Unmanaged addiction can turn into an extremely destructive problem surprisingly quickly. More than one in every eight Americans (source: niaa.nih.gov) struggle with problematic drinking and some 10% of adults struggle with illegal drugs (source: drugabuse.gov). Even with these striking statistics as well as the nation’s recent headline-grabbing opioid epidemic, alcohol and drug use still carry significant stigma. This makes addicts feel additional guilt and shame about substance abuse and can present a barrier to getting treatment. Most doctors and therapists now understand and treat substance addiction as a disease instead of a moral failing; they continue to advocate for this understanding so that no one should be ashamed to ask for help.
How Can Therapy Help?
Therapy can provide a supportive environment for sobriety, including teaching real-world skills to help addicts with emotions they may have been previously blunting with drugs or alcohol. Even more importantly, it is extremely common for deeper psychological issues or past trauma to be contributing towards addictive behavior. Getting evaluated by a therapist is an important way to identify and separate any of these pre-existing behaviors before drug or alcohol treatment can begin. In fact, the relationship between addiction and mental health diagnoses is so common that there is even an official clinical name: co-occurring disorders. Addiction medicine specialists have learned that problems like anxiety and depression, if left untreated, can make getting clean much more difficult—which is why it’s important for anyone seeking sobriety to get screened for potential underlying issues.