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Substance-Use Disorders

What are substance-use disorders?

Substance-use disorders are diagnosed when someone abuses a drug or becomes dependent upon a drug. (Note: more information on abuse and addiction is provided below.)

Drug abuse is alarmingly common among college students, even though the dangers of drug use are well known.

People with mental health disorders are at greater risk for substance-use disorders, and the effects of drugs can be more damaging among people with mental health disorders.

Below are common symptoms of substance abuse and dependence:

  • Substance Abuse:
    • Drug use that interferes with obligations at school, home, or work (e.g., absences from class or work, poor grades, academic probation)
    • Being under the influence of a drug in situations where it may be dangerous (e.g., driving, operating machinery)
    • Legal problems as a result of drug use (e.g., arrests for possession or disorderly conduct)
    • Drug use that leads to or exacerbates arguments or fights with friends, housemates, co-workers
  • Substance Dependence:
    • Increased tolerance: needing increased amounts of the drug to get high
    • Withdrawal symptoms* when cutting down on the drug (e.g., shakiness, nausea or vomiting, sweating, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, irritability)
    • Using the drug to avoid having withdrawal symptoms
    • Using the drug in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than originally planned
    • Difficulty cutting back on drug use
    • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using or recovering from the effects of the drug
    • Spending less time on school work or recreational activities (e.g., sports) because of drug use
    • Using the drug despite knowing that it causes or makes a physical or mental health problem worse

*Note: If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms in early sobriety or cessation of use, it is important to talk directly to a medical professional as some of these symptoms could be life threatening.

Want to learn more about substance-use disorders?

Try the following resources:

Are you concerned that you might have a substance-use disorder?

Treatment for substance-use problems is available at the University of Michigan Addiction Treatment Services (UMATS)

See our resource database for a list books, websites, and local options for seeking professional evaluations and treatment.

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