Identifying Substance Abuse
Whether you are worried about yourself, or a child, sibling, parent, extended relative, or friend, looking for information is a great first step. The use and abuse of mind-altering substances, like alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and prescription pills, will continue to get worse when not treated. Intervening now is the best way to stop the progression of use to abuse and addiction.
When use of a mind-altering substance continues, even after an adverse life consequence (an arrest for driving under the influence, a car accident because of intoxication, a medical diagnosis, loss of employment, etc.), use has progressed to abuse.
While each type of drug has a different set of effects and indicators of abuse, there are some general signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse:
- Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping much more, or much less, than normal)
- Changes in eating patterns (overeating or demonstrating a complete lack of appetite)
- Changes in mood (intense mood swings or moods that are out of character)
- Changes in social circles (new friends or no friends)
- Changes in behavior (acting out of character)
- Changes in physical appearance
- Completely losing interest in activities he or she once enjoyed
- Constantly in need of money
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. uses the following questions as a quick assessment of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction:
- Have you used drugs other than those required for medicinal reasons?
- Have you abused prescription drugs?
- Do you abuse more than one drug at a time?
- Can you get through the week without using drugs?
- Are you always able to stop using drugs when you want to?
- Have you had "blackouts" or "flashbacks" as a result of drug use?
- Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drug use?
- Does your spouse (or parents) ever complain about your involvement with drugs?
- Has drug abuse created problems between you and your spouse or your parents?
- Have you lost friends because of your use of drugs?
- Have you neglected your family because of your use of drugs?
- Have you been in trouble at work because of drug abuse?
- Have you lost a job because of drug abuse?
- Have you gotten into fights when under the influence of drugs?
- Have you engaged in illegal activities in order to obtain drugs?
- Have you been arrested for possession of illegal drugs?
- Have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped taking drugs?
- Have you had medical problems as a result of your drug use (e.g. memory loss, hepatitis, convulsions, bleeding, etc.)?
- Have you gone to anyone for help for a drug problem?
- Have you been involved in a treatment program specifically related to drug use?
The test can be taken and scored at Drug Abuse Self Test.
For further information on identifying substance abuse, or on what to do when you have identified a problem in yourself or someone you love, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
Testimonials of Addicts and Alcoholics
I have a choice about the first snort of cocaine I take. I have no choice about the second.- The words of a recovering cocaine addict.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, worldwide, over 1.5 billion people drink alcohol, 76 million of those people have an alcohol use disorder, and 180 million people abuse drugs in some way. One billion people use tobacco and 160 million people smoke marijuana every year.
Since the regular use of substances will progress to abuse, and onto addiction when not stopped and properly treated, psychoactive drugs are affecting the lives, either directly or indirectly, of a large portion of the world’s population of 7 billion people.
Here are a few personal accounts of how drugs and alcohol have affected people’s lives, either via their own substance abuse, or the addiction of someone else.
A recovering methamphetamine abuser shares the following:
The impact of that drug [meth], the impact of that sensation and how it immobilized me and made me incapable of dealing with the simplest realities of walking to the bus, of going going into my office, of getting on the phone, and of picking up my children was so frightening to me that I did’nt not want to repeat it. I was however very compelled to repeat the use of methamphetamine, which I did for years.
Even though this woman wanted to be able to function, and really wanted to be there for her children, the hold that meth had on her brain and on her behavioral choices was stronger.
A 42-year-old recovering polydrug user shares the following:
When I started drinking, everything went blank in my mind as far as thinking, feelings, emotions. So I like kind of started getting used to it. I said, ‘Well that numbed me the first time.’ I didn’t think of how I was abused or the sexual molestation, so I just continued on, every day, and then I got used to the alcohol.
While mind-altering substances are used for many reasons, a main one is to numb out and escape from reality, and from all forms of pain (physical, emotional, and psychological). When a drug, like alcohol, allows a time without remembering a painful memory, the desire to achieve that level of intoxication, to achieve the escape, becomes much more appealing than reality. The progression of casual use to abuse, and onto addiction, then can happen very quickly.
A 24-year-old shares the effects of her mother’s addiction on her own life:
My mother was addicted to speed and heroin, and I grew up with it. Then I was taken away from her. I’d go and visit her, seeing her high, seeing her not high, seeing her high again, coming down the next time, back and forth. And then when I was 11 years old, she was shot and killed on Valentine’s Day. After that I didn’t have anything to look forward to, so I didn’t care anymore.
Following her mother’s death, this 24-year-old “didn’t care anymore” and sought relief from the pain with the use of heroin, one of her mother’s drugs of choice. Whether children are around a drug-addicted parent all the time or not, the influence of drug abuse is inevitable. This young woman did not know how else to cope than with the use of a highly-addictive and extremely dangerous painkilling drug.
A 34-year-old recovering crack addict and mother of three expresses her desire to change her drug addicted ways:
Well, basically, I’d like to stay off drugs. I’d like to get my family life together again and have a relationship with my children - a good one - and, if nothing else, I’d just like to know that when I die, I did have a life, you know, aside from being just another dope fiend in the gutter.
Breaking the cycle of addiction is nearly impossible without formal treatment. To find out how which programs are best for you, or for someone you love, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731. Change is possible!
Getting Into Treatment
When a problem with alcohol or drugs is identified, it is important to find proper treatment. Without intervention and the choice to stop, drinking and drug use will progressively get worse until adverse life consequences threaten an addict’s health and happiness, and the lives of those closest to them.
Hitting a Bottom
The idea that a substance abuser must hit a rock bottom is widely known, but often misunderstood.
There are drug abusers who are arrested, who lose a job, who no longer have family members who support them, and who have reached complete financial despair who still do not stop drinking or using drugs. To one person, “bottom” may be reached when he crashes a car while under the influence and a passenger is almost killed. For another person, her bottom may be when her husband takes their children to his parents’ house for a while because he no longer trusts her to be around them.
For many people, these two scenarios would be reason enough to stop the use of mind-altering substances, but, sadly, some people are still not ready to give up the desired effects of drugs and alcohol. In that case, family members and friends can help raise a person’s bottom. If the young man who crashes his car and nearly kills someone else is still not ready to stop, his parents, or his partner could refuse to help him with legal fees. If he still lives with his parents, he may be forced to start paying rent, or is no longer welcome to live there. If he is married, his spouse may refuse to let him in the house unless he gets help.
Similarly, if the woman whose children are taken away from her continues to drink or use, her husband may file for divorce and seek full custody of their children in an effort to create a bottom for her that she cannot refuse.
Basically, the “rock bottom” does not have to occur naturally. Those who care can create terms that give the addict or alcoholic no other choice but to enroll in a treatment program. This can become tricky because without a desire to change, rehab and recovery may not last, but it is worth a try when a loved one is progressing toward dangerous and irreversible life consequences.
Breaking Through Denial
Denial is powerful. The ability to truly believe that drug and alcohol abuse are not negatively impacting a person’s life, and the lives of those around him or her, keeps many people from seeking help.
While it is important for the addict to admit a problem, there are ways to get a person into treatment that accelerates the breakdown of denial. Legal intervention (given the option between jail time and rehab), workplace intervention (being fired or forced to resign), diagnosis of a medical or mental health problem, and financial difficulties (ceasing of all funds) can help speed up the process of a realization that drugs and alcohol are interfering with life.
When denial finally crumbles, acceptance can happen naturally, and is best supported in a formal treatment environment. Shame and guilt usually accompany the admittance of a problem with drugs and alcohol, so having support in place, in the form of a trained chemical dependency staff, immediately helps the addict learn new ways of coping with these, and other, difficult emotions.
Acceptance opens the door to recovery, but also then reminds the addict or alcoholic of just how badly they hurt those who care about them. Repairing those feelings while digging deeper to the roots of substance abuse all happen after a true acceptance of a problem has been made.
Commitment to Recovery
In order to really sustain sobriety, a person has to renew a commitment to recovery every single day. “One day at a time” is a popular 12 Step adage for a reason: every day is a new opportunity to choose abstinence, and all you have to do is choose to not drink or use today.
Through a person’s time in treatment, the sustained commitment to abstinence allows the possibility of a life without substances.
To find out how to get yourself, or a loved one, into the best treatment program for your unique set of needs, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
Individual Therapy & Group Therapy
In their book, “Uppers, Downers, All Arounders, Darryl S. Inaba and William E. Cohen use the following conversation between a drug counselor and a client at the Haight Ashbury Detox Clinic in San Francisco, California, to illustrate one goal of individual therapy: to hold a client accountable.
Addict: “When I’m going through withdrawal, it’s a physical thing, and then after I’m clean, I have the mental problem having to say no every time I get money in my hands: ‘Should I or shouldn’t I? No, I shouldn’t. Go ahead, one more time won’t hurt.’ After I’ve passed withdrawal, and I pass by areas where I used to hang out, and I see other people nodding, in my mind, I start feeling like I’m sick again. I want to stay clean”
Counselor: You can stay clean for a while. Is that what you want? You want to stay clean for a while or for the rest of your life?”
Addict: “I want to stay clean permanently.”
Counselor: “Permanently drug-free?”
Addict: “But I can do it without attending those [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings.”
Counselor: “All by yourself?”
Addict: “I mean with the medication that I take.”
Counselor: “But the medications are only going to last you for a little while with the withdrawal of getting off heroin, but what are you going to do when the urges come up?”
Addict: “I guess I’ll deal with that when the time comes.”
Counselor: “So you’re just going to wait for it? You’re going to wait for the urges to come on and start using then?”
Addict: “Nah, I can deal with it.”
Counselor: “I’d like for you to come back to get into that group meeting we have at three o’clock. Also I want you to go to an NA meeting every day. I want you to go to these meetings and participate. Talk every opportunity you can. And also what I want you to do is bring back the signed participation card that you attended. I want you to do that. That’s just part of the requirement of being in the program. See, I’m going to assume that you want to stop using drugs.”
Addict: “Why can’t I just get the detoxification drugs?”
Counselor: “Because we’re not just a medication program. It’s a counseling and full recovery program too.”
Peer process groups foster a fellowship among rehab clients. Mutual support, and often harsh honesty, provide an environment of growth and camaraderie.
Uppers, Downers, All Arounders also includes the following discussion from a peer group session, to show the dynamic of peer support:
John: “I didn’t want to come here this morning and then to come here and be faced with, “Well, you gotta think whether you really want to be here.” It’s like I’m ready and I’m scared.”
Counselor: “What’s scaring you?”
John: “I feel like I’m failing myself.”
Bob: “When did you fail before?”
John: “When have I failed before? Oh, I would say the last time was when I got busted buying crack. Just going out there is failing. Knowing I shouldn’t be doing that.”
Bob: “You gotta put that out there. You gotta deal with that.”
John: “The thing is I’m scared of when I’m going to snap again.”
John was encouraged by Bob to admit his deepest source of shame, and to air it out there for the entire group to hear. The ability to open up and share in a group of peer addicts and alcoholics works wonders for the reduction of shame, guilt, and fear.
Combining Individual and Group Therapy
When individual and group therapy are combined, as is the case in most treatment programs, a client can further process an issue with peers that came up during an individual session, and vice versa.
A substance abuse counselor can help a client discover what is worth discussing privately and what is worth getting feedback on from the peer group instead. These two forms of therapy work well together in both inpatient and outpatient levels of care.
For more information on how to find the right treatment program for you, or for a loved one, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731. With many forms of therapy, healing begins!
Effective Drug and Alcohol Treatment
To stop the progression of substance abuse and addiction, seeking treatment for yourself, or helping a loved one choose treatment, is vitally important. Detoxification and inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient treatment and continuing care, have proven effective in keeping people clean and sober.
The first step involves the body ridding itself of all harmful, residual chemicals left from long-term substance use. When drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines were abused, stopping use can be fatal.
Every person’s body and brain react differently to withdrawal, which is the absence of the substance that the system has grown dependent upon for functioning. So, while being medically monitored is most vital for alcoholics and benzodiazepine addicts, entering a facility that monitors detoxing clients twenty-four hours a day provides the safe environment needed when detoxing from all mind-altering substances.
Inpatient, Residential Treatment
Once acute detoxification is complete, formal treatment can begin. With the combination of individual therapy, peer process therapy groups, and holistic approaches to healing, inpatient treatment works when an addict or ans alcoholic is committed to recovery.
This level of care offers treatment services and residential living at the same facility. Clients are required to stay completely abstinent from all psychoactive drugs, and are accounted for at every hour of the day. At least one staff member is always available, and clients are not allowed to leave the premises, unless for an approved outing, usually with the entire group of current clients.
When inpatient, residential treatment ends, the majority of treatment teams will recommend that a client enrolls in an outpatient treatment program. In this level of care, clients are not monitored around the clock. Often clients return to their home towns, and even their old houses or apartments, because of work, school, or family obligations.
Outpatient treatment provides a way to continue the coping skills learned in inpatient care while returning to “real life.” Program services are offered during the day or in the evening to accommodate schedules, and clients are responsible for showing up for each treatment day, or evening. Random drug screens are conducted, generally weekly, to ensure clients are remaining abstinent, but the majority of the responsibility is now falling on the client.
Many outpatient treatment centers offer a further step down for when a client completes that level of care. Continuing care programs offer less days, but the same concepts of inpatient and outpatient rehab. Peer group therapy is a staple, and individual therapy is usually offered as well.
These levels of care has proven effective in getting addicts and alcoholics through the first year of recovery. To find out what programs are best for you, or for someone in your life, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 today!