Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
What is the most common substance abuse disorder?
The most common substance use disorder globally is alcohol use disorder (AUD). This disorder, often referred to as alcoholism, is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Alcohol use disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of eleven criteria, within a 12-month period.
The criteria include issues like spending a lot of time drinking, or recovering from drinking, giving up important social or recreational activities in favor of drinking, developing a tolerance (needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect), experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, and continuing to drink even when it's causing physical or psychological problems.
It's important to note that substance use disorders can develop with the use of many different substances, including illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, and legal substances like alcohol or prescription medications. The prevalence of these disorders can vary by region and demographic group.
Regardless of the substance involved, these disorders can have serious impacts on individuals' physical and mental health, relationships, and ability to work or study. Treatment can often help people with substance use disorders to recover and lead healthy lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, don't hesitate to seek professional help.
How can a homeless person get help for substance abuse?
For homeless individuals struggling with substance abuse, accessing help can be particularly challenging due to factors such as limited resources, absence of stable housing, and potential co-occurring mental health disorders. However, there are a number of avenues that a homeless person can explore to get help:
Government Programs: Many cities have government-funded programs that provide services for homeless individuals, including substance abuse treatment. These may include detoxification, outpatient counseling, residential treatment, and medication-assisted treatment. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are two significant sources of such assistance.
Community Health Clinics: Community health clinics often offer a range of services, including substance abuse treatment, on a sliding scale based on income. These clinics also frequently provide referrals to other necessary services.
Nonprofit Organizations: Many nonprofit organizations offer resources and support for homeless individuals struggling with substance abuse. These may include recovery support groups, transitional housing, job training programs, and other services.
Outreach Programs: Outreach programs are designed to connect with individuals who may not seek help on their own. Outreach workers may go to places where homeless individuals congregate to provide resources and assistance.
Housing First Programs: These programs, which prioritize providing individuals with stable housing without requiring sobriety or participation in treatment first, have been shown to be effective in helping people maintain recovery and improve their quality of life.
Emergency Departments and Hospitals: In a crisis, emergency medical personnel can provide immediate assistance and connect individuals with longer-term substance abuse treatment resources.
Veterans Services: If the individual is a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many services, including substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and housing assistance.
What does drug withdrawal feel like?
Drug withdrawal is a complex process that can feel different for everyone, depending largely on the type of substance involved, the duration and intensity of use, and individual factors like overall health and genetic predisposition. However, some general experiences and symptoms are often associated with the withdrawal process:
Physical Symptoms: Many people experience physical discomfort or illness during withdrawal. Depending on the substance, this can range from flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, sweating, muscle aches, and fatigue) to more severe symptoms like seizures or hallucinations. Opioid withdrawal, for example, is often compared to a severe flu, while alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening in severe cases.
Psychological Symptoms: Withdrawal can also involve psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and cravings for the substance. These can be just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical symptoms.
Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal from many substances, while vivid or disturbing dreams may occur when withdrawing from others.
Discomfort and Distress: Generally, withdrawal can be a very uncomfortable and distressing process. The body has become used to the presence of the substance, and it can react strongly when the substance is no longer available.
Cravings: One of the most challenging aspects of withdrawal for many people is the intense cravings for the substance. These cravings can be both physical and psychological, and they can be triggered by various factors, including stress, people, places, or things associated with substance use.