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What is substance use disorder?

Substance use disorder is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain's structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting, and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.


If the answer to some or all of these questions is "yes," you might be struggling with a substance use disorder. People from all backgrounds can develop a substance use disorder. Don't wait for your symptoms to worsen before you seek treatment; addiction tends to become more sever the longer it is left untreated.

(Addiction Policy Forum)


Drug treatment is intended to help addicted individuals stop compulsive drug seeking and use. Treatment can occur in a variety of settings, take many different forms and last for different lengths of time. Because drug addiction is typically a chronic disorder characterized by occasional relapses, a short-term, one-time treatment is usually not sufficient. For many, treatment is a long-term process that involves multiple interventions and regular monitoring.

Treatment for drug abuse and addiction is delivered in many different settings using a variety of behavioral and pharmacological approaches. It is voluntary and does not take place in locked units.

(National Institute on Drug Abuse)