Substance use disorders: a comprehensive update of classification, epidemiology, neurobiology, clinical aspects, treatment and prevention
Substance use disorders (SUDs) are highly prevalent and impact individuals' health, well-being, and social functioning. Long-lasting changes in brain networks involved in reward, executive function, stress reactivity, mood, and self-awareness underlie the intense drive to consume substances and the inability to control this urge in a person who suffers from addiction (moderate or severe SUD).
Biological (including genetics and developmental life stages) and social (including adverse childhood experiences) determinants of health are recognized factors that contribute to vulnerability for or resilience against developing a SUD. Consequently, prevention strategies that target social risk factors can improve outcomes and, when deployed in childhood and adolescence, can decrease the risk for these disorders. SUDs are treatable, and evidence of clinically significant benefit exists for medications (in opioid, nicotine and alcohol use disorders), behavioral therapies (in all SUDs), and neuromodulation (in nicotine use disorder).
Treatment of SUDs should be considered within the context of a Chronic Care Model, with the intensity of intervention adjusted to the severity of the disorder and with the concomitant treatment of comorbid psychiatric and physical conditions.
The involvement of healthcare providers in the detection and management of SUDs, including referral of severe cases to specialized care, offers sustainable models of care that can be further expanded with the use of telehealth. Despite advances in our understanding and management of SUDs, individuals with these conditions continue to be stigmatized and, in some countries, incarcerated, highlighting the need to dismantle policies that perpetuate their criminalization and instead develop policies to ensure support and access to prevention and treatment.