How Do I Know When It’s Time to Get Treatment for My Addiction?
If you’re living with a substance use disorder, it can damage your relationships, career and overall health. The good news is that recovery is possible with professional addiction treatment, and the first step is determining if it’s time to seek help. To help you make a more informed decision, let’s take a look at what addiction is, what causes it and what red flags may indicate it’s time to get treatment.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction, often referred to as substance abuse disorder, is a complex, chronic condition, in which an individual is unable to control their use of a substance, such as alcohol, recreational drugs or prescription medications. An addicted individual uses these substances despite knowing the negative consequences of their actions.
Common addictive substances include:
- Sedatives and hypnotics, such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines
- Inhalants, such as paint thinners, household solvents and anesthetics
- Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine
- Opioid painkillers, such as codeine and oxycodone
When the substance is taken, it typically causes a feeling of calm, acute pleasure, heightened perception or euphoria, depending on the drug and the individual’s reaction to it. Some of these substances cause intoxication.Addiction may also apply to certain behaviors, such as sex, gambling and online gaming.
Addiction alters the brain’s structure and how it functions, so it often affects an individual’s ability to learn, remember things and make decisions or form judgments. This often leads to adverse outcomes in all aspects of a person’s life, and may impair their ability to function at home, at work or in social situations. Individuals with addictions may also develop a tolerance to the substance they’re misusing, so they need to increase their intake to continue to feel its desired effects.
What Causes Addiction?
The roots of addiction are complex, and may involve genetics, social influences, environmental factors and the personal history of an individual. Addicted individuals may begin using an addictive substance because of curiosity or peer pressure, or to help themselves feel better. In fact, substance abuse is often associated with emotional pain caused by feelings, such as resentment, regret and loneliness. Consequently, alcohol or drugs can become an escape from negative thinking and toxic self-talk.
Although anyone can develop an addiction, some individuals may be especially vulnerable. Risk factors include:
- Having a chronic illness: Individuals with chronic medical conditions may receive prescriptions for opioids, such as oxycodone, to manage severe pain. However, if taken for more than a few days, these painkillers can lead to an addiction.
- Having a mental health condition: Addictions may accompany existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- A family history of addiction: Because addiction may have a genetic component, it can run in families. If your parents or siblings have a substance abuse disorder, you may be predisposed to develop the condition.
- Taking drugs early in life: If you begin taking drugs while your brain is developing, the substance is more likely to affect neural networks, which may increase the risk of addiction.
- Accessibility of substances: If you live, work or play in an environment where drugs or alcohol are readily available, you may have a higher risk of use and subsequent addiction.
What Does Addiction Look Like?
Addiction looks different for each individual, and the signs and symptoms can vary dramatically, depending on the substance being used and the severity of the misuse. However, you can often identify a substance abuse disorder by watching for common red flags, such as physical symptoms, behavioral changes and relationship difficulties.
Shifts in behavior are common with substance abuse disorders, and the changes may be dramatic or subtle. Although it can be difficult to recognize changes in your own behavior, you may be suffering from addiction if you’re using a substance and you find yourself:
- Drinking alone
- Stealing money
- Taking unnecessary risks
- Sleeping at unusual times
- Neglecting work or household responsibilities
- Keeping secrets from loved ones
- Isolating yourself from family, friends or colleagues
- Losing interest in your favorite activities
- Getting into legal trouble
- Needing alcohol or drugs to unwind or fall asleep
- Obsessing about a substance or behavior
- Shopping frequently for new doctors to write prescriptions
The physical symptoms of addiction may include visible signs, bodily sensations or shifts in your appetite or sleeping patterns. Common physical symptoms related to addiction include:
- Poor hygiene
- Bloodshot eyes
- Runny nose
- Dilated or contracted pupils
- Slurred speech
- Trembling hands
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
If you’re trying to reduce or stop your use of alcohol or drugs on your own, physical symptoms may also include effects of withdrawal, such as:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Excess sleepiness
- Nausea or vomiting
On their own, many of these symptoms can be indicators of numerous disorders. However, if you’re regularly using a substance, such as alcohol or prescription drugs, and you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, it may be the result of an addiction.
Addiction can strain interpersonal relationships, especially those with spouses, parents, children and siblings. These relationship difficulties may be marked by:
- Frequent arguments
- Trust issues
- Physical abuse
- Disciplinary actions at work or school
For additional warning signs of addiction, visit the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
When Is It Time to Seek Treatment?
It can be hard to admit that you have a substance abuse problem, and it can be even harder to ask for help. However, it’s probably time to seek addiction treatment if you’re using a substance and experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above. If you feel out of control, crave drugs when you aren’t using them or are experiencing negative consequences of your addiction, rehab treatment can help you safely get off — and stay off — drugs or alcohol.
For many individuals, shame prevents them from getting the treatment they need. If you’re experiencing this negative emotion, it’s important to remember that addiction is an illness and recovery is possible through treatment, and the best way forward is to reach out for the help you need.
How Does Addiction Treatment Work?
Whether you recognize the symptoms of addiction in yourself or you experience an intervention from concerned family and friends, treatment can begin once you admit you have a substance abuse problem. Because addiction is a complex disease, treatment is often equally complex, and the treatment plan may vary depending on how severe your addiction is.
After you’ve reached out for help, you’ll undergo a formal assessment. This typically consists of a conversation between you and your healthcare provider, which may involve questions about your symptoms, past traumas, addiction history and willingness to change. You may also be asked to fill out a short questionnaire. Your care team can then design a rehab treatment plan that meets your unique needs.
Depending on the substance you’re using, the severity of the disorder and any coexisting medical or mental health conditions, your recovery plan may include multiple components, such as:
- Inpatient detoxification to manage the medical symptoms of withdrawal
- Formal outpatient treatment
- Psychotherapy or mental health counseling
- Prescription medications that help prevent cravings and prevent relapse
- Residential programs, drug-free therapeutic communities or sober houses
- 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous
- In-person or online support groups
Because addiction often goes hand in hand with mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, these conditions may also be treated as part of a comprehensive recovery plan.
How Can I Find Alcohol Outpatient Treatment Near Me?
You can find reputable outpatient treatment centers for alcohol abuse throughout the United States. To find a program near you, talk with your primary care physician or another trusted healthcare professional. For treatment referral nationwide, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration’s National Helpline at 1-800-487-4889. The call is free and confidential, and trained counselors are available around the clock. You can also find help online through SAMHSA’s anonymous treatment locator service.
How Can I Find Residential Addiction Treatment Near Me?
If you prefer a residential substance abuse treatment program, consult your primary care doctor or mental health professional for a referral. You can also visit SAMHSA’s online treatment locator service to search for facilities by city, address or zip code. If you’d rather speak confidentially with a counselor, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-487-4889 24 hours a day to receive a referral or information about treatment options. When contacting the facility, make sure they treat the specific substance disorder you have before scheduling an appointment.
What Should I Do If I Need Help Immediately?
If you’re feeling suicidal or you’re in severe emotional distress, don’t wait to get help. Visit your nearest hospital emergency room or call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing or texting 988 day or night. You can also get help through the lifeline’s confidential 24/7 online chat.
A Final Word About Addiction Treatment
Although the stigma of addiction and the cost of treatment can be barriers to care, solutions are available. Many programs have sliding scale fees, provide scholarships for low-income patients or offer payment plans that let you pay for treatment over time.
It’s important to remember that addiction is treatable and you don’t have to struggle alone. Whether you’re seeking help for the first time or relapsing after prior treatment, an effective care program can start you on the path to recovery. More importantly, sometimes the right treatment can mean the difference between life or death.
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