Substance Abuse / Use Treatment

What Is Substance Abuse?

To understand substance abuse as a disorder and how substance abuse is treated, we must distinguish between abuse and dependence:

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse (also called drug abuse or chemical abuse) is a disorder that is characterized by a destructive pattern of using a substance (drugs and/or alcohol) that leads to significant work, home, school, and/or social problems or distress.

Substance Dependence

Substance dependence (also called drug addiction or chemical dependency) is a disorder characterized by a destructive pattern of drug or alcohol addiction leading to significant school, work, home, and/or social problems. Dependence typically involves tolerance to or withdrawal symptoms from the substance.

Dealing with an alcohol or drug problem is often complicated and quite difficult. Since people use drugs and alcohol to varying extents and in varying situations, it becomes necessary to truly understand the impact that the drug or alcohol use is having on the individual’s life as well as those around him or her.

Disorders Associated With Substance Abuse

Substance use, abuse and dependence are often associated with a variety of mental health disorders. Substance use may begin as a coping mechanism and then develop into a more severe problem. Substance use, abuse, and dependence is often seen in individuals who also suffer from:

Substance Abuse Symptoms

The physical and psychological effects of substance use and dependence vary depending on the substance involved and the amount used. However, the general effects of abuse or addiction can be quite devastating.

Signs of Substance Abuse

  • The recurrent use of the drug that results in missing important obligations at home, work and/or school
  • The recurrent use of the drug in situations that can be dangerous
  • Legal problems as a result of drug use
  • Continued use of the substance despite its negative impact on relationships, work, school, etc

Causes of Substance Abuse

There is no one cause of substance abuse and dependence. However, like many other mental health issues, there are often a variety of biological, psychological, and social factors that increase the risk or likelihood of someone developing a substance use or dependence disorder.

Substance Abuse Commonality

Substance abuse and addiction are very common, impacting approximately 7% of people at some point in their lives. More than 2.6% of people suffer from drug addiction at some time in their life.

Expert Diagnosis From Substance Abuse Counselor

In order to diagnose a substance use or dependence disorder, Equilibria’s substance abuse counselors in Philadelphia will perform a comprehensive evaluation of medical, family, mental health, drug use, work, and school-related history. In asking questions about mental health symptoms, psychologists are often exploring if the individual suffers from depression, manic symptoms, anxiety, hallucinations, or delusions, as well as some behavioral disorders.

Sometimes tests are used to screen for substance use or dependence. Since some of the symptoms of drug misuse and dependence can also occur in other mental illnesses, the mental health screening is to determine if the individual suffers from another mental health issue that will need to be addressed. This is either done throughout the therapy process or through a more formal psychological evaluation.

Substance Abuse Diagnosis

In order to be diagnosed with substance dependence, an individual must exhibit a destructive pattern of drug abuse that contributes to significant problems as manifested by at least three of the following signs in a one-year period:

Substance Tolerance

Either a markedly decreased effect of the substance or a need to significantly increase the amount of the substance used in order to achieve the same high or other desired effects.

Substance Withdrawal

Defined as either physical or psychological signs or symptoms consistent with withdrawal from a specific drug or taking that drug or one chemically close to that drug in order to avoid developing symptoms of withdrawal.

Loss of Control of Use

You consume more of a substance than you originaly intended.  Or you consume a drug for a larger span of time than you originally intended. These feelings are often coupled with a feeling of loss of control.

Addictive Symptoms

The individual experiences a persistent desire to take the drug or has unsuccessful attempts to decrease or control the substance use.

Life Revolves Around Substance Use

A significant amount of time is spent getting, using, and/or recovering from the effects of the substance.

Significant Change In Daily Habits

The individual significantly reduces or stops participating in important social, recreational, work, or school activities as a result of using the substance.

Continued Use of Substance

The individual continues to use the substance despite being aware that he or she suffers from ongoing or recurring physical or psychological problems that are caused or worsened by the use of the drug.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse treatment at Equilibria always begins with a substance abuse counselor performing a thorough psychological evaluation of the individual, including assessment of current and past drug use, family composition, medical and psychological problems, relationships, work impact and overall quality of life and the impact that the drug or alcohol use has had. Gathering all of this information is important in order to tailor the substance abuse treatment to the individual’s needs.

Often included in substance abuse treatment is a relapse prevention component, helping the individual learn to manage their triggers to drug or alcohol use in more adaptive ways. Quite often, individual or group therapy are not enough for an individual trying to change these difficult patterns. Sometimes inpatient substance abuse treatment may be warranted depending on the severity and type of use.

Furthermore, often outside support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), can be helpful for additional support and guidance through the difficult process of obtaining and maintaining sobriety.

Schedule an Appointment for Substance Abuse Treatment

If you would like to meet or talk with one of our psychologists or therapists in Philadelphia about substance abuse, call us at (267) 861-3685, option 1; or fill out our online form.