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Substance Abuse Treatment: What Are the Options?

Substance Abuse Treatment: What Are the Options?

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder, there is hope.

While the latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 16.5% of Americans over the age of 12 met the criteria for having a substance use disorder (SUD), there are several different ways to tackle the problem. These include therapy, medications, inpatient and outpatient programs and therapeutic communities. Here, experts discuss these different substance abuse treatment options, plus what to expect with each treatment.

SUD is sometimes called substance abuse or substance dependence. The Partnership to End Addiction says that several signs could indicate you or a loved one are experiencing a substance use disorder. This includes experiencing any two or three of these American Psychiatric Association (APA) criteria within a 12-month time frame:

People are also reading…Spending a lot of time trying to get, use or recover from the substanceUsing greater and greater amountsUsing over a longer timeframe than intendedUsing in ways that interfere with work, home, recreational or relationship responsibilities and activitiesExperiencing strong cravings to useTrying unsuccessfully to reduce or stop usingNeeding more and more of the substance to experience the same effectsExperiencing withdrawal symptomsUsing repeatedly in dangerous situations, such as driving while intoxicatedUsing the substance despite knowing it’s negatively impacting your well-being

The most severe form of SUD is sometimes called addiction, according to APA. People can develop an addiction to many types of substances such as:

“The process [of addiction] would look something like this: It could begin with worsening of day-to-day human stresses, e.g., hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness,” addiction psychiatrist Dr. Christoffel Le Roux told the American Journal of Psychiatry recently. “When these then fatefully collide or coincide with additional trauma, an individual’s coping skills are overwhelmed and stay overwhelmed.”

What types of treatment may be available for substance use disorder?

Because substance abuse is complex, your treatment should address both the drug abuse and your social, psychological, medical, employment and legal needs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). You may be treated with one or more of the following treatments.

NIDA and the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) say that medications are used in SUD treatment:To help with withdrawal symptoms (detoxification)To help reduce the use of the abused substanceTo address a co-occurring disorder, such as antidepressants for major depressive disorder

NIDA notes that outpatient therapy offers more flexibility and is often less costly than inpatient therapy, but some programs may be more education-focused than therapy-focused. It can include:Programs that you attend in your off hours (after work, school or parenting responsibilities)Individualized counselingIntensive daytime therapy programs that you leave each evening and return to in the morning

During inpatient therapy, medical care and substance abuse treatment are available 24/7, and you live on-site for a period. According to NIDA, these programs are sometimes called long-term residential treatment programs or “rehab” for short, and they often provide the most comprehensive services for SUD.

Kaiser Permanente says there are several reasons a person might choose inpatient therapy:You’re having difficulty staying away from the substance(s) you useYou have other mental or physical health conditionsThere is no outpatient treatment available near you

Therapeutic communities include supportive peers and sometimes trained specialists who provide a healing community. NAMI and NIDA say they may be:Sober housesGroup counseling programsSelf-help support groups

What to expect with treatment

To be effective, NIDA recommends at least three months of treatment and notes that many inpatient treatment programs last 6 to 12 months.

The Hazelton Betty Ford Foundation explains that SUD treatment includes:Evaluation to assess your health and historyMedically supervised detoxification (removing the drug from your body)Treatment, including individualized, group and special-focused therapyRecovery support, including follow-up care guidance

What treatments are used?

SUD therapy itself is multifaceted, says NIDA and the Cleveland Clinic. For example, addiction specialists might use cognitive behavioral therapy to help people identify their triggers and learn strategies to take control of them so they’re less likely to turn to alcohol or drugs again. Treatment for SUD could also include:A therapy known as “dialectical behavioral therapy,” to help with emotional regulationRewards-based treatments to encourage healthy choicesExerciseSober social activities

NIDA said that self-help programs are also part of many inpatient and outpatient treatments. One recent study by the Massachusetts General Recovery Research Institute found that people in treatment for SUD who self-administered “happiness” exercises experienced elevated moods.

“Recovery is hard, and for the effort to be sustainable, positive experiences need to be attainable along the way,” lead study author Bettina Hoeppner said in a news release on the study.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: National Survey on Drug Use and Health

American Psychiatric Association: What Is a Substance Use Disorder?

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Substance Use Disorders

Hazelton Betty Ford Foundation: What to Expect in Rehab


HR guide to dealing with workplace substance abuse

Substance abuse in the workplace is on the rise. Approximately 70% of the people who are into substance use are full-time employees.

Every year, nearly 3 million employees (about 3% of the workforce) come to work under the influence of substances. Not only does substance abuse affect the health and performance of employees, but it also causes considerable losses to companies – which are not just financial.

Read more: More support needed for employees with drug and alcohol misuse

Signs to look out for

The HR department must avoid accusing an employee solely based on these signs, as many of these could also be due to other underlying causes. However, the presence of several of these signs together must alert the HR department of a potential substance abuse problem.Effect on work: Substance abuse will lead to a noticeable change in work performance. The efficiency of the employee will drop, and the quality and quantity of output will decrease. The employee might miss deadlines, take frequent and long breaks, sleep during working hours and show little interest and motivation.Physical appearance: The employee might lose or gain weight suddenly. An employee involved in substance abuse is likely to appear unkempt. There may be personal hygiene issues.Speech changes: Substance influence can lead to slurred and incoherent speech. Employees under the influence of substances may also have trouble focusing on a conversation and remembering what they were talking about. Excessive talking or unexplainable long pauses during talking are also possible under the influence of substances.Changes in personality: Sudden unexplained and unpredictable changes in the personality of a person could be an indication of a substance abuse issue. Substance abuse can lead to paranoia, mood swings, hostility and other personality changes.

Supporting employees

If HR is successful at dealing constructively with substance abuse issues of employees, it will serve as a demonstration of the corporate social responsibility of the company. Here’s what can be done:Substance abuse issues often have deeper underlying causes. Confidentially speak to the employee, maintaining a positive yet firm tone and avoid assumptions and judgments.The choice of treatment lies with the employee.

The HR department can refer the employee to centres like Rehab Guide. Such centres help direct the affected people to suitable programmes and clinics according to the severity and specific type of problem. For instance, they could direct an employee struggling with an alcohol issue to the best alcohol rehab in London.The course of action regarding the work of the employee will depend on how severely the substance abuse has affected the daily functioning of the employee. Employees in safety-critical work might have to be moved to other types of work at least temporarily. If the employee needs to be admitted to a residential rehab programme, then a reasonable period of leave can be given to the employee.Regular follow-up with an employee who has successfully undergone rehabilitation and recovery is essential. Support and well-meaning efforts might prove helpful in preventing a relapse.The HR department can create and promote a holistic wellness programme. HR should encourage employees to make use of EAPs (employee assistance programmes). Fitness and health must be promoted as important components of the company culture.

Substance abuse is a highly sensitive issue and HR must try to assist the employee overcome the issue. It is important to deal with substance abuse like a medical condition.

Instead of using fear-based tactics, HR should provide the necessary support to successfully retain employees and help them reach their full potential.

Isabella Williams is an experienced HR professional passionate about employee wellness and mental health in the workplace


Nonprofit to host drug abuse prevention and services event

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — September is National Recovery Month. 

In observance, a Huntsville abuse prevention advocate is hosting an event for those who are struggling to find substance abuse recovery services. 

Recognizing that substance abuse disorder is a huge epidemic in the state, the Alabama Alliance for Recovery Residences is highlighting a three-day event starting in Huntsville called Resourcing Recovery on September 11. 

The information Fair will feature 17 organizations sharing information about the services they provide to help people struggling with substance use disorder and where you can find help for someone you care about. 

“Attendees will be able to talk to people one-on-one, people that are really on the frontlines of helping people with recovery,” explained Curt Lindsley, Interim Director of AARR. “It’s really our goal is that everyone walks away from this event with practical information they could use to help that person in their life that’s struggling with substance use disorder.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.29 percent of Alabama residents reported using illicit drugs in the past month. 

Speakers include: • Curt Lindsley, Interim Executive Director, Alabama Alliance for Recovery Residences and Event Coordinator • Karen Petersen, Director of Development, WellStone • Marbi McCann, Territory Manager, Bradford Health Services • John Bayles, Program Director, Recovery Resource Center / Crisis Center Inc. • Ian Henyon, Executive Director, Birmingham Recovery Center • Aubin Cawthon, Madison County Campus Coordinator, ROSS • Stephanie Jennings, Executive Director, Best Life Recovery Residences 

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11 at the Essential Church in Huntsville.  

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