Substance Use Disorder (also known as Chemical Dependency)
It is sometimes difficult for an individual who has never struggled with addiction to drugs or alcohol, or substance use disorder, to understand the powerful dependency these substances create. Why can’t they just quit drinking? some might ask. But to be chemically dependent on a substance means that the body and brain rely on it to function. Depriving a person of the substance they are dependent on would lead to severe and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Year after year, millions of men and women in the United States face the daily challenges of substance use disorder, and it affects many different aspects of their lives: their work, their home life, their relationships with friends and family.
To make things worse, addiction is often viewed as a “vice,” and the person is blamed for not controlling their actions. However, research shows that substance use disorder is a disease that affects the brain and operates much like other chronic illnesses, like diabetes or asthma. You can receive treatment for addiction and learn how to manage it long-term, but it cannot be cured.
Addiction develops for a variety of reasons, not all of which are easy to pinpoint. Studies show a genetic factor in addiction, but environmental factors are equally, if not more, important. A person’s mental and physical health also play a role, as drugs or alcohol are often used to self-medicate emotional or physical pain.
Substance use disorder is considered a chronic disease that will worsen over time if left untreated. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 106,000 people in the United States died from drug overdose in 2021. Long-term substance use can also affect the proper functioning of particular organs and systems of the body, potentially leading to liver damage, heart disease, cancer, stroke, or mental health conditions. Addiction does not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, class, or any other factors – anyone can develop a substance use disorder. The earlier addiction is treated, the better. To that end, it’s important to know the signs of addiction so you can intervene with yourself or a loved one. Somesymptoms of substance use disorder include the following:
- Lack of care for one’s personal hygiene
- Significant personality or behavioral changes
- Lying and stealing
- Withdrawal from friends and family, including children
- Risky sexual behavior
- A decline in one’s physical health and appearance
- An increasing inability to pay attention to one’s surroundings or conversations
- Nausea or vomiting
- An increase in embarrassing social behavior
- Acting out or behaving inappropriately at work
Take notice of any changes of behavior or concerning patterns if you suspect a loved one may be dealing with substance use disorder.
The good news is that addiction treatment is effective and can reverse much of the damage wrought by drugs and alcohol. Treatment often begins with medical detox, in which the patient is under 24-hour supervision while a medical team prescribes medications and therapies to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. After detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment offers a structured environment and individual and group therapy to help patients address the root causes of the addiction.
Our treatment team will also be able to diagnose and treat any co-occurring mental health disorder that might complicate addiction recovery. When treatment ends, we ensure that the patient will connect with resources in their community for continued recovery support.
Investing in your long-term health can be a painful process at times, especially when substance use disorder is involved. However, a qualified mental health facility like Peak Behavioral Health will help you achieve optimal success and gain the tools required to thrive in sobriety. Contact us today for a completely free and confidential assessment if you are concerned that you are struggling with addiction, or if you are worried that a close family member or friend is dealing with this issue.