Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependence

Substance abuse is becoming more and more prevalent.  Substance abuse and chemical dependency develop when the continued use of alcohol or drugs begins to cause clinically significant problems in a person’s well-being.  This can include problems with health, disabilities, or failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.  Substance abuse is not limited to any one demographic; it affects people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic status, as well as those from different ages, races, and religions.

In 2014, about 21.5 million Americans ages 12 and older (8.1%) were classified with a substance use disorder in the past year. Of those, 2.6 million had problems with both alcohol and drugs, 4.5 million had problems with drugs but not alcohol, and 14.4 million had problems with alcohol only (SAMHSA).

There is a variety of substance abuse disorders, including Alcohol Use Disorder, Tobacco Use Disorder, Cannabis Use Disorder, Stimulant Use Disorder, Hallucinogen Use Disorder, and Opioid Use Disorder.  Each of these can be experienced as mild, moderate, or severe.

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse/Chemical Dependency

  • Using the substance on a regular basis (daily, weekends or in binges)
  • Tolerance for the substance
  • Failed attempts to stop using the substance
  • Physical and/or psychological dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms (delirium tremens, trembling, hallucinations, sweating and high blood pressure)
  • In some cases, dementia.


Treatment of substance abuse encourages complete abstinence and includes a variety of therapies. By working with a therapist, clients can understand behaviors and motivations and work towards healing. Developing self-esteem and coping with stress are both common goals in the treatment of substance abuse. There are many treatment options for substance abuse/chemical dependency.  These options work best in conjunction with one another, to give the client the best chance at full recovery.

Common treatments include:

  • Individual and group counseling
  • Inpatient and residential treatment
  • Intensive outpatient treatment
  • Partial hospital programs
  • Case or care management
  • Medication
  • Recovery support services
  • 12-Step fellowship
  • Peer supports

Addiction is a disease, but there is help; you are not alone. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or chemical dependency, do not hesitate to call Genesis today at (757) 827-7707 to set up a consultation.


National Institute of Mental Health


Blog Post by Sarah Warner, MS