All Topics

Help With Addiction and Substance Use Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Addiction is a complex condition, a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Oct 23, 2015
This Halloween, Stigma Shouldn’t Be in Fashion

Stigma is a barrier to care for people with mental illness; more than one in four people cite stigma as a reason that they do not seek care. Being mindful about the way that we portray mental illness is important to help reduce stigma.

  • Oct 09, 2015
A Brief Mental Health Checkup

We often focus more on treating illnesses, both physical and mental, than on staying healthy. But the absence of mental illness does not necessarily mean good mental health.

  • Oct 01, 2015
Walks and Events to Raise Awareness: Many Opportunities to Show Your Support

October is filled with opportunities across the country to join with others in raising awareness and support for a variety of mental health and substance use causes.

Upcoming Events
Substance Use Prevention Month
  • Thur,  Oct  01 - Sat,  Oct  31
Great American Smokeout
  • Thur,  Nov  19
Alcohol Awareness Month
  • Fri,  Apr  01 - Sat,  Apr  30

What can you do to prevent relapse?

Preventing relapse to substance use is mainly a matter of becoming aware of the triggers to relapse and either finding ways to avoid or cope with them. Triggers can be external, for example being in places where substances are being used. Stress of any kind (job stress, financial stress, arguments with important people) can also be an external trigger. Triggers can also be internal such as craving, depressed mood, anxiety, hunger or fatigue. The key is to anticipate triggers ahead of time so they don’t come as a surprise and use a plan or coping strategy to deal with the triggers. Usually professional help is needed to gain awareness of and plans to deal with triggers to relapse. There are also very good medications for alcohol, opioid and tobacco use disorders that effectively reduce craving and can help prevent relapse. More

I live with pain and I want help, but I’m worried about becoming addicted to pain medication. What can I do?

Opioid type medications that have potential to lead to addiction are only one way, and probably not the best way, to help manage chronic pain. So the best plan is to try all the alternatives first.

Non-medication interventions such as graded exercise programs, physical therapy, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai-chi and a form of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) all take some effort but often work very well. Acupuncture may benefit some people living with pain. Many medications that do not have addiction potential can also be helpful for chronic pain. These include anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen; antidepressants like nortriptyline or duoloxetine; or medications often used for seizures like gabapentin or pregabalin.

If you or someone you know does require opioid pain medications to help manage chronic pain, it is reassuring to know that the majority of people who take these medications for chronic pain do not become addicted to them, although anyone who takes these type of medications for more than a few weeks is likely to have some tolerance (less effect of the medication over time) and withdrawal symptoms if the medications are stopped abruptly. More

About the Expert:

Andrew Saxon, M.D.
Professor and Director, Addiction Psychiatry Residency Program
University of Washington
Director, Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse Treatment and Education (CESATE)
VA Puget Sound Health Care System
Seattle, Wash.

Keith’s Story


Keith, a 45-year-old plumber, was referred for a psychiatric evaluation after his family met with him to express their concern about his heavy drinking. Since making the appointment three days earlier, Keith denied having a drink. More

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Find a Psychiatrist

Find a psychiatrist in your area today.

Search Now

APA Resources

Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5

Understanding Mental Disorders is a consumer guide designed to promote education and understanding among anyone who has been touched by mental illness.

 Editor's Choice
  • Nov 23, 2015

For Addicts, Fantasy Sites Can Lead to Ruinous Path
New York Times

A giant cardboard picture, tattered by time, rests against a wall in Joshua Adams’s home. It shows a radiant young woman with an Auburn University corsage hugging the university’s mascot, a tiger. She is Auburn’s homecoming queen — and Mr. Adams’s mother. More

  • Oct 20, 2015

A Florida Family Moves Forward After Struggling With Addiction

Battles with addiction can rattle or wreck a family. Shenika Morrison, a youth reporter from WLRN in Miami, explores getting past drug addiction. More