Addiction & Substance Use Care


The line between casual drug or alcohol use and addiction can sometimes be difficult to draw. However, when excessive use of substances causes chronic health problems, physical disabilities or a failure to meet the responsibilities of daily life, a substance use disorder may be at the root. At Mercy, we take an empathetic approach to every person’s unique circumstance and situation.

What is Substance Use Disorder & Addiction? 

Substance use disorder occurs when a person’s drug or alcohol use goes beyond a doctor’s recommendation or accepted societal norms. It can be diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe. Although substance use disorder is fairly common, it’s often treatable with the right tools and mentality. Many people facing this discomforting reality not only recover but also live productive, meaningful lives.

Addiction refers to substance use disorder at the most severe end of the spectrum. Addictions are usually accompanied by an extreme compulsion to use drugs or alcohol.

What Causes Addiction? 

Anyone can become dependent on drugs or alcohol. Some people may even develop an addiction to a drug the first time they try it. Other people may not experience any long-lasting effects. The chance of any person becoming drug or alcohol dependent relies on many different factors.

Several common factors that can influence drug or alcohol dependence include:

  • Genetics — By studying the genes of drug and alcohol addicts, scientists have discovered specific DNA sequences that indicate some people are genetically predisposed to addiction.
  • Environment — Your living environment can play a pivotal role in whether you develop a substance dependency. Work, school and home atmospheres, along with the availability or acceptance of drugs and alcohol in those spaces, can all impact your chances of becoming addicted.
  • Developmental disorders — Due to drugs and alcohol stimulating areas of the brain that are changing quickly, adolescents may be more susceptible to addiction. Some studies have also shown that people dependent on cocaine, heroin and alcohol have fewer dopamine receptors in their brains than others.

Addiction Risk Factors

Although people of any age, economic status, or gender can become dependent on drugs or alcohol, certain factors can affect the likelihood of developing substance use disorder.

Some common risk factors for substance abuse include a family history of addiction, peer pressure, early use of drugs and alcohol as well as mental health disorders. Substance abuse problems occur more frequently with certain mental health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Addiction 

Alcohol or drug addiction is much easier to spot if you know what common signs and symptoms to watch out for. Addiction symptoms or behaviors can include, among others: 

  • Drugs or alcohol are taken in larger amounts over a long period of time
  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to reduce and control drug or alcohol use
  • An inordinate amount of time spent trying to get and use drugs or alcohol
  • An inordinate amount of time spent recovering from the effects of drugs or alcohol
  • Drug or alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home
  • Relationships with friends, family or co-workers are fractured by the effects of drugs or alcohol
  • Recurrent drug or alcohol use at times where it’s physically dangerous, such as drunk driving
  • Drugs or alcohol taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

At Mercy, there’s hope and healing for people struggling with a substance use disorder. If you or a loved one suffers from drug or alcohol dependency, consult a Mercy behavioral health professional for further assessment and treatment options.

Diagnosis & Treatment for Substance Use & Addiction

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of addiction and/or substance use disorder, Mercy's behavioral health specialists are here to help.

Learn about addiction diagnosis and treatment options here.

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