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Substance-Related Disorders

Substance-related disorders are those in which an individual abuses a substance and may end up being addicted to it, experiencing substance dependence and withdrawal when the substance is not consumed.

The different classifications of substance-related disorders include substance intoxication, substance withdrawal, substance abuse, and substance dependence. Respectively, these involve impaired behavior in relation to consumption of a substance, dysfunction in relation to not consuming the substance, continuous negative circumstances due to drug use, and distress and reliance on the drug to function. While substance intoxication and substance withdrawal are more like states related to substance-related disorders, substance abuse and substance dependence are disorders classified by the DSM-IV.

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Some predictor variables that may influence the development of a substance-related disorder include living in a single-parent situation, child abuse, or seeing close family abuse substances and be violent. Stress, physical and sexual abuse, and delinquent behavior are also factors that can influence the development of a substance-related disorder. Once the substance use has begun, a diagnosis of substance abuse can be made if the use causes continuous dysfunction in the individual's life and if the individual cannot function without the drug, a diagnosis of substance dependence might be made. Dependence can occur from either physical or psychological dependence, with psychological withdrawal symptoms such as depression, irritability and cravings, while physical symptoms can include sweating, increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, and vomitting. Symptoms can be so severe as to lead to seizures, hallucinations, heart attacks, and death. 

Therefore, treating substance-related disorders involves a period of detoxification. This involves carefully weening the individual off of the substance, reducing the amount of their intake slowly so that they do not experience such severe withdrawal. Anxiolytics may also be used to curb the symptoms that come along with withdrawal. Techniques for treatment also include psychotherapy that seeks to fix any underlying problems leading to substance abuse, as well as encouraging the development of coping skills, ways to avoid using the substance, and other activities they can do that would bring pleasure to replace the substance. Treatment is frequently long-term and can involve group therapy where sober members support others out of their addiction.

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