Substance Abuse Disorder

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. Substance abuse disorders (SUDs) cause and contribute to the deaths of millions of people each year by worsening psychiatric symptoms, such as depression, and medical conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, while also aiding in the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. SUDs are also linked to crime and disability.

Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit substance, with upwards of 177 million regular users worldwide. Adverse effects of cannabis use on brain function and mental health have been clearly demonstrated.

Cocaine and amphetamine-type drugs are the second most widely used illegal drugs, with about 75 million estimated global users. A number of serious medical complications are associated with cocaine use, including disturbances in heart rhythm, myocardial infarction, and neurological impairments. Amphetamines may have a variety of neurotoxic, cardiotoxic and adverse neuropsychological effects as well.1

Drug abuser

Substance use disorders are associated with psychopathy, a personality disorder that is seen in both adults and youth. It is characterized by such traits as superficial charm, pathologic egocentricity, untruthfulness and insincerity, and a lack of remorse or shame. Although it is typically studied among adult criminal offenders, research has identified developmental precursors in childhood and adolescence. Trauma and abuse provide the necessary conditions for the development of secondary psychopathy as seen in incarcerated adult and juveniles who show high rates of child abuse history.2

Substance use disorders are reported to co-occur with a variety of other disorders, with mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) being the most frequently reported. A combination of ADHD and SUD results in an even higher risk than other disorders. Moreover, SUD patients with ADHD are reported to have worse treatment outcomes for both SUD and ADHD.3

As many as 96% of individuals with lifetime gambling disorder also meet criteria for at least one other lifetime psychiatric disorder. Alcohol and drug abusers are also more common among treatment-seeking gamblers than in the general population, with as many as 41% meeting criteria for lifetime alcohol usage disorder and 21% meeting criteria for nonalcohol SUDs including nicotine dependence.4


  1. A review of pharmacogenetic studies of substance-related disorders. Jermaine D. Jones1, and Sandra D. Comer. Drug Alcohol Depend. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Jul 1
  2. Substance Related Disorders among Juvenile Offenders: What Role Do Psychopathic Traits Play? Eva R. Kimonis, Joseph R. Tatar, II, and Elizabeth Cauffman. Psychol Addict Behav. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 Jun 1
  3. Psychiatric comorbidity in treatment-seeking substance use disorder patients with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: results of the IASP study. Katelijne van Emmerik-van Oortmerssen et al. Addiction. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Jul 28.
  4. A review of gambling disorder and substance use disorders. Carla J Rash,1 Jeremiah Weinstock,2 and Ryan Van Patten2. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2016; 7: 3–13.



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