September is National Recovery Month, a national observation in partnership between the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Faces & Voices of Recovery. This is a good time to learn more about addiction and recovery.
Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior, and leads to an inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs. When you’re addicted, you may continue using a drug despite the harm it causes.
Although there’s no cure for drug addiction, treatment can help you overcome an addiction and stay drug-free. Your treatment depends on the drug used and related medical or mental health disorders. Long-term follow-up is important to prevent relapse.
Alcohol use disorder
Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, or continuing to use alcohol, even when it causes problems. This disorder also involves having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. Alcohol use disorder includes a level of drinking called alcoholism.
Treatment for alcohol use disorder can vary, depending on your needs. Treatment may involve a brief intervention, individual or group counseling, an outpatient program, or a residential inpatient stay. The goal of treatment is to stop alcohol use to improve quality of life.
Nicotine dependence occurs when you need nicotine and can’t stop using it. Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that makes it hard to quit. Nicotine produces pleasing effects in your brain, but these effects are temporary. So you reach for another cigarette.
Treatment for nicotine dependence is more often successful with a combination of medications and counseling.
Some smoking cessation products are known as nicotine replacement therapy because they contain varying amounts of nicotine. Some of these nicotine replacement therapies require a prescription, but others don’t. Two smoking cessation medications that don’t contain nicotine are available by prescription.
Medications help you cope by reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, while behavioral treatments help you develop the skills you need to give up tobacco for good. The more time you spend with a counselor, the better your treatment results will be.
Connect with others talking about recovery in the Addiction & Recovery support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.