As a primary substance abuse counselor, I have worked with individuals who either have a substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder for seven years. I currently provide group and individual services for individuals with a confirmed substance use disorder.
My goal is always to meet clients “where they are” in managing their disorder. There are a few important points I would like to make regarding substance use disorders and treatment for these individuals.
Substance use disorders are a disease
Substance use disorders are a disease of the brain. The reward and pleasure center of the brain gets affected by substances, and it is beyond the control of the individual. Happily, many forms of treatment currently have moved to the disease model of addiction treatment.
Detoxification is only the first step in treatment
After detoxification, there is either treatment on an inpatient or outpatient basis. After active treatment, life-long relapse prevention is necessary to ensure ongoing sobriety. Substance use disorders in remission can always return if care is not taken to avoid triggers and implement permanent behavior change.
Forming new habits is important
Often individuals abuse substances out of habit and/or in response to triggers such as boredom, depression, frustration, anxiety and even excitement. Therefore, it is necessary to form healthier habits to manage these triggers rather than turn to substances for relief. During group education, we focus on developing healthy coping skills such as exercise, meditation, journaling and many other self-care strategies to decrease the patient’s impulse to turn to substances.
Medication-assisted treatment has been tremendous
There are many medications used to assist with substance use disorders. These drugs are used to help with cravings and block the euphoric effects of certain substances. Examples of these are naltrexone or acamprosate for alcohol use disorder or suboxone for opiate use disorder.
There is also a combo medication being tested and developed to treat methamphetamine use disorder as well. I hope that the use and prescribing of medications for substance use disorders are as common as other medical diagnoses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
There is still a stigma among patients and the general public about the use of medications to treat substance use. I am glad to provide education on this topic as often as I can, as these medications can help patients live a normal life and, quite frankly, help keep them alive. Individuals treated with Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) have a much higher long-term success rate than individuals who are not.
For questions or to make an appointment, call the Willowbrooke Counseling Center at 770-812-8863.
Learn more at WillowbrookeCounselingCenter.org.