What Is Substance Abuse?
Substance abuse refers to the harmful or unsafe use of alcohol, drugs, and/or other mind-altering substances that typically results in recurring negative consequences. These consequences can range from damaged relationships and poor job/academic performance to serious bodily injury or legal issues. Substance abuse affects people of all backgrounds and walks of life: in 2013, an estimated 21.6 million adolescents (ages 12+) and adults in the U.S. were classified with either substance abuse or dependence.
There is no single direct cause of substance abuse. Many researchers and mental health professionals agree that substance abuse likely stems from a combination of hereditary, environmental, psychological and social factors. For instance, the risk of substance abuse is generally higher in people who have family members with substance abuse or addiction issues, but not everyone may be affected by genetics. Many people are triggered by circumstances or stressors stemming from work, school, relationships, culture, or their surroundings. Sometimes, other mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can contribute to substance abuse when an individual attempts to cope with difficult feelings and experiences through using drugs and/or alcohol.