Substance Abuse

a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes

Substance abuse and mental health struggles sadly go hand-in-hand. Consider this: nearly 20 percent of Americans with anxiety or depression also have a substance use disorder. How many of us have reached for a cocktail... or 3... just to make it through a holiday office party? How many of us have turned to substances to numb ourselves in the midst of awful lows? How many of us have quadrupled our wine buys during the pandemic? It's easy to see how self-soothing with drugs or alcohol can evolve into a problem entirely of its own making.

About 25 million Americans abuse substances, and of those, only 10% get treatment. Recovery is a lifelong pursuit, and a challenging one. But it is possible. And doable. And wonderful.

Due to the danger of withdrawal and intensity of treatment required to achieve initial sobriety, bonmente can only accept patients who have completed a 6-month treatment program and are an appropriate level of acuity for an outpatient practice.

What causes substance abuse?

It's difficult to pinpoint why a person starts abusing substances. For some, it is born out of curiosity as a young person. For others, it's tied to mental illness, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. For many, it starts out as a band-aid and accidentally becomes a seeping wound.

Certain people are at increased risk for substance abuse. A family history of addiction is a huge contributor, as about 40-60% of a person's risk is related to genetics. Traumatic events, including divorce, loss of a loved one, or abuse, can predispose a person to substance abuse. Chronic pain, sleep issues, and long-term cigarette smoking can potentially lead to substance abuse, as can relationship issues, including feeling detached from a parent during childhood.

What are the symptoms of substance abuse?

Symptoms of substance abuse will vary depending on the substance being used. For example, a person abusing alcohol may have tremors or seizures with withdrawal, whereas a person abusing opiates may have severe cramping and vomiting. Symptoms of abuse, however, include:

  • using more or over longer periods than planned
  • cravings
  • interference with work, school, or home responsibilities
  • use despite relationship problems or requests from loved ones to stop or slow use​
  • isolating in order to use
  • risky behaviors, such as sexual risks or driving while intoxicated
  • majority of time spent getting, using, or recovering substance
  • use despite new or worsening physical or psychological problems
  • withdrawal symptoms

How is substance abuse treated?

In many cases, people with substance abuse issues cannot abruptly stop taking the substance without great risk to their health. Detoxification is required for most long-term substance abuse problems to ensure a safe tapering-off of the substance. Treatment programs, both inpatient and outpatient, are available to help with the critical transition to sobriety. Group meetings, psychosocial support systems, and ongoing medical supervision are part of the long-term treatment regimen.

Successful, long-lasting recovery is focused on abstinence. Therapy, both individual and family, is highly recommended in order to address any underlying issues that may have led to the substance abuse. With therapy, patients learn to manage cravings, cope with triggers or stressors, and break thought loops and behavior patterns associated with use.

Worried there may be

a problem?

It can be difficult to distinguish between acceptable levels of substance use and dangerous levels that indicate substance abuse.

If you are worried about a potential substance abuse issue, complete the appropriate screening below.