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Help With Addiction and Substance Use Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Substance use disorder (SUD) is complex a condition in which there is uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequence. People with SUD have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s) such as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs, to the point where the person’s ability to function in day to day life becomes impaired. People keep using the substance even when they know it is causing or will cause problems. The most severe SUDs are sometimes called addictions.

People with a substance use disorder may have distorted thinking and behaviors. Changes in the brain’s structure and function are what cause people to have intense cravings, changes in personality, abnormal movements, and other behaviors. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavioral control.

Repeated substance use can cause changes in how the brain functions. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the substance wears off, or in other words, after the period of intoxication. Intoxication is the intense pleasure, euphoria, calm, increased perception and sense, and other feelings that are caused by the substance. Intoxication symptoms are different for each substance.

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  • Mar 26, 2021
Only One in 10 Youths in Community Justice Systems Who Need It Are Getting Behavioral Health Treatment

Youths entering the juvenile justice system are often identified as needing help for substance use and mental health concerns, yet very few—only one in ten—receive needed behavioral health services, according to a new study in Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.  

  • Mar 18, 2021
Honoring Women’s Contributions to Psychiatry Research

All across the field of psychiatry, women make an impact every day in furthering our understanding of the brain and how to treat mental health and substance use disorders. In recognition of Women’s History Month, APA is highlighting six women whose research contributions have meant better outcomes for people with mental illness.

  • Mar 24, 2020
Online Support for People with Mental Health Conditions

While these unprecedented times are stressful for everyone, people with mental health conditions may face particular challenges. As much as possible, try to keep up your overall health, try to follow your treatment plan, and try to manage your stress. Engage in activities that help manage your stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques and creative activities. It is even more important to stay connected with friends, family and your support network. Many organizations offer ways to connect and find support online or by phone for general mental health and for specific conditions.

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

What resources are available for family members of an individual with addiction?

Al-Anon and Alateen are widely available and free resources for family members. These organizations offer mutual help groups. Members do not give direction or advice to other members. Instead, they share their personal experiences and stories, and invite other members to “take what they like and leave the rest” — that is, to determine for themselves what lesson they could apply to their own lives. The best place to learn how Al-Anon and Alateen work is at a meeting in your local community. Most professional treatment programs also offer family groups to help families support their loved ones struggling with addiction. More

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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.

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Jan 4 2021

The pandemic has hit addiction recovery hard

 

The New York Times
Addiction is often referred to as a disease of isolation and overcoming that challenge has only become more difficult during a pandemic that has forced people indoors — in some cases to live lonely lives, with drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress. Several studies have shown that binge drinking has increased during the pandemic, and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited a “concerning acceleration” of opioid-related overdoses this year. At the same time, many treatment centers have closed down or limited in-person visits.

Jan 2 2021

Dax Shepard’s Most Powerful Quotes About His Struggle With Addiction and Path to Sobriety

 

Us Magazine
Not hiding it. Dax Shepard has never shied away from opening up about his struggle with addiction and his rocky road to sober living. “There's a couple of common fallacies about sobriety. One being that people hit a bottom and then that's that. Most addicts have many bottoms,” Shepard explained during a 2019 conversation on Off Camera With Sam Jones, reflecting on one moment that made him “take stock” of his life.

Dec 27 2020 

A man started a knitting group to help people like himself recover from drug addiction
CNN

For more than 20 years, Nelson Mendonca struggled with an addiction to drugs that saw him in and out of prison. There was a time when he feared the cycle would never end. But one day while he was incarcerated in British Columbia, Canada, during the coronavirus pandemic, Mendonca picked up a loom hook -- a knitting tool -- that ended up changing his life. He joined a program where he learned how to knit. And he spent months making toques -- or hats -- for the homeless.