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Addictive Disorders

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition with uncontrolled substance use despite harmful consequences.

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People with SUD have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs, to the point where the person's ability to function in day-to-day life becomes impaired. People keep using the substance even when they know it is causing or will cause problems. The most severe SUDs are sometimes called addictions.


Repeated substance use can cause changes in how the brain functions. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance wear off, or in other words, after the period of intoxication. Intoxication is the intense pleasure, euphoria, calmness, increased perception and sense, and other feelings caused by the substance. Intoxication symptoms are different for each substance.

When someone has a substance use disorder, they usually build up a tolerance to the substance, meaning they need larger amounts to feel the effects.


Because SUDs affect many aspects of a person’s life, multiple types of treatment are often required. For most, a combination of medication and individual or group therapy is most effective. Treatment approaches that address an individual’s specific situation and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems are optimal for sustained recovery.


Medications are used to control drug cravings, relieve symptoms of withdrawal, and prevent relapses. Psychotherapy can help individuals with SUD better understand their behavior and motivations, develop higher self-esteem, cope with stress, and address other psychiatric problems.


A person's recovery plan is unique to the person's specific needs and may include strategies outside of formal treatment.

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