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Types of Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorder can have drastic negative effects on a person’s life, but treatment options are available.

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What Is a Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

A substance use disorder (SUD) is characterized by continued abuse or misuse of drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences. Different types of substance use disorders can have varying symptoms depending on the drug and the severity of the addiction. Someone with a substance use disorder will likely find it difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol on their own. This is why it is important to seek proper substance use disorder treatment to get the needed help to recover.

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders

Substance Use Disorder vs. Substance Abuse

The terms substance use disorder and substance abuse can often go hand in hand since substance abuse can cause someone to develop a substance use disorder. The main difference is that substance abuse refers to taking a large dose of a substance to get high, whereas substance use disorder refers to frequent long-term abuse of a substance.

Substance Use Disorder vs. Addiction

Substance use disorder and addiction are commonly used interchangeably—the difference between the two terms is that substance use disorder is the medical term for addiction. This means that someone addicted to a substance would be diagnosed with the term substance use disorder.

Types of Substance Use Disorders

Different types of substance addictions can cause someone to develop a substance use disorder. Depending on the type of substance being abused and the severity of the addiction, substance misuse disorders can range in severity, and the symptoms can vary.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Although someone can’t develop a physical dependence on cannabis, it is still possible to develop a cannabis use disorder. Cannabis can still be psychologically addictive, meaning a person can become addicted to the feeling of being high on the drug. This means that someone with a substance abuse diagnosis from cannabis use will exhibit more psychological symptoms than physical symptoms within the substance abuse disorder criteria.

Phencyclidine Use Disorder

Phencyclidine use disorder occurs when someone regularly abuses phencyclidine (PCP) or other similar substances, such as ketamine. Phencyclidine drugs are hallucinogens that can drastically affect someone’s mental health and well-being. Those with substance misuse disorders involving PCP will tend to have serious side effects and symptoms that require proper treatment and support to recover from addiction. 1

Inhalant Use Disorder

The substance abuse disorder criteria state that inhalant use disorder is a continuous pattern of use of hydrocarbon-based inhalant substances. Someone with inhalant use disorder may exhibit signs of paranoia, erratic behavior, and confusion, leading to serious negative actions and consequences. This is why someone struggling with a substance misuse disorder with inhalants must get the proper help and support needed to recover. 2

Opioid Use Disorder

Opioid use disorder has become one of the more common types of substance addictions and one of the most dangerous. With over ten million reports of opioid misuse in 2019 and thousands of deaths each year from opioid overdose, our society is currently facing an opioid epidemic. 3

Someone who has a substance abuse diagnosis involving opioids may experience many serious consequences and symptoms resulting from addiction. This makes it important that proper treatment and support are provided to anyone with an opioid substance misuse disorder.

Stimulant Use Disorder

Stimulant use disorder is also one of the more common types of substance addiction. This is due to the addictive properties of commonly used stimulant drugs, such as Adderall. Stimulants can either be prescription or recreational (e.g., cocaine or methamphetamine). Stimulant substance use disorders come with many risks, making it important for those with addiction to seek proper treatment.

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorders

While different types of substance addictions can affect individuals in various ways, there are some common symptoms of substance use disorder to look for.

  • Secretive or Suspicious Behavior: Someone experiencing symptoms of SUD may display secretive or suspicious behavior. Oftentimes, those who struggle with addiction will try to cover up their problem.
  • Personality or Attitude Changes: Severe substance use disorder can lead to personality or attitude changes. These changes can come from mental health issues that develop due to substance abuse.
  • Mood Swings or Irritability: Someone who meets the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder may also display mood swings or irritability, whichis often caused by a drug’s side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
  • Lack of Motivation: Severe substance use disorder can cause a lack of motivation. Those struggling may begin to have problems at work or school or may begin to stop partaking in activities they once enjoyed.
  • Bloodshot Eyes or Small Pupils: Symptoms of substance abuse can often be seen in the eyes. Someone frequently using drugs will usually have bloodshot eyes or small pupils that look like pinpoints.
  • Tremors, Slurred Speech, or Impaired Coordination: When struggling with substance abuse, experiencing tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination is common. These symptoms can occur while high on the substance or as withdrawal symptoms.

Risk Factors for Substance Use Disorders

SUD can come with many risk factors that can negatively impact someone’s life. Common substance use disorder risks include:

  • Genetics
  • Starting substance use at an early age
  • Exposure to heavy advertising of substances (like alcohol)
  • A current mental health diagnosis
  • A history of abuse or neglect

How Are SUDs Diagnosed?

Substance use disorders can be diagnosed by a doctor or drug treatment professional. Most medical professionals will use the DSM-5 criteria to diagnose SUD, which is based on decades of research into substance abuse and addiction indicators.

The DSM-5 consists of 11 criteria. Someone who meets two or three of the criteria is said to have a mild substance use disorder; meeting four or five symptoms listed in the criteria indicates moderate SUD; meeting six or more symptoms indicates severe SUD. Going to a doctor or contacting a treatment center is a good first step to recovering from addiction.

Substance Use Disorder Treatments at Great Oaks Recovery Center

For anyone with a substance use disorder, Great Oaks Recovery Center is here to help. Great Oaks provides evidence-based addiction treatment that helps clients get the best possible results. The educated treatment professionals at Great Oaks are there to support each client every step of the way as they work through a personalized recovery plan.

Behavioral Therapies

When someone struggles with addiction, therapy is an important part of the recovery process. Behavioral therapy can help those with addiction learn about how their thoughts influence their behavior and work on coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses of life without using drugs or alcohol.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most common behavioral therapies used in addiction treatment. CBT involves talking to a therapist and learning how thoughts influence behavioral patterns. Over time, clients will learn how to manage their behaviors independently through coping mechanisms that will help maintain sobriety long-term.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

One of the main principles of DBT is mindfulness practices. DBT is used to help clients learn how to live in the moment and help promote positive behavioral patterns for those with substance use disorder.

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT)

ACT is a form of community-based treatment that helps those who struggle to live in a community or attend therapy or medical appointments on their own. ACT creates a community environment more than other types of residential treatment, helping clients feel comfortable and at home while going through a treatment program. 4

Therapeutic Communities (TC)

Therapeutic communities are similar to assertive community treatments, where the goal is to create a sense of community within a residential treatment environment. Therapeutic communities offer group therapy and other community-based treatment options that help give clients a sense of belonging and community during the treatment program.


Medication-assisted treatment may also be used during the addiction treatment program to help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Medications used during treatment are scientifically studied and proven to yield positive results in creating successful recovery from addiction.



Questions About Treatment?

Our knowledgeable team is ready to discuss your situation and options. Your call is confidential with no obligation required.