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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

  • May 16, 2017
Internet Gaming – Addictive Potential?

Online games are very popular, one recent study estimates that some 160 million American adults play Internet-based games. The games can be very entertaining, and it may be easy to get absorbed in the competition, but can they be addictive? The topic has generated much news coverage in recent weeks

  • May 11, 2017
Mental Health Month and Prevention Week: Focus on Teen Behaviors and Warning Signs

May is Mental Health Month, and the third week in May is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance focused on raising awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health. You can join online to view the live kickoff event for National Prevention Week on May 15, at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

  • May 09, 2017
Motivational Interviewing: Empowering People to Change

Motivational interviewing is a counseling technique to help people change behaviors. It involves “collaborative conversation to strengthen a person’s own motivation for and commitment to change.”

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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

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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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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.

Read More

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FEB 17, 2017

Brain's Reward Processing Disrupted in Addiction

Medscape

Neural reward processing may be disrupted in patients with addictive behaviors, a new meta-analysis of imaging studies suggests. Compared with healthy control persons, patients with a gambling disorder (GD) or substance abuse disorder (SUD) showed decreased activation of the striatum, a core region of the brain reward circuit, during "reward anticipation."

FEB 17, 2017

Community in Crisis: Family loses son to addiction

Keyser Mineral Daily News Tribune

With the heroin epidemic being at an all time high, many families have found their lives touched or somehow shaped by this drug. This is the story of one family who will be forever changed because of the disease of addiction. They will never forget what heroin cost them, and the price their son paid.

FEB 15, 2017

Another Big Health Insurer Loosens Rules for Covering Addiction Treatment

NPR: Shots, Health News

Aetna, one of the nation's largest insurance companies, says that starting in March it will remove what's been a key barrier for patients seeking medication to treat their opioid addiction. The change will apply to all its private insurance plans, an Aetna spokeswoman confirmed. Aetna is the third major health insurer to announce such a switch in recent months.