Addiction and Substance Use
Drug abuse is often a painful experience for the person who has the problem, as well as for family and friends who may feel helpless in the face of the disease. But there there is help for people who battle addictions.
Certain drugs can change the structure and inner workings of the brain. With repeated use, they affect a person’s self-control and interfere with the ability to resist the urge to take the drug. Not being able to stop taking a substance even though you know it’s harmful is the hallmark of addiction.
A drug doesn’t have to be illegal to cause this effect. People can become addicted to alcohol, nicotine, or even prescription drugs when they use them in ways other than prescribed or use someone else's prescription.
People are particularly vulnerable to using drugs when going through major life transitions. For adults, this might mean during a divorce or after losing a job.
Adults are at increased risk of addiction when they encounter prescription pain-relieving drugs after a surgery or because of a chronic pain problem.
For youth, this can be triggered changing schools or other major upheavals in their lives.
But young people may experiment with drug use for many different reasons. It could be a greater availability of drugs in a school with older students, or it could be that social activities are changing, or that they are trying to deal with stress. Parents may need to pay more attention to their children during these periods.
Trying drugs as a teenager increases your chance of developing substance use disorders. The earlier the age of first use, the higher the risk of later addiction. But addiction also happens to adults.
People who have a problem with drugs might lose interest in things that they used to enjoy or start to isolate themselves. Teens’ grades may drop. They may start skipping classes.
Parents may also come across drug paraphernalia, such as water pipes or needles, or notice a strange smell.
Recovery from Addiction and Substance Use Disorders
For someone in the early stages of a substance use problem, a conversation with a professional may be enough to get them the help they need. Clinicians can help the person think about their drug use, understand the risk for addiction, and come up with a plan for change.
When drugs have been used for a while, recovering requires retraining the brain. A person who’s been addicted to drugs will have to relearn all sorts of things, from what to do when they’re bored to who to hang out with.
Substance use disorder can often be treated on an outpatient basis. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to treat. Substance use disorder is a complicated disease. Drugs can cause changes in the brain that make it extremely difficult to quit without medical help.
For certain substances, it can be dangerous to stop the drug without medical intervention. Some people may need to be in a hospital for a short time for detoxification, when the drug leaves their body. This can help keep them as safe and comfortable as possible. Patients should talk with a professional about medications that treat addiction to alcohol or opioids, such as heroin and prescription pain relievers.
A substance use problem is a chronic disease that requires lifestyle adjustments and long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Even relapse can be a normal part of the process — not a sign of failure, but a sign that the treatment needs to be adjusted. With good care, people who have substance use disorders can live healthy, productive lives.
Therapists at Behavioral Wellness Clinic in Tolland, Connecticut treat addictions and substance use issues in a caring, comfortable, and confidential setting. Whether your struggles are with drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or a combination, we can help you find balance and control.