Substance use disorders are now classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on the number of diagnostic criteria met. These criteria include impaired control, risky behavior, pharmacological criteria and social impairment.

Types of Substance Abuse

There are a number of substances that can be abused under the substance use disorder definition:


Alcohol Use Disorder

People may be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) if they exhibit any of the following:

  • Problems controlling amount of alcohol consumed
  • Developing tolerance to alcohol (needing more of the substance to get the same effects)
  • Continued drinking despite professional, personal or social problems linked to the drinking habit
  • Drinking that leads to potentially risky situations (risky sexual behavior, driving under the influence, etc.)
  • Withdrawal symptoms if alcohol use is suddenly stopped

Cannabis Use Disorder

Marijuana abuse, also known as cannabis use disorder, may affect as many as 4.2 million people over the age of 12 in the U.S. Common symptoms of cannabis use disorder might include:

  • Developing tolerance to marijuana
  • Interruptions in daily functioning due to cannabis use
  • Strong cravings for the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the drug is suddenly stopped

Opiate Use Disorder

Opiates are drugs used to relieve pain. Addictions can occur both to prescription opiates like oxycodone and hydrocodone and opiates sold on the street, such as heroin. Signs of an opiate use disorder might include:

  • Inability to control opiate use or reduce amount used
  • Developing tolerance to the substance
  • Opiate use interferes with daily functioning
  • More time is spent trying to get, use and recover from opiates
  • Strong desire (craving) for the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the substance is suddenly stopped

Stimulant Use Disorder

Stimulants increase energy and mental focus, but they can also be addictive and dangerous when they are used improperly. Prescription stimulants like Adderall can be abused just as easily as street stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Symptoms of a stimulant use disorder might include:

  • Inability to control use of the substance
  • Continued use despite personal or professional problems caused by the substance
  • Developing tolerance to the substance and using larger amounts over time
  • Spending more time getting, using and recovering from stimulant use
  • Intense desire (craving) for the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms if the substance is suddenly stopped

Hallucinogen Use Disorder

Hallucinogens like LSD are substances that produce an altered sense of perception or reality. SAMHSA estimates that in 2013, approximately 280,000 Americans struggled with a hallucinogen use disorder. Signs of the disorder might include:

  • Inability to control the amount of the substance used
  • Continued use despite the fact the substance is causing personal or professional problems
  • Developing tolerance, which means needing more of the substance over time
  • Use of hallucinogens in risky situations like driving or operating machinery
  • Intense cravings for the substance
  • Spending more time getting, using and recovery from hallucinogens

Treatment for Substance Abuse

Treatment for substance use disorder will depend on the specific type of substance used and the severity of the addiction. Fortunately, there are many options in substance abuse treatment today, from support groups and outpatient therapy to residential treatment programs that allow you to focus fully on recovering your disorder.

To learn more about the different types of treatment available or to determine which type of treatment is best for you, contact Treatment Now .

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