What is Substance Abuse?
A Substance Use Disorder (SUD) (formerly referred to as substance abuse, chemical dependency, or addiction) is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. SUD results in an inability to control the use of drugs and/or alcohol leading to health problems or interfering with the ability to work, go to school, and maintain good relationships. Common substance use disorders include Alcohol Use Disorder, Tobacco Use Disorder, Opioid Use Disorder, Cannabis Use Disorder, Stimulant Use Disorder, or Hallucinogen Use Disorder.
When to Seek Help for Substance Use?
It can sometimes be difficult to recognize when substance use becomes a disorder (abuse and/or addiction). Signs of a substance use disorder may include:
- Reliance on substances (drugs or alcohol) to get through the day
- Needing more of the substance to experience the same effect
- Needing to continually use to avoid symptoms of withdrawal
- Continuing to use even when you know it’s causing problems in your life
- Spending more than you can afford to maintain a supply of substances
What are the Treatment Options for SUD?
Effective treatment will vary from person-to-person. Treatment options include medical and behavioral health services which are often used in combination.
- Detoxification – process of eliminating drugs or alcohol from the body. Consists of three steps – evaluation, stabilization, and transition into treatment
- Typically takes place under the supervision of a physician – self-detox or quitting “cold-turkey” can have life-threatening consequences
- Offered in a wide variety of settings and at varying intensity levels
- Individual and Group Counseling – assessment, treatment planning, and counseling services offered by trained professionals, focused on reducing or stopping substance use, may take place in a private practice, outpatient facility, or inpatient/residential facility
- Inpatient and Residential Treatment – address more severe substance use disorders requiring round-the-clock attention, residents are placed in 24-hour care and may receive both medical and behavioral health services
- Outpatient Rehabilitation – typically addresses less severe substance use issues, treatment may include counseling, therapy and drug education
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – combines behavioral therapy and medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings, and block the brain’s ability to experience the substance’s effects; typically used to treat opioid (methadone, buprenorphine), alcohol (disulfiram, acamprosate, naltrexone), and smoking (nicotine replacement, bupropion) SUDs
- Support Groups and 12-Step Programs – non-clinical services often provided by peers or others in recovery, typically used in combination with treatment
- Specialized Living – provides safe and supportive living environments for those recovering from SUD who want to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs (i.e. halfway houses, recovery homes, sober living homes)
I Want Treatment, Where Do I Start?
Treatment typically begins with a general assessment in which the nature and extent of your substance use disorder will be evaluated. This will determine which treatment options are best for you. To find a facility offering substance use assessments call 211 or visit the Helpline Center Website.
How can I pay for treatment?
Insurance companies are required to cover behavioral and mental health conditions to the same extent that they cover medical conditions. If you have insurance, check with your provider to see what they cover.
Many people may avoid treatment for their substance use disorder due to costs. Individuals who meet programmatic and financial eligibility guidelines or who have considerable personal circumstances, may qualify for state funded services. A trained clinician recommends treatment services based on the assessment which may include the treatment options listed above.
For more information, call 211 or search our online database:
Use the following keyword search terms:
- Alcohol Use Disorder Support Groups
- Comprehensive Outpatient Substance Use Disorder Treatment
- Drug Use Disorder Support Groups
- Dual Diagnosis Support Groups
- General Assessment for Substance Use Disorders
- Medication Assisted Maintenance Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
- Inpatient Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities
- Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment
- Recovery Homes/Halfway Houses
- Residential Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Facilities
- Substance Use Disorder Counseling
- Substance Use Disorder Treatment Expense Assistance
- American Addiction Centers: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/free/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-you-have-problem-drugs-adults
- SAMHSA MAT: https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment#medications-used-in-mat
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help
Disclaimer: This HelpSheet is developed by the Helpline Center. HelpSheets provide a brief overview of the designated topic. For more information, call 211 or text your zip code to 898211.
Updated: October 2021