Today’s Most Effective Solutions for Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is an increasing problem across the United States. Roughly defined as the point in which a person begins to suffer in multiple ways from his or her usage or desire to use a substance that alters perception.

Substance abuse can be caused by a variety of factors that do not involve initially abusive habits, such as receiving a prescription from a doctor that becomes seemingly impossible to stop taking. While the onset of substance abuse can be extremely subtle, the signs of a person suffering from substance abuse can be much clearer. In fact, the signs of drug or alcohol abuse and withdrawal are relatively similar for most people.

Substance abuse can be caused by dependence on a wide variety of substances like alcohol and illicit drugs. Many people abuse substances which are legal and okay to consume in moderation, like tobacco. Because of the almost universal nature of the mechanisms which cause substance abuse, the treatment options for those suffering from addiction are similar regardless of which substance a person has a problem with. While multiple substance abuse treatment options exist, most doctors and researchers support a handful of treatment methodologies for those searching for help. Keep reading to learn more about substance abuse and effective solutions for dealing with the problem.

What is considered a substance abuse problem?

In general, someone is said to have a substance abuse problem if he or she shows addictive behavior concerning the substance. Addiction is characterized by a feeling of “need” for the substance to for the person to feel okay. In most cases, the body becomes physiologically dependent on the substance. A person addicted to a substance will ultimately prioritize getting that substance over most other areas of his or her life, usually leading to a deterioration in other important life areas. Oftentimes, the overall health of the substance abuser will begin to suffer due to his or her constant prioritization of the drug over his or her physical needs.

Addiction is seen as a chronic disease that requires lifelong management to keep under control. In many cases, people with substance abuse issues begin to have trouble resisting other types of substances in addition to the desired substance, a problem that lasts years after the person has last taken a substance. Because of the nature of substance abuse and addiction, relapse is a common element of many stories of recovery.

What are the common signs of substance abuse to watch for?

The first step of combatting substance abuse is recognizing that someone is suffering from the problem. Whether reading about the signs for yourself or a friend, understanding the signs of substance abuse can help the effected person find a path towards sobriety and avoid destroying other important areas of his or her life. A combination of just a couple of the following symptoms could mean that someone is beginning to have substance abuse issues:

  • Mood swings, aggressive behavior
  • A lack of interest in things he or she normally loves
  • Difficulty socializing or lack of a social life
  • A big increase in time spent alone
  • A failure to take care of basic needs (showering, grooming, etc.)
  • Significant changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Growing problems with colleagues, family members, etc.

What is the recommended approach to treating substance abuse?

While no single program meet’s everyone’s needs, doctors and researchers have come to some consensus on what characteristics should be represented in an effective substance abuse treatment program. The recommended ways to best approach substance abuse include:

  • Treating addiction as a lifelong disease that affects both a person’s physical and mental health, and must be treated as such by the professionals overseeing the substance abuse treatment program.
  • Recognizing that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to get sober helps patients choose their individual treatment path that works for them.
  • Access to services needs to be available quickly and nearby by any comprehensive substance abuse program that wants to be able to offer real support to the community.
  • Treatment plans should be comprehensive, incorporating all of the patient’ issues including those beyond his or her drug use, most commonly depression and/or anxiety.
  • Doing the entire process involved in completing a program is essential to success, as most substance abuse treatment programs are intended to build on progressive skills and successes received at each step of the process.
  • Medications and medically-assisted detoxification are often helpful, but are not meant to be treatment plans on their own. In many cases, medications are an important part of curbing issues with highly addictive substances.

What are effective treatment programs for substance abuse?

There is no one-size-fits all treatment program for substance abuse that works for everyone. Most people with substance abuse issues must try multiple methods before finding the path to sobriety that works for them. Depending on the specific substance being abused and the history of the patient, there are five basic methods for treating most cases of substance abuse:

  • Behavioral Counseling

Behavioral counseling should be a foundational element of any effective substance abuse treatment program. While it can come in many forms, the most commonly used behavioral counseling techniques involves reshaping a person’s attitude toward addiction and redeveloping certain life skills, such as social skills and work ethic.

  • Evaluation and Treatment for Mental Health Issues

In many cases, substance abuse is a result of other mental health issues that have driven the person to search for self-medication. An important part of an effective substance abuse program is addressing and treating any co-occurring mental health issues.

  • Medication and Medical Devices

Specific medications help many people transition from addiction and substance abuse to a sober lifestyle. The right sort of medication or medical device help is highly dependent on the type of substance the patient tends to abuse and his or her specific substance use history.

  • Skills Training

Helping people affected by substance abuse learn how to change their lifestyles and gain the skills they need to stay sober is essential to replacing the need for the substance in the patient’s life. Many types of skills training programs can provide this type of support.

  • Long-term Support and Counseling

Even once a person suffering from substance abuse has completed whatever program he or she chose to become sober, staying sober requires effort as well. Long-term support networks and counseling options are essential to helping substance abusers avoid relapse episodes.

Related Article: Your Rights as an Individual with Mental Illness


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