Addiction is a disease of the brain that can affect individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds. While not everyone who experiments with drugs and alcohol will fall victim to a life of despair, a significant portion will. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), an estimated 31.9 million people, translating to 11.7 percent of the population over 12 in the United States, were current illegal drug users in 2018. In that same year, 53 million people, 19.4 percent, admitted to misusing prescription drugs.

When you include alcohol into the mix, an estimated 139.8 million people drank alcohol, and 58.8 million people used tobacco products. The figures show that 20.3 million people had a substance use disorder, 14.8 million struggled with alcohol use disorder (AUD), and 8.1 million struggled with an illegal drug use disorder. It goes on to report that 22 percent of males and 17 percent of females used illicit drugs or prescription drugs at that time.

It’s no secret that drug and alcohol use is prevalent in our society, but it may be challenging to determine if substance use has reached the point of addiction. If you’re wondering if your drug and alcohol use requires treatment, this article can help provide some clarity. Continue reading to learn more. 

Do I Have an Addiction?

According to the most recent edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the technical term for addiction has changed in recent years, and they are now classified as use disorders, including alcohol use disorder or opioid use disorder. The most common symptoms of a use disorder include needing more of a substance over time to achieve the desired effects, withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation, and the inability to quit despite knowing you have a problem. 

Use disorder may range from mild to severe, which are dependent on the symptoms you experience. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop alcohol or drug use.
  • Unable to limit alcohol or drug use.
  • Debilitating cravings to use.
  • Spending most of or all of your time using or obtaining a substance.
  • Continuing to use despite the consequences.
  • Falling behind in obligations, such as work, school, or with the family.
  • Loss of interest in former activities you once sought for pleasure.
  • Using drugs or alcohol in unsafe situations, such as driving.
  • Needing more of the substance to achieve the desired effect.

The First Steps Toward Drug and Alcohol Use Treatment

Methods & Modalities Menu

Seeking help is often regarded as the most challenging step before achieving sobriety and changing your addiction pattern. Attempting to forego this process alone seldom works, and isolation will set you up to fail. Seeking help and speaking with a mental health professional, physician, or family member is your best option. 

You should also consider enlisting in a support group, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, and asking for local suggestions. Addiction is widespread in our society, and you must never stay silent in fear of shocking your family or physicians. It is their job to get you the help you need.

Is It Necessary to See a Mental Health Professional or a Doctor?

The short answer is yes; you should visit a medical professional if you’re experiencing hardships caused by drug or alcohol use. Fortunately, your confidentiality will be respected, and you should share all the information about your usage patterns. Mental health professionals or doctors will assess you and determine whether you meet the criteria for a use disorder. Drug and alcohol consumption may cause adverse consequences to your body, and you should get checked out by a doctor to ensure a clean bill of health. 

Drug and Alcohol Use Treatment for A Loved One

Before seeking drug and alcohol use treatment for a loved one, you must understand that recovery requires the individual is willing to change. However, if you feel they’re on their way to reaching rock bottom, intervening before that point will be your best option. If you’re considering an intervention or approaching the person about drug and alcohol use treatment, you should speak to a professional first to avoid harm. It’s a challenging topic, and an addiction specialist can prepare you for the tough conversation you face. 

Characteristics of an Exceptional Drug and Alcohol Use Program

If you’re new to this topic, you must keep in mind that even though two people struggle with the same addiction, they’re two different people with different challenges. Are they struggling with a co-occurring disorder? Are they experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? All of these questions will be asked during a thorough assessment. Addiction treatment must be tailored to the individual in question. One program may benefit someone else while leaving another in the dark.

Here are some other considerations when determining drug and alcohol use treatment for a loved one:

  • Providing detox options.
  • Addressing all needs of the individual.
  • Providing counseling and behavioral support.
  • Considering medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  • An in-depth evaluation for mental health concerns.
  • Education about healthy coping skills and habits.
  • Follow-up services that prevent future use. e.g., relapse prevention plans.

What Happens When Seeking Drug and Alcohol Use Treatment?

The three major components pertaining to the cessation of drugs and alcohol include detoxification, treatment, and long-term support to prevent relapse. During detox, the client may be administered medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms. During treatment, medication may also be administered in the plan, but you should expect counseling and evaluation of other mental health issues. Despite the stigma attached to addiction, it’s essential to get the help you need. 

Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment

The answer to this question is dependent on several factors. It may include the resources available, your health insurance, the severity of your disorder, and if a mental health professional suggests inpatient or outpatient treatment. 

Inpatient programs provide 24-hour housing, medical care, and therapy, targeting those with severe use disorders. More than half of those seeking drug and alcohol use treatment will be placed in inpatient treatment. The programs include short-term detox centers and long-term programs.

Outpatient treatment will vary from a therapy session once weekly to more intensive programs, providing individual and group therapy. The distinguishing factor between the two is that outpatient treatment is not 24-7 and will not always offer medical care onsite. The individual may transition to outpatient once they’ve spent an extended period in more intensive care. 

Can Drug and Alcohol Use Disorders be Treated?

Not seeking help can be fatal. Addiction is a progressive disease that will gradually worsen over time. Drug and alcohol use disorder can be treated, but keep in mind, detox is the first step in an intense process. Anxiety and depression are culprits in relapse, including other exterior factors, making long-term support even more valuable. You may always crave the substance, but you are in control of what enters your body. One day not using is better than the one you do, so make the wise choice to get help today.

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