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An Introduction to Substance Use Disorders for Dental Professionals

Course Number: 545

Types of Substance Users

A dental health care provider will come into contact with several different kinds of users of both legal and illegal substances. It is important to understand the types of users because this foundational information may help gain insight into the patient’s lifestyle, then help determine how the dental professional may want to approach oral healthcare recommendations to the patient.

The Social User

The first type is the social user. The social user can take or leave a substance and does not make it a focal point in his or her life. The social user never puts themselves or others in harm’s way while using a substance and shows no repetitive pattern. The social user does not use to excess.

The Substance Abuser

This type of drug abuser can stop using a substance and return to a somewhat normal life. The substance abuser may also be a “binge user,” a person who uses to excess at times, but rarely shows a daily pattern of abuse. Although they may not use a drug on a daily basis, they are still susceptible to issues of a drug abuser.

The Addict

The addict is our third and most serious form of substance abuser. Addiction can be defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.49 It is common for people who fit the profile of an addict to use different substances. An addict may abuse alcohol one decade and then move on to prescription medication. The behavior of moving from one addictive substance to another is called transference.