How To Diagnose Substance Use Disorders

How To Diagnose Substance Use Disorders

There are five known substance use disorders. These are because of 10 different known classes of drugs. These classes include alcohol; caffeine; cannabis; hallucinogens; inhalants; opioids; sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics; stimulants; tobacco; and unknown substances.

One of the biggest reasons behind drug use is how drugs can change the brains reward system. The reward given in the brain for drug use can be so strong and pleasure-inducing it can turn people away from other parts of their lives. This is so that they can keep taking the drugs.

The activation of the reward system happens across most of the drugs listed. This gives what is called a “high” or an intense burst of euphoric or good feelings that can become addictive.

Some people are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders. These include people who have low self-esteem or may struggle from mental disorders. If you have a family member with a substance abuse problem, you are also more likely to end up with a similar addiction.

There are two disorders for substance abuse known as substance-use disorders and substance-induced disorders.

Substance-use disorders are symptoms that repeat and end happen because of the use of a substance regardless of any problems or adverse consequences associated with them or their use. Substance-induced disorders include intoxication, withdrawal, and other substance/medication-induced mental diseases. They usually go hand in hand with substance-use disorders and are co-occurring.


The Criteria For Substance Use Disorders

There are 11 separate criteria to diagnose a substance use disorder.

  1. Using the substance in larger amounts and for longer times than it is meant for.
  2. You want to stop using the substance, but you can’t seem to stop.
  3. Using most of your time to get the drug and use the drug.
  4. Having cravings to use the substance.
  5. Lagging in school or work because of substance abuse.
  6. Using even if it causes relationship problems.
  7. Giving up important events or activities to keep using the drug.
  8. Continuing to use again and again even if it is dangerous.
  9. Growing tolerant of the substance and needing more over time.
  10. Having symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop.

To classify how strong the problem is you count how many of the criteria fit your problem. Having two or three of these criteria is a mild disorder while four or five can mean a moderate disorder. If you have six or more, you are at a dangerous level of substance abuse.



Substance abuse intoxication is usually called being high. Some of the disorders that can cause this include:

–    Acid intoxication (other hallucinogen intoxication or “acid trip”)

–    Cocaine intoxication

–    Heroin intoxication (opioids)

–    Marijuana intoxication

–    Methamphetamine intoxication (stimulants)

–    Substance intoxication delirium

It is also possible for mental problems to start with people who are addicted who didn’t seem to have them before. They can be substance-induced and eventually spiral out of control.