The United States has been in an epidemic of alcohol and drug addiction for over a decade, with rising overdose rates each year. The state of Florida has been hit particularly hard. It’s multiple major cities and seaports make it a popular location for drug trafficking. With thousands affected by drug addiction, only a fraction get the help they need. However, drug and alcohol treatment can help people with substance use disorders achieve lasting sobriety. Increased access to treatment in Florida could help more people deal with substance use issues.
Learn more about drug and alcohol treatment and the scope of the addiction problem in Florida.
Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the reward center of the brain. There are several things that can cause addictive behavioral problems, but drugs and alcohol are among the most common. Addiction is often identified by compulsive drug use, even though the drug is causing significant problems in a person’s life. Active addiction can lead to issues like health problems, strained relationships, and financial ruin. Addiction is also progressive, which means it can get worse over time if it’s not addressed or treated.
Addiction affects the brain by hijacking your reward system, which creates powerful cravings and compulsions to use again. Your reward system is designed to respond to healthy activities like eating and positive social interactions. It works with feel-good chemicals, including dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. Healthy activities cause the reward system to release these chemicals that lift your mood and make you feel good both physically and emotionally.
Your brain learns that these activities can help overcome negative physical and emotional issues like pain or stress. That’s why you might crave ice cream after a tough day at work. Addiction is caused because drugs often trigger an extremely potent release of feel-good chemicals. Your brain responds by learning that taking the drug can increase your mood or relieve physical or emotional pain. When you experience stress or a trigger, your brain will produce a powerful craving for the drug.
The compulsions used that are produced by addiction can become overwhelming. Many people with substance use issues don’t realize they have a problem. However, even if you know you’re struggling with addiction, you still may not be able to quit on your own. Addiction isn’t a lack of willingness to quit. It may be that powerful compulsions are overriding your drive to stop using.
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If you’re struggling with substance use issues, how do you know if you’re addicted? Addiction is diagnosed as a severe substance use disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM has a list of eleven factors that may point to a substance use problem. These factors include things like trying and failing to cut back, experiencing cravings to use the substance, using the substance despite the inherent danger, and others.
The number of these factors that apply to you will help doctors and clinicians diagnose the severity of your substance use disorder. If you experience six or more of these factors, you may be diagnosed with a severe substance use disorder. Four or five represent moderate disorders, and two or three represent a mild disorder. If you go through addiction treatment and achieve sobriety, your health care professional may change the diagnosis to a substance use disorder in early remission, or sustained remission if your sobriety is long-lasting.
Drug and alcohol addiction treatment is a complex process that’s designed to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. The process is complex because addiction itself is a complicated disease that can present differently in each individual. Addiction may also be connected to biological, psychological, and sociological factors that also need to be addressed. For example, addiction is commonly associated with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. If one problem is addressed while the other is ignored, it may lead to a relapse in both.
To address the individual problems you may have as you enter addiction treatment, you’ll go through a biopsychosocial assessment. This assessment looks at biological, psychological, and social issues related to addiction. If you have severe biological issues, you’ll likely start treatment in the highest level of care with medically managed inpatient treatment, also known as medical detox.
Detox is recommended for people that are likely to experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms or other medical conditions in addition to withdrawal. Alcohol and other depressants cause the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and quitting suddenly can be life-threatening. With detox treatment, dangerous symptoms like seizures can be avoided or treated. Other drugs like opioids or stimulants can cause extremely uncomfortable physical or psychological symptoms that may need detox, but they aren’t usually life-threatening. In addition to medical care, you’ll begin clinical treatment in detox as you address some of the deeper issues that contribute to addiction.
After detox, if you still have high-level medical, psychological, or social needs, you might go through medically monitored or clinically managed inpatient treatment. As you progress in treatment, you’ll move on to lower levels of care that afford you more independence. When you can live on your own, you’ll move onto intensive outpatient treatment with nine or more hours of treatment each week. Partial hospitalization falls under this category, and that involves 20 hours of treatment each week or more. As you progress, you may move onto outpatient treatment with fewer than nine hours of treatment each week.
Through each level of care, you’ll participate in therapies for your specific needs. You’ll likely engage in individual and group therapy sessions with your therapist. You may also experience one or more behavioral therapies, which are used to examine thoughts and motivations and how they influence your behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often used in relapse prevention planning.
Drug and alcohol addiction is a significant problem all over the United States, especially in the state of Florida. In 2018, Florida’s medical examiners investigated 28,227 deaths and found that common psychoactive substances were present in 12,080 deaths. Alcohol was found in 5,140 deaths, and it was determined to be the primary cause in 866 deaths. Cocaine was found in 2,856 deaths, and opioids were found in 5,576 deaths. Among opioids, synthetic drug alcohol was among the most deadly, being present in 2,703 deaths. Prescription opioids were also present in more descendants than illicit opioids.
In Florida, stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines (including meth) are as significant a problem as opioids. Still, alcohol represents the most common substance misuse-related to public health problems in the state. In 2016, it was present in half of all drug-related deaths. It can also interact with other drugs like prescription depressants and opioids to quickly lead to a fatal overdose. Prescription depressants like benzodiazepines were commonly found by medical examiners, but they rarely lead to overdose deaths on their own. For instance, the popular benzodiazepine alprazolam was found in 1,654 deaths, but only it was the primary cause in only 664 of them.
American Psychiatric Association. (2017, January). What Is Addiction? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
Verywellmind. (2020, March 21). The Symptoms Used to Diagnose Substance Use Disorders. Elizabeth Hartney, B. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/dsm-5-criteria-for-substance-use-disorders-21926
FDLA. (2019, November) Medical examiners Commission. . Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons by Florida Medical Examiners. Retrieved from https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/MEC/Publications-and-Forms/Documents/Drugs-in-Deceased-Persons/2018-Interim-Drug-Report-FINAL.aspx