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  • Writer's pictureAdrienne Loker

Do you have a Substance Use Disorder?

Gone is the stigmatized language of "addict" and "alcoholic", no one wants to be othered into those categories. Besides, you don't actually have to have an addiction to have a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Okay, let's get medical (no it's cool, I have license!). SUD is broken down into three categories: Mild, Moderate, and Severe. If we were sitting together in a circle with a white board, I'd write this up: "Use Continuum", and underneath I'd write: "Use", "Abuse", "Dependence", and "Addiction". When we talk about "Use", we're literally talking about "Use". A drink of wine with dinner. A beer at the football game (maybe, I don't know, I don't watch sports). The key concept here is SOCIAL. Let's move to "Abuse". This is using specifically for euphoria. Perhaps there's some negative consequences, but this is a cucumber that has not yet been pickled and can go back to "Use" with the proper support. "Dependence" refers to the body's response to a substance: increased tolerance, a hangover, withdrawal (including post acute withdrawal- boredom, inability to feel feelings, temporary cognitive and memory impairments, mood swings), etc. "Addiction" references the behavioral and emotional relationship with a substance: "I can't live without it", "I'm more creative with it", "I can't be myself without it".

Addiction is not curable, but it is treatable. If not treated, it only progresses and becomes worse over time. An assessment with a trained substance abuse specialist is helpful in determining what treatment would be the best fit based on your individual needs. Many options exist both inpatient and outpatient. Long term sobriety efforts are most secured when an individual is engaged in a solid treatment plan for a minimum of 6-12 months, including family efforts, peer support, professional services, sober recreation, and spirituality. A life of sobriety following a life of addiction is usually far more enriching than a suffering family can dream of. I'd wager to say that most living a program of recovery are grateful for having gone through hell for the opportunity to connect to their higher selves.

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