Have you ever heard the expression, “I felt like a penny waiting for change.”? As it applies to addiction treatment, waiting may not be an option as the truth of the matter is, time and resources might be the difference between life and death. Well, wait no more. During the week of April 24 to April 30, 2017, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) will be hosting the first ever Addition Gap Awareness Week. According to ASAM, the goal of this much needed event is to create national awareness for “a week dedicated to recognizing the significant gap in treatment for those with the disease of addiction.”
Information is knowledge, right? Saying things like – “I don’t know where to get help” – “I can’t afford it” – “it’s too complicated” – “I’m all alone” – are no longer valid reasons to get the help you or a loved one needs. ASAM, and similar organizations, were formed for the sole purpose of dedicating resources to those who struggle with substance abuse disorders through spreading awareness and education, increasing access to treatment and improving the quality of addiction treatment. The information is out there and so is the aid. And it’s all waiting for you once you make the decision to fight your addiction and begin your journey to recovery.
What is Addiction?
While the term “addiction” is rather broad and could apply to any number of vices, overall and it is important to understand that addition is a disease and while it may affect each of us differently the effects of the disease are devastating. Addiction is generally defined as a disease which is chronic in nature, which affects the functioning of the brain and body. Specifically affecting the brain’s reward, motivation, memory and related sensors. For example, the relief one may feel from substance use is translated to the brain as a reward. This flawed way of thinking – “I feel better now so it was the right choice” – is the disease talking.
Inability to refrain from use, severe loss of control, continued use despite serious consequences, preoccupation with using, failed attempts to quit, tolerance and withdrawal are all symptoms of addition. Addiction does not just affect the addict, it also causes serious damage to families, relationships, workplaces and the community as a whole.
As is the case with many chronic diseases, the unfortunate truth is addiction is a strong beast that often results in several attempts of recovery and cycles of relapse and remission. However, this is exactly why treatment is so important because without it the progression of the disease could ultimately result in disability or even death.
Addiction can be effectively prevented. There is hope. With proper treatment and assistance of healthcare professionals, together with a strong support group, recovery is possible.
Alcohol and Substance Use Disorders
Alcohol Use Disorder and Substance Use Disorder are among the most common forms of addiction. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the United States is a staggering 15.1 million adults ranging from ages 18 and older. Of that 15.1 million adults, only about 1.3 million received treatment for their addition at a specialized facility. Do the math – this means only about 8.3% of adults with alcohol abuse disorder sought treatment. You have to be asking yourself – “that’s it”? – “why”?
If you haven’t started asking yourself these questions yet maybe the next number will get the wheels turning – nearly 90,000 people die every year from alcohol-related deaths. Thousands of preventable deaths. Thousands. Why aren’t we getting the help we so greatly need?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the second most common reason that people did not receive substance abuse treatment, despite wanting or needing it – the first most common reason being the readiness to make the choice to stop abusing – is a lack of financial resources or a lack of health insurance. The importance of bringing awareness to the addiction treatment gap is necessary as millions and millions of people aren’t getting the help they need.
Fortunately, there are several types of treatment out there designed to provide quality care and treatment to each individual relative to the addiction they are struggling with. For more information regarding treatment, click here. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves? When do you know it’s time for treatment? Acknowledging you have a problem and that it is time to seek help is just as important as the actual treatment.
How does Addiction Feel? Signs and Symptoms
If you are concerned about the role addiction plays in your life or the life of someone you love, the NCADD offers a simple self-test intended to help you determine if you or someone you know needs to find out more about alcoholism. To take the self-test click here.
The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has combined alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, into one disorder called alcohol use disorder. The diagnosis of alcohol use disorder is based on certain levels which include mild, moderate, and severe sub-classifications. Not all individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (previously referred to as alcohol abusers or alcohol dependence) develop alcoholism; however alcohol use disorder includes a level that’s sometimes called alcoholism which is considered severe at times. There are also situations where alcoholism develops in response due to genetics from family history of alcoholism. Alternatively, it can be due to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss. Addiction to alcohol may also gradually develop as your tolerance increases.
If an individual is a binge drinker and dinks in a large amount of alcohol all at one time or drinks every day, the risks of developing an addiction are even greater. Recognizing the symptoms is the first step.
Once referred to as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence, the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has combined these terms into one disorder called alcohol use disorder or AUD. Alcohol use disorder can range anywhere from minor to severe (alcoholism). This means that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have a dependency on alcohol. This addiction to alcohol can arise as a result of many different conditions.
Neglecting Outside Interests or Hobbies
Some of the symptoms of alcohol abuse may be obvious, while others less so. This is one that tends to be ignored. Those who let alcohol take over their lives start to disregard things that were once very important to them. This could be anything from hobbies, sports, or really anything else that used to occupy your time. Don’t let alcohol stop you from spending time with friends and family or doing activities you once loved.
We have all noticed that some people have the ability to drink more than others. A lot of clear factors can influence this such as weight, age, gender, and genetic predisposition. When you start to gain tolerance through alcohol abuse it becomes more apparent that you may have a problem. Keep an eye on how you achieve this ability to drink more because it may be time to seek help.
Alcohol Influencing Body, Mind, and Spirit
Not only do you suffer from sever hangovers that hold you back from activities or work, but you start to lose a part of your mind and spirit. Maybe you are tired all the time and feel no desire to participate in activities that don’t revolve around drinking. Either way, it’s time get help when the signs are clear and present.
Inability to Stop and Take Control
This is probably the most obvious of the symptoms. If you are unable to take control and stop drinking you have an alcohol abuse problem. Maybe you are unable to stop yourself from overindulging even though you promised yourself that you would stop after one or two. This has happened to everyone but if it starts to happen with some frequency than there may be a deeper issue which you need to investigate.
A promise to stop drinking can quickly become harder to keep with the onset of withdrawal symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, sweating, fatigue, shakiness, jumpiness, and loss of appetite. Other more severe symptoms are insomnia, depression, and anxiety. While some symptoms may seem minor, others can cause extreme wear and tear on your health. When withdrawal symptoms become so severe that you need to drink to relieve them, your alcohol addiction has excelled to a point where you need immediate help.
Drinking In Spite of the Bad and the Worse
This is usually last straw for most people. Most negative effects are those that influence your health and your life; but then there comes a point when your drinking affects other people. Under the influence of alcohol you are not in a position to make the best decisions. This impaired judgement can cause you to make very bad choices. Some may only affect you, but most of the time this is not the case. Bad judgement can be as harmless as missing work but it can also be capable of taking a life. Don’t wait for something like that to happen and reach for help sooner rather than later.
Acknowledging you need help is the first and most important step of the recovery process. Denying you have a problem does not make that problem go away. In fact, it just creates a bigger one.
Now that you know what to look for when it comes to the signs and symptoms of addiction, it’s time to be honest with yourself and others. Based on the number over 90% of individuals who need help do not receive treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2015, just over 95% of adults who needed substances use treatment but not did not feel they needed it and, as such, went untreated.
The above-chart demonstrates just how important it is to acknowledge the need for treatment. Save your life or the life of someone you love – heck, help your community. Treatment is key to a successful recovery.
Although there is still a great need for education and resources devoted to addiction treatment, believe it or not treatment has come a long way from what it used to be. Over the decades we have gone from committing (i.e., asylums) individuals with addictions, such as alcohol and substance use, to finally categorizing addition has a disease – a very complex disease at that. Treatment is now designed to best fit the individual’s needs – such as inpatient and outpatient care, therapy, support groups, etc. Support and desire to get help, in combination with the proper treatment these methods yield very positive outcomes in recovery and staying that way. For more information regarding treatment click here. The help is out there. If you don’t know how to help, just start spreading awareness and keep yourself educated. The more we talk about addiction the more likely we are to get the help we need. As is the case in most aspects of life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.