Therapy for Substance Use and/or Behavior Addiction

Addictions can manifest in various ways and may look different to each individual. Addiction can be broken down into two categories: Substance Use Disorders (SUD’s), and Behavioral Addictions. Substance Use Disorders or SUD’s, are when people get addicted to certain substances such as alcohol, cocaine or opiates. Behavioral Addictions are when people get addicted to certain behaviors, such as internet pornography, gambling, eating, shopping or working.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has only recognized behavioral Addictions as legitimate disorders in the past five years, since The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) release of their now infamous definition of addiction—as follows:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death (http://www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction, 2017).”

What Addiction Looks Like

ASAM’s landmark definition allowed Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Addictions parody with other primary, chronic medical conditions such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Cancer. Advances in neuroscience through the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans has finally proven, without a doubt, that the same areas in the brain responsible for (choice) are hijacked when true addiction is present. Thus true addiction is not a matter of poor will power, but a legitimate brain disorder. Below are some primary signs and symptoms when differentiating recreational “use” of a substance or behavior from “addiction.”

  • Continued use of the substance and/or behavioral despite causing significant distress in their primary relationships, health, employment, school or social life.
  • Compulsive use; an inability to manage their use of the substance or behavior.
  • Out of control behaviors (e.g. repeated lying about use, stealing to use, etc.)
  • Cravings or a compulsive preoccupation with use. Cravings can take the form of either physiological or psychological craving.
  • Difficulty escaping or solving everyday problems without using substances or behaviors.
  • Often feeling helpless or hopeless when dealing with day-to-day challenges of life without use of the substance or behavior.
  • Struggle with identifying, expressing or managing feelings and emotions without the use of the substance or behavior.

Eric’s Approach to Treating Addiction

I believe there are many ways to achieve “recovery,” and I utilize various evidence-based theories in my practice such as, Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and EMDR in treating addictions and helping people in their recovery process. I also utilize various mutual aid groups such as the various 12-Step Fellowships, SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, Refuge Recovery, but believe all people need some type of support on their journey of recovery.

I am very flexible in my approach and believe whatever modality and/or support group you choose, there are certain “Universal Spiritual Principles” required for lasting recovery to occur. Principles such as honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, empathy, responsibility, accountability, acceptance, commitment, forgiveness, to name a few, are needed to navigate the process of learning a different way of being in the world. Recovery is a lifelong process, with treatment being one of the first steps, and entails making lifestyle changes and learning new skills that allow for the capacity to create a life beyond their wildest dreams.

If you are struggling with an addiction, either substance related or behavior, I look forward to supporting you on your journey to recovery and a healthy happy life.

Reach Eric

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