Tens of millions of Americans struggle with substance addiction. In 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 48.7 million people over the age of 12 were cigarette smokers, 140.6 million were alcohol users, and 30.5 million had used illicit drugs. Most people know several peers or loved ones who struggle with substance abuse, but when it comes to self-identifying drug or alcohol addiction, many people struggle.
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Do I Have a Problem?
Because of the normalization of drug and alcohol use in American culture, many people struggle to recognize the difference between recreational use and addiction. While not everyone who uses drugs will experience addiction, many who begin using drugs recreationally slip into unhealthy and self-destructive dependencies. Self-identifying such a dependency can be much more difficult than identifying it in others.
If you’re someone who believes that you may have a problem, there are several warning signs to look out for. At the top of the list is neglecting responsibilities because of substance use. If you frequently miss obligations or forgo opportunities in order to engage in drug use, it’s likely that you have a substance problem.
Another telling cue is the experience of cravings. If going without the substance makes you feel uneasy, anxious, or otherwise not like yourself, those triggers suggest a dependence on a drug. Similarly, if you’re willing to go to great lengths to obtain a drug, and are willing to put yourself in dangerous or unsafe situations to obtain it, that suggests an unhealthy prioritization of the substance over your well-being.
Many people who struggle with addiction also have a family history with abuse. Genetics play a large role in our sensitivity to dependency. If your parents or grandparents had problems with abuse, chances are high that you are also susceptible to drug dependency.
Your emotions can also provide glaring clues. If you feel ashamed or embarrassed after using drugs, or go to lengths to hide your use for fear of being judged, those are important indicators of dependency. If you feel these negative emotions and continue to use substances, that should be a wake-up-call that pushes you in the direction of drug treatment.
Finding the Right Treatment Options
Not all treatment options were created equal. Some were meant for people with intense, long-term addictions, while others are designed for people with mild addictions who are able to continue fulfilling work and school obligations. In between are a host of useful and customizable options.
If you’re interested in seeking drug addiction treatment—which will help you achieve sobriety and maintain it with the help of a strong support network—it’s important to understand the several distinctions between the two primary program types.
- Inpatient: While inpatient programs can help anyone who is suffering from addiction, they are intensive and are highly recommended for people struggling with long-term and difficult abuse problems. When you enroll in an inpatient program, you’re welcomed into a nurturing and positive facility where you live for anywhere from one to six months. During that time, you have access to one-on-one therapy with a treatment provider, medical help, and group counseling sessions.
- Outpatient: Outpatient programs are designed for people who have milder forms of addiction, or for people who exhibit a strong will to get clean and stay sober. They require regular commuting to and from a rehab center. When patients are not at the rehab, they are able to attend work or school and can sleep wherever they please. However, because of the loose structure of outpatient programs, they have a lower rate of success and shouldn’t be attempted if you think your addiction is strong enough to lead to a relapse.
Understanding the Detox Process
Detox is often the first step in successfully treating an addiction. It’s the process of removing drugs and alcohol from your system over the course of several days or weeks. The timeframe is dependent on the length and intensity of your abuse, and will also vary depending on biological factors.
Depending on the drug you’ve been struggling with, detox can pose serious health risks. For instance, people who experience withdrawals—your body’s physical reaction to the deprivation of a dependent drug—from alcohol have had fatal reactions. Other drugs, like methamphetamine, don’t carry the same intense physical symptoms that can directly lead to death, but they can induce bouts of overwhelming mental disorders like depression, which can lead to self-harm.
Because of the uncertainty of the process, it’s recommended that detox is attempted while under the supervision of medical professionals. In most cases, the peak symptoms will occur within 24-72 hours, and then diminish as the days progress. Eventually, your body will adjust to life without the substance, but getting to that recovery stage may take weeks.
After your body has eliminated all unhealthy toxins and traces of the drug, psychological symptoms may endure. Cravings may also continue to pose a threat for months and even years after detox has been completed, which underscores the importance of support groups and systems.
Finding the Right Program for You
Ideally, treatment programs you choose will provide the motivation you need to get clean, stay clean, and carry on with your life in a healthy and productive manner. However, the addiction treatment program you choose must directly correlate to the intensity of your addiction. The choice is incredibly important.
For example, if you struggle with a long-term substance abuse problem and know that you can’t trust yourself to stay clean, outpatient treatment programs will pose a threat to your ability to stay sober. The loose structure of the program is designed for people who can manage time alone, away from support groups. If you don’t think you can manage it, the process will be potentially undermined from the start.
Look for a program that will offer you the support tools you need. This may include anything from seeing a behavioral therapist—which is incredibly effective for helping work through the triggers and origins of addiction—to medically assisted detox, which is necessary for some people who might struggle with dangerous withdrawals. When it comes to your health, you shouldn’t make any compromises.
National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States. 2017.
American Addiction Centers Statistics on Drug Addiction. 2017.
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