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What is substance use disorder?

Posted on March 25, 2020

Many individuals who commit drug-related crimes struggle with substance use disorder. With this condition, abuse of drugs or alcohol causes problems with home, school, work, the law or one’s health. 

Learn more about how addiction can impact your life and the life of a loved one. 

Symptoms of substance use disorder 

People who have this condition may have different symptoms depending on the substance. In general, though, a person who has drug or alcohol addiction will: 

  • Experience physical or psychological withdrawal when the person stops taking the drug 
  • Try to stop using but be unable to do so 
  • Spend a lot of time and money getting, using and recovering from substance use 
  • Take dangerous risks while using drugs or alcohol, such as driving 
  • Use drugs or alcohol even after legal problems or other issues arise 
  • Fail to meet work, school, family or social obligations 
  • Always have the drug on hand 
  • Spend money on the drug even when they cannot afford to do so 
  • Take more of the drug over time 
  • Have intense cravings 
  • Use the drug several times a day 

Risk factors for addiction 

Although anyone can develop substance use disorder, addiction is more common among individuals who have certain risk factors. These include: 

  • Experimenting with an extremely addictive substance like heroin 
  • Using drugs and alcohol in the preteen or teen years 
  • Struggling with a dysfunctional family situation, limited contact with the family or limited parental supervision 
  • Experiencing peer pressure from other substance users 
  • Suffering from an underlying mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder 
  • Having a family history of addiction 

Individuals who have a diagnosis of substance use disorder and a drug crime conviction in Colorado may qualify for the state’s drug court program. Those who are ready to seek treatment for addiction can enroll in court-supervised rehabilitation. In the two decades since the state introduced drug court, data shows that offenders have a significantly reduced risk of addiction relapse and future criminal convictions.