Substance abuse is a widespread and pervasive problem in the United States: In fact, a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that over 23 million Americans enter a substance abuse rehab program each year. Not only can a substance dependence problem destroy an individual’s personal relationships and derail their career, but people who abuse substances are also at an increased risk for injuries, health problems and even death. Rehabilitation is imperative to address the problem and head off these serious consequences.
The reason that so many rehab options exist is because there is such a wide variety of commonly abused substances. Alcohol is considered the most commonly used psychoactive substance; although most individuals can enjoy light to moderate drinking without problems, the substance carries a risk for abuse or even dependency.
In addition to alcohol, many drugs have the potential for abuse. Stimulants are a category of drugs that includes both street drugs like crystal meth and cocaine, and legal substances like nicotine and caffeine. Stimulant abuse can develop quickly due to the chemical changes it causes in the brain.
Depressants are another category of drugs with a high risk for abuse. Opiates like heroin and morphine, as well as prescription anxiety medications such as Xanax and Klonopin, fall into this category. The most commonly abused drug is marijuana: The rapid tolerance that users develop for this substance leads them to take higher and higher doses in order to experience the same effects.
An individual who is abusing drugs or alcohol may not realize they have a problem; they may also be in denial. Family members and friends are usually the first people to notice certain signs of substance abuse. These symptoms can include giving up regular activities or hobbies, suffering performance issues at school or work, neglecting personal relationships in order to get high or exhibiting sudden changes in mood or behavior. Unexplained physical changes such as red eyes, slurred speech or needle marks are also indicators of a substance abuse problem. Treatment is more likely to be successful when a drug abuse problem is addressed in the early stages, so it’s important for friends and family to take any warning signs seriously.
Many people who abuse substances believe they can stop on their own, but most attempts to quit are unsuccessful and can even be dangerous. Before a possible addiction can be addressed, a substance abuser may need help reducing the amount of the substance in their system. The withdrawal symptoms associated with many drugs can cause acute medical consequences or even death, so individuals may require medical supervision during the detox process.
Rehabilitation for drug abuse or alcohol addiction may occur on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the patient’s individual situation. This treatment, which includes both group and individual therapy, is designed to teach patients how to manage cravings and handle triggers that might lead to a relapse. Even when a patient completes a rehabilitation program, relapse prevention should still be addressed through aftercare services and support.
Support groups can help participants cope with cravings and stressors, and they can also help them understand that a minor lapse doesn’t need to turn into a relapse. Aftercare support for family members can also help recovering addicts and their families deal with stresses and heal the emotional wounds that may have occurred during their period of substance abuse.