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When substance use becomes a problem

Problematic substance use (Substance Abuse)

  • Short term pleasure is a more powerful reinforcer than mid or long term consequences.
  • Substance use continues even after it has caused significant social, occupational, legal, psychological and physical problems.
  • Any substance or experience that produces activation of midbrain dopamine circuitry, producing rapid euphoria, may become problematic

Addiction (Dependence)

  • Addiction is characterized by increased tolerance, a need to use more and more of the substance to achieve the same effect.
  • And by withdrawal, especially when more of the same substance is needed to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
  • And by almost constant craving, so that more and more time is spent finding the substance, using the substance, and recovering from its effects. 

Dan O’Connell, Ph.D., from presentation