A substance use problem is a medical condition. It is substance use that:
- interferes with a person's relationships with family and friends,
- interferes with a person's ability to fulfill work, school, or family obligations, or
- results in legal problems and dangerous behaviour
It can also involve using or taking a substance in increasing amounts, going to great lengths to obtain the substance, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the substance is stopped, or being unable to stop or reduce the use of the substance.
Depressants (e.g., alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines), stimulants (e.g., amphetamines, cocaine, MDMA, or ecstasy), hallucinogenics (e.g., LSD), and opioids (e.g., codeine, heroin, and morphine) are the most commonly abused substances. Anabolic steroids are sometimes abused in order to improve athletic performance.
Substance use problems are very complex medical problems. Because they affect the brain, they are not just about willpower. Since there is a lot of stigma (shameful feelings) associated with substance abuse problems, health care professionals are not using terms such as "addiction," "addict," and "drug abuse" as much. Instead, they are using "substance use problems" and "people with substance use problems."