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When discussing substance use, people often refer to someone as having a Substance Use Disorder. Formerly, someone with a Substance Use Disorder was referred to as an "addict". Today, we choose to use Substance Use Disorder as it recognizes the multifaceted nature of this brain disease.
“Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain—they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long-lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.”
While the first time someone uses a drug it may be a choice, substance use can evolve into chronic use where the person using the substance seeks it out despite the adverse outcomes.
One of the main ways that a drug takes hold in a person is through neural pathways. Drugs override or hijack the reward system in the brain through reuptake inhibition or increasing production of neurotransmitters.
The new DSM describes a problematic pattern of use of an intoxicating substance leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period (from the National Institute on Drug Abuse):
Youth are learning new ways to use alcohol and other drugs and learning of new drugs much faster than most adults. This sort of experimentation can be perilous.
For previous Drug Trends Newsletters visit our Resources page.