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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

  • Sep 15, 2017
Telepsychiatry: Advances and Challenges

The use of telepsychiatry is increasing in the primary care settings, including pediatrician’s offices, and in schools where psychiatrists or other mental health professionals can collaborate with teachers and other school staff.

  • Sep 14, 2017
Losing a Sibling to Suicide

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time for mental health advocates and professionals, survivors, allies and community members to raise awareness, share resources and work to prevent suicide.

  • Sep 05, 2017
National Recovery Month 2017: Focusing on Access to Care in Rural Areas

September is National Recovery Month, sponsored annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Recovery Month is intended to raise awareness of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.

Upcoming Events
Recovery Month
  • Fri,  Sep  01 - Sat,  Sep  30
Find campus based events and support
  • Fri,  Sep  01 - Sat,  Sep  30
2017 Art of Recovery Expo
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Sat,  Sep  16

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.

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Editor's Choice

AUG 6, 2017

First responders work to increase addiction outreach, support

The Press of Atlantic city

Bereheiko said several years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to help if a parent or loved one of an overdose victim asked him about what to do. Now, if he comes in contact with family members seeking help, he at least can put them in touch with Officer Jose Gonzalez, the Police Department’s liaison to the migrant and homeless communities, mental health agencies and addiction resources. The relationships between agencies and first responders gives Ford hope more can be done for people like her son, she said.

AUG 3, 2017

Complex addiction problem requires diversified approach to solutions

Pal-Item, USA Today

Indiana's drug czar called the state's drug addiction challenge a complex problem with many pieces. Jim McClelland's goals as the state's executive director for drug treatment, prevention and enforcement are to "substantially reduce addiction," "help increase access to treatment" and "help people maintain recovery" enabling them to return to productive members of society.

JULY 26, 2017

Research breakthrough reveals link between hormone and alcoholism

Addiction Now

A groundbreaking study has uncovered a potential pathway in the brain that could lead to alcoholism. The breakthrough may eventually improve treatment for people struggling with alcohol use disorders. Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) carried out the new study, which shows that aldosterone — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — may contribute to alcohol dependence through specific receptors in the brain.