Substance Use Disorder

Substance abuse refers to the harmful use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and drugs. Substance use can lead to addiction and dependence, creating a condition in which the body requires a drug in order to function without physical and psychological reactions to its absence. Persistent and repeated substance use typically leads to a strong desire to take the drug, difficulty in controlling its use, and persisting in its use despite harmful consequences.

People can experience addiction to substances, as well has behaviors such as gambling, sex, or engaging in extreme situations. Addiction can quickly take over a person’s life and can become more important than the need to eat or sleep, replacing things that the person used to enjoy. There is a strong correlation between substance abuse/addiction and mental illness, often referred to as a Dual Diagnosis. More than half of the people with addiction issues also experience mental health issues, as they affect the same parts of the brain.

Treatment approaches vary, and choosing the appropriate type depends on the severity and addiction itself. Treatment can include support groups, harm reduction and safer use, psychotherapy, medication, spiritual and indigenous practices, and holistic approaches.

About a third of all people experiencing mental illnesses and about half of people living with severe mental illnesses also experience substance abuse. About a third of all alcohol abusers and more than half of all drug abusers report experiencing a mental illness

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Related AWI Films

Our winning films are selected by a rotating jury of filmmakers, mental health professionals and students

Save the Queen
View Film Library

100 people die every day from drug overdoses. This rate has tripled in the past 20 years

Addiction Center


A person with substance abuse or addiction issues might think things like:

  • “Everything will be better once I’m high.”
  • “I can’t do anything until I do x behavior.”
  • “It doesn’t matter that I blacked out and got hurt last night, or that I got arrested – I just need to get my next fix.”


A person with substance abuse or addiction issues might feel:

  • Hopelessness and emptiness
  • Unworthy of recovery
  • Failure

At least one-third of alcoholics fully recover

Renew Everyday

Additional Resources

National Institute on Drug Abuse Facts and research findings on drug abuse and addiction to improve prevention and treatment and to influence policy. Provides access to a wealth of current information on a range of topics and commonly used substances. Go to site
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) For support and family help, with a network through communities around the U.S. for individuals and families struggling with mental health challenges. Contains articles aimed at helping people find resources, get help, and connect with those in similar situations and includes online discussion groups. Offer a number of ways to get involved including NAMI Walks, awareness events and campus groups. Also offer various support groups for grief and bereavement in different areas of the U.S.  Go to site Provides online mental health and wellness education to spread awareness through advocacy of mental health by providing scientifically accurate and up-to-date coverage of mental health and illness topics. Have a wide variety of editors, contributors and staff that publish blogs, podcasts and articles. Have a comprehensive list of mental illnesses and disorders including specifics around Impulse Control Disorders and mental illness in children. Also have a comprehensive blog for life issues such as divorce, grief, speech problems, etc. Go to site
To Write Love on Her Arms A movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, and suicidal thoughts. TWLOHA offers frequent blog posts that encourage hope through personal stories and host national campaigns and events. Also have a comprehensive resource section providing information on services in the US, Canada, Australia and UK. Go to site
Addiction Center - Drug Rehab Addiction Centre is a professional web guide that connects individuals with addiction treatment options. Their goal is to provide families and communities with helpful information on substance abuse, addiction and recovery options. They offer a wide range of answers to common questions related to addiction and rehabilitation of substance abuse. Go to site
Start Your Recovery Reliable substance abuse information and support. Go to site
Addiction Resource Addiction Resource was founded in 2014 to provide a community for those recovering from addiction and to help patients find the highest quality care for a successful recovery.  They provide free resources to help people better understand their addiction and motivate them to make the first step in seeking support. They offer a free and confidential drug hotline and include ways of finding your nearest treatment facility. Go to site

Related Blog Posts

Back to All Issues