Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and behavioral addiction are complex subjects that involve a sometimes bewildering array of issues, information, and approaches. When you or someone you love are addicted to a substance or behavior, it can be challenging to locate people and resources to provide help.
What you need are options, answers, and understanding. You may need guidance in sorting through the vast amount of alternatives so that you can make the best possible choices for your unique situation. The alcohol and drug abuse resources in this section provide a way to narrow your focus, helping you find the specific information that addresses your concerns.
Addictions begin with a single action, which gradually or quickly escalates into abuse, as the individual must take more and more of the substance to produce the desired effect. Subsequent changes in the chemistry of the brain and other systems in the body make the individual so dependent on the drug that a host of symptoms occur when the drug is stopped.
The specific path that a given drug abuser follows to addiction depends on many factors, including family history, general physical and mental health, age, gender, social support system, and genetics. A treatment program must address each person’s unique combination of background, challenges, readiness, and willingness to change if it is to be effective in breaking the addiction cycle.
We suggest that you use these addiction resources not only to inform yourself about the issues you or your loved one is facing, but also to create the foundation from which to move toward a lasting recovery.
Defining Common Addiction Terms
Any in-depth discussion about alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or behavioral addiction involves terms that may not be familiar to the average person. Much of the terminology comes from the medical and scientific communities. Medical terms such as dopamine, opioid, and glutamate are used to explain the mechanisms or effects of addiction. Even the names of the substances that are likely to be abused can lead to confusion. The addiction glossary is one of our addiction resources that can help clarify and demystify the information that may be presented to an addicted person and those in their life when treatment is sought. Having a better understanding of the information can make the process of selecting an effective treatment simpler and less stressful. Read through the addiction glossary we’ve compiled here to learn more.
A wide variety of research studies demonstrate just how prevalent and serious the issue of substance abuse and behavioral addictions has become. Some recent statistics about substance abuse resources include:2
- The costs of substance abuse (alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs) costs the United States more than $740 billion every year in lost productivity at work and health care and crime costs.
- In 2017, there were more than 72,000 deaths due to drug overdoses.
- In the same year, the biggest increase in overdose deaths was related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which accounted for approximately 30,000 of those deaths.
- In 2009, drug-related emergency room visits were almost 4.6 million.
- As of 2017, vaping was more popular among teens than opioid abuse.
- In the same year, 71% of high school seniors did not think smoking marijuana daily was harmful; 5.9% said they did smoke the drug every day.
Knowing some of these statistics can help substance abusers, behavioral addicts, and their families and friends understand how widespread these kinds of behaviors are and assure them they aren’t alone in struggling with addiction and needing help. Additionally, learning about the potential dangers of continuing to abuse substances or engage in risky behaviors may provide the needed motivation for a person to seek treatment.
Helpful Resources for Alcoholics and Addicts
Recovering from alcohol and drug abuse is a challenge that is best approached on an individual basis. Drug abuse resources and alcohol abuse resources share many components; however, there are important differences in the treatment needs of people who abuse those substances. Obtaining the best results requires careful matching of interventions, treatment processes, and even rehab settings to each person’s situation.
Rehab hotlines can help substance abusers and the important people in their lives determine which treatment facilities and modalities will best serve their purposes. The goal in providing drug abuse resources is always to help substance abusers cope with their addiction and return to healthy functioning in all areas of their lives, including relationships, work, and personal/spiritual fulfillment.
Questions to Ask When You Call
A lot of people are nervous when they first call a hotline for information about drug or alcohol treatment. They aren’t sure what to say or what to expect from the person on the other end of the line, which is completely normal. Having some questions ready and written down before you call can help you feel less anxious and more prepared. Here are a few potential questions to ask the hotline consultant when you call:
- What is the first thing I should do to get clean from drugs (or alcohol)?
- Are there medically assisted detox facilities near me?
- What inpatient and outpatient rehab programs are in my area?
- Which ones take my insurance?
- Which ones accommodate people without insurance?
- What are my payment options for my treatment besides insurance?
- What should I expect from a detox program?
- What should I expect from an inpatient or outpatient rehab program?
Finding the answers to these questions is a good start. You should also be prepared to provide the hotline consultant with information about your (or your loved one) history of substance abuse, including which drug(s) you regularly abuse, how long you’ve abused them, what (if any) mental health disorders you have (e.g., depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder), and your insurance information. This will help you make the most of your hotline call.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment Hotlines
These reputable organizations provide hotlines that offer a wealth of information to get you started:
- Click on any of the links on this page to be connected with a consultant who can offer you information about your treatment options.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline.
- The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Hope Line.
- Partnership for Drug Free Kids Helpline.
Behavioral Health Resources
While it’s more common to hear of people being addicted to a chemical substance such as alcohol or methamphetamine, they can also become addicted to behaviors. The mechanism of addiction is similar for substance and behavioral abuse, since both produce dopamines, which stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. Common behavioral addictions include eating disorders, gambling, shopping, love, pornography, sex, video games, and the internet.
Sex is a natural part of life. It facilitates procreation and can enhance intimacy between romantic partners. Like many other things in life, however, it can harm a person’s health and well-being when taken to an extreme. Sex addiction is a condition where a person develops an unhealthy fixation on having sex. This condition also encompasses hypersexuality, where the person experiences frequent or increased sexual urges or activity.
Addictions to sex and pornography are related disorders. Sex addicts have a compulsion to engage in sexual activity, whether that activity involves masturbation or having sex with another person. When they’re not having sex, sexual addicts are often thinking about it. Their exploits may provide a sense of excitement or conquest, or they can serve as an escape from a sense of anxiety or low self-esteem. Sexual addicts may place themselves in dangerous situations to feed their escalating need to feed the addiction.
Pornography may provide the means of arousal for a sex addict, but it is not the primary focus of the addiction. For porn addicts, on the other hand, reading or watching pornography drives the compulsion. While some porn addicts engage in compulsive masturbation, others have less interest in sexual activity. Addictions to sex and pornography are progressive and can lead to damaged relationships, loss of employment, and isolation.
According to the 2013 National Survey of Problem Gambling Services, approximately 5.77 million U.S. residents had a problem with gambling that was significant enough to warrant treatment. Video game addiction has increasingly become a problem as well, and is considered an impulse control disorder, similar to a gambling addiction. Both disorders involve contests and an overwhelming desire to win. With both gambling and video game addictions, the Internet offers easy access and multiple opportunities to respond to the addict’s craving for another high. Role-playing games and multi-user domain games become a ready fix for individuals with a compulsion to engage in fantasy combat, winning missions, and competing for higher scores. The virtual world can also become a way to avoid problems in daily life and face-to-face relationships.
Compulsive spending and compulsive shopping are behaviors that are similar to food addictions. They often begin as a way to cope with depression, loneliness, anger, or anxiety. The desired sense of power, excitement, and control that the behavior creates doesn’t last long, and the shopping addict may feel even more depressed or anxious. The addiction cycle prompts the shopaholic to shop more and spend more to deal with an increasing sense of shame, fear, and isolation as she attempts to hide purchases and mounting credit card debt. Treatment usually involves counseling, support groups, and behavior changes.
Love addictions involve an obsession with a romantic relationship. Whether the relationship exists in real life or is a one-sided attraction, the (love object) becomes the primary or sole focus. The love addict neglects other relationships and obligations, devoting all of his or her energy to that one all-important connection. If the obsessive relationship ends, the addict may experience intense feelings of confusion, depression, and anxiety. Treatment can help the love addict develop better self-esteem and more balanced relationships.
Eating disorders have been identified and labeled as behavioral addictions, all of which share an obsession with weight, body image, and food—though the different disorders view food very differently. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an extreme fear or gaining weight and a distorted body image. Those suffering from the disorder become obsessed with how much they eat and how much they weigh. They control their weight either by eating very little; exercising excessively; vomiting; or overusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. People with anorexia are typically very thin and exhibit signs of poor health, such as brittle hair and nails, constipation, low blood pressure, low body temperature, fatigue, and infertility. Untreated, anorexia nervosa can lead to brain damage, cardiovascular disorders, and multi-organ failure.
Binge eating disorders involve a loss of control over eating behaviors. Binge eaters are typically overweight, which can result in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Similar to binge eating, bulimia nervosa is marked by episodes of binging (eating large amounts of food) and purging (some sort of compensatory behavior). Purging behaviors may include using laxatives or diuretics, self-induced vomiting, fasting, or an obsession with exercise. Unlike those suffering from anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia tend to be at a normal weight or slightly overweight.
Treatment for eating disorders is customized for each individual and usually includes group or individual counseling, nutritional counseling, and/or medication. When an individual is being treated for anorexia nervosa, hospitalization may be required if the disease has caused damage to the organs. A primary goal is to gradually return the patient to a normal body weight while treating underlying physical and emotional issues.
Behavioral Health Addiction Hotlines
When you call a hotline to get more information about behavioral health treatment, you may feel the same anxiety as calling a substance abuse hotline. However, the principles are the same for both: the people staffing the hotlines are caring, trained people who just want to help. And you can ask the same questions listed above when you call one.
A few options for you to call when you are ready to get help for your behavioral health disorder include:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline.
- Crisis Text Line.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Whether you or a loved one is concerned about substance abuse or a behavioral addiction, the important thing is to reach out for help today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drug Misuse and Addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Trends & Statistics.
- Problem Gambling Solutions, Inc. (2014). 2013 National Survey of Problem Gambling Services.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Eating Disorders.