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FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a substance use problem?
How is a substance abuse problem diagnosed?
How is a substance dependence problem diagnosed?
What are the causes of substance use problems?
How prevalent are substance use problems?
What is a "Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Program"?

Q: What is a substance use problem?
A: A substance use problem exists when you experience any type of difficulty related to using alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, either illicit or prescribed The difficulty can be in any area of your life: medical or physical, psychological, family, interpersonal, social, academic, occupational, legal, financial or spiritual. Both substance abuse and substance dependence are clinical diagnoses that can be made when certain criteria are met.


Q: How is a substance abuse problem diagnosed?
A: The diagnosis of a substance abuse problem relies upon the following criteria:

  • Failure to fulfill major obligations
  • Use in hazardous situations
  • Legal problems
  • Continued use despite problems

If one or more of these four criteria occurs within a 12-month period, then a substance abuse problem is diagnosed.


Q: How is a substance dependence problem diagnosed?
A: The diagnosis for substance dependence relies upon the following criteria:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Decreased effect
  • Withdrawal sickness
  • Use to avoid withdrawal sickness
  • Loss of control
  • Inability to cut down or control use
  • Preoccupation or compulsion
  • Psychosocial impairment
  • Continued use despite negative effects

If three or more of these criteria occurs within a 12-month period, a substance dependence problem is diagnosed.


Q: What are the causes of substance use problems?
A: Biological, psychological, social and environmental factors all contribute to substance use problems. People develop problems with substance use because it runs in their family, because they are prone to anxiety or stress, or because their home or social environment is particularly taxing or unpleasant. Since one"s individual circumstances are responsible for fostering substance use, the reasons behind such use are always extremely personal.


Q: How prevalent are substance use problems?
A: A study conducted by the National Institute of Health in the 1980s concluded that 13.7% of adults in the United States meet the criteria which classifies them as abusive of or dependent upon alcohol. The same study showed that 6.1% were dependent upon drugs.


Q: What is a "Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program"?
A: A goal of cognitive-behavioral treatment (sometimes referred to as "cognitive-behavioral therapy" or CBT) is to identify those thoughts (cognitions) and behaviors that exacerbate an alcohol or drug use problem. Once identified, these unnecessary and detrimental thoughts/behaviors can be overcome by using concrete strategies and skills for coping.




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