WHAT IS SUBSTANCE ABUSE?
Alcoholism and drug dependence and addiction, known as substance use disorders, are complex problems. People with these disorders once were thought to have a character defect or moral weakness; some people mistakenly still believe that. However, most scientists and medical researchers now consider dependence on alcohol or drugs to be a long-term illness, like asthma, hypertension (high blood pressure), or diabetes. Most people who drink alcohol drink very little, and many people can stop taking drugs without a struggle. However, some people develop a substance use disorder—use of alcohol or drugs that is compulsive or dangerous (or both).
What Are the Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders?
One of the most important signs of substance addiction or dependence is the continued use of drugs or alcohol despite experiencing the serious negative consequences of heavy drug or alcohol use. Often, a person will blame other people or circumstances for his or her problems instead of realizing that the difficulties result from the use of drugs or alcohol. For example, your partner may believe he was fired from jobs because his bosses didn’t know how to run a business. Or your daughter may believe she got a ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol because the police were targeting her. Perhaps your loved one has even blamed you. People with this illness really may believe that they drink normally or that “everyone” takes drugs. These false beliefs are called denial, and denial is part of the illness.