What Are Substance Use Disorders?

Substance Use Disorder is defined as excessive drug or alcohol con­sumption that affects a person's mental and physical health or their ability to meet their obligations at work, school, or home.  Substance abuse disorders include both the use of illegal substances or the misuse of legal substances like alcohol, nicotine, or prescription drugs.


The most common types of substances that are abused include one or more of the following: 

Please note this list does not, and could never, include every type of substance that can be abused, but we will do our best to keep this list up to date. 

  • Alcohol: According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Alcohol is the most common type of substance use disorder in the United States. More people over the age of 12 in the United States have used alcohol in the past year than any other drug or tobacco product. 

  • Opioids: According to the NIAA, Opioids are a type of drug that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.   

  • Stimulants: Similar to Opioids, illegal and legal stimulants are abused. According to Yale Medicine, the most well-known stimulants are Cocaine (an illegal drug made from the coca plant that’s often snorted or smoked.), Methamphetamine (an illegal and particularly potent amphetamine drug), Prescription stimulants (such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Concerta, which are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and MDMA (an illegal drug commonly known as ecstasy or Molly, which has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties.)

  • Hallucinogens: According to the NIAA, Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be made by humans. People have used hallucinogens for centuries, primarily for religious rituals.  

  • Cannabis: According to NIAA, Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. Marijuana is the most commonly used addictive drug after tobacco and alcohol.

  • Tobacco: According to NIAA, Tobacco is a plant grown for its leaves, dried, and fermented before being put in tobacco products. Tobacco contains nicotine, an ingredient that can lead to addiction, which is why so many people who use tobacco find it difficult to quit. Although nicotine is addictive, most of the severe health effects of tobacco use come from other chemicals. People can smoke, chew, or sniff tobacco. Smoked tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, bidis, and kreteks. Some people smoke loose tobacco in a pipe or hookah (water pipe). Chewed tobacco products include chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, and snus; snuff can also be sniffed. Tobacco smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It increases the risk of heart disease, leading to stroke or heart attack. Smoking has also been linked to other cancers, leukemia, cataracts, Type 2 Diabetes, and pneumonia. All of these risks apply to any smoked product, including hookah tobacco. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer, especially mouth cancers.

Source: NIAA, Yale Medicine

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