Substance use refers to the general use of any drug, including alcohol or marijuana. Substance use disorder characterizes patterns of behaviour in which people regularly use substances despite having health-related problems associated with their use. There are 11 criteria for substance use disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition). Several criteria include:
- Cravings and urge to use the substance.
- Spending a lot of time using and recovering from the substance.
- Not managing at work, school, or home because of the substance.
- Giving up on important social, recreational and occupational activities because of the substance.
Substance use for some individuals is an occupation that gives meaning to their life. However, occupations associated with substance use can negatively impact physical, social and mental health and wellbeing.
Interventions for people with substance use disorder are often complex and lengthy. They are beneficial for people to increase awareness about the harmful effects of substance use and enable people to remain substance use-free. An essential component to most interventions is helping people develop insight into their condition, provide skills and lifestyle management training, counselling and continuing support throughout all recovery phases.
Occupational therapy is an integral part of an intervention for substance use disorder. Occupational therapists work with clients to offer support and insight into the potentially damaging effects of substance use on engagement in daily activities. The overall focus is to change maladaptive behavioural patterns and enable the client to:
- Identify the problems and consequences
- Recognize beneficial changes surrounding lifestyle and behaviour
- Develop a plan of action to create and maintain a new way of life
Reference: Crouch, Rosemary, and Vivyan Alers. Occupational Therapy in Psychiatry and Mental Health. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.