Addiction is a complex, chronic health condition that involves the compulsive consumption of drugs or alcohol, or negative behaviors like gambling, that leads to surges of neurotransmitters in the brain. Ultimately, addiction can cause structural changes in the brain that reinforce drug cravings and compulsive behaviors.
Once someone develops a physical dependence on a drug, cravings for it, and exhibit compulsive behaviors around a substance, they likely are struggling with an addiction. However, to be officially diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD), an individual must receive a diagnosis from a medical professional who will use specific criteria to determine the individual’s condition.
While these signs and symptoms can indicate if a problem exists, an official diagnosis requires a medical professional. To begin to understand if you have a substance use disorder (SUD) or an addiction, your doctor will ask you various questions and then assess your answers. You may also undergo certain medical tests and drug screenings.
If you recognize yourself in two or more of these 11 criteria, and you have experienced these sensations for more than a year (12 months), your doctor will diagnose you with addiction and begin to refer you to treatment programs. The specific programs you are referred to will depend on how many criteria you fulfill since three different levels of addiction are listed in the DSM-5.
The particular detox and rehabilitation programs you attend also depend on which substances you abuse and if you have any co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.
The manual also now recognizes gambling addiction, but it has not yet included other types of compulsive behaviors such as binge eating or sex addiction.
When you are diagnosed with one or more of the substance use disorders above, this informs your doctor about what type of detox program you will need to attend. For example, if you have an opioid addiction, you may need buprenorphine treatment; however, if you abuse Adderall, you will need different types of management for your symptoms.
The course of detox, followed by at least 90 days of rehabilitation, will be determined based on something like the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) Continuum of Care. You may need intensive detox but can safely go to standard outpatient rehabilitation, for example, or you may be all right detoxing at home but need to enter residential rehabilitation for more than six months to change your behaviors. This is a very personalized process, and access to treatment is important.
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