When Is it Time to Turn to Addiction Medicine?

Jul 05, 2023
When Is it Time to Turn to Addiction Medicine?
If you or someone you love is dealing with dependence on a substance or behavior to the exclusion of all else, at what point should you turn to addiction medicine for help? We have the answer here.

Formerly known as addiction, substance use disorder (SUD) is a mental health condition in which a person becomes physically and/or mentally dependent on a drug (e.g. heroin, prescription painkillers) or a behavior (e.g. gambling, risky sex) and engages in a pattern of abuse that creates conflict and impairs their normal life.

Because of the cravings and the dependency involved in SUD, the person also goes through physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance or engaging in the behavior.

The condition’s name was changed, in part, to help clarify the spectrum on which the disorder lies and to destigmatize the problem so patients can get the medical help they need.

If you or someone you love is living with substance use disorder, Dr. John Lewis and the team at Umbrella HealthCare can help. We provide addiction medicine services at our office in Phoenix, Arizona, and can help you decide when it’s time to consider addiction medicine. Here’s a look at SUD and addiction medicine.

Signs and symptoms of SUD

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, the signs of substance use disorder include:

  • A need for increasing amounts of the substance or behavior
  • Taking prescriptions longer than they were prescribed for
  • Having physical and psychological cravings for the substance or behavior
  • An inability to control use/abuse
  • A large amount of time spent getting or using the substance or recovering from its effects
  • An inability to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home because of use/abuse or behavior
  • Having problems with relationships
  • Avoiding social, occupational, or recreational activities because of use/abuse or behavior
  • Engaging in the behavior even when it puts you in danger
  • Ongoing substance use despite that use causing or worsening an ongoing physical or psychological problem 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms; using more of the substance or engaging in more of the behavior to combat

If you’re experiencing any or all of the items on the list, it’s time to turn to addiction medicine to get and stay clean.

Treating SUD

Substance use disorder isn’t curable, perhaps in part because there may be a genetic (inherited) component. However, you can recover from it and go on to lead a full, productive life. The key to recovery is getting the professional help you need to guide you through the process and hold you accountable for the results.

Treatment has two parts: self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and teaming with a mental health provider such as Umbrella HealthCare that can provide psychological support and medication management.

It’s important to understand that SUD is characterized by relapses, meaning people in recovery have a high chance of falling back into unhealthy behaviors if they’re not vigilant. That’s why it’s important to have ongoing treatment with a provider who periodically reviews your treatment plan with you to determine if your needs have changed.

How can psychotherapy help?

Psychotherapy is one aspect of addiction medicine that includes a variety of talk therapies. You work with a therapist to discuss your feelings, your triggers for substance use, and how to overcome your problem.

One of the most effective forms of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which you and a therapist collaborate to change the way you think about your problems and adjust your behavior patterns.

CBT places an emphasis on helping people learn to become their own therapists. Through in-office exercises as well as “homework” tasks, you learn to develop healthier coping skills and thereby learn to change your thinking, problematic emotions, and behavior.

What is medication management?

In using medication management, your provider looks at the “big picture” of the medications you’re on. They evaluate their effectiveness and any interactions they may have, and make recommendations for any changes based on your medical history and diagnosis. They also review evidence-based data to look for newer and perhaps more effective drugs.

You’re an important part of the treatment team. You have the right to know what medications you’re being asked to take, why they’re being prescribed, and how they’re likely to affect you. You also have the right to ask any questions you might have about the medications or the treatment plan as a whole, and you need to speak up about any adverse effects you experience.

For SUD, Dr. Lewis may prescribe medications to help with withdrawal symptoms, antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs to regulate your mood, and perhaps something to address adverse effects SUD has had on your body.

If you’ve become dependent on a substance, medication, or behavior, the right time to turn to addiction medicine is as soon as you can; the quicker you get the help you need, the faster and more effective treatment will be.

To learn more or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lewis, give Umbrella HealthCare in Phoenix, Arizona, a call today at 623-242-1389, or book an appointment online.