Addiction to Substances

Psychoactive substances, or drugs, are all products that act directly on the brain and modify the behavior, moods, perceptions and mental activity of users

Prescription drugs

The inappropriate use of prescription drugs can also become an addiction; the most commonly used drugs include opioid analgesics, anxiolytics, sedatives and stimulants – Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash


Psychoactive substances can be legal, such as alcohol or tobacco, or illegal, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or fentanyl. Cannabis use may or may not be legal, depending on the country or jurisdiction.

In most countries of the world, addiction is a major public health problem with multiple repercussions (health, medical and social). According to the World Drug Report (2022) the number of deaths directly or indirectly related to drugs is estimated at 490,000 in 2019 alone, with an increase of 17.5% since 2009[1]

Assess your substance use


The following questions[2] can help you analyze your own substance use behavior (or that of a loved one) to see if you are likely to be affected by an addictive disorder. This questionnaire is only intended to inform you. If you answer “yes” to 4-5 or more criteria, we advise you to refer yourself or your loved one to a professional for a more comprehensive assessment


A substance use disorder is defined as the presence of two or more of the following eleven criteria in a 12-month period:


  • Has your use ever had a negative impact on your ability to perform your tasks or responsibilities at work, school, or home?
  • Have you ever used alcohol or drugs or been intoxicated by them in situations where it could be dangerous (driving a car, operating machinery, etc.)?
  • Have you ever felt an irresistible urge to consume (craving)?
  • Have you ever had problems in your social or emotional relationships because of your use of alcohol or other drugs, yet you have continued to use?
  • Do you feel that over time the effects of your (or a loved one’s) consumption diminish for the same amount of alcohol or drugs consumed, or do you need to increase these amounts to have the same effects as before?
  • Have you  ever experienced unpleasant physical or psychological symptoms when you stop or reduce consumption?
  • Do you use more alcohol or drugs than you expected, or for longer than you expected?
  • Have you  ever had the urge to cut down or control your drinking without taking action, or have you tried but never succeeded?
  • Do you spend a lot of time seeking, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol or other drugs?
  • Have you ever cut back or given up social, recreational, or work activities because of your drinking?
  • Do you continue to use knowing that your use is causing or worsening your physical or mental health problems?

[1] World Drug Report 2022 – UNODC

[2] Questionnaire adapted from the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition) – According to the DSM, a substance use disorder is defined by having two of the eleven criteria listed above within a 12-month period (2-3 criteria: mild disorder; 4-5 criteria: moderate disorder; 6 or more criteria: severe disorder).