Addiction plagued some 22.7 million people in America during 2013, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports. How do people know if they are struggling with substance abuse or addiction?
Typically, there are obvious signs of dependency present. A few of those red flags include:
- Tolerance has developed and now more of a substance is needed to reach the same high
- Withdrawal from social activities that were once enjoyed
- Preoccupation with maintaining a supply and using the drug or drinking
- Attempts to scale back use have failed
- Perpetual substance abuse despite being aware of the negative impact it has on life
- Continually using so withdrawal doesn’t ensue
When to Get Treatment
When an individual is showing at least some of these symptoms, it’s a sign that it’s time to seek treatment. Many people who are stuck in the trenches of substance abuse may start to slack off on their responsibilities at home and work. Some even lose their jobs due to being late to work too often. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids states 17 percent of the unemployed population is affected by substance abuse and addiction.
Child neglect is also a particularly big problem among people who are addicted to illicit drugs or drinking. Around 70 percent of child maltreatment cases involve substance abuse, the American Humane Association reports.
Other warning signs that a problem is on the horizon include legal ramifications, interpersonal relationship trouble, and financial issues. Substance abuse and incarceration often go hand in hand. On a given day in late 2014, half of all federal prisoners were incarcerated due to drug crimes, DrugWarFacts notes. In 2011, 1,215,077 people were arrested for driving under the influence, per the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Many people who spend time behind bars for their drug- and alcohol-related crimes are repeat offenders. Around a third of drunk drivers who are arrested or convicted have been before, the National Department of Transportation reports. How many trips to jail are required before it’s time to acknowledge the real problem and treat it? Fortunately, the legal system often intervenes and mandates treatment. A lot of people who seek treatment each year are ordered to by a judicial authority during sentencing. SAMHSA notes there are 4,140 facilities nationwide that accept this type of clientele.
Many marriages and intimate relationships have met their demise due to substance abuse. Parents have lost their children to addiction. People routinely have to cut ties with loved ones who won’t stop using drugs and drinking to excess. Addiction destroys families. It can bring forth financial ruin, as well. Rehab can prevent a lot of this damage from ever occurring.
What Is Rehab?
Rehab is a place for those suffering from addiction to start over. Treatment allows individuals to explore the reasons they have ended up where they are and the chance to get back on track in their lives. It isn’t just detox with a side of therapy. Rehabilitation is the process of restructuring life so individuals can move forward without falling prey to relapse.
How Does It Help?
As soon as the detox process starts, tolerance levels begin to lower. This is a good thing, but it makes it even more vital that individuals complete treatment. After just a few days, tolerance is so much lower that relapse could be life-threatening if a person tries to use a typical prior dose of the drug.
Addiction doesn’t just stem from habitual substance abuse. It’s not merely a physical problem. There are psychological components at work that need just as much unraveling and remediation as the physical factors do.
As a result, detox does not constitute addiction treatment; it must be used in conjunction with comprehensive therapy.
One of the biggest additions to substance abuse rehabilitation in recent years has been the treatment of mental illness. Severe mental health disorders affected around 10 million adult Americans in 2013, the National Institute on Mental Health states, and around half of these people are affected by drug or alcohol abuse, per HelpGuide. These illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, can make for some of the most complex comorbid treatment cases. As with all co-occurring disorders, treatment that addresses both issues is recommended. If only one issue is addressed – the substance abuse issue or the mental illness – it is likely that relapse of both conditions will occur post treatment. In 2012, just 7.9 percent of people who battled addiction and mental illness sought treatment for both issues, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
If a person realizes that it’s time for rehab, there are plenty of options available nationwide. With medical detox, comprehensive therapy, and a thorough plan for aftercare, individuals affected by substance abuse, mental health, or both can reach and maintain recovery.
People who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction will have a hard time seeing how bad their problem has become. Most substance abuse begins as an experiment, a social event, a form of self-medication, or a legitimate prescription. These controlled, low-dose situations can escalate over time until the person is consuming large quantities of drugs or alcohol without realizing that they have become dependent on the substance. Signs of addiction include:
- Inability to stop consuming drugs or alcohol, even if the person wants to stop
- Intense cravings for the substance
- Close monitoring of the supply of the substance
- Anxiety if the supply is low
- Thinking a lot about the next dose or dwelling on it
- Drinking or taking drugs instead of spending time with friends and family
- Drinking or taking drugs instead of going to work or school
- Lying about consumption or becoming agitated or aggressive when questioned about it
- Stealing or performing risky behaviors in order to get the drug
- Physical health problems from taking too much of the substance
A person struggling with addiction does not need to meet these qualifications to have a problem with drug or alcohol consumption. In fact, it is important to know these signs, so the person can get help before substance abuse causes financial or housing problems, or destroys relationships. Loved ones should know these signs as well, so they can help those who may be suffering from addiction.
Below are some of the most common questions to help loved ones know when it is time to seek help for a person who is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.
Should you hold an intervention?
Interventions have become more known due to reality television, but they are often not as they appear in media representations. An intervention should be structured, emotionally calm, and focused. The point of an intervention is to educate the person about the effects of their substance abuse, show them that there are resources to help them overcome the problem, and illustrate that their friends, family, and community will stand with them to offer support. Family members who are concerned about a loved one struggling with addiction may choose to plan and implement an intervention themselves, or they may choose to hire a professional interventionist.
Interventionists are professionals who specialize in planning and staging interventions. An interventionist will gather friends and family together to gain an understanding of the addiction and everyone who is affected by it. Then, they will create an overall plan and help the family gather resources regarding rehabilitation programs and other services. They will also guide the family through rehearsals of the intervention, helping each team member to craft what they will say to the person in need. During the actual intervention, a professional interventionist will help to keep the event on track, and oftentimes, use of a professional results in a greater likelihood that the person will agree to seek help.
A DIY intervention is certainly less expensive since it doesn’t involve hiring a professional, but it may suffer from a lack of organization. Family members may become overly emotional during the event and lose sight of the overall purpose. It is, of course, possible to have a successful DIY intervention, as long as the planning process is detailed and team members stick to the plan.
How can family members assist in a loved one’s recovery?
There are various ways that family members can assist in a loved one’s recovery, such as:
- Participating in family therapy: All members of the family can be negatively impacted by a person’s substance abuse. This can lead to trauma, which can be triggered by any perceived addictive behaviors. Family therapy can help to heal relationships between the person overcoming addiction and family members. Sessions help to build trust, improve communication, and aid family members in understanding how they can take care of themselves while also supporting their loved one.
- Giving up enabling activities: Many family members and friends enable the addictive behavior of their loved one without realizing it. They may help the person acquire drugs when they are experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms or give them money to cover life expenses, such as rent, food, gas, and other bills. Typically, enabling starts with good intentions, but it can quickly become destructive for everyone involved. Oftentimes, one of the first steps for family members and friends of those struggling with addiction is to immediately cease all enabling behaviors, knowing they are ultimately doing what is best for their loved one.
- Ending personal substance use: A person going through detox and a rehabilitation program should not be around intoxicating substances, and it can help if loved ones stop using all substances around that person. If the person is in an outpatient program or returning home after an inpatient program, all abusive substances, like alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription pills that are no longer needed, should be removed from the home. Family members living with the person should avoid consuming intoxicating substances in front of the individual, both to show support and to help the person avoid triggers.
- Attending 12-Step meetings: It can be helpful if friends and family members attend 12-Step or other support group meetings alongside their loved one when permitted. If the meetings are “closed,” meaning that only those struggling with addiction should attend, family members can offer to drive their loved one to and from the meetings to show support.
What should I look for in a treatment program for a loved one?
If you are looking into treatment programs for a loved one, keep the following things in mind:
- The specific needs of your loved one: Each person in recovery has different needs. For example, one person may need inpatient treatment because they cannot be around triggering environments while another person may be better suited to outpatient rehabilitation due to life responsibilities they have to take care of and a supportive home environment. Some individuals suffer from co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression or a personality disorder, and it’s important that the chosen facility can also treat these issues. Assess the individual needs of your loved one and confirm that the facilities in question can accommodate those needs.
- Amenities: There are various levels of care when it comes to addiction treatment, ranging from basic, bare-bones treatment centers to luxury facilities with a wide range of amenities. While all levels of care should involve comprehensive therapy, luxury facilities are more likely to offer complementary therapies, such as art therapy, equine-assisted therapy, and wilderness therapy. In addition, more high-end facilities may include supplementary amenities, like massage therapy, meditation classes, and gourmet meals.
- Reviews: Many websites, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), offer ratings and comments about treatment programs and professionals. Reviews often come from people who directly received treatment, so it is a good way to gauge the quality and effectiveness of the care offered outside of the program’s marketing materials. This helps loved ones to understand the social, spiritual or religious, and medical support offered by a program, so they can find a rehabilitation program that will best suit their loved one.
- Staffing: Consider the ratio of clients to staff members at prospective facilities. A sufficient number of staff members ensures that each client enrolled in the program is receiving high-quality, individual, and personal care.
- Insurance or other forms of payment: Finding a rehabilitation program that takes your loved one’s insurance or that offers flexible repayment options can be key to alleviating stress in recovery. Check with the person’s insurance provider to determine the exact level of coverage. Oftentimes, treatment facilities can guide prospective clients through this process.
- Licenses or accreditation: While there are no specific federal requirements for drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, many states regulate these offerings under their Departments of Health and Human Services, or Social Services. These regulations ensure clean facilities that are monitored by government standards. It also means that people seeking a rehabilitation program can look the facility up on a government website to find any history of infractions, how recently the infraction occurred, and how serious it was.
Some nonprofit organizations are offering accreditations to rehabilitation programs. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is one of the largest. The organization lists standards for membership, so people researching rehabilitation programs know that a program listed by CARF meets their certification standards.