Health Guide

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
  • Health problems
  • Physical risks that come with using drugs in dangerous situations

Substances that are commonly used include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Inhalants
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • PCP
  • Prescription drugs

Alternative Names

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


American Psychiatric Association. Substance-related and addictive disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013:481-590.

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

Review Date: 8/14/2017
Reviewed By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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