Like most other mental health problems, drug use disorders have no single cause and are not the result of a lack of discipline or self-control. There are a number of biological, psychological, and social factors, known as risk factors, which can increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing a chemical use disorder. The frequency with which substance use disorders occur within some families seems to be higher than could be explained by an addictive environment of the family. Therefore, most substance use professionals recognize a genetic aspect to the risk of drug addiction.
Psychological associations with substance abuse or addiction include mood disorders like early aggressive behaviours, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, thought disorders like schizophrenia, as well as personality disorders like antisocial personality disorder. Social risk factors for drug abuse and addiction include male gender, being between the ages of 18 and 44 Native-American heritage, unmarried marital status, and lower socioeconomic status. According to statistics by state, people residing in the West tend to be at a somewhat higher risk for chemical dependency. While men are more at risk for developing a chemical dependency like alcoholism, women seem to be more vulnerable to becoming addicted to alcohol at much lower amounts of alcohol consumption compared to men.
Adults exposed to negative events as children are at higher risk of developing drug use disorders. In addition to poverty, examples of such negative events include lack of parental supervision, the presence of parental substance abuse, witnessing domestic violence, or being the victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse.
What are warning signs that you or a loved one may have a drug use disorder?
While specific symptoms that are used to diagnose drug use disorders are described below, warning signs that you or a loved one suffer from a drug-related problem include the following:
- Having blackouts or loss of memory
- Mood problems like irritability, sadness, or mood swings
- Repeated arguments with loved ones
- Repeatedly using drugs to cope with problems
- Physical symptoms when abstaining from drug use
- Physical problems due to drug use
- Repeatedly using more drugs or using drugs for longer than intended
- Spending less time on life obligations due to drug use
- Needing more drug to get high than one used to
What are symptoms and signs of drug use disorder?
According to the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the diagnostic reference that is written and endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, in order to be diagnosed with substance-related use disorder, a person must exhibit a maladaptive pattern of drug use that leads to significant problems or stress, as manifested by at least two of the following signs or symptoms in the same one-year period:
- Recurrent substance use that prevents the sufferer from meeting significant responsibilities at work, school, or home
- Recurrent drug use despite significant resulting drug-related problems in the person’s life (for example, in situations that may be physically dangerous, cause recurrent legal problems as a result of drug use; repeated social or relationship problems as a result of or worsened by the drug’s effects)
- Recurrent legal problems as a result of drug use
- Continued drug use in spite of continued or repeated social or relationship problems as a result of, or worsened by the drug’s effects
- Tolerance, which is either a markedly decreased effect of the drug or a need to significantly increase the amount of the substance used in order to experience the same high or other desired effects
- Withdrawal, which is defined as either physical or psychological signs or symptoms consistent with withdrawal from a specific drug, or taking that drug or one chemically close to that drug in order to avoid developing symptoms of withdrawal
- Larger amounts of the drug are taken or for longer than intended.
- The person has a persistent urge to take the drug or has unsuccessfully tried to decrease or control the drug use
- A person spends excessive amounts of time either getting, using, or recovering from the effects of the drug
- Cravings/strong urges to use the substance.
- The person significantly lessens or stops engaging in important social, recreational, work, or school activities because of the substance use
- The person engages in negative decision-making, in that he or she continues to use the drug despite knowing that he or she suffers from ongoing or recurring physical or psychological problems caused or worsened by the use of the drug.
Credited to: WebMD