Let’s talk addictions and treatment options

Counselor meeting with young man.

Substance use does not necessarily constitute abuse. However, understanding where the line is drawn between use and abuse does inform what treatment is recommended, availability of needed resources and ensuring ongoing support whether individual, residential or group.

Substance abuse occurs when someone’s use begins to impact personal relationships, create legal issues, compromise health and employment. The only significant relationship in your life is the substance itself.

As a substance abuse professional and addictions counsellor for many years, it is my hope that when use becomes abuse people will seek help whether that be a support group, individual therapy or seeking help to enter a treatment program. There is not a one fit for all situations and ultimately any or all three can be helpful.

Employees Assistance Programs (EAP) provide individual counselling and the assessment needed to enter a treatment program. The assessment protocol that is used is based on the Admission, Discharge and Tracking Tools (ADAT) established by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The assessment takes approximately 90 minutes to complete. It examines willingness / ambivalence to enter a program; determines the level of awareness concerning use; the role relationships to others, self-esteem, and existing mental health conditions (eg. depression / anxiety) are impacting use and whether or not the individual has family and peer support. There is also a health screening and the gathering of admission and discharge guidelines recommended.

All of this takes time and during this time period the individual seeking help within their EAP program is supported with counselling prior to and often after a treatment program. In the case of an individual seeking one on one counselling, they are provided with a counsellor with knowledge in addictions. Often, it is helpful for a family member(s) to seek support in counselling which is also provided by EAP programs.

Finally, in conclusion I would like to touch briefly on what we call process addictions. It is a way of looking at “addictions” from a broader perspective. Process addictions can occur with compulsive behaviours such as gambling, eating disorders, over spending, Internet, TV and any other behavior that is compulsive without a chemical dependency. There are some treatment programs for the above behaviours eg. gambling and eating disorders but as a rule for most process addictions individual counselling is recommended. There are usually underlying reasons for the anxiety attached to the compulsive behavior and therapy can offer a way to find these reasons individually, as a couple or family.

The important message to remember is to reach out and ask for what you need to help you with your struggles.

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