Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder)

Diagnosing drug addiction (substance use disorder) requires a thorough evaluation and often includes an assessment by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Blood, urine or other lab tests are used to assess drug use, but they're not a diagnostic test for addiction. These tests can be used to monitor treatment or recovery.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) is the standard for diagnosing a substance-use disorder. It was published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For treatment

Although there's no cure for drug addiction, treatment options can help you overcome an addiction and stay drug-free. The type of drug you used, as well as any mental or medical conditions that may be associated with it will determine the treatment plan. Relapse prevention requires long-term monitoring.

Most treatment programs offer the following:

You can stop using drugs as soon as you want. This is called detoxification or withdrawal therapy. It may be possible to withdraw on an outpatient or inpatient basis for some individuals. Other people may need to be admitted at a hospital or in a residential center.

There are many side effects to withdrawing from certain drugs, including opioids, stimulants, and depressants. The process of detox may include gradually decreasing the amount of drug, temporarily substituting another substance, such as buprenorphine, methadone, or a combination buprenorphine/naloxone.

Opioid Overdose

A medicine known as naloxone is available to be administered by medical professionals or, in certain states, anyone else who has witnessed an overdose. Naloxone can temporarily reverse the opioid effects.

Naloxone has been available for many years. There are nasal sprays (Narcan and Kloxxado) as well as an injectable, but they can be expensive. No matter how you received naloxone, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Medicine as part of treatment After discussion with you, your health care provider may recommend medicine as part of your treatment for opioid addiction. Medicines don't cure your opioid addiction, but they can help in your recovery. They can help reduce the urge to use opioids, and prevent relapse. Medicine treatment options for opioid addiction may include buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone, and a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone.

Behavior Therapy

As part of a drug treatment program, behavior therapy - a form of psychotherapy - can be done by a psychologist or psychiatrist, or you may receive counseling from a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. The therapist or counselor can work with the individual, a couple, or a whole group. Counselors and therapists can help:

Help you develop ways to cope with your drug cravings Suggest strategies to avoid drugs and prevent relapse Offer suggestions on how to deal with a relapse if it occurs Talk about issues regarding your job, legal problems, and relationships with family and friends Include family members to help them develop better communication skills and be supportive Address other mental health conditions Self-help groups Many, though not all, self-help support groups use the 12-step model first developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Self-help support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, help people who are addicted to drugs.

The self-help support group message is that addiction is an ongoing disorder with a danger of relapse. The shame and isolation that could lead to relapse can be reduced by joining self-help support groups.

A licensed counsellor or therapist can assist you in finding a group for self-help. There may be support groups available in your area or online.

Continued care

After you complete initial treatment, continuing treatment can prevent a relapse. Regular appointments can be made with your counselor or you may continue to participate in a self help program. You might also attend regular group sessions. Relapses should be treated immediately.

Coping with and Support

Overcoming an addiction and staying drug-free require a persistent effort. It is important to learn newcoping skills and know where you can find help. These actions will help you:

See a licensed therapist or licensed drug and alcohol counselor. Drug addiction is linked to many problems that may be helped with therapy or counseling, including other underlying mental health concerns or marriage or family problems. A psychiatrist, licensed counselor or psychologist may be able to help you find peace and improve your relationships.

Get treatment for any other mental disorders. People with other mental health problems, such as depression, are more likely to become addicted to drugs. If you are experiencing any symptoms or signs of mental illness, seek immediate help from qualified mental health professionals.

Consider joining a support network. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, can be very effective in coping with addiction. Compassion, understanding and shared experiences can help you break your addiction and stay drug-free.

How to prepare for your appointment

You may find it helpful to have an objective perspective, not only from someone you know well but also one you trust. Start by talking to your primary care provider about substance use. Or ask for a referral to a specialist in drug addiction, such as a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or a psychiatrist or psychologist. Bring a friend or relative along.

Here's What You Can Do

Prepare for your appointment

You can make a list with questions you want to ask your mental or health professional. Ask your provider questions such as:

Here's What You Can Expect from Your Doctor

You are likely to be asked several questions by your provider, including:

You should be prepared to answer any questions to give yourself more time to cover the points that you are most interested in.