Substance Use Disorder

The behavioral health field no longer uses the terms "substance abuse" and "substance dependence."1 The currently accepted and widely used terminology is "substance use disorder." This disorder, defined as mild, moderate, or severe to indicate the level of severity, is diagnosed by determining how many symptoms you are experiencing.

Substance use disorders occur when the repeated use of alcohol and/or drugs causes various levels of significant impairment, such as health problems, disability, and a noticeable failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. A diagnosis of substance use disorder is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, and unhealthy use that creates risk.1

The following is a list, with descriptions, of the most common substance use disorders in the United States.

1 Source: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition

Alcohol Abuse

Because alcohol is legal and common, it's highly accessible and can be easily abused by people of various ages. When consumed and absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol causes intoxication. Learn more about alcohol and its effects on the body on ahealthyme.

Prescription Drug Abuse

To prevent prescription drug abuse, doctors prescribe medications with strict instructions for how and when to take them. It is important to follow these instructions so you don't have a bad reaction or become addicted to your medications.

Do not allow other people to have access to your medications. Also, be careful not to leave unused or leftover prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet, where they could easily be stolen.

Learn more about prescription drug abuse on ahealthyme.

Illegal Drug Abuse

Illegal drug abuse occurs when someone becomes dependent on an illegal substance.


For anyone battling alcohol or drug dependency, the first step is to understand that the road to recovery is different for every person. Fortunately, a variety of treatment programs for substance abuse are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

  • Detox: If you have been consuming large amounts of a substance or are addicted to certain substances, medically supervised withdrawal services may be necessary to avoid medical complications. It is important to note that detox is not a comprehensive substance treatment. However, it is often the first step on the path toward recovery and regaining control over your impulses. Detox periods typically last three to five days, based on medical necessity.

  • Rehab or Acute Residential Treatment (ART): For those who meet the requirements, this level of care is sometimes needed after detox. It is also a viable care option for those who do not initially require detox due to a period of abstinence, but who need 24-hour supervised treatment. It is important to note that commercial insurance covers "acute treatment" verses long-term care.

  • Partial Hospital Program (PHP): To help you gain control of your substance use disorder, you can choose to attend outpatient programs during the day, generally for about six to eight hours, five days a week. This level of care provides individual and group therapy to support the maintenance of sobriety.

  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): On an outpatient basis, you can select to attend this program during evening hours, generally for three hours, three nights per week. This level of care provides individual and group therapy to help maintain sobriety.

  • Outpatient Behavioral Health: This form of treatment can consist of sessions with substance abuse therapist, support groups, and/or prescribed medication.

Medication Assisted Therapy

Medication assisted therapy uses prescription medications to reduce the cravings associated with substance use disorder. This type of treatment must be assessed, prescribed, and monitored by a doctor. These evaluations usually occur in an outpatient clinic or office along with other supporting treatments.
The most commonly used of these medications are:

  • Suboxone: a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is an opioid medication. Naloxone is a narcotic drug that reverses the effects of other narcotic medicines.

  • Vivitrol: an injectable version of naltrexone that helps block the effects of narcotic medicines and may help reduce alcohol cravings.

  • Methadone: a synthetic opioid medication. Methadone reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotics without causing the "high" associated with drug use


For more information, check out these resources on ahealthyme:


Talk to your doctor or behavioral health provider if you have any questions about substance use disorder. If you have questions about your coverage, please contact Member Service using the number on the front of your Blue Cross ID card.