substance use is a moral failing. For more guidelines around language, click here.
    • Stigma may also stem from outdated and inaccurate beliefs about addiction, instead of recognizing it as a chronic, treatable disease from which people can recover and continue to lead healthy lives.
  • People who are currently using substances or who are in recovery can have impulses and cravings triggered by depictions of drug use. Avoid depicting usage in content when possible, and avoid sharing details that might help viewers obtain, use, or hide usage of dangerous substances.

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