Questions About Addiction and Substance Use Disorder
If you suspect a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, there are a number of signs you can watch out for. These include:
- Changes in appetite
- Defensiveness when asked about addiction
- Difficulties at school or work, including declined performance
- Financial issues, such as spending more money than usual, borrowing money, or failing to pay bills
- Lack of energy
- Relationship changes
- Risky behavior
Physical changes may include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Poor skin tone
- Reduced hygiene
- Weight loss or weight gain
The term, functioning, is typically used to describe people who are struggling with substance use disorder but are still employed and able to provide for themselves and their families. Those with a functioning addiction are still able to keep up appearances despite their addiction but may often be only a few steps ahead of catastrophe.
Unfortunately, addiction isn’t that simple. Many clients try to stop their addiction, but can’t do it on their own. Addiction can change the way your brain and body work, to the point that many clients feel they are unable to function without the drug or alcohol. Withdrawal can lead to severe physical and psychological side effects, making it even more difficult to quit.
The brain is an intricate and complex network of interconnected cells, called neurons, organized into circuits that work together as a team, firing signals through the central and peripheral nervous systems to control the body. To send a message, the brain uses its neurons to transmit signals back and forth.
The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a significant role as a messenger of feelings of pleasure. Scientists have identified dopamine as the main agent that the brain uses to identify and reinforce pleasurable activities. In a healthy brain, feelings of pleasure and euphoria brought on by beneficial behaviors such as eating, sex, learning, and socializing lead to a flood of dopamine, teaching the brain that the activity is positive and should be reinforced.
With drug use, the artificial high hijacks endorphins, the body’s naturally occurring opioids, to mimic the dopamine surge and deliver unnatural pleasures of positive feelings. The flood of dopamine becomes associated with this high and “teaches” the brain that these are positive habits to reinforce. This mimicry is pernicious because the natural dopamine surge is like a whisper compared to the megaphone effect created by drug use.
After significant substance abuse, it takes the brain time to reset its receptors and better regulate the dopamine surges. Like a pendulum, the dopamine excesses swing back to the other extreme, suppressing dopamine production almost for extended periods of time, so it is not uncommon for those in recovery to feel listless and even depressed as the brain resets itself.
Depression is common for those struggling with addiction. Alcohol and some types of drugs, called depressants, slow your nervous system down, which can cause depression. Depression may also be a result of the stress of coping with addiction in your regular life. Additionally, many clients who have depression end up using drugs or alcohol to help them manage the unwanted feelings.
If you suspect a loved one is struggling with substance use, the best thing you can do is kindly and compassionately have a conversation with them and encourage them to seek professional help. Show compassion and let them know you care without enabling them. There isn’t always much more you can do than that.
If you are in a state of crisis, feel that you are a danger to yourself or need immediate help for any reason, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Yes. Many people with addictions have other mental health disorders. In order to treat the addiction, we must also treat these disorders. This is why we are committed to creating personalized plans for each client.
A dual diagnosis means that a client is struggling with other mental health conditions in addition to addiction. It’s estimated that 37% of people with alcohol addictions and 53% of people with drug addictions have at least one serious mental illness, and 29% of people diagnosed as mentally ill had a drug or alcohol addiction.
Depression is the number one disorder most likely to lead to addiction. Other mental health disorders that may occur along with addiction include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Conduct disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
At Align, we offer therapeutic treatment methods, holistic treatment, and, if necessary, medication treatment. All our treatment options are evidence-based. We will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that works best for your journey.
Therapy-based treatments help tackle addiction as well as other mental health conditions. Therapies we offer include:
- Co-occurring disorders therapy for clients with dual diagnoses. Co-occurring disorders therapy allows us to treat mental health conditions that contribute to your addiction and/or were caused by addiction.
- Cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavior therapy is a type of therapy that involves shifting your thinking patterns and learning better ways of coping with mental illness.
- Experiential therapy/diverse modalities. Treatment options that go beyond talking with a therapist can be very helpful for some clients. We offer options like art therapy and mindful meditation for a rounded approach to treatment.
- Narrative therapy. Narrative therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on finding your passions, values, and skills through stories from your life.
Holistic therapies help the body and mind recover. These include:
- Activities to calm and feed the soul. Activities that help you reduce stress and find mindfulness are excellent for recovery. We offer options like deep breathing exercises, gardening, games, movies, reading a book, and yoga classes.
- Exercise. Exercise is important in recovery because it improves your overall physical health and also releases endorphins to reduce stress and calm the mind.
- Nutrition. The way you fuel your body plays a large role in how you feel day to day. We provide balanced meals that have all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients you need.
- Restful sleep. Chronic lack of sleep can take a tremendous toll on your body. Often, drugs and alcohol alter your sleep schedule, making consistent sleep difficult. At Align, we help you find a sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Spirituality. Spirituality means finding something that fills and soothes your soul. This can look different for everyone; some people choose religion, while others may turn to meditation or nature.
We expect that most of our clients will pay for their stay with us through their insurance providers. We are in the process of credentialing as in-network with a number of insurance companies and currently accept all insurance companies as an out-of-network benefits provider.
We would like your stay to be a comfortable but uncluttered one. Attached, please find a packing list of do’s and don’ts for you to reference. That said, if there’s a particular blanket or pillow that you prefer, or a special item that is meaningful to you, please feel free to bring it along. If it is inappropriate, for any reason, we will safeguard it for you during your stay.