Substance Abuse

What Are Substances?

Substances are psychoactive compounds that can negatively impact a person’s well-being. The abuse of substances can lead to serious health problems like addiction, regardless if they are legal or illegal. Medications that have been prescribed by doctors for legitimate reasons like anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can also cause harm if misused.

There are several classes of psychoactive compounds that are grouped based on the effects they have. At 449 Recovery, we treat clients with mental health disorders who are also misusing or addicted to the following substances:

  • Opioids
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Stimulants
  • Depressants
  • Hallucinogens

Clarifying Key Terms

Some important terms to understand are:

  • Misuse
  • Abuse
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Addiction

Misuse happens when a person uses alcohol or illegal drugs in high quantities (e.g., binge drinking) or for inappropriate reasons. These reasons can be to get high, alleviate stress, or avoid reality. This can also involve using substances more frequently than a person should. A person can misuse prescription drugs when they take them other than specifically directed by their doctor, or by using another person’s prescription.

After prolonged, consistent misuse of a substance, a person can be said to be abusing. At this point, they may have SUD that is causing “clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.”

SUD is a spectrum. Some people have a mild and temporary SUD, while others develop a severe and chronic condition known as addiction. SUD may require treatment in partial hospitalization or an intensive outpatient program like 449 Recovery offers.

Addiction Is a Serious Condition

Addiction is the most severe SUD because of its chronicity. A person who has an addiction continues to use drugs or alcohol despite the negative outcomes. Their ability to control their urges and exert self-control over substance use is limited.

Changes to the Brain

This condition changes brain structure and function. Through brain imaging, scientists have found that substance abuse can physically alter areas of the brain that are responsible for:

  • Learning and memory
  • Regulating inhibition and reward
  • Making judgments and decisions

The destructive behaviors associated with addiction, such as social impairment and risky use, are believed to stem from these neurobiological changes. Indeed, a person initially chooses to do drugs and drink. Once addicted, this is no longer the case. Some continue to abuse psychoactive compounds, not to feel good, but to not feel bad. Withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that a person cannot tolerate them without clinical help.

Biological, Social, and Environmental Factors

A combination of biological, social, and environmental factors interact to influence maladaptive behaviors.

For example, the interaction between a person’s genes and environment can account for 40-60% of their risk of developing an addiction. Mental health disorders also play a big role, co-occurring with SUD at a rate of about 50%. Those with a family history of both addiction and mental illness should also be cautious as these conditions can be hereditary.

Individuals who have had a rough childhood may still be dealing with wounds from neglect, abuse, and trauma. Chronic stress from instability in the home or bullying at school can lead to post-traumatic stress and psychosocial issues. These issues can cause a person to cope with their emotional burden by abusing substances.

Important Risk Factors

Currently, there is no way to tell if a person will or will not develop an addiction. However, there are several risk factors associated with SUD. When a person has more risk factors, there is a higher chance that using substances will lead to a drug or alcohol problem. These factors include:

  • Aggressive behavior in childhood
  • Neglect/lack of parental supervision
  • Early use/experimentation
  • Availability of drugs at school
  • Community poverty

SUD Can Be Treated Effectively

A person with a drug or alcohol problem can find help in a specialized treatment program.

Two levels of care offered at 449 Recovery are partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient. These programs create a semi-structured, therapeutic environment for clients to get used to sobriety, stable their mental health, and regain a sense of control over their lives.

Clients regularly see a therapist, case manager, and psychiatrist (if applicable). They work in both individual and group therapy sessions to learn healthy behaviors and life skills to deal with internal issues and manage relationships.

Treatment Plans Vary

Treatment does not look the same for everyone.

A variety of modalities are available at 449 Recovery to create a treatment plan that suits each individual’s needs. Different therapeutic techniques can address different dimensions of a person’s mental health and addiction. We also believe it is important that clients have the opportunity to make choices about their recovery. This increases program adherence and the likelihood that they will stay sober.

Some factors that are considered include a client’s:

  • Age
  • Medical conditions
  • Problematic symptoms
  • Substance use patterns
  • Mental health disorder(s)
  • Type of substance(s) abused
  • Social and environmental concerns

The Cornerstone of Effective Treatment

Detoxification is usually the first step in treating SUD. After, clients enter primary treatment.

The cornerstone of effective treatment includes behavioral therapy or substance abuse counseling. Medication-assisted treatment is also used for those with opioid, nicotine, and alcohol addiction. Medications can be prescribed to help clients get through withdrawal, complete treatment, and avoid relapse.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a group of therapies designed to help clients replace harmful behaviors by changing their beliefs and attitudes. It provides them with the skills and confidence to respond to stress and triggers in a healthy way. By changing patterns of thinking and behaving in relation to substance use, clients can lead a successful long-term recovery.

Therapies offered at 449 Recovery that use behavioral techniques include the following:

  • 12-Step facilitation
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

A substance use disorder interferes with a person’s ability to fulfill their daily responsibilities and achieve their life’s goals. 449 Recovery is a treatment center for adults using drugs or alcohol to deal with mental health issues. Call us at  (949) 435-7449 to learn how we can help you or a loved one.