About Substance Use Disorders

The University of Michigan’s 2014’s Monitoring the Future survey of drug use and attitudes among American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders shows an encouraging trend in youth substance use. Use of alcohol, cigarettes, prescription pain relievers, inhalants, synthetic drugs (including K2/Spice and bath salts) is decreasing; use of marijuana has neither increased nor decreased; and the use of illicit drugs has generally declined over the last two decades.

Despite these promising statistics, as long as students have access to mood altering substances, the potential for using and abusing them exists. And often, students who are struggling with symptoms of depressive illnesses will “self-medicate” with substances, in an attempt to relieve their symptoms.

Any of the following behaviors can signal an alcohol or other substance use problem:

  • Using drugs or drinking frequently to the point of intoxication, impaired function or blackouts
  • Engaging in binge drinking, which for average adults is defined as consuming five+ drinks (for men) or four+ drinks (for women) in a short period of time
  • Using drugs or alcohol to the point of interference with functioning at home or school
  • Using drugs or alcohol despite dangerous or lasting consequences (such as driving while intoxicated or arrest)
  • Preoccupation with obtaining or using alcohol or drugs
  • Giving up other activities because they might interfere with the ability to drink or use drugs
  • Experiencing a sense of shame or guilt, or a feeling of being flawed or damaged
  • Ignoring longtime friends to hang out with a different crowd

In addition, many of the symptoms of mental illness listed here may also point to a developing substance use problem.