Addiction Disorders | Addiction Prevention | Addiction Disorders Sources

Identification of drug addictions often starts at the family doctor level. Generally, one family member raises concerns about another family member’s behavior, which leads to a doctor’s visit. The doctor may ask questions about the frequency of drug use, whether any family member has criticized the patient's drug use or whether he or she has ever felt the patient might have a problem. If a substance issue is suspected, the doctor will send the patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or specialized addiction
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counselor to have a proper evaluation and possible diagnosis. Blood tests are not used to diagnose a drug addiction, but may be used to see whether you've taken certain drugs in the recent past (Mayo Clinic).

As previously stated, to be diagnosed with an addiction (substance dependence) an individual must meet the criteria stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This hefty text is about the length and height of a Pre-Calculus textbook and the width of Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, it is thought of as the “Diagnostician's Bible.” Mental health professionals refer to it when diagnosing mental health conditions and insurance companies use it to reimburse treatments. As posted on Mayo Clinic’s Web Page, in order to be diagnosed with substance dependence, a person must exhibit three or more of the following behaviors, occurring over a 12-month period:

  • Develops a tolerance, which means that the drug has less and less effect on him and he needs more of the drug to get high
  • Has physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms, or he takes the drug (or a similar drug) to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Often takes larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than he intended
  • Keeps trying to cut down or quit using the drug
  • Spends a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • Gives up or cuts back important social, occupational or recreational activities because of his drug use
  • Keeps using the drug even though he knows it is causing physical or psychological problems

There is a wide array of treatments available for those who have become dependent on a substance. Drug addiction treatments can include inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Inpatient treatment programs refer to programs that require patients to stay at a hospital while receiving their treatment. On the other hand, patients in outpatient programs receive treatment without being admitted to a hospital. Other addiction treatments include counseling and attending support groups (self-help groups) to help addicts fight the urge to start “using” again. Depending on the level of addiction, patients may need extra support during the withdrawal period (detoxification), as this is often extraordinarily unpleasant. In summary, the various therapies that help an individual overcome an addiction and stay sober are the following:
  • Treatment programs – These programs are offered around the world in numerous settings, from inpatient to outpatient and residential options. Treatment programs aim to educate and support their patients through educational and therapy sessions. With the focus of becoming sober and preventing relapse, these may be individual, group, or family sessions (Mayo Clinic).
  • Counseling – Individual or family sessions with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or addiction counselor can be helpful to thos
    Alcoholics Anonymous sign (in Spanish)
    e having trouble resisting his/her temptation to resume abusing substances. Behavior therapists are helpful in these sorts of situations as they help people develop coping strategies. They suggest methods to avoid relapse, and offer advice when and if a relapse occurs. Individual counseling can involve talking about a person’s job or relationship troubles. Family counseling is useful as it improves communication skills, which in turn improves family dynamics (Mayo Clinic).
  • Self-help groups – The widely known Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an example of a self-help group. Others include Narcotics Anonymous, which exists for people addicted to drugs such as cocaine and various narcotics. The message of self-help groups is that addiction is a chronic issue with a danger of relapse and that continuous treatment, such as medications and counseling, is necessary to prevent relapse (Mayo Clinic).
  • Withdrawal therapy (detoxification) – The goal of withdrawal therapy is to help an individual stop using an addictive substance as safely as possible. This is generally done by slowly reducing the dose of the drug. While reducing the dose of the drug, doctors will often substitute the drug for other substances, such as methadone, as it has less severe side effects, and eases the dismal process. Many patients are admitted to a hospital when undergoing withdrawal therapy. For others, undergoing this therapy can be done in outpatient programs (Mayo Clinic).