Substance Use Disorders


The problematic use of drugs and alcohol is widely accepted to be associated with trauma and attachment difficulties. Self-medication can be understandable or even seen as normal or expected in some circumstances. These problems can also begin simply by the chance combination of genetics and exposure to a substance, such as a prescribed sleeping tablet or pain killer. Abnormal or unnatural rewards from substances can co-opt the brain circuitry usually employed to promote social interaction and natural reward processing, in order to shift attachment towards the addiction.  

These conditions don't tend to occur in a vacuum; mental health problems co-aggregate and families are often affected. People with addictions often hide their problems and can be unreasonably morally blamed by others and themselves.

A substance use disorder is an impaired control over any substance (chemical) or non-substance (behavioural/process), which can cause major social problems, risky behaviour, and tolerance or withdrawal symptoms. Substance use disorders cloud a person’s regular judgement, which affects their decision making, memory, learning, and control over certain behaviours. Substance use disorders are widespread across all socio-demographics — often bearing severe consequences for sufferers, whose symptoms are often chronic and relapsing in nature. Risk factors for substance use disorders include cultural and social triggers, as well as genetic predispositions

What is a Substance Use Disorder?

“Addiction” is a complex term to grasp — essentially, it is a brain disease which transpires due to compulsive engagement in a seemingly rewarding stimuli. It is a patient’s “loss of control” over a behaviour, despite any adverse consequences they might face. Substance (chemical) dependence and abuse are common manifestations of addiction, and the condition creates powerful urges to recreate the mental “highs” felt from being under the influence of certain drugs, or manage uncomfortable experiences.

In spite of the negative consequences, people with addictions may go out of their way to feed their habit by engaging in risky behaviour that threatens to damage their personal and professional relationships. It’s important to remember that some chemical and behavioural addictions for some patients can be viewed as a disease that is impulsive, progressive, potentially fatal but above all, treatable.