What is the difference between substance use disorder and addiction?
They are the same. Substance use disorder was adopted to recognise the condition as a mental health disorder and ditch labels such as abuse and dependency. In the past, substance abuse was viewed as a mild form of addiction, and substance dependency was a moderate to severe addiction.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction – substance use disorder – as:
“a relapsing, chronic disorder characterised by compulsive drug (and alcohol) seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances.”
Substance use disorder relates to the effect of drugs and alcohol on the form and function of the brain, not on people’s life choices and behaviour.
What factors cause substance use disorder?
Substance use disorder is a complex medical condition influenced by genetics, environmental factors and past experiences. Genetics Genetics refers to physical and mental traits that are passed from parents to children at birth. It’s a misconception that people are born with an addiction gene, but research shows that addictions are moderate to highly heritable (transmissible from parent to offspring). Addiction scientists estimate that genetics account for between 40 to 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to developing an addiction.
These stats mean if one or more of your parents have struggled with an addiction, the risk of developing an addiction yourself is higher than someone who has no direct family link to the disorder.
A person’s environment plays a significant role in how substance use disorder develops. Environmental factors are activities, places and people you are exposed to from childhood to adulthood.
Environmental factors that have the most considerable influence include growing up in a low-income community, peer pressure, absent father, poor discipline and structure in the home, parents or relatives abusing substances or being involved in criminal activity, and early exposure to alcohol or drugs.
Childhood experiences shape your physical and mental wellbeing. Early exposure to trauma, violence and stress can have a long-term adverse effect on your mental wellbeing, affecting your behavioural and emotional development in adulthood.