Essay Sample on Substance Use Disorder

Published: 2024-01-07
Essay Sample on Substance Use Disorder
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Public health Drug abuse
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1555 words
13 min read


The current study aims to establish the relationship between self-compassion, drug addiction, and substance use disorders. Prior research has identified numerous risk factors in treating the problems related to substance use hence the use of self-compassion as an intervention strategy. Compassion-related treatments have proved to be effective for other forms of mental health; therefore, this study investigating substance abuse and substance use disorders. The systematic review is conducted in line with the aim of the study of both randomized and non-randomized controlled trials.

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The research was conducted online, focusing on the four main psychological and medical databases, including Web of Science, Pubmed, PsycINFO, and Medline. The search considered relevant empirical studies published up to November 2020. It was also constrained only to papers to peer-reviewed articles written in English

The search resulted in 15 articles for review. An observation was made on the size of a null pooled effect in attrition rate as the self-compassion interventions were compared with other treatments for substance use disorders. The effect size was detected to have significant and high heterogeneity. The relationship between self-compassion, drug addiction, and substance use disorders was found significant.

The results show that the level of self-compassion tends to increase, changing the attitude of how one looks at self with kindness and a sense of importance. This lowers their cravings for drugs and the use of substances.

Significant Public Health Issue

Using alcohol and illicit drug is a significant public health issue that contributes to about 5.4% of the disease burden globally (Peacock et al., 2018). Drug addiction (DA) and substance use disorder (SUD) s have been prevalent in American society and the world at large. Drug addiction sometimes it is used in place of substance use disorders to define the disease that affects the brain of a person and their behaviors. As a result, the affected persons develop the inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs. SUDs arise when a person using drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs harms them or others. Therefore, in this study, both DA and SUDs will be used interchangeably since the term addiction itself goes beyond dependence on substances such as cocaine or heroin. It defines a situation where an individual is unable to stop taking some drug, whether legal or illegal hence their dependence on substances, including chemicals.

According to the 2012 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the current DA and SUDs between 15 and 64 years account for up to 6.6% of the world's population (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2012). The recurrent and continuous use of alcohol and illicit substances causes clinically and functionally significant impairments resulting in substance use disorders (Albertson et al., 2015). Though SUDs cause a significant public health concern requiring economic and social intervention, they also lead to negative consequences for an individual.

Studies have indicated that those individuals who seek treatment for the use of substances often abstain compared to those who do not go for treatment. Recent research, however, identified the relapse rate up to 60% following the substance use treatment (Eriksson et al., 2018). Numerous risk factors have been identified in relation to influence and immediate prediction of post-treatment substance use relapse. Among these factors include self-efficacy, stress, motivation, and negative affect, among others (Eriksson et al., 2018). The current scenario indicates that the common substance use treatment approaches used are basically mutual support groups and 12-step programs, including Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous (Basharpoor et al., 2014). These approaches often advocate for abstinence, and their application is often seen as better than having no treatment at all.

Suggested Treatment Approaches

However, even with the suggested treatment approaches, they may not be effective for some substance users, especially those having comorbid psychiatric problems. Empirical evidence shows that SUDs make it difficult for users to regulate their emotions and are not easy for them to understand and identify their emotions (Eriksson et al., 2018). As a result, practitioners and researchers have focused on utilizing alternate and additional treatments for various addictive disorders, considering the identified risk factors in relation to relapses (Carlyle et al., 2019).

In the process, self-compassion has been identified as a positive emotional stance towards oneself. Multiple studies correlate self-compassion to positive affect and negative affect as well. Psychologists such as Neff indicated self-compassion as a strategy that allows individuals to accept the negative feelings they have with awareness, understanding, kindness, and a sense of humanity (Cavicchioli et al., 2018). Self-compassion has also been identified as the potential protective action for relapse following the treatment. This is enabled by a variety of psychological and behavioral therapies that have been identified to demonstrate effectiveness, such as motivational enhancement therapy (MET), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and 12-step facilitation therapy (12-SFT) (Albertson et al., 2015). These therapies serve as a conventional intervention strategy to support self-compassion.


This definition of compassion does not distinguish from self-compassion. In the construct of Buddhist psychology, self-determination defines how a person relates to the self- with kindness. Many other psychologists, such as Kristin Neff, measured and operationally defined self-compassion as the kindness one has towards self (Neff, 2003). According to psychologists, self-compassion entails being supportive, gentle, and understanding rather than judging self harshly based on personal shortcomings. It offers self-warmth and unconditional acceptance and creates the ability to recognize how different it is from making a bad decision to being a bad person.

The concept of self-compassion has been synonymous with Eastern philosophical thought, though it is relatively a new concept for Western psychology. As a result, the past years have seen significant dialogue between Western psychology and Eastern philosophical thought with particular reference to Buddhism (Chen et al., 2019). The dialogue has been critical in changing the understanding of mental wellbeing as the focus shifts to the concept of self-compassion, which is majorly a Buddhist idea.

It is, therefore, true that self-compassion has a direct relationship with the feelings of compassion and the concern one has for others. It, then, means that a self-compassionate person is not selfish or self-centered, nor such a person prioritizes self needs at the expense of others (Albertson et al., 2015). Instead, having self-compassion encompasses acknowledging that the human condition is characterized by failure, suffering, and being inadequate (Brooks et al., 2012). Similarly, one gets to know that everyone, including oneself, is worthy of compassion. The metacognitive activity undertaken in self-compassion should be such that they recognize the related self-experiences and those of others. From the point of view of many psychologists, the whole process is intended to break the self-absorption and self-identification circles where people feel develop the feeling of egocentrism and having an entitlement to oneself (Eriksson et al., 2018). Consequently, it facilitates the reduction of the egocentric feelings of separation of people. Simultaneously, the interconnectedness feeling is increased while putting the personal experience of a person in greater perspective to see one's suffering. Psychologists view self-compassion as having an understanding and kind attitude towards oneself when a person feels emotional pain and failure (Armstrong and Rimes, 2016).

Systematic reviews and meta-analysis has linked self-compassion with important outcomes that affect psychological functioning, such as optimism, positive affect towards oneself, and the overall wellbeing of a person (Eriksson et al., 2018). Research has indicated that self-compassion is associated with lower stress, depression, and anxiety. Research has also established self-compassion as being effective in buffering against distressing experiences in the sense that those people that are more self-compassionate strain less when they face rejection, failure, and embarrassment (Brooks et al., 2012). Thus, the usefulness of self-compassion concerning a person's attitude towards oneself and their wellbeing has been continuously growing. This growing usefulness has attracted multiple studies towards attempting to further the understanding of the construct of self-compassion itself and its facets.

Psychological Wellbeing

Growing evidence shows that self-compassion is associated with psychological wellbeing and an essential source of happiness. As a result, to operationalize self-compassion, Neff (2003) identified three main elements, including (1) self-kindness versus self-judgment, (2) a sense of common humanity versus isolation, and (3) mindfulness versus over-identification. The combination and the mutual interaction of these three components create a self-compassionate frame of mind (Barnard and Curry, 2011). According to the scholar, self-kindness tends towards caring and understanding within oneself and avoids being critically harsh or judgmental towards oneself (Carlyle et al., 2019). Instead, self-kindness involves taking an approach of cold stiff-upper-lip when undergoing suffering to offer comfort and soothing to the self.

In another element of common humanity, it entails recognizing that no human is perfect and that anyone is bound to fail or make mistakes. It allows the connection between the own flawed condition of a person and the shared human condition to take a greater perspective towards personal difficulties and shortcomings (Basharpoor et al., 2014). Mindfulness involves being aware of the present moment experience of a person in a clear and balanced manner to avoid ignoring or ruminating on the disliked aspects of one's life.


Mindfulness has been identified as a critical intervention strategy in treating SUDs in various circumstances and therefore deemed effective. Kabat-Zinn (2009) gave the first western definition of mindfulness by describing it as paying attention towards a certain way based on purpose in the present moment and not being judgmental. Shapiro et al. (2007) led the process of operationalizing mindfulness as a specific focusing on the attention caused by the attitude caused by acceptance of oneself, openness, and inquisitiveness, and self-regulation of attention towards the present moment. Shapiro et al. (2006).

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