Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder

Article | March 2018

Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder

Fast facts: Alcohol abuse and substance use disorder

Alcohol and substance use disorders can have a serious effect on your whole life. It can affect your own health and well-being. It can also harm your family and friends.

Alcoholism (alcohol dependence), and substance use disorder (drug dependence) are diseases. There are four symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink or use drugs.
  • Loss of control: Being unable to limit your drinking or drug use.
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms can happen when you stop drinking or using drugs. These symptoms can include nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety.
  • Tolerance: The need to use more and more alcohol or drugs in order to get drunk or high.

Warning signs

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have a problem:

  • Do you drink alone or use drugs or alcohol when you feel angry?
  • Do you drink alone or use drugs or alcohol when you feel sad?
  • Does your drinking or drug use ever make you late for work?
  • Does your drinking or drug use worry your family?
  • Do you ever drink or use drugs after telling yourself you won’t?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while drinking or using drugs?
  • Do you get headaches or have a hangover after drinking?

If you answered yes, contact a health professional such as your primary care provider or a therapist to get an evaluation.

How is it treated?

With the right treatment, most people can stop drinking and abusing drugs. This gives them the chance to rebuild their lives.

Treatment may include:

  • Going to drug counseling and group meetings
  • Avoiding the people, places, and situations that get you into trouble
  • Working with your counselor to show that you're really trying to change your life
  • Working with your doctor to see if anti-craving medications can help
  • Learning things such as anger management and job skills to have more choices in life

Get more helpful information on alcohol use from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism.

This material is provided by Cigna for informational/educational purposes only. It is not medical/clinical advice. Only a health care provider can make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment plan. For more information about your behavioral health benefits, you can call the member services or behavioral health telephone number listed on your health care ID card.