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Substance Abuse
6 minutes

Different Types of Substance Abuse Disorders and How To Get Help With a Substance Abuse Disorder

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: July 5, 2022
Glass of alcohol

Updated on

2 Jul, 2022

People often use substances to relax, unwind, or otherwise enjoy themselves, and this presents a danger when hazardous and illegal substances are used. But more and more people every day are developing a substance abuse disorder with any number of legal substances as well.

While not always obvious, there are some things that can help you identify when someone you know or love might be dealing with different types of substance abuse disorders.

What Are the Different Types of Substance Abuse Disorders?

There are many types of substance abuse in the United States, ranging from the well-known illegal substances we all learn about in school, to many commonly abused substances sold in regular stores.
Some of the most common substances that lead to addiction include:

  • Alcohol – This is one of the most common of all substance abuse disorders. Despite being legal, it has a high potential for abuse. Alcohol abuse can result in an increased risk of several serious health issues, such as brain damage, liver damage, heart disease, and hypertension. Alcohol use disorder can also lead to serious health issues related to withdrawal and behavior while intoxicated.
  • Tobacco –  Tobacco is a substance whose use goes back thousands of years, and even with all of the known dangers surrounding tobacco use, thousands of people die from tobacco abuse every year. This leafy plant contains nicotine and is the cause of most of the preventable diseases and deaths in the U.S. Using tobacco even raises the risk of cancer and countless other diseases. Nicotine detox can be very uncomfortable, which makes it difficult to stop using tobacco.
  • Opioids – Opioids are one of the most commonly abused legal and illegal substances. Opioids are a class of depressants and pain relievers. It is abused in both illicit forms like heroin, but also its legal form as opiate pharmaceuticals. They include codeine, morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. The physical dependence created by opioids can be incredibly severe and abuse can cause respiratory depression and death.
  • Stimulants – This group of substances includes amphetamines and cocaine. These drugs are commonly abused by those looking for more energy, alertness, or productivity. They can even be misused for dietary prescriptions. Abuse leads to hyperthermia, hostility, mood swings, seizures, psychosis, and heart failure.
  • Hallucinogens – Hallucinogens are substances that alter the perception of reality, and distort the sense of the user. This type of substance includes illegal drugs such as MDMA, PCP, LSD, and DMT, as well as in mushrooms, cacti, and trees in the natural world. Hallucinogen and designer drug side effects include dissociative episodes, unpredictability, and upon withdrawal, depression.
  • Cannabis – Found in many legal medicinal and recreational markets across the country, cannabis is largely becoming as accepted as alcohol and tobacco. Cannabis abuse can lead to loss of motivation and changes in perception and cognition.

Types of Behavior Associated With Substance Abuse

Substance abuse disorders can vary significantly but are made up of not only the use of illegal, illicit, or otherwise controlled substances, but also substance misuse or abuse of legal substances like nicotine, alcohol, and legitimately prescribed pharmaceuticals. The official symptoms of Substance Abuse Disorders as given by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are:

  1. Having a strong urge to use a given substance.
  2. Spending large amounts of time either obtaining, using, or recovering from the use of the substance.
  3. Developing a tolerance for the substance, where increasingly large amounts of the substance are needed to accomplish the same effect.
  4. Stopping or heavily decreasing social, work, or recreational activities due to the substance use.
  5. Using larger amounts over a longer time than intended.
  6. Continuing to use despite it harming interpersonal relationships.
  7. Using the substance in situations where it is risky or even dangerous.
  8. Continuing use even when it threatens work, school, or home-related activities or duties.
  9. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms during periods of extended non-use.
  10. Continuing use of the substance after knowing that it has caused or worsened a physical or psychological condition.
  11. Having a persistent drive to stop using the substance, and trying to reduce or control its use.

While it may seem difficult to evaluate all of those conditions, there are other ways to tell if addiction may be at play.

Some signs of addiction may include:

  • Sudden changes in personality or regular behavior. (which may include agitation, irritability, lack of motivation, or mood swings)
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Frequent bloody noses
  • Tremors, shakes, or other lack of muscular control
  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in long time routines
  • Falling standards of hygiene
  • Loss of previously steady employment
  • Need for money or other financial problems
  • Suddenly having new or different friends, and not maintaining the relationships with their other friends

How to Get Help with Different Types of Substance Abuse

If you or someone you know or love may have an issue with substance abuse, there are likely underlying physical or mental issues that may need to be addressed before any long-term treatment will be effective. The first step to getting help for someone with a substance abuse problem is to have them talk to someone about the issue. This can be a family member, a medical professional, or even a close friend.

Often, simply talking openly and honestly about the substance abuse issue at hand can be the event that convinces them to take action and seek help. This understanding can also pay dividends during treatment since treatment is always more effective if the patient understands and agrees with the need for it.

Different Types of Substance Abuse Treatment

On the path to recovery from substance abuse, there are various treatments for substance use disorder. They cater to the specific needs of individuals struggling with different substances.

Medical Detox

This is the starting phase that focuses on safely eliminating harmful substances from the body. This crucial step effectively addresses withdrawal symptoms and ensures a smooth transition to subsequent treatment.

Inpatient Rehab

People stay at a treatment facility for an extended duration. This immersive approach offers intensive therapy, support, and a controlled environment to address underlying issues.

Outpatient Programs

This option offers the convenience of treatment while you’re at home, allowing you to attend scheduled therapy sessions. It’s ideal for individuals with less severe addictions or as a step-down after inpatient treatment. It provides a flexible and effective approach to treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Getting the right treatment for individuals dealing with both mental health disorders and substance abuse is crucial. This approach acknowledges and tackles both conditions together to support a more comprehensive recovery.

Stages of Care for Substance Abuse Treatment

The path to overcoming substance abuse involves multiple important stages, each playing a unique role in attaining long-term sobriety.

  1. Assessment and Evaluation: This stage involves a comprehensive assessment of physical and mental health, laying the groundwork for a personalized treatment plan.
  2. Detoxification: After ensuring medical supervision, withdrawal symptoms are addressed to create a fresh start for treatment.
  3. Early Recovery (Treatment): During the early phase of recovery, individuals engage in one-on-one and group therapy sessions to dig into the causes of addiction and build coping skills.
  4. Ongoing Treatment: Ongoing treatment includes counseling, managing medications, and joining support groups. These steps help reinforce positive behavior and address any potential triggers.
  5. Aftercare: Getting ready for life after treatment involves creating plans to prevent relapse, reconnecting with your support system, and participating in aftercare programs.

A Path to Lasting Freedom from Addiction

Working with an inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment center like Infinite Recovery can be incredibly helpful in both treating the physical and psychological addiction, as well as helping to determine any possible root cause for abusive tendencies. We can help you work through your substance abuse in a healthy way that facilitates long-term success.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, the time to get help is now. Reach out to us today, and we can answer any questions you may have and help point you in the direction of a more fulfilling future free from addiction right now.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Hartney E. The Symptoms Used to Diagnose Substance Use Disorders. Verywell Mind. Published March 21, 2020. Accessed July 5, 2022.
  2. Scott PS. Signs of Drug Addiction. WebMD. Published January 27, 2021. Accessed July 5, 2022.

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Michael Dadashi

Medical Content Writer

Family owned and operated since 2014, Infinite Recovery was founded by Michael & Ylianna Dadashi to give those struggling with addiction a second chance and help to rebuild their lives. Clean and sober since 2009, Michael is passionate about helping others discover their authentic self and live a life of true freedom and purpose.

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