Substance Use Disorder Types


Alcohol can affect people in different ways, but excessive drinking puts a person at risk for serious health problems, including brain and liver damage, heart disease, and hypertension. If you are a man, you may be at risk if you have more than 4 drinks at one time or more than 14 drinks in a week. Women who have more than 3 drinks at once or more than 7 drinks in a week are at risk, and any amount of alcohol is harmful if you are pregnant.

Illicit drugs

Illicit Drugs include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, or other “street” drugs. People often use these recreationally or in an effort to feel better, but they can be dangerous and can lead to dependence or addiction.


Nicotine is an addictive substance that makes it difficult to quit using tobacco, which can be smoked, chewed, or sniffed. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, e-vaporizing) are devices that deliver nicotine with flavorings and other potentially harmful chemicals in a vapor instead of smoke. Very little is known about the health risks of using these devices. The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults. In addition to making it more likely that a young person will smoke in the future, nicotine can harm adolescent brain development.


Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the cannabis plant. It is the most commonly used addictive drug after tobacco and alcohol with rates of use increasing among middle and high school students. The increasing popularity of vaping devices has led to the growing practice of vaping THC, the chemical from the cannabis plant that produces the so-called “high".

Prescription drug abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse is a serious and growing public health concern in the United States. Misusing or intentionally abusing medications prescribed by a doctor is dangerous and can lead to addiction, various health problems, and even overdose or death. Medications such as prescription opioids for pain, benzodiazepines for anxiety, or stimulant medication for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are some of the most commonly abused prescription medications. 

It is extremely important to take medication exactly as prescribed. One of the leading causes of prescription drug abuse is when family or friends in a household use medications that are prescribed to someone else in the home. Always monitor the medications in your home, including any over-the-counter drugs. Lock up medications when necessary to ensure no one else in your home can access them.

Getting the right diagnosis

Is substance use disorder the root cause — or are substances being used to mask something else?

The causes of substance use disorder are often complex. Traumatic experiences or undiagnosed psychiatric conditions may lead people to seek out both legal and illegal ways to self-medicate. Substance use disorders also can be part of or exist alongside other mental health conditions. For this reason, careful assessment and accurate diagnosis is important.

If you have tried many methods of treating your substance use disorder and feel like nothing is working – or if there is uncertainty about your diagnosis, consider speaking to your provider about re-evaluating your diagnosis or treatment plan. It may also be helpful to get a second opinion or seek additional assessment.

Substance use disorder treatment options

Substance use disorder treatment options

Learn more about recommended treatment options for substance use disorder.

Learn more about recommended treatment options for substance use disorder.