Substance Use Disorders

Substance-related disorders are disorders of use, intoxication, withdrawal or are induced by various substances, both legal and illegal. Substances frequently abused include, but are not limited to, the following: Alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, prescription drugs, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates, anabolic steroids, hallucinogens and inhalants.

Substance Use Disorder

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is the medical term used to describe use of drugs or alcohol that continues, even when significant problems related to their use have developed. Signs include:

  • Tolerance to or need for increased amounts of the drug to get an effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms that happen if you decrease or stop using the drug that you find difficult to cut down or quit
  • Spending a lot of time to obtain, use, and recover from the effects of using drugs
  • Withdrawal from social and recreational activities 
  • Continued use of the drug even though you are aware of the physical, psychological, and family or social problems that are caused by your ongoing drug abuse

The following are the most common behaviors that indicate an individual is having a problem with drug or alcohol abuse. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Getting high on drugs or getting intoxicated (drunk) on a regular basis
  • Lying, especially about how much they are using or drinking
  • Avoiding friends and family members
  • Giving up activities they used to enjoy, such as sports or spending time with non-using friends 
  • Talking a lot about using drugs or alcohol
  • Believing they need to use or drink in order to have fun
  • Pressuring others to use or drink
  • Getting in trouble with the law
  • Taking risks, such as sexual risks or driving under the influence of a substance
  • Work performance suffers due to substance abuse before, after, or during working or business hours
  • Missing work due to substance use
  • Depressed, hopeless, or suicidal feelings

The symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse may resemble other medical problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are SUDs diagnosed?

A family doctor, psychiatrist, or qualified mental health professional usually diagnoses substance abuse. Clinical findings often depend on the substance abused, the frequency of use, and the length of time since last used, and may include the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Constant fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Little concern for hygiene 
  • Laboratory abnormalities
  • Unexpected abnormalities in heart rate or blood pressure 
  •  Depression, anxiety, or sleep problems

Treatment for SUDs

Specific treatment for a SUD will be determined by your doctor based on: 

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the symptoms
  • Extent of the dependence
  • Type of substance abused
  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies 
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference

Substance Use Treatment at Sentara

Disorders related to substance abuse often play a role the conditions our patients face and impact their mental health. Sometimes patients struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and bipolar disorder, often “self medicate” with substances.

Other times, the effects of substance abuse may resemble and be confused for symptoms for other mental health illnesses and conditions. A variety of treatment (or recovery) programs for substance abuse are available.

We at Sentara Behavioral Health offer different treatment options based on the needs of the patient.  Our Partial Hospitalization Program is a daily therapy regiment that offers individuals the opportunity to experience different dynamics in a small group setting that addresses a number of stressors and concerns that relate to their addiction and/or other concerns.  This level of care is intended for those with addiction or issues of a high severity, at risk of needing inpatient rehab or detox, or those who are leaving that high level of care and are still in need of an equal standard that allows them the freedom to assimilate back into the community.

The Intensive Outpatient Program meets three times a week and provides therapy for those with addiction issues that are still in need of a high, but not as intensive as the PHP.  Patients receive therapy in a group setting that educates them to the deeper processes involved in their addictive behaviors and helps them cope with the challenges of sobriety.  In this format, the clients learn that they are not alone in their struggle and develop the tools to sustain their therapeutic process alongside peers who are experiencing various phases of the journey of sobriety.

For those who are making positive strides in their journey, but still need continued support and therapy, our Step Down group is available one night a week.  This group is geared more toward those who have experienced some success in their sobriety, but still have some steps ahead to return their life to normal, or to find their new norm.  This setting often provides insight to the struggle of maintaining sobriety while dealing with family stress, financial difficulties, career issues and other topics that tend to come up in the process of rebuilding one’s life after battling the worst parts of addiction.

Community Resources for Substance Abuse

There are resources and support for substance abuse in your community. If you or someone you know struggles with this illness, please seek immediate help from the program available to you.