Does Your Teen Have a Substance Use Disorder?

substance use disorder treatment

You’ve likely heard of addiction. You may have even heard the term ‘substance dependence’ or ‘substance abuse.’ But what, exactly, is a substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder is a term used by professionals across the United States to diagnose substance addiction and clinically significant substance abuse. The term was officially introduced in 2013, when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) replaced the categories of substance abuse and substance dependence with this one, single category: substance use disorder.

Every instance of substance abuse is different. Every addicted individual has a different story, a different background, a different substance of choice. One person may have a full-blown addiction to heroin while another may be taking their prescription painkillers months longer than the doctor suggested. Traditionally, the first situation would have been classified as “substance dependence” and the latter as “substance abuse.” In the past, drug abuse was treated as a completely separate entity than substance addiction. Overtime, however, science determined this can no longer be the case. We now use the term ‘substance use disorder’ so that both addicted and non-addicted users suffering from chronic substance abuse get the attention that they deserve.

Substance use disorders are caused by the repetitive use of drugs and/or alcohol, which in turn leads to medical and functional impairment or distress in a user (for example, health problems or failure to take on responsibilities at work, school, or home). According to the DSM, substance use disorders can be classified as either mild, moderate, or severe. Their level of severity is determined by the number of symptoms and diagnostic criteria met by an affected individual. The DSM categorizes the symptoms of a substance use disorder into four main groupings: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

Do you believe your teen has developed a substance use disorder? If he or she is exhibiting any two or more of the following symptoms, his or her condition may be severe. It is important to seek professional drug treatment as soon as possible if you notice:

  1. Increased dosages. He or she is now taking the substance in larger amounts, or over a longer period than originally intended.
  2. Failed attempts to quit. He or she has a persistent desire to stop taking the drug, and has made efforts to cut down or control their drug use, but has been unsuccessful in those attempts.
  3. Lost time. Your teen no longer spends their time on healthy, proactive activities. His time now is dedicated to obtaining the substance, using the substance, or recovering from substance use.
  4. Lost priorities. His or her recurrent use of the substance is making him unable to fulfill their obligations at work, school, or home.
  5. Lost relationships. Your teen’s drug use is taking over his or her relationships. You notice he  or she is losing friends or losing interest in spending time with the people that once mattered most. He or she is experiencing social problems as a result of their substance abuse, and spends much time alone.
  6. Compulsive cravings. Substance use disorders change the chemical structure of our brain, giving users uncontrollable urges to use drugs or drink alcohol.
  7. Increased danger. His or her drug use is putting him in dangerous or physically hazardous situations, but continues despite the consequences.
  8. Distressed health. His or her substance use is taking a toll on their body and brain. He or she has developed a recurrent physical or physiological problem as a result of his recurrent substance abuse.
  9. High tolerance. According the National Institute on Drug Abuse, tolerance is defined as:
    • A need for increased amounts of a substance to achieve the desired affect (intoxication).
    • A diminished effect with the continued use of a substance
  10. Withdrawal. Your teen is experiencing severe or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, leading him to feel ill, tired, and in constant physical pain. The only way he or she can alleviate these withdrawal symptoms is to take the substance again.

Repeated, regular substance abuse, motivated by pleasure, stress, fear, or pressure, can be classified as a substance use disorder. When a person cannot control impulses to use drugs, despite any negative consequences, it is a substance use disorder. When a user experiences behavioral changes due to drug abuse, that can infer a substance use disorder. These are the same defining characteristics of addiction. The above substance use disorder criteria directly correspond with the disease of addiction.

Your teen may be at risk of a substance use disorder. As a parent, it is crucial to take the right steps to finding him professional help. If your son is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call Turnbridge today at 877-581-1793. Our substance use disorder treatment program for young men can put your teen on the path to long-term sobriety and success.