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Substance use

Substance use is the continued use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs with negative consequences. These consequences may involve:

  • Problems at work, school, home or in interpersonal relationships
  • Problems with the law
  • Physical risks that come with using drugs in dangerous situations

Substances that are commonly used include:

Alternative Names

Substance abuse; Illicit drug abuse; Narcotic abuse; Hallucinogen abuse


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.

Weiss RD. Drugs of abuse. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 34.

Review Date 1/31/2016

Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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