Substance abuse isn’t black and white. There are many gray areas surrounding it, and this often makes it difficult to identify, diagnose and treat. Moreover, each person who struggles with addiction experiences it in a unique way. This is because everyone has different backgrounds, medical conditions, family histories and other underlying factors that impact the way they’re affected by drug and alcohol addiction.

Although substance abuse defies a simple, cut-and-dried definition, there are a few key characteristics that help paint a better picture of this addictive disorder. Here are some guidelines that help define what qualifies as substance abuse.

Criteria for Substance Abuse

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5), includes a specific set of criteria used to diagnose addictive disorders. These criteria, which are based on extensive research and clinical data, can help shed light on the nature of substance abuse. Below are some of the key characteristics of addiction to be aware of:

  • Failing to stop using the substance despite wanting to do so
  • Using the substance in larger doses or for longer periods than intended
  • Frequently experiencing intense urges or cravings to use the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance despite its physical and mental consequences
  • Needing more of the substance to achieve the desired effect
  • Failing to fulfill important responsibilities as a result of substance abuse
  • Giving up social or occupational activities because of substance use
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from drugs or alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms

As a rule of thumb, two or three of these symptoms is considered mild substance abuse, while four or five symptoms is considered moderate substance abuse. If you struggle with six or more of the above symptoms, you may be struggling with a severe substance use disorder.

If you notice any of these red flags in yourself or someone close to you, it’s crucial not to ignore them. You don’t need to be suffering from a severe addiction in order to seek out support. No matter what your experience with substance abuse looks like, taking the initiative and asking for help can allow you to embark on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Types of Substance Abuse

The DSM 5 also specifies 10 different classes of substances, which helps to more clearly define addictive disorders. These 10 classes are alcohol, cannabis, caffeine, opioids, sedatives, hallucinogens, inhalants, stimulants and other or unknown substances.

Even though the criteria listed above apply to numerous substances, different drugs elicit different types of reactions. As a result, substance abuse can look very different for various types of substances. Regardless of the type of substance you’re using and how it’s affecting your life, it’s important to be cognizant of the warning signs. This helps ensure that you receive the care and support that’s most appropriate for your specific needs.

Overcome Your Substance Use Disorder

If you’re ready to take the first step toward substance abuse recovery, the experts at America’s Rehab Campuses can help. With access to a dedicated staff and top-notch drug and alcohol treatment programs, you can make meaningful progress toward your goals and reclaim your life. Contact us today to learn more about our various treatment options and how we can help you overcome addiction once and for all.

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