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Addiction and Substance Dependence


Substance Use Disorders AKA Drug Addiction


Mental health providers may describe drug problems as Substance Use Disorders. Most of use potentially addictive substances, be it caffeine, alcohol . . . or others, without it becoming a problem. With Substance Use Disorders, the continued use of the substance is resulting in clear negative impacts on how the person feels, functions and or their relationships. Addiction is commonly summarized as “continued use despite adverse consequences.”

There are two different ways of thinking of addiction. Some see it as the drug or problematic behavior having hijacked the person’s brain chemistry. Others see addiction as the result of the person attempting to “self-medicate” symptoms of some untreated mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD or another anxiety disorder, and this is often the case.

However one thinks about it, it is clear that the stakes for those with problematic substance use, which are high, are exceptionally so for Blacks. Though national survey data suggest that the use and selling of illegal substances is similar in Blacks and whites, when it comes to incarceration for the use and selling of illegal substances, Blacks are grossly overrepresented.

And don’t let the news coverage fool you, though there is wide coverage about the “opiate epidemic” in whites, recent data shows that black men are dying from cocaine at the same rate that white men are dying from opiates. It’s also worth noting that marijuana, though often seen as benign, does cause problems in a minority of people who use it. Those who start using marijuana, or any substance, before 18, are at particularly high risk.