It gives a general definition of substance abuse as a “patterned use of a drug in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful to themselves or others”, adding that it is a form of substance-related disorder.
Substance abuse is not the same as alcohol or drug addiction but long-term substance abuse can certainly lead to addiction and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders.
Types of substance abuse
Some people automatically associate the term ‘substance abuse’ with illegal ‘hard’ drugs such as heroin or cocaine. There is certainly a huge problem with these substances across society as a whole and they can be extremely destructive to both users and those around them. They are not the only substances open to abuse though.
Alcohol, for example, is legal, widely available and generally socially acceptable but when it is abused it can be extremely harmful. According to charity Alcohol Change UK, there were almost a million alcohol-related hospital admissions in England in 2019-20. It adds that alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among people aged between 15 and 49 in the UK, and the fifth-biggest risk factor across all age groups.
Alcohol addiction treatment is relatively common but other legal drugs such as painkillers and other prescription medications can also be very addictive. Some addictions to these sorts of drugs can start off innocently and snowball out of legitimate use, while substance abuse generally refers to recreational usage of the medications. Other substances such as solvents and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be abused. The John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore says that the most commonly abused substances include:
- Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills
What treatment options are available?
There are various treatment options and types of therapy available that all have the same aim of getting you clean and sober and then helping you to remain that way. Most treatment programs will incorporate a drug or alcohol detox along with a range of therapies aimed at helping you to explore the root causes of your substance abuse and to change your behaviours and ways of thinking about drugs and alcohol.
The exact structure and content of these programs can vary but one of the main decisions is whether you will seek inpatient rehab at a residential treatment centre or follow an outpatient treatment plan.
In a residential alcohol or drug rehab setting, you will be away from the usual stresses, triggers and temptations associated with your substance abuse. In this tranquil setting, you will be able to really concentrate on your recovery, with round the clock support and a structured programme of treatments designed to make the most of your time in rehab. You will also be able to go through the process of detoxification under supervision.
Outpatient treatment options can be valuable, especially for people with less severe substance abuse and misuse problems. They are usually cheaper and you do not need to take time out of your regular life and responsibilities, but they are generally less effective at dealing with serious cases of addiction and substance abuse.
The detoxification process
Long-term use of drugs or alcohol can lead to physical and mental dependency. You build up a tolerance to the substance and your system becomes used to the chemicals being present. When they are suddenly removed, you can suffer severe withdrawal symptoms, which can range from psychological effects such as depression and paranoia to serious physical symptoms such as cramps and even seizures.
The process is never easy and it can be dangerous, which is why it is usually best to undergo drug detox in a specialist detox clinic or rehab centre. Here, you can detoxify under close observation and medical supervision, while appropriate prescription medications may be used to help reduce cravings and alleviate some of the worst withdrawal symptoms.
What are the therapy options?
After or alongside the detox, you will also be encouraged to examine the root causes of your substance abuse or addiction through a range of psychological and behavioural therapies. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety but has also been shown to be highly effective at treating substance abuse and addiction issues.
Other psychological therapies available at drug and alcohol rehab could include group therapy, trauma and abuse counselling, motivational interviewing, stress management and family therapy. At Asana Lodge we also offer more unusual but safe and effective therapies such as Satori Chair therapy and Intravenous Brain Restoration (NAD+) therapy.
We can also offer well-being therapies to improve your physical and mental health, aiding your recovery in the process. These could include yoga, meditation and mindfulness sessions, art, drama and music therapy, nutrition therapy and low-level laser therapy.
Aftercare and relapse prevention
The recovery journey does not end when you complete the main substance abuse treatment program. It is a long-term process and you will need to apply the things you learned through your treatment plan in order to make a long-term recovery.
A good aftercare plan can be a great help with relapse prevention as it provides the help you need when you need it. The first 12 months are often the most dangerous, but many people will face challenges further down the line in their recovery and mutual support groups can provide further help as you continue your journey.
How to begin your recovery journey
The recovery journey always begins with admitting that you have a problem and that you need help to overcome it. There are numerous options available to you and we can provide confidential advice to help ensure you get the help that’s right for you.
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