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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 27, 2019
A Presidential Initiative for Mental Health

The 2020 presidential election will be one of the most consequential in recent memory. Whoever is inaugurated the following January will have to contend with a growing health care crisis, particularly where mental health and substance use disorders are concerned.

  • Sep 03, 2019
Twelve-Step-Based Programs Effective for Substance Use Problems

Spiritual or religious based programs, such as those based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, are effective for treating people with substance use disorders, according to the first systematic review of such programs. In the U.S., more than 20 million people 12 years and older (about 7.4%) have a substance use disorder and among 18-to-25-year-olds, 15% have a substance use disorder, according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

  • Sep 03, 2019
U.S. Surgeon General’s Warning on Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain

On August 29, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a new advisory on marijuana use and the developing brain. The advisory focuses on the dangers of marijuana for adolescents and for pregnant women. The statement from Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams emphasized “the importance of protecting our Nation from the health risks of marijuana use in adolescence and during pregnancy. Recent increases in access to marijuana and in its potency, along with misperceptions of safety of marijuana endanger our most precious resource, our nation’s youth.”

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NAMI National Convention
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National Recovery Month
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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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APR 8, 2019

Recovery from opioid addiction: What research says about role of steady employment

Burlington Free Press

Are workplace recovery programs successful in helping people to quit abusing drugs and avoid relapsing? A growing field of research suggests the answer is yes, though their success may have more to do with incentives than the nature of work itself. Walton described the two dominant approaches: one views employment as benchmark of successful recovery. The other area of research focuses on whether being employed is a therapeutic intervention in and of itself.

MAR 29, 2019

8 signs Your Co-workers are Struggling with Addiction

USA Today

With roughly 23.5 million Americans addicted to drugs or alcohol, and another 22 million in recovery, substance abuse happens often happens on the job.  "It rarely goes unnoticed,'' says Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer for American Addiction Centers. ''People just don't know what to do.'' Here are a few of the signs a co-worker might be struggling with alcohol or drug addiction:  falling asleep at work, or constantly appearing to be very tired; suddenly making frequent mistakes; frequent trips to the bathroom or break room; and extreme mood swings.

MAR 31 2019

The 'Burden of Disease' in those who recover from addiction

Medical News Today

Recent research shows that more than one-third of people who are recovering from addiction continue to experience chronic physical disease. Excessive use of alcohol and drugs can lead to mental and physical health issues, some of which include anxiety, depression, diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.