For eleven years, National Substance Abuse Prevention Month has been observed during the month of October. Sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the National Substance Abuse Prevention Month seeks to bring awareness to our nation’s ever-growing health crisis caused directly and indirectly by substance use.
While news reports keep the nation informed about the tragic rates of drug overdose deaths, the goal of ONDCP is to improve prevention strategies. The slogan promoted years ago, to “Just say no,” was a simplistic approach that didn’t explore all the complexities of substance use disorder, like the neuroscience of addiction.
Unfortunately, there is still a lack of understanding about how substances impact the brain. ONDCP knows that one of the most effective preventative measures we can take to reduce substance use disorder is having quality data and information. Helping the public better understand how substances affect brain chemistry through the various outreach programs held during October will hopefully cause individuals to rethink their substance use.
About substance use disorder
Substance use disorder is too often the end result of continued substance misuse. Substance use disorder can also unfortunately develop by simply taking a prescription drug for treatment of common conditions, such as pain management or anxiety, for example. As the brain is altered in response to its ongoing exposure to the substance, it can result in dependence and/or addiction.
Substance dependence involves the body’s physical reliance on the substance to be able to function normally. Addiction, on the other hand, refers to the psychological response, or the cravings and compulsive substance-seeking behaviors.
The severity of a substance use disorder is based upon the four diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-V:
- Ability or inability to control substance use
- Social impairment
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Level of substance tolerance and severity of withdrawal symptoms
Diagnosis and assessment is the process of determining the impact of the substance use in each of the categories. The severity of the individual’s substance use disorder is based on the assessment and will range from mild to severe.
What are the early signs of substance use disorder?
The sooner that someone acknowledges the signs of a substance use problem, the earlier they can receive treatment. Again, the purpose of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month is to help prevent addiction from forming, with education being an essential prevention tool.
There are 11 warning signs of substance use disorder to be aware of. Even a mild substance use disorder case, exhibiting just two of these signs should warrant a call to action. The more signs that are present, the more severe the substance use disorder is.
The signs of substance use disorder includes:
- Being unable to control the substance use
- Experiencing cravings
- No longer engaging in activities once enjoyed
- Attempted to stop using the substance, but were unable to
- Continue to engage in substance use, despite the negative consequences
- Spending large amounts of time obtaining the substance
- Declining work or school performance
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Increased tolerance to the effects of the substance
- Neglecting responsibilities and obligations
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
Can mental health treatment prevent substance use disorder?
One of the main goals of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month is to identify and highlight better preventative measures for substance use disorder. Mental health is being acknowledged more and more as a key factor as substance use disorder can often coexist with mental health issues.
Struggling with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, chronic stress, loneliness or low self-esteem, could prompt drug and alcohol use in an attempt to self-medicate. When families, schools and colleges are better informed about the link between mental health and substance use, they can be more proactive when treating emerging mental health disorders.
National Substance Abuse Prevention Month promotes community-level events, where young people, parents and teachers can participate and become more informed. With a better understanding of the science of substance abuse, its effect on the brain and its connection to mental health, we can all work together to decrease substance use disorder rates and with them, all the devastating effects they have on our society.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.