According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.6 million Americans have an alcohol or drug abuse problem.
There is a common misunderstanding that addiction is a moral issue, however, it is actually a primary chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.
Research in the field is currently focused on singling out the genes that code for addiction in individuals with family history of the disease.
It is important for individuals to not only research family history of conditions such as heart disease and cancer, but also addiction or substance-abuse problems scaling back at least two generations. If an individual finds addiction in their family’s health history, they can prevent the disease by avoiding the substances that activated the condition in their relative(s).
The first step in the fight against addiction is being able to recognize the signs of substance dependence. The main signs of addiction include craving the substance at times when you cannot have access to it (i.e. at work), increased tolerance (feeling the need for larger amounts of the substance to experience the same effects), and loss of control (inability to limit the amount you consume, despite telling yourself that you wouldn’t do it this time).
If you recognize signs of addiction within yourself, a friend or family member, it is important to get assessed for a substance abuse problem and determine the severity of the condition.
Once an individual has been assessed for substance dependency and diagnosed with an addiction disorder, it is important to begin treatment with proper medical detoxification. Therapy also serves as an integral part of treating addiction; with group therapy being the preferred treatment over individual therapy.
Working with addiction specialists and related-healthcare providers, individuals can decide whether to enter an intensive outpatient or residential treatment program. Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital offers a Chemical Dependence Intensive Outpatient Program (CDIOP), in which patients meet three times a week for three hours each time in a group setting.
Like many other diseases, the earlier an addiction problem is detected, the easier it is to treat. Recognizing signs of substance abuse or dependency early and getting properly assessed quickly can increase success of treatment.
Alan Watt is a physician assistant at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. Watt received his Master of Health Sciences from the Duke University School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in 2005. He began working with Cone Health in January of 2006.