By Janina Gutierrez

“Your best days are ahead of you. The movie starts when the guy gets sober and puts his life back together; it doesn’t end there.”

– Bucky Sinister

Like the quote suggests, the after-addiction days are going to get better and brighter. Everyday millions of people in the United States are battling with substance use and alcohol addiction. The worst part is being told to believe that the recovery is hard and impossible. People often see the more destructive side of addiction where it involves drug crime, homelessness, domestic violence, broken relationship, family falling apart. The stigma leaves those who want to get help, ask for help, feel invisible and hopeless thinking they could never be sober and become better. Let’s look into what is addiction and its impacts to one’s physical, mental and social health. 

The Seriousness of Substance Use Disorder

Addiction is considered to be the most severe symptom of a mental disorder known as Substance Use Disorder (SUD). SUD affects an individual’s brain and behavior, leading to a person’s inability to control their use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications. Substances have a main effect on the brain’s reward system, leading to the likelihood of substance misuse. Knowing the risk factors and warning signs of addiction can save the lives of many.

Key risk factors of Substance Use Disorder: 

  • Environmental factors, such as stress or trauma
  • Family history of addiction
  • Peer pressure
  • Lack of family involvement
  • Early use
  • Taking a highly addictive drug
  • Taking drugs considered less addicting (so-called “light drugs”)
  • Co-occurring mental disorder; Anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia

Key warning signs of Substance Use Disorder: 

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly
  • Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect
  • Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it
  • Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

How Living with Substance Use Disorder May Impact One’s Relationships?

There are many hardships for individuals living with SUD: one of the greatest hardships faced is the loss of relationships the individual has with family and friends. Addiction does not only change the lives of those living with SUD, but also the lives of their friends and families. Addiction makes it hard to trust, respect, and maintain open communication; all of which are needed to maintain healthy relationships. Those living with addiction or SUD may find it difficult to function without being under the influence and may result in them revolving their life around obtaining substances. The neglect of one’s responsibilities or the needs of others may be pushed aside. Understanding that addiction is a disease that deserves to be treated is key in assisting someone who is living with Substance Use Disorder. 

Treatment Options

There are several different treatment options available for individuals living SUD. 

  • Behavioral therapies: Some of the most common ones include:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy aimed at helping people learn how to cope with difficult situations by challenging irrational thoughts and changing behaviors.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT uses concepts of mindfulness and acceptance to treat interpersonal conflicts
    • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT): This is a form of community-based mental health care that emphasizes outreach to the community and an individualized treatment approach
  • There are some medications that exist for treating opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addiction.
  • Intensive outpatient addiction program (IOP) is a form of structured treatment that allows patients to continue living at home and promotes a long-term recovery. IOP can be extremely beneficial to individuals who are suffering from a co-occurring disorder and who do not require medical detoxification or 24-hour supervision. It is a highly effective treatment option for those diagnosed with co-occurring mental health issues because they are designed to establish psychosocial support and facilitate relapse management and coping strategies. 
  • Peer support groups provide the communal support for them to connect with people who are also dealing with addiction and those who have recovered. Through support groups, individuals can facilitate personal growth through self-exploration and peer support. They can also feel more inspired and strengthened during their treatment efforts. Many who have successfully recovered, they become a peer support specialist with hopes to help more people to recover. 

Recovery is possible 

The road to recovery and sobriety may feel like a long one, but real change is possible. Following the Model of Change (Shatterproof.org) may help guide those who are struggling with SUD and those who wish to support them.

  1. Precontemplation: At this stage, someone might be aware there’s a problem, but they place responsibility on something else — genetics, trauma, mental illness — instead of acknowledging they have a disease. 
  2. Contemplation: Someone in this stage may be aware there is a problem, but feel hopeless. Because they struggle to imagine a solution, see its causes, and imagine a solution, they’re not ready to make a change. (People can stay in this stage for a very long time.
  3. Preparation: Someone begins making plans to change things. Because they are not convinced things will get better, or that their plan will work, they are ambivalent
  4. Treatment: Now, they may actively and outwardly change their behavior and seek treatment. Many times treatment is the shortest part of the recovery journey. 
  5. Recovery: This final stage is where active recovery occurs. People in this stage initially need a lot of support, and then gradually find the tools needed to stay in recovery.

It is important for one to understand that relapsing does NOT mean failure. It is important to take precaution in harm reduction practices and provide an individual who is living with SUD with respect and compassion, rather than coercion and punishment. Understanding from another’s point of view may save the lives of many. 

Ending the Stigma that Surrounds Addiction 

People of any age, sex or economic status can experience and fall victim to SUD. Altering the language that one uses to speak about addiction can help put an end to the stigma which surrounds individuals living with Substance Use Disorder. Instead of saying abuse or drug problem, say Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Addressing them as a person with a SUD, not addict/druggie/junkie person.

Having compassion for those who are living with Substance Use Disorder can help remove barriers of access to medical help and save the lives of millions. Addiction is a real disease that deserves to be treated as such. Join the Norooz Clinic in creating awareness for addiction recovery and sobriety. Recovery is possible and the first step starts with you. 

How We Can Help with Your Recovery Journey

Norooz Clinic offers mental health services and support for those living SUD. We offer affordable therapy services and free weekly peer support group every Wednesday at 12pm PST.

Please contact us today at (714) 386-9171 or info@noroozclinic.com to schedule an appointment. Our therapists speak English, Farsi, Tagalog and Spanish.

References 

“Addiction Is a Public Health Crisis.” Shatterproof.org, www.shatterproof.org/learn/addiction-basics/addiction-in-america. Accessed 9 Sept. 2022.

“Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health. Accessed 9 Sept. 2022.

“Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 26 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-2036511

McCarty D, Braude L, Lyman DR, Dougherty RH, Daniels AS, Ghose SS, Delphin-Rittmon ME. Substance abuse intensive outpatient programs: assessing the evidence. Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Jun 1;65(6):718-26. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201300249. PMID: 24445620; PMCID: PMC4152944.

“NIDA IC Fact Sheet 2022.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 28 May 2021, nida.nih.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/budget-information/fiscal-year-2022-budget-information-congressional-justification-national-institute-drug-abuse/ic-fact-sheet-2022.

Place, By St. John’S Recovery. “How Does Addiction Affect Relationships?” GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog, 2 June 2021, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/How-Does-Addiction-Affect-Relationships.

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team. “How Drug Addiction Affects Relationships.” HCRC, 29 June 2022, www.hcrcenters.com/blog/how-drug-addiction-affects-relationships.