Substance use disorder, also known as drug abuse or addiction, may also lead to other public health problems like:.

  • Violence
  • Potential for child abuse and neglect
  • Familial stress
  • Drunk and impaired driving

Sharing or reusing needles for intravenous drug use may increase the risk of contracting and transmitting infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. People with substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviours. Repeated substance use may cause changes in how the brain functions. These brain changes may last long after the immediate effects of the substance have worn off. Changes in the brain’s structure and function may result in people having intense cravings, abnormal movements, changes in personality and other behaviours. Brain imaging studies help show brain changes relating to judgement, memory, decision making, learning, and behavioural control.
The most common substances that are most abused include:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Methamphetamine
  • Inhalants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Prescription medicines such as stimulants, pain pills, or anxiety pills

Substance use disorders may be caused by cultural and societal factors. Public laws determine the type of drug that is legal or illegal for use. Genetic vulnerability, social pressures, environmental stressors, psychiatric problems and individual personality characteristics may cause substance abuse. However, how much of an influence these factors has depends on each individual.

How is substance use disorder treated?

Depending on your age, the extent of the symptoms, type of substance abused, and tolerance for specific medicines, procedures or therapies. Dr Matshaya may recommend treatment programs which include detoxification, long-term follow-up management or recovery-oriented systems of care. Long-term follow-up management includes formalized group meetings, psychosocial support systems and continued medical supervision. Family and individual psychotherapy may also be recommended.


1How is substance use disorder diagnosed?
Substance abuse may be diagnosed by a family doctor, psychiatrist, qualified mental health professional and a drug counsellor.
2What are the symptoms of substance use disorders?
Substance use disorder symptoms or behaviour includes:
  • The urge to use the drug or alcohol on a regular basis.
  • Spending more money on the drug, even though you can't afford it.
  • Giving up or reducing activities due to drug or alcohol use.
  • Taking risks such as sexual risks or driving under the influence.
  • Continually using drugs or alcohol even though it is causing or adding to physical or psychological problems.
  • Having withdrawal symptoms if not using drugs or alcohol.
3Can substance use disorder be prevented?
Yes, the best way to prevent substance use disorder is to prevent substance use in the first place.

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A psychiatrist is a qualified doctor that specialises in the medical treatment of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders. Psychiatrists can assess both mental and physical aspects of psychological conditions and are able to prescribe appropriate medication.