Substance Use Disorder

What is Substance Use Disorder?  

Substance use disorder is a complex condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences. People with a substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors. Changes in the brain’s structure and function are what cause people to have intense cravings, changes in personality, abnormal movements, and other behaviors. Repeated substance use can cause changes in how the brain functions. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance wear off. 

When someone has a substance use disorder, they usually build up a tolerance to the substance, meaning they need larger amounts to feel the euphoric or calming effects of the substance. The most severe substance use disorders are sometimes called addictions. 

Is substance use disorder treatable?

Because substance use disorders affect many aspects of a person’s life, multiple types of treatment are often required. For most, a combination of medication and individual or group therapy is most effective.  

Medications are used to control drug cravings, relieve symptoms of withdrawal, and to prevent relapses. Psychotherapy can help individuals with substance use disorder better understand their behavior and motivations, develop higher self-esteem, cope with stress, and address other psychiatric problems. 

A person’s recovery plan is unique to the person’s specific needs and may include strategies outside of formal treatment. 

What are some programs that can help?  

Alcoholics Anonymous
A mutual-aid group offering support to current and former alcoholics. Aid and support are provided both in person and through online platforms. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Narcotics Anonymous

A mutual-aid group offering support to current and former users of narcotics. Aid and support are provided both in person and through online platforms. CLICK HERE to learn more.
The Alcohol/Drug Council of North Carolina

A non-profit organization that provides information and referrals to alcohol and drug treatments in the State. Information and referrals are available in both English and Spanish 

  • Text: (919) 908-3196, Monday – Friday, 12:00pm – 6:00pm
  • 24-Hour Line: 800-688-4232

CLICK HERE to learn more.

A federal database of thousands of state-licensed providers who specialize in treating substance use disorders, addiction, and mental illness. The database is maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CLICK HERE to learn more.

How can I find other programs and services in my area?  

Using the search tool on, use the following keywords to find resources in your area: “Substance Abuse” “Drug Abuse” “Drug Addiction” “Alcoholism”.  

Are there are changes to service delivery due to COVID-19?  

Like many other human service providers, practitioners of substance use disorder treatments and parallel supportive services have had to adopt telemedicine as an option due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic. Use of telemedicine has increased the reach and access to treatments and support groups – an especially important factor for individuals living in rural areas where services for substance use disorder are often scarce.

Need more information?  

Call 2-1-1 or 1-888-892-1162 to speak with a trained call specialist, available 24/7/365. 

SOURCE: American Psychiatric Association

Last updated 1/31/2023

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Substance Use Disorder