Student Wellness Services

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Substance-related Disorders

First of all just because you use a substance, whether it's legal or illegal, doesn't mean that you have a disorder.  There are 3 main types of substances categorized based on their effect on your central nervous system which involves your brain and spinal cord.  Substances types include: depressants (e.g., alcohol or opiates), stimulants (e.g., caffine or cocaine), and hallucinogens (e.g., cannabis). 

People who suffer from substance-related disorders often experience physical and/or psychological dependence and develop problems which affect them socially (e.g., friends withdraw), personally (e.g., relationships breakdown), and at school/work (e.g., miss an exam or deadline).  It is also very common for someone who suffers from a substance-related disorders to experience other mental health problems such as anxiety or depression as well.

Physical dependence - occurs when your body becomes so used to a substance that it can only function with it and you experience withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to have it.

Psychological dependence - occurs when the substance becomes such a central part of your life that it plays a big role in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

What Causes Substance-related Disorders?

While there is no single cause of substance-related problems, some factors put people at an increased risk for developing this type of mental health disorder.

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Psychological stress (e.g., victims of violence)
  • Physical illness
  • Social factors (e.g., acceptability)