What is Substance Abuse and How Do I Find Treatment?

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Is it Substance Abuse, or Not?

Scenario 1: A middle-aged man walks into his favorite bar almost every week night. He sits on a stool for a couple of hours and talks comfortably with the other regulars. He always nurses two or three beers while sitting in his accustomed place and sometimes has a shot with the guys. He does this to escape his problems, and eventually drives home under the influence. He may even miss work the next day because of a bad hangover. Is he an alcoholic? Scenario 2: A 30-year-old runner injured her knee during a marathon. Her doctor prescribes her strong medications to deal with the pain. She is told to take two pills per day, but one day she takes three because her pain is so bad that it inhibits her daily work. Is she a drug addict?

What Is Substance Abuse?

The World Health Organization defines substance abuse as “the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs.” In the first scenario, substance abuse is shown in the form of alcohol addiction. The use of alcohol is decreasing the quality of the man’s life, and putting others in the way of danger. The second scenario gives an example of somebody who is not addicted, but the potential for addiction easier now with access to these pain medications.  These are both very common scenarios, but if your behavior falls within the definition of substance abuse, how do you get help?  

Getting Help

People who have come to the realization that they have a problem often have no idea where to turn. Let’s look at some questions you might have.

I know I need treatment, but where do I begin looking?

A good place to start is with your doctor. Many times a doctor will have recognized the signs of addiction already and he or she can refer you to a treatment center. You may know someone who has had treatment for a drug or alcohol issue in the past, whether friend or family member, and they may be able to help.  A counselor or other trusted professional may also be able to point you toward substance abuse help.

How do I find substance abuse treatment centers near me?

Treatment programs for substance abuse are very common across the United States, so finding one is not difficult. However, finding the right one can be. The place to start is the internet. Do a general search of your area to find those nearest you. Talk to friends or family about helping you with your search. Look for programs that are accredited by the Joint Commission.  The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

Are all treatment centers the same?

People have different needs when it comes to treatment, so there are different types of facilities available. Make a list of what you need for your treatment and search using those criteria. It may be a good idea to visit several different treatment programs and find out how they can serve you.

What is the staff like at a treatment center?

The staff will generally consist of treatment professionals such as medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, nurses, counselors, dietitians and others. They are there to help you develop a substance abuse treatment plan that suits your specific needs. Doctors provide for your medical needs, therapists work with your thought processes and behaviors, and other professionals are there to round out the treatment program.

Will they be able to treat me for my specific issues?

Many treatment centers have a model they follow, but most will tailor the program to meet your needs. If you have problems with a specific drug, they will design the program around that addiction. If you are more comfortable with a particular type of therapy, that can generally be accommodated. Separate men’s and women’s treatment options are available, and other needs can also be met.

Where do I look for information?

Check out Akua Mind & Body (www.akuamindbody.com) to find answers to your questions. You can also visit the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or international websites such as those run by the World Health Organization.  Just remember, whatever questions you have can be answered, and whatever fears you have can be addressed. Either way, it is important to seek treatment.

Summary Many people are confused about what substance abuse is, and even after they find out, they have no idea where to go to find answers. Substance abuse is a dependence – psychological, physical, cognitive – on alcohol or drugs. This dependence causes social and other life problems that can negatively affect how you live. Over time, you also develop a tolerance for the drug that causes you to need more to get the same effect. If you believe that you fit these criteria, it is important that you seek treatment. The most available resource is the internet. You can find great information from sites maintained by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization. These sites have information about what substance abuse is, how specific drugs affect the body, and what types of treatment are available. You can then make a list of what you need from treatment and find local facilities that meet those criteria. Realizing and admitting that there is a problem is the first step in getting treatment. You are on the right path.