When To Seek Help for Drug Abuse
Deciding to seek help for drug abuse or addiction is an important decision. Identifying the “right time” to do so isn’t always easy—people may be differentially impacted by their drug use in their day-to-day lives. Early treatment can be life-changing, though people with chronic addiction troubles also benefit from treatment interventions at any point in the process.
Speaking with a therapist, counselor, or other treatment professional familiar with substance use and addiction related issues can go a long way toward helping with this determination.
Knowing When to Get Help for Drug Abuse
It can be a challenge to know when drug use has crossed the line into problematic drug abuse, particularly when it comes to legal substances like alcohol or prescription drugs like medicines for anxiety or pain. However, if you believe you are abusing drugs, there are some signs that can indicate that the compulsive patterns of use seen with substance use disorders have developed and help is needed. These signs may include the following behaviors:1
- Losing interest in former favorite activities due to substance use
- Difficulty meeting social, school, or work obligations
- Aggression or violent behavior
- Continuing to use drugs even when it causes problems with friends, work obligations, etc.
- Engaging in risky behaviors while using drugs (e.g., driving while intoxicated, unsafe sexual activity)
Several other criteria may be used to make an official diagnosis of substance use disorder or addiction, including using more than intended and unsuccessful attempts at cutting back on use. If you’re concerned that you may already be struggling with compulsive drug use, it can be helpful to speak with a therapist or other addiction treatment professional about the potential need for treatment. Professional substance abuse treatment has helped many people begin a life of recovery.
What Is Drug Abuse?
Drug abuse may entail the use of illegal drugs or prescription drugs in a way that the drugs are not prescribed. Drug abuse can evolve into substance use disorder, which is a person’s continual use of a substance even though such use may have a negative effect on that person’s physical, psychological, or social health and wellness.2
Treatment for drug abuse is available and is geared towards helping individuals put a stop to their compulsive drug seeking and using behavior. Early treatment—before a person’s drug abuse becomes more problematic—can prevent some of the consequences of abuse.
Drug abuse is a major problem in the United States and is associated with a variety of physical illnesses and diseases.3 It may also contribute to many other problems, including:4
- Emotional burden, including worry, depression, shame, and guilt.
- Economic burden, like unemployment and reliance on government assistance.
- Risky physical and sexual behavior.
- Legal and financial problems.
- Problems with family and other relationships.
Reasons for Abuse
Drug abuse is a complex issue, and the reasons that people begin to abuse drugs vary as much as the types of drugs that are abused. However, those reasons fall into several broader categories. These include:5
- Peer pressure or experimentation.
- Dealing with stress in relationships, at work, or at school.
- Issues in the person’s social life.
- Family history of drug abuse.
- Chaotic or otherwise problematic home life.
- Long-term use or misuse of certain medications.
- Co-occurrence of other mental health disorders
Some people are able to use certain drugs without becoming addicted. For example, some people can consume alcohol moderately without developing an alcohol use disorder. Other people, however, based on the above factors, may have a higher risk of abuse and addiction.
The point at which an individual ultimately seeks treatment for a substance use disorder often depends on that person’s willingness to give up drug use.
The point at which an individual ultimately seeks treatment for a substance use disorder often depends on that person’s willingness to give up drug use. Someone experiencing relatively few repercussions with regard to health and social problems in the section above may still not be ready to commit to treatment. But seeking the guidance of an addiction treatment professional can help you establish a recovery path that leads to sobriety.
Available Treatment Options
There are a number of drug abuse treatment options. At the highest level, there is a contrast between inpatient and outpatient treatment. Whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is chosen might depend on the duration of drug abuse and the severity of drug- or addiction-related issues.
Treatment in either setting generally includes a range of therapies designed to help the person who is abusing or addicted to a substance learn to manage their thoughts and behaviors to better achieve abstinence and maintain sobriety.
Inpatient treatment is one of a few different options that have helped many achieve long-term recovery. Also known as residential treatment, this type of program provides a community in which the person lives during treatment. Residential treatment allows for a full-time, comprehensive program that can offer the various aspects of substance abuse treatment that are considered to provide the best chance at recovery. Below are some of Oxford Treatment Center’s available inpatient programs:
- Medical detox
- Residential treatment in cabins on a 110-acre campus, including group therapy, equine therapy, education courses, and more
- Family therapy
- One-on-one therapy and counseling
- Support group participation
- Aftercare and post-treatment outpatient programs
Inpatient treatment settings allow for round-the-clock observation and recovery support. Behavioral therapy, drug education, and relapse prevention skills training are common pillars of inpatient programming. For those whose daily interactions and relationships might involve inadequate support at home or difficult-to-avoid triggers for substance abuse, inpatient treatment could be a good option.
For people with relatively less severe addictions, inpatient treatment may not be necessary. When outpatient treatment is deemed appropriate by an evaluating treatment professional, these types of programs can provide the needed therapy and treatment without extensive disruption to the person’s daily life.
Should an individual encounter problems with recovery progress, a step-up to an inpatient treatment setting is always an option. Regular evaluations with the treatment team will help determine the course of treatment most likely to help the person achieve recovery.
Outpatient treatment intensities can range from periodic counseling appointments to more comprehensive services provided by a qualified rehab facility in a similar manner to the inpatient services described above, but without the residential provision.
For people with less pronounced physical dependence or otherwise at low risk of severe or complicated withdrawal—in other words, those who don’t require a detox program or round-the-clock observation—a solid outpatient program may provide adequate treatment structure to help them in recovery.
Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are thorough treatment plans that offer the comprehensive therapies described above but in an outpatient setting. These programs can serve as a full treatment course for some people, while for others, they can provide aftercare and support as a follow-up treatment to an inpatient program.
Whether the program selected is inpatient or outpatient, an important element of treatment is therapy. Along with the necessary detox and withdrawal services, reputable programs provide behavioral therapies that can assist a person in learning about the nature of substance abuse and how to avoid triggers that lead to continued use of drugs.
Various behavioral therapies may be utilized to help people recognize the situations and patterns in their lives that lead them to abuse drugs and train them to change those patterns. This involves observing and developing an understanding of the situations and triggers that evoke the desire to use drugs, noting the drug-seeking behaviors that follow, and then learning to replace those behaviors with new ones that do not involve drugs. Commonly used CBT varieties include:
- Contingency Management and Motivational Therapies: techniques that enhance motivation to continue treatment and maintain abstinence6
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy: treatment that is especially helpful for people with co-occurring mental health disorders7
- Interpersonal Therapy: teaches skills for building a social network that can distract from the desire to abuse drugs8
Oxford Treatment Center offers a variety of the above treatment therapies. The recovery center also offers a few unique options as well, including equine therapy, which allows you to care and bond with the animals over the course of your treatment. Oxford’s art and music therapy create opportunities for expression outside of verbal communication. Certified yoga and mindfulness instructors are also on hand to help you relax and center after a long day of treatment.
Providing Positive Treatment Outcomes
What seems to be most important regardless of the treatment type is a combination of time spent in the rehab program, the intensity of treatment, and the level of satisfaction with the treatment. Greater treatment service intensity as well as treatment satisfaction both contribute to longer treatment retention and/or program completion which, in turn, leads to improved treatment outcomes.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, effective treatment programs incorporate a variety of different therapies and treatment modalities into their menu of services in order to be able to customize the services to meet a particular individual’s needs.9
Many inpatient treatment programs are well-equipped to be able to provide this variety of service. As described above, outpatient programs can provide this level of variety as well, but not all of them do. For this reason, when seeking outpatient treatment, it is important to make sure that the program offers a range of services rather than just one or even just a few.
For a person struggling with addiction, the type of treatment required will be influenced by the type of substance(s) being used as well as the magnitude of substance-related issues, such as the degree of physical dependence and corresponding withdrawal risks. The best way to determine the level of treatment required is to work with substance abuse treatment professionals who can help the individual determine the most helpful types of treatment.
Other Drug Reading
- Dextromethorphan (DXM)
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin)
- Nitrous Oxide
- OTC Drugs
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to Do If Your Adult Friend or Loved One Has a Problem with Drugs.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Addiction and Health.
- Daley, D.C. (2013). Family and social aspects of substance use disorders and treatment. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, 21(4), S73-S76.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drug Misuse and Addiction.
- Carroll, K.M., Onken, L.S. (2005). Behavioral Therapies for Drug Abuse. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(8): 1452-1460.
- Dimeff, L.A. & Linehan, M.M. (2008). Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Abusers. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, 4(2), 39-47.
- Markowitz, J.C. & Weissman, M.M. (2004). Interpersonal psychotherapy: principles and applications. World Psychiatry, 3(3), 136-139.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.