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.