Alcohol & Substance Problems

Substance abuse is a serious problem among Americans. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 79,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States. This begs the questions: What exactly is substance abuse and how can it be recognized? Often times, people confuse substance abuse and substance dependence. Instead of viewing them as different concepts, it’s much more accurate to perceive them as two points on the same continuum with substance dependence being more severe. Both substance abuse and substance dependence include:

- Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major life obligations (school, work, family, etc)
- Recurrent substance use despite legal problems
- Recurrent substance use despite having persistent problems and despite having knowledge of the harmful effects of the substance

However, substance dependence is more severe and includes additional criteria:

- Tolerance (a need for more of the substance or drug to reach intoxication)
- Withdrawal (person experiences mental or physical symptoms after prolonged discontinuation of the drug)
- Consistent unsuccessful attempts to cut down use of the substance

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