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Substance Abuse (cont.)

Substance Abuse Treatment

Most substance abusers believe they can stop using drugs on their own, but the majority who try do not succeed. Before treatment for the addictive behavior can be directly addressed, the substance abuse sufferer might need help in lessening physical withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs they have been using. That initial phase of treatment is called detoxification or "detox." It often requires inpatient hospital treatment.

Research shows that long-term drug use alters brain function and strengthens compulsions to use drugs. This craving continues even after drug use stops.

Because of these ongoing cravings, the most important component of treatment, also called recovery, is preventing relapse. Treating substance abuse often requires treatment in a rehabilitation (rehab) program and depends on both the person and the substance being used. In behavioral treatment, a counselor (like a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or nurse practitioner) provides strategies to cope with drug cravings and ways to avoid relapse. Treatment often includes individual and group therapy.

Once they have performed a thorough assessment of someone's condition, a doctor or nurse practitioner may prescribe medications, such as nicotine patches and methadone, to control withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. Random drug testing is often an integral part of encouraging the person with substance abuse problems to refrain from further drug use. Drug-abuse hotlines can be an invaluable resource for people to initiate treatment and prevent relapse.

Often, a drug user has an underlying behavioral disorder or other mental illness, one that increases risk for substance abuse. When an individual suffers from a substance use disorder in addition to another mental-health disorder, he or she is referred to as having dual diagnosis. Such disorders must be treated medically and through counseling along with treatment of the drug abuse.

Substance Abuse Prevention

Substance abuse may start in childhood or adolescence. Abuse prevention efforts in schools and community settings now focus on school-age groups. Programs seek to increase communication between parents and their children, to teach resistance skills, and to provide information in order to correct children's misperceptions about cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs and the consequences of their use. Most importantly, officials seek to develop, through education and the media, an environment of social disapproval of drug use from children's peers and families.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/14/2015

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