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Disruptive Behavior Disorder – Its Connection to Substance Abuse

substance abuse and disruptive behavioral disorder connection

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The link between disruptive behavior disorder and substance abuse is easy to see from many studies. Dealing with these two disorders can be hard. In fact, it isn’t only the patients but also their family members and doctors.

Table of Contents

Disruptive Behavior Disorder: An Overview

Disruptive behavior disorder (DBDs) covers some mental disorders present in children and adolescents. For example, it includes aggression, anger, and defiance.
Children with DBD often have difficulties at home and school. In fact, some children with DBD may also develop drug abuse and addiction later in life. Moreover, an adult with DBD also has a higher risk of becoming a criminal or physical assault.

Examples of Disruptive Behavior Disorder

Centers for Disease Control(CDC) says Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD) are the major components of DBD.
Earlier, they also included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the spectrum of DBD. However, the fifth edition of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has put it under neurodevelopmental disorder.

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Signs of Disruptive Behavior Disorder

The signs and behaviors that may be associated with either ODD or CD include:

  • Being super aggressive towards friends or family members or even animals
  • Showing brutal behaviors that are not relevant to age or situation
  • Lying or cheating on purpose
  • Willfully destroying other people’s properties
  • Defying rules in school or at the workplace
  • Flying into rage without a reason
  • Hurting people who they think are the cause of their problem

How Common is Disruptive Behavior?

Presently, disruptive behavior disorder is a major part of mental disorders in children and adolescents. Study suggests one may find behavioral or conduct disorders in about 3.5% of the children between 3 and 17.

What Causes Disruptive Behavior Disorder?

They have not discovered the exact cause of DBD yet. However, they think it occurs due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Having a close family member with some of these disorders greatly increases the risk of DBD in children. For example, they can include anxiety disorder, personality disorder, or mood disorder.
Early exposure to family violence, neglect, and chaotic family environment may also increase the risk of DBD.

No doubt, there is a close relation between DBD and substance abuse. However, the results of newer studies suggest a more complex relation between disruptive behavior disorder and substance abuse. Incidentally, people may have problems with a combined effects of these disorders.

Studies find that young people who abuse substances are almost four times more likely to develop disruptive behavior disorder.

Likewise, the increased risk of substance abuse in youth having disruptive behavior disorder is approximately six times. This is when one compares it to those without disruptive behavior disorder.
Research finds that adolescents with this combination fall back to being addicted a year after treatment.
In addition, the duration of abstinence from drug use is shorter in adolescents with co-occurring DBD and substance abuse. This is when one compares it with those who have only drug abuse problem.
Furthermore, children who have both ADHD and CD have a greater risk of abusing drugs later in life.

Are There Common Risk Factors for Disruptive Behavior Disorder and Substance Abuse?

Only a handful of studies has been conducted in this space. Nonetheless, available results suggest a few risk factors may be common to both disruptive behavior disorder and substance abuse. According to the studies, the most important factor for this combination is parenting.

Bad parenting could hold the key to finding the association between these disorders.

Normally, the parents of these adolescents can exhibit poor monitoring, have unrealistic expectations, and punish them severely.
In addition, these children don’t receive rewards for the good deeds or improvements in their behavior and performances. As a result, these factors can contribute to drug use or even an increase of behavior problems in the adolescents.

What Are The Treatments for Disruptive Behavior Disorder and Substance Abuse?

Regrettably, adolescents with this combination have higher risks than those with only one disorder.
Therefore, this group needs an intensive treatment program that combines both psychosocial interventions and medications. Family-based programs with counseling, strong emotional support system, and good parenting skills form the core of the treatment.
A doctor may also recommend taking some medications such as psychostimulants and mood stabilizers if the symptoms persist. Additionally, a class of medications called antipsychotics may also produce favorable results in some patients.

  • DBD during childhood could be indicative of other psychiatric illnesses in the future, such as borderline personality disorder.
  • An early intervention produces better treatment outcomes in patients who have both disruptive behavior disorder and substance abuse.
  • Such parents should use proper parenting skills to ensure a better recovery. If one has any such problems, one should talk to the experts and take timely measures.
  • Want to Know More?

Reach out for help if a person is a parent of children with disruptive behavior disorder and substance abuse. If one has any more questions, it is important to talk to the experts to get accurate information and the best solution.

Click here to learn more. It will connect one with the best addiction centers nearby.
  1. Bukstein O. G. Disruptive behavior disorders and substance use disorders in adolescents. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2000; 32(1):67-79.
  2. Ryan S. R., Stanger C., Thostenson J., Whitmore J. J., Budney A. J. The impact of disruptive behavior disorder on substance use treatment outcome in adolescents. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 2013; 44(5):506–514. doi:10.1016/j.jsat.2012.11.003.


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