Types of SUDs


Name of Disorder


Opioid Use Disorder Heroin, Hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), Morphine, Hydomorphone (Dilaudid), Codeine (cough syrup), Meperidine  (Demerol), Fentanyl, etc.
Alcohol Use Disorder Beer, liquor, etc.
Cannabis Use Disorder Marijuana and marijuana-related products
Stimulant Use Disorder- Amphetamine-Type Substance Methamphetamine (crystal meth, crank, speed, tweek, glass, etc.)
Stimulant Use Disorder- Cocaine Cocaine (coke, blow, snow, etc.)
Sedative, Hypnotic, or Anxiolytic Use Disorder Benzodiazepines (Xanax [alprazolam], Ativan [lorazepam], Valium [diazepam], Klonopin [clonazepam]), Barbiturates (Pentobarbital, Secobarbital, etc.), Z-drugs (Ambien [zolpidem], Lunesta [eszopiclone], Sonata [zaleplon],  Imrest [zoplicone], etc.)
Other Hallucinogen Use Disorder LSD (acid), Ecstasy (MDMA), Ketamine, magic mushrooms (Psilocybin), Peyote (Mescaline), etc.
Stimulant Use Disorder- Other or Unspecified Stimulant Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderrall (dextroamphetamine/ amphetamine), Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), etc.
Phencyclidine (PCP) Use Disorder PCP (phencyclidine
Inhalant Use Disorder Glues, spray cans, etc.

Nature of SUDs

According to Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director National Institute on Drug Abuse:

1. Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to.

2. In reality, drug addiction is a complex illness. It is characterized by intense and, at times, uncontrollable drug craving, along with compulsive drug seeking and use that persist even in the face of devastating consequences. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.

3. Addiction affects multiple brain circuits, including those involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and inhibitory control over behavior. That is why addiction is a brain disease.

4. Some individuals are more vulnerable than others to becoming addicted, depending on the interplay between genetic makeup, age of exposure to drugs, and other environmental influences.

5. While a person initially chooses to take drugs, over time the effects of prolonged exposure on brain functioning compromise that ability to choose, and seeking and consuming the drug become compulsive, often eluding a person’s self-control or willpower.

6. Drug abuse and addiction increase a person’s risk for a variety of other mental and physical illnesses related to a drug-abusing lifestyle or the toxic effects of the drugs themselves.

7. Additionally, the dysfunctional behaviors that result from drug abuse can interfere with a person’s normal functioning in the family, the workplace, and the broader community.

8. Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple. Effective treatment programs typically incorporate many components, each directed to a particular aspect of the illness and its consequences.

9. Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.

10. Because addiction is a disease, most people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Patients typically require long term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.

11. Indeed, scientific research and clinical practice demonstrate the value of continuing care in treating addiction, with a variety of approaches having been tested and integrated in residential and community settings.

12. Drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.

a. It’s common for a person to relapse, but relapse doesn’t mean that treatment doesn’t work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.

b. People who are recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse for years and possibly for their whole lives. Research shows that combining addiction treatment medicines with behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success for most patients.

13. What happens to the brain when a person takes drugs? Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit,” causing euphoria as well as flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones.

14. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. As a person continues to use drugs, the brain adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit to respond to it. This reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance. They might take more of the drug to try and achieve the same high. These brain adaptations often lead to the person becoming less and less able to derive pleasure from other things they once enjoyed, like food, sex, or social activities.

15. Long-term use also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include learning; judgment; decision-making; stress; memory; behavior. Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction.

16. Why do some people become addicted to drugs while others don’t? No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example:

a. Biology. The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.

b. Environment. A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.

c. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction risk. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction.

17. Can drug addiction be cured or prevented? As with most other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, treatment for drug addiction generally isn’t a cure. However, addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.

18. Treatment approaches tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems can lead to continued recovery.

19. Results from NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction.

20. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking. Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.

21. Most drugs affect the brain’s reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy activities, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again.

22. Over time, the brain adjusts to the excess dopamine, which reduces the high that the person feels compared to the high they felt when first taking the drug—an effect known as tolerance.

23. They might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high.

24. No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. A combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors influences risk for addiction.

25. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. Drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.

According to Dr. Volkow: “As we look toward the future, we will harness new research results on the influence of genetics and environment on gene function and expression (i.e., epigenetics), which are heralding the development of personalized treatment interventions. These findings will be integrated with current evidence supporting the most effective drug abuse and addiction treatments and their implementation…”

NIDA. 2018, June 6. Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts. Retrieved from on April 27, 2021.

NIDA. 2020, September 18. Principles of Effective Treatment. Retrieved from on April 27, 2021.

Human brain anatomy, function area, mind system