What is Substance Abuse?
Getting sober and learning the proper tools to abstain from using drugs and alcohol to maintain it, is the main goal of any substance abuse treatment program. Although, the toll that addiction takes, goes beyond the impact of drugs and alcohol themselves.
Addiction causes long-term chemistry changes within the brain and body, affecting one’s learning, judgment, decision-making skills, ability to cope with stress, memory, and behavior.
The disease also harms physical and psychological health, exacerbates mental health conditions (pre-existing or not), hinders personal and professional development, ruins relationships, leads people to compromise their values and beliefs, and robs them of their self-worth.
At Behavioral Health Centers, our team of addiction and mental health specialists recognize that there is a gap in the system between those who need treatment and who receives it. Therefore, we provide comprehensive substance abuse treatment options ranging from inpatient to outpatient treatment, in conjunction with therapy.
Our philosophy of care has helped a multitude of individuals recover and break free of addiction while building a foundation for the betterment and lasting change. Explore our different treatment options for drug and alcohol addiction.
What is Addiction?
Drug and alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that affects how the brain and body function. While drinking and taking drugs is ultimately a choice, individuals who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD), either develop it over time or have some sort of pre-existing condition or gene that was most likely passed down from a relative.
Not only do drugs and alcohol cause severe physical and psychological health complications for those engaging in these addictive behaviors, but, most importantly, substance use and mental disorders affect various relationships including family and friends.
The most common indicator of addiction is the continued use of a substance despite the consequences that ensue as a result. It is important to note, that although addiction is a disease that will always persist, it can be effectively prevented, treated, and managed by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals in combination with support and counseling.
Prevalence of Addiction
Addiction is extremely prevalent, so much so, that addiction to drugs and alcohol costs the United States a whopping $600 billion annually! Let this sink in: this disease is more deadly than heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined.
40 million people in the United States (1 in 7), aged 12 and older, abuse or become addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, only a few ever receive substance abuse treatment for a variety of reasons including financial burden and stigma.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Reaching out and receiving help is the first step and a life-changing one at that. Although, in order to do so effectively, it is imperative to recognize the signs that you or a loved one may be suffering from addiction.
While these symptoms can be difficult to detect and understand, medical professionals will be able to detect and diagnose more accurately, as well as, provide treatments that help people to recover quicker and successfully.
Dependence and tolerance to drugs and alcohol almost always lead to addiction. While the most common symptoms of substance abuse are severe loss of control, preoccupation with using, and failed attempts to quit (relapse), there are major ones to look out for. These signs and symptoms include the following:
Overall Symptoms of Substance Abuse
- Loss of appetite
3 Common Substance Abuse Symptom Types
- Denial of having a problem, despite showing clear signs
- Hiding drug use
- Using drugs and alcohol despite harmful effects
- Lying and stealing
- Loss of control
- Having obsessive, intrusive, and uncontrollable thoughts of using
- Muscle weakness
- Stumbling- Lack of physical coordination
- Slurred speech
- Poor hygiene
- Constricting pupils
- Bloodshot eyes
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Sudden mood swings
- Change in personality
- Lack of sleep
- Irritability or angry
- Lack of motivation
- Depression and anxiety
- Withdrawing from others
Substances That Require Substance Abuse Treatment
Alcohol is one of the most accessible used and abused substances in the world. Unfortunately, approximately 88,000 people in the United States, die from alcohol-related incidences, such as car accidents, overdose, conditions such as cirrhosis (liver disease), and other injuries each year.
Worldwide, an alcohol use disorder (AUD) is one of the most prevalent conditions, causing the most sicknesses and deaths. Within the United States, alcoholism due to binge drinking has increased over the years.
Binge drinking is classified as drinking a lot in a short amount of time. This differs for men and women, with females being the driving force behind the nationwide increase in the rate of binge drinking and cases of alcoholism. In April 2015, binge drinking among women increased more than seven times the rate among men.
An addiction to alcohol is classified under the DSM-5 as an alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is a complex disease that when misused, essentially poisons the body. The depressant diminishes brain and body function, damages organs in the body such as the liver and heart, and also cause malnutrition, dehydration, stomach ulcers, and sexual dysfunction.
If left untreated or undiagnosed for a prolonged period of time, alcoholism can commonly lead to overdose-related deaths.
In order for a person to be diagnosed with alcoholism or an AUD, they have to fall under the 11 criteria or symptoms. These include:
- Alcohol is consumed in large amounts over long periods of time.
- Unsuccessful efforts to control alcohol intake.
- A majority of time is spent getting alcohol, planning out when the binge will be or recovering from its effects (hangover).
- Strong cravings or desire to use alcohol.
- Continuing to drink alcohol despite the worsening of persistent, recurrent, or interpersonal complications.
- Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities you once enjoyed due to alcohol use.
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations that are physically hazardous.
- Continued use of alcohol despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological harm that has been exacerbated by alcohol.
- Tolerance for alcohol occurs when someone drinks and excessive amount to feel the desired effect, or they don’t feel any effects because they continue to drink the same amount.
- Withdrawal symptoms occur due to the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol or another substance such as a benzodiazepine is taken to relieve symptoms of withdrawal or mental illness such as anxiety.
Alcoholism can be destructive and isolating. Therefore, there are many more reasons why seeking help for an alcohol use disorder (AUD) at a treatment center is beneficial in bettering one’s life. If you or a loved one struggles with binge drinking, overcoming this vicious cycle is possible with the help of the experts here at Behavioral Health Centers.
Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. A common misconception is that people who use commonly abused drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, lack a moral compass, and they can just quit when they want to.
However, drug addiction is a complex disease that changes the way the brain functions permanently. Therefore, quitting is a hard cycle to break. Researchers know about how drugs affect the brain, thus, how a person’s thinking and behavior are compromised as a result.
The good news is that there are treatments and strategies that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive high-quality lives.
How Do Drugs Affect Our Brain?
Most drugs, prescription or not, affect the brain’s reward region. When a drug such as marijuana is taken, the releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which causes a person to feel its side effects of feeling “high” and euphoric.
When this reward system is functioning normally, it is tricked into believing that the drugs are a pleasurable behavior, when in reality it is just the opposite. The brain’s chemistry has been rewired, and therefore, is motivated to repeat this addictive behavior again and again.
As an individual continues to use drugs, the brain tells the body that it has become used to it, or tolerant. This means that the body doesn’t really feel that same euphoria they felt like the first time they tried it.
Thus, dependency and tolerance to the drug almost always lead to addiction. In addition, as the brain has forever adapted itself, other activities that were once pleasurable and of importance to a person becomes a second thought.
One of the most common reasons for people’s drug addictions is due to opioids, otherwise known as prescription painkillers. Chronic pain affects millions of people daily, and therefore, relief is a priority, but it is not always found or done in the proper manner.
Opioids such as Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Oxycodone), OxyContin (Percocet), fentanyl, morphine, codeine, etc., are manufactured to relieve pain quickly and effectively. However, while they do their job, they only provide short-term relief, and most importantly, are highly addictive.
How Do Opioids Work?
When opioids are taken as a means to relieve pain, the nerve cells within the brain attaches to opioid receptors, the spinal cord, and other parts of the body. When this occurs, the opioids block the signals in the spinal cord and brain, which tell the body that there is pain present.
Since they are effective in relieving pain, even only for a short period of time, this is an incentive to keep wanting more, despite the addictive nature of them.
Prescription Medications vs Heroin
As these opioids are required to be prescribed by a physician, people turn to more accessible and less costly opioids such as heroin.
This other addictive form of opioid is often laced with a synthetic chemical called fentanyl, which is the main cause of opioid-related overdoses and deaths. Thus, the cyclical epidemic continues.
Drug addiction treatment strategies include treatment programs, therapy, coping skills, which help to introduce patients to new experiences and ways of enjoying life in sobriety, and ongoing support.
Substance Abuse Treatment Options
There are various substance abuse treatment options available to people suffering from addiction and mental illness. As everyone’s needs are different, treatment methods will vary depending on a variety of factors, such as:
- What type of substance(s) does the person use
- The severity of the addiction
- If there are any co-occurring conditions that have developed or pre-existing (i.e., bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety).
Various therapies have also been proven to be useful for different types of drug and alcohol addictions. A good way to think about it is, addiction doesn’t ever just go away, it is managed to stay away.
Therefore, after treatment is completed, it is highly recommended to continue your path to recovery by reinforcing the lessons taught in rehab by attending aftercare programs, support groups, and therapy sessions.
At Behavioral Health Centers, our evidence-based substance abuse inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, comprehensively manage the disease of addiction through a multi-pronged approach.
Strategies include medical and clinical care, detox, medication management, teaching coping and life skills, relapse prevention techniques, therapy, and support groups, etc. Other methods of treatment include:
Before official treatment has begun, patients undergo a comprehensive process called Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT), also known as detoxification. Medical detox programs are designed to help people abstain from drugs and alcohol, so they can focus on recovering and maintaining a sober, healthier life. This work is done in a safe, secure, and supervised environment.
Residential treatment, also known as an inpatient treatment program, provides the highest level of rehab services for patients diagnosed with alcohol or other drug addiction. Individuals with severe addictions are the best candidates for this type of treatment. While living at the facility, specialists provide patients with 24-7 medical monitoring, including detoxification, therapy, medication management, integrated with mental health services.
Outpatient treatment is different from inpatient treatment. People who have already attended treatment or have less severe addictions are the best candidates. Individuals do not live at the rehab facility but will receive extensive weekly treatment while being able to live independently at home.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
People with mental illness such as depression, tend to cope with their symptoms by turning to drugs and alcohol. Mental illness is a major risk factor for addiction. Having both a mental illness and substance abuse is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.
If you or a loved one struggle with both, which is very common, it is imperative to seek treatment immediately. If left untreated or undiagnosed for a prolonged period of time, conditions will worsen.
Behavioral Health Centers believes in treating both the addiction and mental illness simultaneously to ensure treatment is thorough.
Common Co-occurring Conditions
Mental disorders that occur with substance use disorders are severe conditions that are treated together, as they are hard to beat on their own. Common mental disorders that occur with substance use include:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
Therapy and Counseling Options for Treating Substance Abuse
Individual therapy is formally known as psychotherapy. This type of counseling or therapy is used for those suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. The best candidates for individual therapy are individuals who need a more personal, hands-on approach to therapy. This type of counseling is done not in a group, where the private one-on-one sessions help to really solve the root of the problem quicker.
As the name suggests, group therapy is counseling done in a group. This form of support was designed to be surrounded by like-minded people going through similar experiences, as a support system is one of the major elements contributing to successful recoveries.
Group therapy has proven to be most effective in many areas of mental and physical health. Most professionals agree that group practices are preferable to individual therapy because people feel most motivated and supported when their struggles are understood better by individuals who are directly affected, other than family and friends. By attending group therapy, patients gain insight, communication, compassion, and accountability.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment used for those with drug and alcohol addictions. CBT is very solution-oriented, and therefore, this approach aims to help people become and stay sober.
There is some evidence that demonstrates that addiction is a learned behavior, and therefore, those who specialize in cognitive-behavioral therapy can benefit from changing their distorted patterns of thought to break the cycle of addiction.
Behavioral Health Centers Can Help Today
Recognizing the signs of addiction is the first step in getting help. The reasons mentioned above prove that addiction and mental illness can be effectively managed, treated, and even prevented in combination with effective treatment and support.