Symptoms of Substance Abuse

By 6 Feb 2001

Abuse of a substance is generally characterized by an unhealthy pattern of substance use leading to significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one (or more) of the following occurring within a one-year period:

  • recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)

  • recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use)

  • recurrent substance-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for substance-related disorderly conduct)

  • Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or

  • interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights).

The symptoms must also have never met the criteria for Substance Dependence for the same class of substance.

Reprinted with permission.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on All rights reserved.



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