The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines a substance use disorder (SUD) as a condition in which recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically and functionally significant impairment in an individual’s daily life.
It is a chronic and relapsing brain disease that afflicts over 20 million Americans, age 12 and older, and takes a heavy toll on not only interpersonal relationships, but also the national economy: according to research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance use costs Americans more than $700 billion a year in increased health care costs, crimes, and lost productivity.
There is also a strong link between mental illness and substance use disorders. Of those receiving care in the public mental health system, it is estimated that 50% have a substance use disorder as well.
Without adequate treatment, these individuals have higher incarceration rates, increased emergency room visits, and increased hospitalizations for psychiatric services and inpatient care.