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What is Addiction: What, How and When of Getting Help

Substance Use DisorderWhen thinking about addiction, what is the first thing that comes to mind? I’d guess the first thought would be those stereotypes of stumbling and slurred speech. What might surprise you is the clinical definition of an addiction.

What is Addiction?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2013)(DSM-V), an addiction is “a cluster of cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms” related to the continued use of a substance or behavior despite the consequences. An addiction commonly changes the brain to view the substance or behavior as a need, like water, food or shelter. This can lead to difficulty with giving up the addiction without a strong support system and learning different skills to manage stressors. In June 2021, the Maryland Opioid Operational Command Center reported a 5.7% increase in fatal overdoses of drugs and alcohol in 2021 compared to 2020. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports 60.2% of Americans 12 and up have abused drugs in the last 30 days.

How to Get Help

According to the AddictionCenter, nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% receive treatment. So, how does someone get treatment for addiction? Treatment is broken into different categories based on the severity of the addiction: medical detox, inpatient treatment, partial hospitalization programs, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment.

  • Medical Detox occurs prior to entering a rehab facility. Depending on the substances and the amount of use, medical detox can last a few days to more than a week until the substances have been safely removed from the body.

  • Inpatient/Residential treatment is an intensive program where individuals remain at a facility to receive monitoring and support. Many of these programs are 28 days or more.  

  • Partial Hospitalization Programs are sessions individuals attend for a few hours, multiples days a week. These programs typically last for 2 weeks or more.

  • Intensive Outpatient is a program you attend for a few hours multiple days a week for typically 6 weeks or more. The focus of these groups is typically education related to all aspects of addiction and learning new coping skills to maintain sobriety.

  • Outpatient treatment programs are sessions that you go to 1 to 5 hours a week depending on need.

All of these programs paired with individual and/or family counseling with a licensed therapist show an increased likelihood of maintaining sobriety.

Where to Get Help

On you are able to find different programs in your city based on the type of care you need. As a mental health therapist at Brook Lane, during the evaluation process there are times where treatment may need to be more or less intensive depending on need. If you feel that you have not been able to successfully maintain sobriety or are not confident in your ability to currently maintain sobriety, the more intensive the program would be the best place to start. If you feel you need more support to maintain sobriety, outpatient programs may be the path. It is normal for the intensiveness of the program to decrease the longer you have been in recovery. If you are not sure of the right path for you, finding an individual therapist that specializes in substance use may be beneficial.

When to Get Help

The first step of addiction treatment is recognizing you have a problem. If you feel substance abuse may be present, answering these questions may help to determine that answer:

Have you tried to stop drinking or quit using drugs, yet found you could not do it? 

Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms: shaking, sweating, nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety or depression when you tried to stop using drugs?

Do you continue to drink or use drugs despite legal, social, financial, or health-related consequences?

Have you lost things or people you love because of drug or alcohol-related incidents? 

Have you attempted to limit the number of drinks/drugs or only drink/use at certain times?

Answering “yes” to one or more of the questions, indicates you may benefit from some type of addiction treatment. Do not be afraid to take that first step - there is help available that could change your life.

Sabrina McCauley is a licensed clinical professional counselor providing services in the InSTEP (Integrated Substance Use Treatment Program) and the outpatient program at Brook Lane’s North Village location. She provides therapy for adolescents and adults with a variety of concerns with mental health and substance use disorders. She is a graduate of Marshal University with two master’s degrees in counseling and psychology.