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Help With Addiction and Substance Use Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Nov 29, 2018
More Alcohol Screening in Primary Care Could Help Reduce Unhealthy Alcohol Use

Alcohol use continues to be a major public health issue in the U.S. One in eight adults in the U. S. reports unhealthy alcohol use.  About 6 percent of adults (about 4 percent of women and almost 8 percent of men) meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

  • Nov 02, 2018
More Sports Gambling Could Put More People at Risk of Gambling Problems

Gambling, while entertainment for many, can become problematic with devastating consequences for some. The increasing availability of sports gambling raises the specter of gambling addiction.

  • Oct 10, 2018
College Students and Binge Drinking: Facts and Tips

College is an exciting and rewarding experience for many students. For many, alcohol can seem like a fundamental part of the college experience, as it may accompany game-day tailgates, parties or social activities. Since drinking alcohol lowers inhibitions, it can act as an icebreaker during situations that may otherwise feel uncomfortable; however, it is important to recognize the potential dangers of consuming large amounts of alcohol, especially over a short period of time.

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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.

Opioid Use Disorder

Learn about Opioid Use Disorder, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options.

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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.

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Editor's Choice

DEC 9, 2018

For One Rural Community, Fighting Addiction Started With Recruiting the Right Doc

NPR

Rice says addiction has torn apart rural communities in Northern Wisconsin in the last five years or so, with an increase in crime, problems in schools, trauma in families. Many rural communities lack basic resources for substance abuse. There are fewer services available than in urban areas—as many as 82 percent of rural Americans may live in counties that lack detoxification services, for example.

DEC 9, 2018

Emergency rooms once offered little for drug users. That's starting to change.

The Boston Globe

What Martin did in the ensuing years would help move Mass. General to the vanguard of a new approach to addiction: Instead of sending addicted people on their way, the hospital can start treatment right in the emergency department. And now a new state law is requiring all hospitals to do the same, a mandate that calls on hospitals to meet the challenge of a crisis claiming four or five lives each day in Massachusetts..

DEC 8, 2018

Beyond the Stigma: Son's addiction and recovery inspires insurance executive to help others

The Union Leader

Dr. Brewster said his family's experience around addiction helps inform his company's response to the drug crisis. Father and son recently sat down for an interview at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Manchester, where Dr. Brewster is vice president for the New Hampshire market. They wanted to share their story to combat the stigma around addiction and help other families find hope and healing. Dr. Brewster said his family’s experience around addiction helps inform his company’s response to the drug crisis. “It gave me a heightened awareness of how unpredictable, irrational — and blameless — this is,” he said. “How out of control.”