Clarence White, Ph.D.

M.S. Data Science

Evaluating Factors That Contribute to Substance Use and Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders

Substance abuse continues to be heavy social and medical burdens. Many misused drugs can alter a person’s thinking and judgment, leading to health risks, including addiction, impaired driving, and infectious diseases. Substance use disorder (SUD) affects more than 8% of people in the United States at some point in their lives. Prescription opioids, marijuana, psychostimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances in the United States. As the active addiction grows more serious, its social impact on the community expands exponentially in a multitude of ways. Abused drugs act to increase the dopamine in reward regions of the brain. A protein called dopamine transporter helps to clear the dopamine released to restore dopamine homeostasis. Additionally, individuals who experience a substance use disorder during their lives may also experience a co-occurring mental health disorder or vice versa.