What is Substance Abuse or Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

Substance abuse or SUD is considered a medical brain disorder because substance(s) used inappropriately alter brain function. When a person overuses a drug or alcohol to the point of addiction, whether legal or illegal, it is considered substance abuse or SUD. As an obvious example, we will use a person who continually smokes cigarettes and has trouble stopping; that person is addicted to smoking cigarettes. 

Substance abuse or SUD alters a person’s behavior, attitudes, and perspective, and that he/she/they spend a good amount of time getting and using the substance. It can mean ignoring everyday obligations to the point of bankruptcy or homelessness or substance-related legal problems. The obsession with the drug or substance is continues despite the known health risks and the potential loss of a job or family and friends.

The process of addiction to a substance can happen quickly or slowly. As a person uses a drug, whether prescribed or obtained illegally, the body grows tolerant and to experience a similar high as that felt initially the body begins to require more of the substance(s). The tolerance level increases according to the amount of substance regularly used. Sadly, the more the person uses, the greater the body’s craving for more.

What are the Signs of Substance Abuse?

The following are a few examples of symptoms:

  • Regularly drinking large amounts or drinking over longer periods of time
  • Regularly binge drinking
  • Unsuccessfully wanting to stop using drugs or alcohol, or unsuccessfully trying to control one’s use
  • Spending more money and time obtaining the substance and longer time recovering after use
  • Strong cravings for the substance when the high begins to wane
  • Taking unreasonable risks, including sexual risks as a result of the substance use
  • A change in personality while under the influence of the substance
  • A change is friends, behaviors, and spending patterns

Detox is the First Step in Moving Toward SUD Treatment

Once a person decides to stop using and to get help for the addiction, whether independently or through an intervention, the person checks into a detox. A medically supervised detox is the safest. Determining whether a client needs inpatient or outpatient detox is also determined by the types of substances abused, the length of the abuse, and the mental health of the addict. Some drug combinations make it physically and psychologically dangerous for a person to go through detox without medical supervision. 

A general misconception is that detox is a drug abuse treatment. Detox is just the process by which there is a controlled removal of substances from a person’s body. A medically supervised detox includes monitoring the psychological impact of withdrawal on the person. A quality detox facility will be licensed and medically staffed. At the end of the detox, the medical staff and addiction specialists will develop a treatment plan to follow. Moving directly from detox to treatment is considered best practice and provides the best way toward successful recovery.

What is a Comprehensive SUD Treatment Plan?

Individualized treatment plans consider many realities: the person’s home obligations, work or school obligations, mental health status, and physical considerations, as well as financial considerations. Many addicts are dually diagnosed or have co-occurring conditions. That means the addict has a mental health disorder(s) in addition to an alcohol and/or drug addiction. All aspects of a person’s life must be managed and addressed during treatment to ensure that a SUD treatment is successfully.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “9.5 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance abuse disorder in 2019. After the COVID pandemic, that figure jumped to 40.3 million people aged 12 or older. This figure included 28.3 million who had alcohol use disorders and 6.5 million who had both alcohol and SUD.

Treatment options must include appropriate medication to stabilize one’s mental health and counseling to address underlying mental health disorders and substance abuse issues. Education classes are needed to teach the addict what addiction is, the signs of relapse, and what triggers may challenge the addict in the future. Mental health classes are required to teach the addict about his/her/their mental disorder and how to manage it. Medication management education is necessary for those with co-occurring disorders. Depending upon the treatment facility, several different counseling modalities may be used, including individual and group counseling. The types of therapies range from

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy
  • Rapid Eye Movement Therapy (EMDR) for trauma
  • Family therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Holistic therapies

A person hoping to be successful in recovery must learn about honesty and personal responsibility (without shame or guilt). Life skill classes are needed to provide the addict with methods to manage life stressors and strong feelings as they arise. Regular treatment plan evaluation is based on the individual’s progress and response to treatment elements and current stressors.

Treatment programs should also provide physical activities (yoga, running, or other aerobic activities). These types of physical activities increase the brain’s positive effects and build new healthy habits that create increased endorphins. Endorphins are involved in the body’s ability to experience pain and pleasure. Exercising also helps reduce stress. Some studies have found that individuals involved in group exercise will experience an endorphin boost because of the group energy. Additionally, addicts also need to learn about nutrition and the role healthy eating plays in keeping the mind positive and the body fit.

This concept is scary for the addict. There are a variety of programs that will help the addict learn how to live without drugs and alcohol. Such programs, based upon research, include mindfulness training, meditation, learning to listen to others and empathize, and setting achievable workable goals. An addict must also learn about the signs and symptoms of relapse to prevent falling back into substance abuse.

Once a person moves through the levels of SUD treatment and has made significant progress, he/she/they may be ready to move into a structured halfway house (a home with supervision, community meetings, 12 Step meetings, drug testing, and work obligations).

After-care programs allow addicts to address the stressors that are attending to everyday life, including ways to deal with these stressors in real-time. When released from treatment, the treating staff and the addict will develop a comprehensive after-care plan. Sometimes this plan requires the individual to attend individual counseling and/or group counseling a certain number of hours a week. Sometimes the staff recommends attending a 12 Step program. Assessments during treatment can provide the treating team with a road map that will assist the addict in living a sober and productive life.

Coastal Detox can address both your detox needs and your treatment needs. We can provide a seamless transition from detox to treatment without you having to wait days or weeks to get into treatment. (A detox that does not have the facility to move the addict directly into treatment increases the likelihood of the addict relapsing.) Additionally, Coastal Detox can provide you with residential therapy if that is what is required. Whatever your needs Coastal Detox can address them. Call now to discuss your first step toward recovery.