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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 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.

  • Oct 02, 2018
Can Computer Delivered Treatment Bring Help to More People with Substance Use Disorders?

Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. had a substance use disorder in the past year, according to a recent national survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. By age group, this includes about 4 percent of adolescents (12 to 17 years old), 15 percent of young adults (18 to 25) and 6 percent of adults (26 and older). Substance use disorders involve recurrent use of alcohol or other drugs (or both) causing significant impairment and potentially leading to health problems, disability, and problems at work, school or home.

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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.

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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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SEPT 24, 2018

 Successful recovery from addiction means more than achieving abstinence

News-Medical.net

Successful recovery from drug and alcohol addiction through attending a residential treatment program means more to the person than just ...staying clean and sober, an Australian-first study has found. While a significant body of research has shown that the length of time a person stays in a program is positively linked to abstinence, reduced crime, better employment prospects and improved quality of life, much of the work has focused on achieving and maintaining abstinence as the main measure of a program’s success.

SEPT 24, 2018

Ohio pilot program to enlist businesses in anti-addiciton effort

The Columbus Dispatch

Every time there is a job opening at southern Ohio’s Taylor Lumber, the bosses interview twice as many candidates as they plan to hire. That’s because, the company’s human-resources director says, they know that about half the people chosen won’t be able to pass a drug test. It’s a real problem, said Bart Frost, who runs human resources for the company. Another problem is chronic absenteeism caused by drug and alcohol addiction. And it’s also a struggle to find successful ways to help employees who are in recovery stay clean and sober.

SEPT 21, 2018

Most Hospital ERs Won't Treat Your Addiction. These Will.

HuffPost.

Fewer than 5 percent of emergency doctors work in hospitals that offer anti-addiction meds. For Dr. Zachary Dezman, an emergency physician in this heroin-plagued city, there’s no question that offering addiction medicine to emergency room patients is the right thing to do. People with a drug addiction are generally in poorer health than the rest of the population, he explained. “These patients are marginalized from the health care system. We see people every day who have nowhere else to go.